TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Hurricane Donald

A big wind made landfall last Wednesday in North Dakota, and when I woke up the next morning, North Dakota was great again.

A KX News morning show anchor giddily recounted her excitement about President Trump’s visit and how she and her family had gone out to “show our love for the president.” I was a little surprised her objective report didn’t include the phrase “glorious leader.”

Perhaps I woke up in North Korea. I missed it, did anyone kiss his ring?

Not everyone was happy about the president’s invitation-only visit to a refinery in Mandan. I know I’m part of the Fake News and Liberal Agenda that Rush Limbaugh blames for overhyping Hurricane Irma just to make a point about climate change, but it is a statistical fact 41 percent of North Dakotans don’t support the president.

Eleven percent of them have actually been groped by him. The other 30 percent have been goosed by Limbaugh.

This may explain why folks are increasingly desperate for medical marijuana to get here. “Please help us forget.” Anyway, don’t tell me the president’s not on something. He must be smoking covfefe during those 3 a.m. tweet sessions from the bathroom.

We should legalize covfefe, too, once we figure out what it is. The downside of building The Wall is we’ll no longer have easy access to covfefe pouring across our borders from Mexico. But we’ll have jobs picking tomatoes, if we’re not too busy mining coal, the energy of the future.

Once we get rid of people who are different from us, things will be grand. I think a raid at Norsk Hostfest would be a good start. And, yes, Jethro, we’ll call you for that Google programming gig once we send Ravi back to New Delhi.

And did you hear? A Dickinson company is in the running to build a prototype for The Wall. I hope they’re better at it than the folks in my neck of the woods. Every time I drive to Lehr, there are cows on the road. We need better fences. Or more-obedient cattle.

Naturally, there were protesters and counter-protesters in Mandan. You could tell them apart based on the spelling errors. I don’t think racists should be against “Muslins.” What would they do without sheets?

Noted white supremacist Craig Cobb was there to show his support for the president. David Duke couldn’t make it because he was rallying support to defend statues of Colonel Sanders, Ashley Wilkes, The Dukes of Hazzard and Foghorn Leghorn.

Some of the president’s supporters yelled at Trump protesters to get a job. Silly. Everyone knows liberal protesters work for George Soros. I personally feel he should get more credit as a job creator.

Meanwhile, the Trump supporters were apparently multitasking, working, while supporting the president. That’s the sort of gumption that made America great before Obama made it un-great. To be fair, he did make Kenya great again.

Pretty much everyone was mad about Sen. Heidi Heitkamp riding on Air Force One with President Trump. Liberals already think she’s too far right. Republicans don’t think she has enough deferments to even qualify for high office. Kevin Cramer was especially displeased. Not only did Heidi get the window seat, she made him go to the galley three times for salted almonds. You know how Leftists are when it comes to free stuff. They’re always pulling themselves up by other people’s bootstraps. Then, to top it off, the president actually said nice things about Heidi when he spoke because he wants her to vote for tax breaks for the rich, to help out the poor.

North Dakota is a shining example of giving tax breaks to rich guys. That has taken the pressure from North Dakota property owners, who are more than happy to absorb the cost of tax breaks for Big Oil. Because having too much disposable income can get downright confusing.

I mean where do you invest — Wall Street or Russia? The easy answer is always invest in tax breaks for billionaires.

This time, it’s sure to trickle down. I’ll bet oil typhoon Harold Hamm, who thanks to North Dakota Republicans, could finally afford to fly in from Oklahoma to greet the president, threw dollar bills out the window of his Lear Jet.

Technically, that could result in a $500 fine under stiff new littering penalties passed by Republicans to protect the environment. However, if you spill a few thousand barrels of oil in North Dakota, all you have to do is write, “I was a bad boy,” a 100 times on the blackboard. You have to ease into these things.

I’m not saying we’re easy, but all the light bulbs in Bismarck are being swapped out with red ones. It’ll be purdy at Christmas.

© Tony Bender, 2017

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Another Trip Around The Sun

Sometime after I went to bed last night, I completed my 70th trip around the sun. Today I begin my 71st.

They’ve been interesting trips. I’ve enjoyed most of all of them. They’ve all been different. If I could do them over, there are probably a few different roads I’d choose, a few different off-ramps I’d take, a few different corners I’d turn. But for the most part, they’ve been pretty good trips. If I viewed them as just different parts of one long trip, I’d agree with Jerry Garcia — it’s been a long, strange trip.

