DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Going Home Again

It’s said you can’t go home again. That was even the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, and others — Proust and Hemingway among them — came to the same conclusion.

I accept the premise logically, but not emotionally.

So this past Sunday, I again found myself driving 442 miles from my current residence in Bloomington, Minn., to Harvey, N.D., and from there to nearby Wellsburg. I spent my formative years in this area before, like most of my friends, moving on to the larger world.

News reports in the Twin Cities had suggested North Dakota was suffering a drought, but I saw no evidence of that in this area. The weather was perfect — mild temperatures, bright green fields, and glorious blue skies.

The above photo was one of the first I shot, a view from the viaduct over the Soo Line tracks in Harvey, N.D. The yard is far from being as busy as it was when I was a kid. But it’s still a nice and prosperous town.

Having said that, I also saw and photographed some things there and in Wellsburg that gave me pause. Stay tuned for more on that topic in later FB posts.

One other thing for sure I noticed.

I ain’t as young as I once was. The total mileage on the two-day trip totaled nearly 1,000 miles, and it sort of tuckered me out.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Going Home With Mrs. Hovland

I was 6 years old and in the first grade in the spring of 1950 when my parents received my last report card of the year. It was signed by teacher Sylpha Hovland, who certified my promotion to the second grade at Fram Township School No. 3 in Wellsburg, N.D.

I still have the card.

Later, I moved on to Harvey High School, the University of North Dakota and Northwestern University. But in retrospect, I regard Mrs. Hovland as the best teacher I ever had, bar none.

She was very encouraging, focused on solid fundamentals and instilled in us a desire to learn. My subject matter grades were decent (except for penmanship).

But I fared less well in two habits and attitudes categories: “Responsive to Authority” and “Receives suggestions kindly.”

Yeah, she got that right.

The Vorland farm, in 2004.
The Vorland farm, in 2004.

Although the Vorland farm is long gone, most years I try to visit Wellsburg. This picture was taken in 2004, shot from roughly the center of the home quarter. The buildings and trees are now gone. The current owner farms the land fence line to fence line.

The Wellsburg grain elevators also have disappeared. Indeed, so has most of the town.

But the school building still exists, converted into a personal residence.

I’ll travel to Wellsburg and Harvey this summer, as I have done so many times. The novelist Thomas Wolfe was wrong — you CAN go home again.

And this year, I’ll be thinking of Mrs. Hovland.