Posted by: justawriter | September 20, 2011

Far Afield – A land of extreme anniversaries

A land of extreme anniversaries
Anniversaries are odd things. They are occasions to remember the extremes in life, whether those extremes were happy or sad.
This year marks many anniversaries. They range from the terribly tragic 10th anniversary of the terror attacks in New York to the 20th anniversary of the Minnesota Twins second World Series victory. It’s also the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in North Dakota. There’s nothing like an anniversary ending in zero or five to give people a chance to reminisce.
I love North Dakota history. I was raised in this state and have made it my home for almost all of the 51 years. So when it comes to marking time, I like looking back at what was going on right in our neighborhood. It turns out that 75 years ago, Mountrail County became a part an historic season.
The year 1936 was a year for the record books. If the Great Depression wasn’t enough to depress you, North Dakota was getting the full Dust Bowl treatment. That was the year that of the Great Cold Wave and on the day after Valentines Day, Parshall saw the coldest temperature every recorded in North Dakota, a full 60 degrees below zero. I’ve heard it was so cold that people couldn’t even talk to each other because their words would freeze in mid-air and fall to the ground.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, that summer followed with the Great Heat Wave of 1936. Steele, not that many miles from Parshall saw the hottest temperature ever recorded in the state, a blazing 121 degrees on July 6. The sun beat down on the soil so hard that in some places everything in the top four inches of soil, even bacteria, was killed by the heat. In North Dakota, the Missouri was just about the only river with any water in it. The Red was dry in Fargo and Devils Lake was just a puddle four feet deep. If the papers of the day are to be believed, the grasshoppers ate every dry piece of grain and hay then moved on to fence posts and were even gnawing on the barbed wire before the drought ended.
Times have changed and the climate has certainly changed. Since 1993, North Dakota has had more rain and snow than it knows what to do with. That four foot puddle is now a 50 foot deep lake and still rising. Minot is just now starting to clean up from what may be the biggest flood on the Mouse River ever. Experts said in 2009 that Lake Sakakawea might take 10 years to refill, and in 2011 operators were forced to send a flood to Bismarck to keep things from overflowing.
North Dakota’s weather has always been one of the biggest challenges of living here. It still is. But our grandparents and great grandparents made it through the winter and summer of 1936. North Dakota has a lot more going for it than it did back then. So we will get through the tribulations of 2011 and rebuild, just like we did three quarters of a century ago.


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