But I like looking at them as separate trips. The first few were in Chicago, where I learned to walk and talk. The rest, for the most part, have begun and ended in North Dakota, the place I love. My parents made the decision to bring me here for my fourth trip, looked after me for the next 15 or so, and then I made the decision to spend most of the rest of them here, with the exception of minitrips outside the state to make life a little more interesting, and the four trips my Uncle Sam took me on around the globe.

I’ve made about eight more trips than my dad did, but I’ve got a ways to go to pass my mother’s record. That would be a good goal, I guess. She made 85. And by God, she made the most of them. If you’d have asked her as she approached the end of her last trip, she’d have said every one of them was a good one. She was the most positive and optimistic woman I’ve ever known. Maybe that’s where I get it from.

I was reminded over this just-passed long weekend of the value of family and good friends. My siblings and I all gathered for a couple of days in the North Dakota Bad Lands, and they all said nice things about me at supper Saturday night. I am grateful for all of them, and to my parents for giving them to me.

And in a little gathering on my patio yesterday, a kind of a spontaneous rally around a cake and a jug of lemonade, friends gave me little gifts and encouraged me to make a whole bunch more trips.

I think I will. And I think I’ll follow Neil Young’s advice: “My, my, hey, hey, it’s better to burn out than fade away.” Lillian gave me this T-shirt yesterday. I’m going to wear it once a week for the rest of my trips. Until I burn out.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

“The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind, but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.”Peter Matthiessen

Everyone I see these days asks me if I saw the solar eclipse, and Jim and I eagerly share our experience with one another. Last night, I looked at the moon over my backyard with different eyes than ever before. What glorious orbs in this universe!

On the top of the list of “glorious”: North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt Park is one of the most glorious places in North Dakota, if not the most. I’ve stood on the rim of the canyon there, at River Bend Overlook, with my father, and he has said, with some authority, that it is as beautiful there as the Grand Canyon.

I’ve camped there 50 times or more. I’ve hiked all of the trails and bushwacked plenty of my own trails. The solitude is one of the elements that make it special, even more so than the more frequently visited South Unit. It is off the beaten path, off the interstate.

Juniper Campground is very peaceful, and the scenic drive is chock-a-block full of stupendous views, wildlife, prairie vegetation and stellar examples of the geological forces that shape the Bad Lands.

The conservation group I founded, Badlands Conservation Alliance, keeps a close watch on this place, along with the Dakota Prairie Grasslands as a whole. The North Unit is an important refuge for North Dakotans, and all visitors.

So it is with consternation that I absorb the news that yet another oil and gas lease sale is proposed that will impact the boundary of this relatively small place. You can read more about that proposal here.

I’m also furious about the North Dakota Department of Transportation proposal to build a new bridge, replacing the Long X bridge on U.S. Highway 85, right up against the North Unit. The sound of only the birds and the cottonwood leaves stirring will be invaded by the maddening hum of a bridge.

NDDOT could do it differently, and many excellent suggestions have been made, by BCA and others, to preserve this treasure. The evidence to date is that NDDOT is ignoring this input.

Watch for notices about public meetings to come this fall and attend these meetings, to let them know that you also are concerned and to tell them that they must do better. Call or write NDDOT and request that it schedules one of the upcoming hearings in Bismarck.

Full moon setting, dawn, autumn cottonwood, TRNP North Unit.
Full moon setting, dawn, autumn cottonwood, TRNP North Unit.

Another action item you can choose is to become a member of BCA. This is easily done on the website.  Another tiny, ridiculously easy thing you can do is to share this blog posting widely, with the knowledge that each voice speaking for TRNP makes a difference.

Cause, folks, when it is gone, it is gone.  Poof.  How will we explain to future generations that we just let it go without a word of protest?

 

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Steamboats In Dakota Territory’: A Book Review

“Steamboats in Dakota Territory: Transforming the Northern Plains,” Tracy Potter. The History Press, 2017, 140 pages.

I can think of no one more qualified to enlighten readers on the history of steamboats in Dakota land than Tracy Potter, Bismarck, the author of the book “Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat.” Potter is deeply read in history and his work leading the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation steeped him in the background for this volume.

He sets the scene in his introduction and the initial chapters, describing the world of the Native Peoples as well as early explorers and trappers, who used the Missouri River for their travels. Then, the steamboats began to arrive:

“Steamboats’ speed and power transformed a region and forever affected relations between the United State and the several Indian nations of Dakota. …Steamboats provided a distinct and overt technological advantage to the American. They carried large loads — of trade goods, men, guns and cannon. They were impressive, useful and an object of considerable skepticism among the Indians.”

