Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert took in Happy Harry’s Blues on the Red concert Saturday night in downtown Grand Forks. The Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings headlined the show.
Holy moly, where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday, Ryan Zinke was on North Dakota soil. Yes, THE Ryan Zinke. I still shiver at the thought. The ethically challenged secretary of the Interior — most in the Cabinet are corrupt, so it’s no big deal — was smack dab in Grand Forks, to fire up the Republican elite at the gun-free Alerus Center.
There were still bullet holes all over. Just a small gun event, I heard. “Well, we THOUGHT he was a bad guy!” The target was one of the bartenders who did look a little not white.
Rep. Luke Simons produced a video to show how easy it was to beat the security of the gun-free zone. Actually, he just didn’t want to give up the free hotel coffee for he and his wife, but his point was made. The cups could have just as easily been Uzis— or .50-caliber American Eagles.
As for the speech, no one, except for conventiongoers who were evidently unaware of the boredom to come, knows how Zinke performed. Since his chiseled presence was so exciting, the pundits all took a premium length break. Anonymous sources tell me that they took a Lyft to downtown and wandered around looking for food — or alcohol. Mostly alcohol.
Rob “fake news” Port, of the Kevin Cramer campaign, Forum branch, stayed behind at the Alerus, though, to type words, in some order, about Heidi Heitkamp. He’s under a lot of pressure to meet his quota of 63 gripping Heidi posts per week for his adorable little blog, where the alt-right gathers to kibbitz.
For the actual reporters, it was also an opportunity to light up a Pall Mall and strap on the Beretta for the mean streets of downtown Grand Forks.
Several writers jumped off the DeMers Avenue bridge into the mighty Red River. If you climb the rail under significant influence and stare down at the flowing brown water, it’s crazy mesmerizing. Maybe they fell. Accounts differ, but either way, they didn’t have to go back to the rally. One — or two — will wash up in Canada in due time and be charged the proper tariff.
Of course, as far as a keynote speaker, Republicans in red hats were hoping for the big tuna, the ginormous bluefin, the serial adulterer, the compulsive liar, the con artist, the tax cheat, the racist, the sociopath, the draft dodger, the philandering wanker and the most objectionable soulless carcass in the United States who isn’t incarcerated. Who wouldn’t want to watch the loosely constructed jamoke yap at random?
But, as it turns out, the gelatinous grabber was busy fending off pornographic actresses, Playboy bunnies, corruption charges and factual information. He was also up to his armpits in people to throw under the bus. It’s the only exercise the lifelike cartoon character gets. Lots of problems for the weeble. Who could see this mess coming?
As the bad news bled out about the great white, men wailed in the streets, teeth gnashed, stomach contents were vomited, hands were wrung and sobbing echoed through the coulees. One poor mook jumped off our big cow in despair. He just rolled to the bottom of the hill and came to a stop before hitting Interstate 94. Nominal blood loss. No biggie. He might still be laying there.
Of course, these things also happen every day wherever Trump is, so it’s an emotional wash. What’s left of his staff wishes they had a big cow.
The bowling pin shaped golfer’s presence would have made the most pious Kevin Cramer giddy. He dreams of standing beside the abject failure of morality and holding his moist, callous-free, hand high in the victory stance. Religious indeed.
But the a$$hole likely had already zoned out Kevin’s name — and any promises made. Had the congressman done several moments of due diligence, on what has become his host organism, he would have known that the leathery reptile doesn’t honor commitments, lived a me-first life and has been a well known sleaze for decades. A slimeball, as New Yorkers know.
And the entire North Dakota GOP has DJT slime in every nook and cranny, and it doesn’t wash off. Stubby fingers also grabs nooks, so it’s best to wear metal drawers, if you smell him in the vicinity.
Cramer is so enamored with his spray tanned idol, that he compares a difference in opinion with the unofficial “orange is the new black” mascot, to committing adultery.
“Here’s the good news about Donald Trump: Most of the time, he’s for North Dakota, and that’s my point where I’ve heard her say, ‘Gee, I voted with him 55 percent of the time,'” Cramer said.
“Can you imagine going home and telling your wife, ‘I’ve been faithful to you 55 percent of the time?’ Are you kidding me? Being wrong half the time is not a good answer.”
