Fargo 2000

Some Lutherans Approaching A Stave Church
Some Lutherans Approaching A Stave Church

Since we’re going to Bismarck, North Dakota, for Kirk’s family reunion later this year, I thought it would be nice to share some reminiscences about our trip to Fargo in the Autumn of 2000. I know you’ll be endlessly fascinated– I mean, everyone goes to Rome, but how many people actually go to Fargo?

We did. It took us almost two days to get there, thanks to Aunt Nancy’s generosity. I think she was a stewardess or something for Frontier Airlines, so we flew on family rates. For $50, we went from Orlando to Denver on September 1 (it snowed); stayed overnight; flew to Minneapolis the next morning where we stayed the day at a flea bag hotel downtown; and then boarded Amtrak near midnight for the last leg of our journey to Fargo. The train men called out the stations as we rumbled through the night: “Coon Rapids… St. Cloud… Red Wing… Chicken City… Alexandria… Fergus Falls.” Fergus Falls?! That sounds like one of those towns that always figures in hatchet murders: “Twenty-three bodies were found in a refrigerator in Fergus Falls, Minnesota early this morning, at the home of  Sigmund B. Neighbors are understandably perplexed. ‘He was such a nice, quiet guy, ya know?’ said Edna Lindstrom, a next door neighbor.”
Those Lutherans you see in the picture above are Kirk’s Aunt Bunny; Kirk; and our personal tour guide, who took us through that beautiful stave chuch, a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church in Vik, Norway. It’s actually situated in Moorhead, Minnesota, right across the not-very-raging Red River from Fargo. It’s a feature of the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center, which displays artifacts and exhibits of Scandinavian life in the Americas– Hjemkomst means “homecoming.”
They really do treat you like you’ve come home to North Dakota– everyone is friendly and interested, nobody is in a hurry, and there’s hardly any traffic.
We spent some time in Jamestown looking at some buffalo at  the National Buffalo Museum there, where I disgraced myself on the prairie by acting silly while standing beneath the world’s largest buffalo statue.
"Cough, please!"

"Cough, please!"

Aunt Bunny took us one day to the Fargo Sons of Norway lodge, where they were so happy to receive out of town visitors that they opened doors to rooms normally verboten to strangers. A nice old gentleman showed us around, and when we got to a meeting room, Kirk asked if the huge carved chair was where the King of Norway sat when he came to visit. “Vell, he hasn’t come yet, but he vould sit dere if he did.”
Kirk Warms A Seat Fit for A King

Kirk Warms A Seat Fit for A King

Then I admired the ceiling, painted in the Norwegian folk style called rosemal.  “Ja, ve asked a big shot artist how much vould she charge to paint the ceiling, and she told us hundred dollars a square foot. I said, de heck vit you! So ve asked a young local guy, and he said ten dollars a square foot… is not so much detail, but ve like it!”

A Not-So-Detailed Ceiling

A Not-So-Detailed Ceiling

A tiny lady corralled me after I almost knocked her over in the hallway. She asked my particulars, and I explained that, while I wasn’t Norwegian, I was certainly interested in the language and the culture. “What are ya then?”   “Italian.”   “Oh,” she replied, staring up at me balefully. “Ya look it.”

We also bought a tub of romegrot at the lodge, which is a tummy-filling concoction often confused with wallpaper paste. Since it’s white and mushy and you could see all the ingredients, I loved it; so did Bunny’s husband Jerry, but then again he was raised on it. We were also told that all orders for lutefisk  had to be in starting the next week, as it is very popular during the holidays. (I can’t understand why.)

There’s a steepled Catholic church in Fargo, located right across the street from the steepledLutheran church, and so it’s fun imagining the two congregations glaring at one another when services conclude and everyone pours into the street. The truth is probably more along the lines of “we might have our differences and stuff but if the town caught fire or somethin’ like that, we’d all pull together to put out the flames, ya know?”

I tell you, it was beautiful driving through the state of North Dakota. All that open space helped clear my head… just watching the combines slowly combing across acres of crops had a soothing effect on me.
The sky was wide and deep blue, and everything seemed planned and safe.  The people are friendly and decent. It was exactly what I needed at that time in my life.
We got back to Winter Park on a Sunday evening, and work loomed the next day– a stressful former job which was threatening to kill me. As I was hanging up shirts, the closet rod– all ten feet of it– broke free of its moorings and dumped eight thousand pounds of clothes onto the floor. Instantly, the clean Dakota feeling was whisked from my head and replaced with workaday angst and trauma. I actually cried. At the time, I never thought I’d be back to North Dakota any time soon, but here it is 2009 and we’re finally planning a trip. We’ll probably be there some time in July, which means we won’t have to bring the thermal underwear we bought for our first trip. As sexy as they are, some things just don’t travel the year ’round.







6 responses

  1. That’s a huge bull…statue. All the bull statues I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few — hey I’m from the midwest) have had their [ahem] dingly danglies low enough so you could at least pretend to kick em. Oh, and I’ve had the same thing happen to my closet back in Milwaukee. I didn’t cry. I looked up from my computer to see the closet in ruins and thought to myself, “now, what the fuck?”

  2. As usual, this was a great story. While I’ve heard most of it before, it never fails to make me laugh. Especially the line de heck vit you!

    I want to go to North Dakota this summer with you!!!!!! Especially since I have angst and trauma EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE!

  3. I always love Norwegian references due to dtr-in-law, Tone Helene Hansen etc. etc. (many names). Will ask her if she ever visited Fargo. I know she wouldn’t want to miss the studly buffalo.

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