Prior to reading this book, I knew only the most rudimentary facts about this colorful chapter of history and its impact on the development of the area.  Potter’s extensive research and the book’s bibliography are appreciated.

Potter tells the tales of Kenneth McKenzie and Grant Marsh, and of steamboats Yellow Stone, Spread Eagle, and the famous Far West, the steamboat forever linked to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He also highlights the steamboats of the Red River and Devils Lake and describes the deeply sad story of the steamboats role in the spread of smallpox.

The photographs that illustrate this volume help the reader imagine a time period when the banks of the Missouri at Bismarck and Pierre, S.D., were bustling with steamboats, their crew and passengers and the economic activity they drove.

“For the non-Indians involved with steamboats, they provided relatively rapid and generally safe transportation, commerce and communication. Steamboats stimulated the growth of cities, and as settlements increased in number and size, the boats stitched the region together. … For the twenty-first-century reader, most of all what steamboats provided were stories.”

The book is available at the Fort Lincoln Commissary, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Pick up this book, sit back, and enjoy the stories.

More photographs from Steamboat Park, Bismarck.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Bully For Billy

If you didn’t like Billy Kretschmar, the fault was not his.

Billy was a fixture in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1974 to 2016, with one lost election in between, and during that time, most politicians would have developed fierce enemies.

If Billy had them, I don’t know who they are. When I deconstructed his career in a February feature story, I couldn’t find anyone who had a bad thing to say about him. I tried.

I knew Billy almost 20 years before he died Thursday at 83. He’d told a close friend that no Kretschmar man had ever lived to 84. That was Billy, a traditionalist. But the first word that leaps to mind when I think of William Edward Kretschmar is “gentleman.”

Billy had been in poor health in recent months, so we should have been prepared. But I don’t suppose anyone was. I got the news just before I headed out on a road trip. My eyes were a bit blurry for the first stretch. I started searching my memory, wondering if I had ever before shed a tear for any politician. I don’t think so.

Although Billy was a Republican, and I was not, I only took him to task for two votes over the years. One of those discussions caused the normally unflappable Billy Kretschmar to become flapped.

It was a pro-life bill I found ill-conceived. As was his nature, Billy listened — really listened — and, in any other case, he would have gently, respectfully, and concisely explained his reasoning.

This time, he just took the barrage. Finally, he grew exasperated, throwing up his hands, saying, “I’m Catholic!” and walked away. You know, I had to respect that.

As a legislator, Billy was what has become an almost extinct species, a moderate, willing and able to work with members of both parties. His votes were reasoned, not ideological. Billy did what he thought was right, and most of the time, I think he got it right. After sessions, he’d hold court at a Bismarck watering hole with members of both parties, something they called “The Billy Club.”

If anyone ever accumulated more institutional knowledge and history of the North Dakota Legislature, I don’t know who it is. If there was a question about procedure, or if a bill needed background and context, Billy Kretchshmar knew.

Bruce Eckre, a former legislator, said, “The history of the Legislature is not in the history books. They say when a person dies, a whole history book goes with them. In Kretch’s case; it was many books.”

Mostly, I knew Billy as a friend. He was a neighbor, a resident of Venturia, N.D., population 10, so if you consider the mayor and other city officers, most Venturians are politicians. There’s a minister and a bartender, too, because with that percentage of politicians, you need therapy of one kind or another.

Billy, who loved, loved, loved to gamble, was a stalwart member of the Ashley Fantasy Football League, but not a particularly well-prepared one. One recent year, during the draft, as Billy fumbled around, I cracked, “Billy, why don’t you just write me a check now, and let’s get this over with.” In spite of Billy’s unorthodox draft picks, one year he won the league trophy, and that still makes me smile.

One of the charms of life on Main Street in Ashley, is that it’s personal. Fellow merchants still walk through each other’s doors at the end of the month delivering payments personally (and it saves a stamp).

Sure, we use more email these days, but with Billy, you couldn’t do that. At the Legislature, his inbox was ignored, and his computer mostly a paperweight. Yes, he had a cell phone, but it was maddeningly used for outgoing calls only, so you had to catch him in person.

If it was coffee break, you’d find Bily at the cafe with a long table of retirees, gambling to see who picked up the tab. When the cafe, which has been closed until new owners take over, re-opens, I hope they leave Billy’s chair vacant for awhile.