Aside from the obvious fact, that golden boy has adulterated as fast as his beady eyes could covet, the analogy is classic Cramer. Uninformed and confusing. Kevin is the kind of guy who will go nuts if women aren’t dressed in a manner, inoffensive to his God on Earth. White pantsuits send the “perfectly stable” Cramer into a lather, for some reason. But he always stands by his man.
From Roll Call
The congressman tweeted last week that he “will always stand up for farmers,” which “includes opposition to tariffs” that could harm the state’s agricultural sector. That tweet was deleted and replaced with one that also praised Trump for standing up for China. Cramer stressed that he was in contact with the White House, but he “would like to see the president take a more measured approach as the impulse of position has created unnecessary turmoil for our markets.”
Cramer then tweeted Friday that he was in contact with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and urged him to protect producers from retaliation, saying, “Farmers must know the Admin has their back and I urge them to act swiftly.” —Roll Call.
Most of Cramer’s Twitter wordplay is bull$#!*, since everyone knows that Trump doesn’t listen to anyone and could give a rip about North Dakota farmers, but it was nice of Kevin to tone down his message and praise dear leader. Backs are not being covered.
Blame Democrats for a situation caused by Donnie.
“GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, said Monday that part of the uproar over tariffs was fueled by Democrats.
“There are people, particularly Democrats, who want to pour fuel on the fire of hysteria,” he told Prairie Public Radio.
Moving down the list of endorsed Republican candidates.
- From the Kelly Armstrong for Congress website:
“Kelly supported new rules to crack down on extremist protesters. The DAPL protests exposed some serious flaws in our century code and Kelly supported legislation that strengthened our laws and provided our law enforcement the tools they need to defend us against people who have no respect for our laws or our citizens. No longer will out-of-state environmental extremists get away with causing destruction and chaos in North Dakota.”
- From NDXplains:
In his first advertisement, Kelly Armstrong touts his policy stances. One claim, in particular, has caught the attention of viewers. Using imagery that depicts protesters in masks as a clear call back to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, a female narrator says, “Kelly made sure law enforcement has the tools they need to crack down on out-of-state protesters.”
Armstrong didn’t just blow the racial dog whistle. He yelled directly into a bullhorn. His TV advertisement was clearly aimed at Native Americans, a group that North Dakota racists love to stereotype and hate.
And why just out-of-state protesters? How is that going to work? You can pretty much drive, fly or walk into the state without incident. When the Mayor Del Rae of Moorhead travels over the river to join a protest, what happens? Do we rough her up a bit and exile her back to Minnesota? Such stupidity.
Armstrong selected the founder of the Bastiat cult, Rep. Rick Becker, to make his introduction, so that was an interesting choice. Becker and his small band of ideologues are so far out on the right-wing fringe the majority leader, Rep. Al Carlson, looks like Fidel Castro in comparison.
Anyway, Becker spent 90 percent of his speaking time scolding the Republican audience for not being more rabidly conservative. Basically, like him. Evidently, Armstrong fits the bill for Becker, although his voting record doesn’t.
The most memorable statement, to my mind, spouted by Becker on the stage.
“We recognize that it is not only impossible, but immoral to force equal economic outcome. It is an inevitable and undeniable part of the human experience.” — Rick Becker.
I don’t know who is trying to force equal economic outcome, so that is a fallacy. Liberals would like to see people receiving equal opportunity, but we’re so far past equality in the economy, I don’t know why he bothered to bring it up.
Rick appears to believe in the survival of the fittest, which he claims is the most humane type of society, but it’s not. Maybe for wildebeests.
Then, there is Will Gardner, the nominee for secretary of state, who also got his share of hoots from the Bastiat cult. Anyway, I guess he can build a website. Big deal. He also has an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Prior to the convention, Gardner wrote an op-ed titled “We Must Eliminate Unverified Ballots in North Dakota”
“When you hear of election fraud, do you think of Russian cyber interference or do you think of the thousands of unverified ballots in our last statewide election?
Oh, wait — you don’t know about the 16,000-plus ballots in N.D. that were cast in the 2016 election without an ID?”
Yes, and your problem, Mr. Gardner?
“Last year the Legislature modified the law again, but if the courts continue to rule in favor of allowing unverified affidavit votes, our state will eventually be faced with either accepting the potential for mass voter fraud …”
Except that the votes aren’t unverified. Either Gardner doesn’t know this, or he lied by omission. It sounds very scary, though. The office of the secretary of state verifies the affidavits. Those that don’t pass scrutiny are trashed. If he isn’t up to the task, now would be the time to say, I don’t want to do that.
