Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


It's a small but odd world...

Posted 12/03/19 (Tue)

Those of us who live here in North Dakota take a lot of ribbing about our location. People constantly get it wrong, don’t know how to find it on a map and when you ask them where North Dakota is, “Isn’t that someplace over by Chicago?”

When my National Guard unit was mobilized to U.S. Central Command, we transitioned with an Army Reserve unit from Tacoma, Wash., for two weeks before they went home.

One day I was driving somewhere with one of the Soldiers from the Tacoma unit and he asked me, “How’s everything going in South Dakota?” I told him I hadn’t been there in about three months and didn’t know.

He got upset with my comment so I had to explain to him that North Dakota and South Dakota are two different states.

Sometime after the flood in 2011, I was on the phone with a sales representative of Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine. We were talking about my seed order and that it would be less than in years past because of the overland flooding.

“What’s going on in South Dakota that would force you to cut back?”

I don’t know lady, I don’t live in South Dakota!

They can’t even get it right when our own governor is involved. I don’t know if you remember this scenario, but many years ago Gov. Ed Schafer was interviewed by one of the news networks while he was standing atop a snow bank at the Bismarck Civic Center.

The initial segment went something like this: “South Dakota Governor Ed Schafer...”

However, there is another side of that coin that brings a lot of notoriety to our state.

In the past several weeks while on vacation at Disneyworld, I walked up to a baggage check wearing a Toronto Blue Jays T-shirt. One of the security guards asked me if I was from Toronto. I told him no, but I’m real close to the border.

“I’ll bet your from Minot. Only the best come north,” he said. I told him Carpio and we had a long interesting conversation about his time at the Minot Air Force Base.

Another time at Disneyworld, I was sitting on the outside of the Harry Potter complex waiting for the family to come back. I was wearing a Saskatchewan Roughriders shirt.

A guy came up to me and said something about the Roughriders and I told him I’m a fan but live in North Dakota. He asked me where. I told him and he said he drives through all the time and attends hockey tournaments all over northwestern North Dakota.

We had a long, interesting conversation.

It’s kind of odd too that if you are ever in the Tampa-St. Pete area, there is an unusual connection about us there.

I spent the better part  of a year living in Tampa and learned my way around quite well.

Most everyone I’ve ever met there doesn’t know where North Dakota is and when they do, they don’t know anything about it.

But they know where Fargo is? I guess they must associate it with Minneapolis or something. Sometimes I’ll see a weather report on one of the Tampa TV stations that lists the temperature and conditions in Fargo.

In July 1984, I was riding the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the above-ground subway between San Francisco and Oakland and I saw a guy wearing a “Jamestown, North Dakota” T-shirt.

I went over to say hi and tell him where I was from. I found out he grew up in Courtney, the small town northeast of Jamestown, but was working in central California. During the course of our conversation, we discovered we had several mutual friends.

To me, this all seems like a great big puzzle that hasn’t been put together. How can so many people be so ignorant about North Dakota, yet, you can go just about anyplace and find someone who will know where you are from or know somebody from your hometown.

On the other hand, you can go just about anyplace in Canada; a cafe in Sidney, Nova Scotia for instance, and they will know where North Dakota is located. They might even know where Minot and Bismarck are located.

I think that one can be explained because North Dakota gets a lot more TV coverage on Canadian television than here in the states. The refugees streaming across the North Dakota border into Manitoba was big news on the Canadian side.

But these people who continue to call our state South Dakota: It’s all abouty geography, geography, geography.