I’m writing this on the day of the eclipse. I could draw some analogy, but I know Billy wouldn’t want that. I will tell you he would have been 84 today.

I have this image of Billy arriving at the pearly gates, humbly, genteel, but with a twinkle in his eye, as he meets St. Peter.

“Double or nothing?” I imagine him saying.

© Tony Bender, 2017

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Ben Hanson For Congress: A Good Idea

So it begins. North Dakota has its first official candidate in the 2018 election. Given all the weird shit (read: Trump) that’s been going on over the past eight months or so, I’m eager for a fresh start, and my young friend, Ben Hanson, has provided that. Thank you, Ben.

Ben sent me an e-mail shortly after midnight last night announcing he is running for Congress, to represent the great state of North Dakota in Washington, DC. I hope he wins.

He’s running against another friend of mine, Kevin Cramer (who I used to vote for until he went crazy on me in this Trump thing), if he gets the endorsement of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party next spring. To do that, he may have to sneak past a couple of other Democrats who are said to be considering the race, former State Senator Mac Schneider and current State Senator Merrill Piepkorn.

Both are better known across the state, Schneider, the former Senate Minority Leader and Grand Forks attorney who was ousted from his District 42 State Senate seat last November, and Piepkorn, the longtime voice on Prairie Public Radio, who won his first race for the State Senate in the same election in Fargo’s District 44. Neither has announced, but if they do, it will be a healthy thing for the Democrats.

I can see them traveling around the state together seeking the party endorsement, like the four Democrats — George Sinner, Art Link, Buckshot Hoffner and Walt Hjelle — did in the run-up to the 1984 Democratic-NPL convention. That was good for the party, and the attention it got helped Sinner defeat incumbent Allen Olson in the November election that year.

I really like Hanson (no relation to Bob Hanson, the former Democratic-NPL state officeholder) and will support him in his efforts to get the nomination, despite my friendship with Schneider and Piepkorn.

I first met him in 2006, when he was a teenager getting involved in Democratic-NPL Party politics. He was making a video about Art and Grace Link, and I think we showed it at the State Democratic-NPL Convention. I could see he had an intense interest in politics, even as a young college student.

He went on to get his college degree and become a real estate broker. He got involved in his local district party and got himself elected to the state Legislature from Fargo’s District 16, where he served two sessions before losing a re-election effort last year. He quickly got involved in leadership in the Legislature, becoming his party’s House Caucus Co-Chair, and he called me from time to time to get together and talk strategy for the future of the party and the state.

He called last spring, and we sat and drank a beer, and he said he thought he’d like to run for Congres, and asked me what I thought. I said, “Go!” in the strongest possible terms. I like his ideas about our state, his political knowledge despite only being 30 years old and his belief that people should be involved in politics for the future of the state, not the future of the candidate. Whether or not he becomes our state’s congressman, he’ll be around in leadership roles for a long time.

It’s heartening to see young people like Hanson getting involved in politics and government at this level. I hope he becomes our congressman. Here’s what he had to say in his announcement e-mail:

BEN HANSON ANNOUNCES BID FOR CONGRESS

Vows to fight for North Dakota families, create good middle-class jobs & grow North Dakota’s economy

(FARGO, ND) — Lifelong North Dakotan Ben Hanson announced today his intention to run for North Dakota’s lone seat in the United States House of Representatives. Hanson released the following statement:

“I’m excited to be running to become North Dakota’s next Congressman because I love North Dakota. I was born here, raised here, and my family has farmed North Dakota ground for generations. They taught me North Dakota values like hard work, dedication and looking out for your neighbor. These values have guided me this far in life and just as I have lived by them I will run by them.”

“I’m running because I believe that North Dakota deserves a congressman who will focus on the needs of hard-working North Dakotans — creating good paying jobs for working families, strengthening the middle class, and building an economy that works for everyone. Over the course of my campaign, I will focus on boosting job growth and jumpstarting our economy by investing in small businesses, an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and rebuilding our infrastructure.”

“North Dakota needs an advocate in Washington to help solve problems and navigate its complexities. Unfortunately, Kevin Cramer has lost focus on issues that matter to North Dakotans and instead has become part of the mess that is Washington, D.C. Together we can move forward — with an eye toward bringing North Dakota values and work-ethic to the halls of Congress. I look forward to the privilege of representing the people of North Dakota and earning your support.”