As for mass voter fraud:
I call bull$#!*and adultery.
In a few days, a week of events will mark the first two decades of the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. A 20th Anniversary Celebration Concert on April 21 will open the week that will also include an open mic night, a movie night and more and conclude with the Empire’s annual dinner and dance.
The Empire is such a big part of Grand Forks it seems as if it has always “been.” But it hasn’t. It must have been a struggle to open the Empire just a year after the 1997 flood. And it’s taken a lot of dedication, fundraising and just plain hard work to keep the doors open ever since, the front door and the stage door.
It hasn’t always been the Empire Arts Center. The Empire’s original life was that of a movie theater, beginning in 1919.
The last film I can remember seeing there may have been “The Wrecking Crew” in 1968. I was a college kid, home for the summer, when a friend dragged me off the street and drove me against my will — more or less — from Hillsboro, N.D., to Grand Forks to see what must have been one of the last movies in the Matt Helm series, a James Bond-like knockoff vehicle for Dean Martin. My friend was a fan of Dean Martin’s acting. Me, not so much. Let’s just say the movie wouldn’t be an Oscar contender that year.
Flash-forward a good bit and for several years running I would emcee First Night shows at the Empire on New Year’s Eve, introducing acts like the late, great local vocal group Marcoux Corner. We often did “live shots” from the Empire on First Night for WDAZ News.
In the early First Night years, ice sculpture gardens were a big deal near the Empire. I believe it was my idea to ask the ice sculptors to create an ice news desk for us, from which to broadcast live, an idea I would come to regret. Sitting at an ice desk for a half hour in subfreezing weather may look cute, but it’s not exactly pleasant for the anchor boys and girls.
A few years ago, I was asked to narrate “Peter and the Wolf” as part of a Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra children’s concert. I loved it. A few years before that, I “conducted” the symphony, having won its “Make Me a Maestro” fundraising contest.
Never one to play it very straight, for my conducting stint I concocted a “bit” in which I ordered, had delivered and ate a pizza on the stage after having kicked off the orchestra’s version of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Sometimes a person can have too much fun. Or at least, just enough.
Ginny and I have been in the audience for many great shows, including concerts by Leon Russell, Maria Muldaur and John C. Reilly & Friends.
The point is I feel at home at the Empire. On the stage and in the audience. And I’m not the only one. Hundreds of performers and audiences do, too. So congratulations to the Empire staff, board, performers and audience members on its first 20 years. Here’s to 20 more and another 20 more after that.
The National Christmas Tree made a stop in downtown Grand Forks on Sunday morning, much to the delight of the crowd that gathered to see it at Town Square. The tree, from Kootenai National Forest in Montana, made the visit as part of the “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Whistle Stop.” Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown made a formal proclamation recognizing the tree, a 70-foot Engelmann spruce, which will grace the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during the holiday season. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)
Surprising as it may seem, I traveled to eastern North Dakota again this week, to take my octogenarian mother to visit her grandsons, Matthew and Michael McLaughlin. She hasn’t been on a road trip for quite some time and was quite excited at the prospect.
But first, the drive east. My mother loves to go to thrift stores and when we stopped in Jamestown for lunch, she spotted the first one. The accommodating staff there gave her a list of thrift stores in the Fargo area, which she proudly displays here (there is an impressive number of thrift stores in the greater Fargo area). Thus, at the Buffalo Grill, we planned our route. By the end of the trip, she’d hit nine (9!) thrift stores and was quite happy with her finds.
Tuesday morning, I left Mother in the care of Matthew and his fiancee, Jamie, and I headed to the campus of the University of North Dakota. Most of the students were gone, and thus the campus was very quiet. I strolled the grounds headed for my ultimate goal, the Chester Fritz Library, followed closely by the Library of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the NDSU Library, Chester Fritz Library is the finest library in North Dakota.
Ultimately, I was headed to the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, in order to do some research.
After I finished at the library, I walked over to the North Dakota Museum of Art, which I greatly enjoyed. I particularly enjoyed the Barton Lidice Benes collection.
Another walk by the English Coulee took me to the UND Hopper-Danley Spiritual Center.
Now it was time to head to downtown, first to East Grand Forks to meet old friends for lunch.
Now it was time for a walking tour of the downtown Grand Forks area. But first, a mandatory stop at a Red River Valley institution, Widman’s Candy Store. From there, I called Jim and took his request for a couple of “turtles.”
