I photographed this dilapidated farmhouse (above) just south of Wellsburg, N.D., in August 1969.
A shadow of what it once was, I had lived there as a child. Shortly after I took this picture, the new owner burned it to the ground.
A neighbor who witnessed the fire told me “it died hard.”
When I was in the eighth grade, my parents rented out the land and moved to nearby Harvey. N.D. Not long after, my widowed Norwegian grandmother, Anna, died. Her family removed the house’s contents and sold the farm.
The land is now tilled, fence line to fence line, with no trace of the buildings and trees that once graced it. Wellsburg, located on property my grandfather, Hans, sold to the Great Northern Railroad, has all but disappeared.
Hardly a year goes by that I don’t return and pay my respects at the nearby rural cemetery where Hans, Anna and my parents are buried.
From the road near where the house was, I gaze at Butte de Morale on the western horizon as I did every day of my childhood, hoping to recapture what I felt so many years ago.
But the writer Thomas Wolfe was correct: you can’t go home again.