  • Kenton Onstad, Former House Minority Leader, Parshall School Board Member: “Ben not only understands the complexities and the dynamics of Western North Dakota but the entire state of North Dakota. He would represent all of the citizens of our state. Young or old, male or female, those fortunate or less fortunate, Ben would be proud to represent you, as you would be of him.”
  • North Dakota State Senator Tim Mathern: “I’m excited to see Ben Hanson enter the race, as well as this new leadership for our state, and a rebirth of the party. As an added bonus Ben Hanson’s roots are deep across North Dakota, from Crosby to the Red River Valley. We will all benefit with Ben Hanson in Congress.”

About Ben Hanson:

With family from Crosby to Casselton, Ben Hanson is a lifelong North Dakotan with deep roots in this community. Ben grew up in the Red River Valley, attending Fargo South High School, and he is a graduate of Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

As a North Dakota state representative, Ben was focused on making North Dakota a leader in creating good-paying technology jobs and making state government more transparent.

Ben currently works as a commercial broker for Archer Real Estate Services and lives in Fargo.

RON SCHALOW — If The Pillowcase Fits …

A few years ago, before the Fargo Forum’s Rob Port banned me from his brain cell-resistant Sayanything blog Facebook page, I found myself politely conversing, for my part, with a Grand Forks member of the III percent right-wing militia group. He cursed like a wet pirate with R-rated dagger wounds. I was soooo frightened, but I pulled myself together with a nice glass of milk.

If you look at the III percent website, they’re armed, have scary logos and are supposedly prepared to attack, if our government strays from their idea of how our government should operate. You know, the tyranny thing. They are ready to kill police, soldiers and, oh, they are so unready. The poor traitorous dears.

Anyway, being a curious guy, I asked, what date are you characters planning to pounce? I would like to get situated on my porch, with a lawn chair and beverage, and watch the action. I was told that it was none of my business, but I would be first to get my throat cut, along with other liberals. I guess they’re trying to conserve bullets.

Well, OK then. Seems harsh, but the liberal doesn’t rub off, so a minority in North Dakota I shall be. F you III percent dude and all of your pets.

They claim that race isn’t an issue, but their membership spiked when Obama was elected and again when Black Lives Matters came to being. So, race is kinda involved.

I don’t know if any these III percent mutts, or other militia species, went to Charlottesville, Va., and stood with the white supremacists, white nationalists, the KKK, neo-Nazis, alt-righters and other feral hate groups that figured out Google maps and had extra torches on hand.

There are no rationalizations for ugly white supremacists toting long guns, reprehensible props and flags of enemies, walking through an American city, although Rob Port, Scott Hennen and plenty of others are trying. NO, the white supremacists and the counter demonstrators are NOT just two sides of the same coin.

Excusing overt racism is despicable and puts the apologist in the same bunker as the other deep thinkers, staring at ammo, freeze-dried diced beef and the chemical toilet. Enjoy.

Racism is an American pastime, and it still permeates North Dakota. Did you think that Pete Tefft was our only white supremacist? Good grief. North Dakota is infested with white supremacists, white nationalists, racists, bigots, alt-righters and others in the same ideological subdivision.

They need to be rooted out — and outed. Whether that turns out to be a useful strategy, or people take it as a compliment, and a benefit to their reputation, at least we’ll know who is who.

Recent studies have determined that right-wing terrorism has been more dangerous to U.S. citizens living in the homeland than any Muslim-related terror. Yet, we spend many billions specifically earmarked to keep tabs on Islamic extremists, but Republicans in Congress kill any efforts to deal with the right-wing threat. It’s quite stupid.

Especially important to name are those in charge. Racists that sit on city councils, hold legislative seats, work for the government and the loudmouths who have a daily radio or print presence. I’ve already named a couple.

North Dakota is one the most homogenous states in the union, but there are still Native Americans to kick around, as they always have been. The stereotypes never change, and we’re lucky enough to have a blogger willing to smear the First People at the drop of a Twinkie. His blog numbers go way up whenever the weasel trots out his bigotry and aims at the Natives, LGBTQ or refugees. Blogboy will claim so many of his fans are falsely labeled as racists or bigots, but I say… if the pillowcase fits, pal …

I think that Russian president groper has established where he stands. And we have so many of our lawmakers, at every level, who find Trump’s white friendly schtick, a dream come true. After eight years of suffering, somehow through competent governess, it’s good to get the old Nazi flag out the closet for the first time and march for the right to have separate water fountains once again.