It is so good to see all of these Grand Forks area icons survived the terrible flood of 20 years ago. The cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks have done a terrific job, in my estimation, of rebuilding and revitalizing these areas, including the addition of greenways along the Red River and the flood interpretative signs. One of the signs tells me it was “the largest evacuation of an American city since the Civil War.” As I walk this area, I, too, am flooded with memories of the flood, and its impact on my family, my friends and my state.
My mother has always been a coin collector, and she passed on that tradition to her grandchildren. Wednesday morning, it was time to give Matthew the National Park coin book and say goodbye so we could head back to Bismarck via the blue highways.
My mother and I both enjoy history, beautiful old buildings, birds and such, so there was much for us to see along the way — and all day — in which to explore. It is very difficult for both of us to just drive right by “brown signs,” the signs marking historic spots. Our first pull-out was this one describing the Old Fort Totten trail which was perfect, as we were headed in the direction of Fort Totten State Historic Site, a place my mother had never had the occasion to visit.
We are so appreciative that people have taken the time to erect these signs and preserve these places so that future generations can learn more of their predecessors.
A side trip into Michigan, N.D., rewarded us with these sights
Next up was a driving tour of some of the beautiful old Devils Lake buildings.
After a quick lunch at the Spirit Lake Casino, we drove on over to Fort Totten State Historic Site. According to “A Traveler’s Companion to North Dakota State Historic Sites” (third edition), “Fort Totten is one of the best preserved frontier military posts in the United States because of its later use as an Indian boarding school. Sixteen of the original military structures still stand … in Benson County on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” (page 76).
My mother was an U.S. Army wife, so we’ve spent more than a lot of time on Army posts, and memories flood back when I look at the parade grounds and think of all of the times I’ve watched my father march on these with his comrades.
We proceed onward with a short stop at Sheyenne, N.D., to see the historic log cabin there, where we reminisce about the old log cabin that was located in our hometown of Rhame, N.D. As we drive along, I am the beneficiary of my mother’s good company and her interesting life stories. One of the things we talked about was our memories of the summer of the Watergate hearings. Even in the midst of all of the work on our Slope County farm, the TV was always tuned to those historic events, and I remember exactly where I was when Walter Cronkite told us that Nixon was resigning, as does my mother.
Our next destination was a place I’ve been looking forward to taking my mother to since I first saw it over a year ago, the Hurd Round House. Located 6½ miles southwest of Chaseley in Wells County, the house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is very well-cared for by the residents of the county.
From the free brochure found inside:
“Styled and furnished to impress prospective land buyers — either wary, calculating home seeker of modest means, or the sophisticated, well heeled eastern speculator — the “Round House” was built on the eastern slope of a hillside in the northwest quarter of Section 17 of Silver Lake Township in the early 1900s. It was to be an office for the sale of Northern Pacific Railway lands in Lynn and Silver Lake townships, the last quantity purchase of such lands in Wells
“Chartered by Congress to build a railroad from Duluth, Minnesota, to Seattle, Washington, the Northern Pacific had received an enormous grant of over 50 million acres of land, 8 million of which were in North Dakota, to help finance construction.
“Financed initially by the sale of $25,000,000 in stocks at $100 a share, the tracks reached Bismarck in 1873, but in the financial panic of that year the Northern Pacific became bankrupt, and its stocks fell to less than $10 on the market.
“The company now began an intensive land selling campaign, advertising North Dakota lands at from $2 to $6 an acre, depending on distance from the railroad, and offered to redeem its shares of stock at full value, in exchange for these lands.
“Spurred on by the success of “Bonanza” farms in Cass and Traill Counties, settlers and land speculators soon bought up all of the available good land along the main line of the railroad, and by the early 1880’s the “boom” hit Wells County.
“In 1881 Richard Sykes purchased 7,680 acres in Bilodeau and Sykeston Townships and in the next two or three years purchased additional railroad lands in Speedwell and Haaland Townships. His total acreage of Northern Pacific lands in Wells County aggregated 31,040 acres, at a cost of about $1 per acre.
“At about the same time the Carrington and Casey Land Company bought 39,640 acres in Foster and Wells Counties, and sometime in the 1890’s the D S B Johnston Land Company of St. Paul bought 22,704 acres, 22,704 acres, all that remained of Northern Pacific land in Wells County, for $31,2717.00, or roughly $1.37 per acre.