So, disavow, sincerely, the supremacy bull$#!*, you North Dakota D.C. reps, leaders in our state executive branch, legislators, mayors, council people, commissioners, or prepare to be outed. As Sam Kinison screamed at a sweaty Rodney Dangerfield, “SAY IT! SAY IT!”

Then, you can brag or complain.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Chocolate’ at the North Dakota Heritage Center

“Only when we know little things do we know anything; doubt grows with knowledge.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

With the exception of my home, my favorite human-made place in the state is the North Dakota Heritage Center. I live a short distance from there and go very frequently, to view the exhibits, to eat lunch, to do research at the State Archives and just to hang out in their pleasant spaces. Heck, I just like to drive by! It is one of North Dakota’s crown jewels.

This morning I went there to see the temporary exhibit “Chocolate“, something that has been on “my list” for months. And learn more about chocolate, did I. From the tree on which the pods grow, to the Mayan and Aztec cultures, to the spread of chocolate around the world and more.

All of this made me want to eat some chocolate, so I made a pass through the excellent James River Cafe for an indulgence.

Then, I strolled over to check out their new exhibit on World War I. I highly recommend both exhibits.  When I was living in Medora, I worked as a museum technician for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I love museums and visit as many as I can. Kudos to the hard-working and talented staff at the North Dakota Heritage Center. What a good investment of our tax dollars.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Halek Sentencing Delayed Again

If you’ve been following the saga of Jason Halek on my blog for the last four years, you know that on July 31 he was supposed to be sent off to jail for dumping 800,000 gallons of poisonous oilfield brine down an abandoned well south of Dickinson. I last wrote about him on April 13, the day he pleaded guilty to three felonies, committed in late 2012 and early 2013. I ended that with the words “I’ll report back July 31.”

Well, July 31 has come and gone, and no sentencing yet. Judge Daniel Hovland in the U.S. District Court here postponed sentencing until Oct. 11. I’m not sure why, but when I read through the court docket on the case I learned that on July 19, Halek’s attorney, Alex Reichert of Grand Forks, filed a motion for an extension of time to object to the presentence investigation report. I’m guessing that Reichert’s motion was approved, based on the postponement of sentencing.

Halek’s associate, and the guy who fingered him, Nathan Garber, was also scheduled to be sentenced that day, but his sentencing date has also been moved to Oct. 11. He’s going to get off easy, I think, because Halek was the guy the government really wanted, and Garber gave him up.

If you’re new to this case, or this blog, you can read the whole history of it here. I’m not going to burden you with it again.

But let me just say that I am confused about the delay in sentencing, since Halek appeared in court April 12, and when asked by Hovland how he pleaded, he said “Guilty, your honor.” I guess Hovland called for a presentence investigation, but I missed that. And I guess that’s the reason for the delay.

This is now the 10th article I’ve written about this case, and it looks like there will be one more, on or about Oct. 11. It’s actually been a little bit of fun, which it shouldn’t be, because what this guy did is serious business, serious enough to send him to a federal prison for up to three years for violating our country’s Safe Drinking Water Act.

But I’ve had some fun correspondence, from people I don’t know, who have read the blog stories and got in touch with me. Like this one from a guy in Mexico:

“I had the misfortune of working with Jason Halek in Texas where I finally met with him and his dad one morning and told them they were ripping off investors … and they promptly fired me. Best thing that happened to me for sure. I read with interest he may go to jail soon. Would love an update if possible. I would enjoy being there to hear the judge pass sentence too! Keep up the good work … this man is an amazing scam artist and I hope he goes to jail.” (He sent me his phone number and e-mail address, so I will let him know when something happens.)

NOTE: Last I heard, Halek is still on the hook for $22 million he ripped off from those investors. Oh, and he’s still on the hook for about a million and a half dollars in North Dakota fines. Remember that big, black headline back in 2013 screaming “$1.5 Million Fine” on the front page of North Dakota newspapers? As far as I can tell, Halek hasn’t paid a penny of that — the state has received $40,000 from the bond company that Halek engaged when he went into business here, and that’s it. He  still owes of most of that $1.5 million. He’s been selling used cars lately. Gonna take a lot of used cars to clean that up. And he probably won’t have much income for the next few years.

Steph BL. Really, that’s her.
Steph BL. Really, that’s her.

And then just this week, I had a Facebook message from someone I don’t know, and I responded. Here’s the conversation:

MON 12:21PM Steph BL: Did Jason Halek get sentenced yet?