“In true ‘boomer’ fashion, the D S B Johnston Company did not record the purchase until Jan. 31, 1900, a month after they had sold the entire parcel to E.R. Moon of Franklin County, Iowa on Dec. 29, 1899. The sale price was $45,406.56, or roughly $2 per acre; not counting interest on the money, a neat profit of $14,189.56.
“This was the land which Warren Hurd undertook to sell in his new and unique “Round House” land office in Section 17 of Silver Lake Township, thirteen miles from the nearest railway station, Bowdon.
“The building was planned and erected by his brother, Elgin H. Hurd, who had training as an architect and also as a stone mason, whose skill is well attested by the structure. Built on a hand-cut stone foundation, the 16×24 foot building has a round porch and a round, over-hanging roof supported by 8 columns.
“The two story frame house has a large reception room and two small offices downstairs and a large room used occasionally for sleeping quarters upstairs. This was reached by a stairway to a door on the second story. The stairway has not been restored since it was considered to be a hazard to children or others who might be tempted to climb it. The second story had three dormer windows to the north, east and south, from which the land buyer might look out toward where his newly bought land lay.
“The reception room had a fireplace, tiled with a rich green glazed ceramic tile as was also the floor immediately before it. A large rug covered the floor and near the fire place lay an intact animal skin rug with gaping jaws and head intact. Between the two windows on the north and south sides of this room hung two full length plate glass mirrors, each flanked by leather-upholstered settees.
“Some insist that the walls of the reception room were papered with an off-white imported wall paper with scenes in green, one portraying a “coach and four” with passengers, another depicting a cluster of “gay nineties” people under a weeping willow tree. Local residents, however, are unable to recall that the walls were ever papered.
“On the walls hung pictures and above the mantle over the fireplace were a stuffed duck and prairie chicken.
“Buyers were hauled out from Bowdon by surrey or spring wagon until the tracks were laid to hurdsfield in 1902. The porch was built just high enough for one to step directly from the vehicle to the porch, or vice versa. Jerry Hayes, who had a claim nearby, was the driver and Eze Simar took care of the teams. In wet weather when the going was heavy, he hitched four horses to the three-seated spring wagon that whisked the buyers from place to place.
“The visitors were housed and fed at the Hurd ranch house down below the hill. It had running water, most unusual for a rural home at that time, which was piped down from the small cut-stone spring house in the gully just below the Round House to the southwest.
Now it was time to skedaddle on home to Bismarck on this beautiful prairie day, with just two more brief and unplanned stops along N.D. byways.
West of Tuttle, just west of mile marker 31 on state Highway 36, is a series of small lakes. Here we spotted the lovely western grebe, 51 to be exact, all engaging in courtship displays. I was shooting into the sun. so my photos are not as I would have liked,
But here is a splendid video that gives you a sense of the wonder my mother and I watched. And we got to see 51 western grebes, all in one small lake.
My next screech to a halt was for my all-time favorite prairie wild flower, Prairie Smoke (geum triloforum), also known as Torch Flower, Maidenhair or Old Man’s Whiskers. My mother was not acquainted with this flower, so it was especially fun for me to introduce this to her and caused me to wonder if this does not grow in the Deep Creek area of Slope County. O.A. Stevens does not enlighten me on this, so it is something for me to find out on a later date. I picked a few stems for her to carry back to her apartment for later enjoyment.
I dropped her off at her assisted living facility with this loot from her thrift-storing and many happy memories of the outing. Both of us were happy to be North Dakotans and happy to be home.
One of the more popular things to do on a Friday night during the summer in Grand Forks is to head to the River Cities Speedway for the races. And that’s where you could have found photographer Russ Hons this week. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)
Law enforcement officials from agencies across North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba gathered Tuesday in Purpur Arena in Grand Forks to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty going back to 1890 at the annual Northern Valley Police Week Memorial Service, and photographer Russ Hons was there. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)
Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons braved the snow and wind Monday night to capture these lovely scenes in downtown Grand Forks and Lincoln Park. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)
The world of golf lost a legend Sunday. Arnold Palmer, who was nicknamed “The King,” died in a Pittsburgh hospital while awaiting heart surgery. Palmer won seven major championships during his professional career, which spanned more than five decades. He won the Masters four times, The Open twice and the U.S. Open once. Here are some photos taken by Russ Hons of Grand Forks while Palmer was in Grand Forks in September 2008 to dedicate King’s Walk Golf Course. Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.