MON 3:41PM: Me: Sentencing postponed to Oct. 11.

MON 3:42PM Steph BL: Wow it just keeps dragging on. I was his first girlfriend in 1994 and have been following his story. Lol. Thanks for the reporting. He gets out of everything it seems.

MON 5:23PM Me: Well he has a good lawyer, but I’m guessing he’s going to the pokey for a couple years. We’ll see.

MON 5:24 Steph BL: Probably what he needs in order to hopefully wake him up. He thinks he’s untouchable invinceable (sic). A true narcissist. I think I probably dodged a bullet when he dumped me. Lol.

Ya think, Steph?

Stay tuned.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — I Dragged My Daughter To Slope County: Another S.W. North Dakota Excursion

“A billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when the stars are dead.”
 Ranier Maria Rilke

Cottonwood leaf, turned yellow too early because of the drought.
Cottonwood leaf, turned yellow too early because of the drought.

My daughter, Chelsea, and I packed up the car and headed for southwest North Dakota this past week. I know, it seems I’m always traveling, especially odd for a homebody like me, but summers are short in here on the northern Plains, thus we squeeze as much play time as we can in the season.

Our destination was Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but first, while I had her in the car and she was now old enough to appreciate it, I wanted to take her to tour my home country, Slope County, to help her to better understand her heritage.

At Belfield, we drove south into the clear air of the southwestern corner of the state, and frequently saw soaring Swainson’s hawks and other buteos. Traveling through Amidon, I smiled at the sign proclaiming that it is the “smallest county seat in the nation.” The crops along the way looked rather pitiful and in several of the towns, we saw “Pray for Rain” signs. We passed White Butte, the highest point in the state, and discussed a future hike there. (I’ve been, she has not.).

Near the Bowman County line, I saw a prairie falcon. We proceeded on past Twin Buttes to the tidy town of Bowman, where I showed Chelsea the highlights.

She was impatient to get to her favorite places (TRNP), but had finally decided that she might as well go with the flow and let me “get this out of my system.”

Cruising Main Street, I was sad to see that they’ve moved the Drug Store, the place where I often went as a kid to the soda foundation and to purchase a new Matchbox car.

I want Chelsea to understand her southwestern N.D. roots, so I told her family stories as we drove. I attended many movies in the theater here, my Grandpa Andy Silbernagel had a house here (next door to the Ohm’s), and my mother was a nurse at the hospital here. One year, I brought my 4-H chickens to the Bowman County Fair. I am grateful that I got to participate in 4-H and learn many lessons from our leader, Pauline Brooks, a great Slope County lady.

Before we left Bowman, we had a hearty lunch at Jabber’s Restaurant and bought some of their huge caramel rolls for our next day’s camp breakfast.

Next, we drove northwest on the Farm to Market road, to our home ranch. This is beef country, and prominent places in my memory are the Stuber and Brooks ranches. My father would help with the work at the Stuber Ranch, all those many years ago. Sadly, the house at the Pearson place is gone now, but my memories remain, and I told Chelsea of the forts we built and the rabbits we raised and the hills we sledded.

Although this display of combines is in south-central North Dakota, it does give one the sense of the old combines on which we played.
Although this display of combines is in south-central North Dakota, it does give one the sense of the old combines on which we played.

This is rocky, hilly country, with many prairie rattlers present. Hilltops like this one were great places to explore, pretending these were our castles. On the farm, we had a couple of old combines in the yard, and we would make believe that these were our pirate ships. When we were not busy with our chores, there were endless possibilities for entertaining ourselves.

In the area near our old ranch, I saw a Krider’s hawk, a very pale variation of a red-tailed hawk. He soared over us soundlessly in a silent landscape. Chelsea can understand why, when I moved to the city for college, I struggled to adjust to the noise. We also heard phoebes calling when we stopped near to farm buildings.

One more spot nearby I showed her is the old metal sign west of our place, the remnant in this Deep Creek Township area of the old Yellowstone trail. (I will write more about this sign and trail in a future blog.)

I recounted to Chelsea stories about riding the school bus past this sign every day, in all sorts of North Dakota weather. As we neared Rhame, this prairie folk art amused us.

In Rhame, I showed her the old high school. There is no high school there now (the students attend in nearby Bowman), but it appears that they are using the building in support of the elementary and junior high students.

I played girls basketball in this gymnasium, was a cheerleader and played flute in the pep band. It was here I gave the valedictorian speech on my graduation day. Since that day, I’ve only been back to the school once, for my younger brother’s graduation.

Next, I showed her the Lutheran church, where I was baptized, attended confirmation classes and Vacation Bible School, sang in the choir and was the church pianist and organist, one of my first paying jobs.

I often attended CCD and Mass at St. Mel’s with my Catholic friends.

An obligatory stop at the Waterhole Bar, where a couple of Rhame folks were playing a game of pinochle, amused Chelsea. It didn’t take long to renew acquaintances again after all these years. These guys were members of the Rhame American Legion post with my father and fondly remember him.

We toured a little bit more of Rhame and then drove on to nearby Tuttle Cemetery, where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. I explained to Chelsea the story of Post Office Butte, where the early settlers left mail in a drop box, pre-United States Postal Service. At Tuttle Cemetery, I was surrounded by the graves of people I knew.

At Fort Dilts, the buffalo grass was crunchy underfoot. Here, too, I’m grateful that folks have preserved the history of the area and erected signs for our edification. I mentioned to Chelsea that her former college history professor would be pleased that she is visiting this place. You can learn more about Fort Dilts here.

Blazing Star.
Blazing Star.

As I strolled around the grounds, I spotted the first blooming blazing star of this season. Because of the drought, these are scarce.

We proceeded on north to the Henke Ranch, the former home of my Aunt Junette and Uncle Alan. Here, too, I have many happy memories of Sunday and holiday dinners, card-playing, berry-picking and various ranch games in their big barn and the nearby stock tank (where various sticks functioned as boats). I was staying here with them when Walter Cronkite came on television to announce that Richard Nixon has resigned the presidency, a somber moment in the history of our country.

Chelsea was growing impatient to get to her beloved TRNP, so we drove on, past Mound Church, where I attended and played piano for many Memorial and Veteran’s Day programs, with my father. I remember the sod house that was next to the road about halfway between the Henke place and ours, but my Aunt Junette tells me that it has now almost completely melted away. Chelsea tells me that she knows about sod houses from reading the Little House books.

We proceeded on north with a very quick stop at Davis Dam, where the buffalo berry bushes are loaded with fruit. Picking these berries is very tedious work, and the bushes are thorny! Needless to say, I didn’t even suggest this to my traveling companion.

I remember the sad day when we got the news that Spec Davis had died in a tractor accident.

We drove on past the Ponderosa Pines area on the East River Road and on to Medora, where we learned that the TRNP campground was full.

Plan B was to spend the night with my sister in Belfield. Since Chelsea had been waiting all day to go to the park, we drove on in and cooked our supper at the picnic grounds.

Then she went for the loop drive while I savored some river time. The Little Missouri River’s water heals whatever might be ailing me and soothes my soul. If you care as much about this sweet river as we do, please consider attending this week’s meeting of the reconvened Little Missouri State Scenic River Commission. You can learn more from my husband’s recent blog post: The Little Missouri Scenic River Commission is back in business.

After a good night’s sleep at my older sister’s house, we had a full day of TRNP happiness ahead. Chelsea is a photographer and is particularly fond of the park’s wild horses. She is a member of the North Dakota Badlands Horse organization and enjoys interacting with her fellow equine loving friends.

At the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, which must be the busiest rest area in North Dakota, she got a chance to interact with some trail riders who were gathering to depart from there.

After that it was on to the heart of the park, through the prairie dog towns, where we saw pronghorn antelope and three golden eagles, followed by a hike to Lindbo Flats from the Boicourt Overlooks.

We had just gotten started, bushwacking a trail, when a prairie rattler struck at my hiking stick. My senses processed this in the nanosecond it took for the strike to occur. Although I was now on full alert, this didn’t trouble me too much as I’m a veteran of this landscape and grew up with rattlers all of the time in Slope County. I just stepped back and we observed the rattler until it slivered away. Chelsea was more than a little jumpy when, a few steps later, a cottontail blasted out of the brush.

A Cooper’s hawk flew over, with a distinctive alarm call, and chased away a Northern harrier that had strayed into his territory.

Later, back in the car, we drove past the remnants of a long-ago controlled burn.

We ended a great day of exploration with, what else, Medora ice cream.

The following photographs were taken by my daughter, Chelsea Sorenson. You can see more of her work on Facebook at Wild Dakota Photos.

“It is the stars as not known to science that I would know, the stars which the lonely traveler knows.”
Henry David Thoreau