I know…I haven’t posted in a month. Been busy. But I’ve also been taking pictures, just not posting them. Like this one: the original handwritten draft of the state’s constitution!Continue reading
Category Archives: History
An awkward name unless you’re a Rhinelander
“Worms” seems like an odd, if not insensitive, name for this cemetery on the northern edge of McIntosh County in south-central North Dakota. That was my first reaction when I came upon it. It even conjured memories of Lloyd and Harry’s ill-fated entrepreneurial opportunity in Dumb and Dumber!
This is a tiny little strip of land in a field just north of Highway 3. I imagine it was named after one of the oldest cities in Europe: Worms, Germany. This was the location of the Edict of Worms, where Martin Luther was branded a heretic. And it was the even more awkwardly titled Diet of Worms who made this decision. A “diet” in that sense was a deliberative body, not a food plan as we think of it today. That would pretty gross.
Language over time is interesting, don’t you think?
The Wreck of the Abner O’Neil (No Gordon Lightfoot parodies forthcoming)
Recently a group of local kayakers made for a viral sensation when they posted photos of the wreckage of the Abner O’Neal, a steamboat from the 1890s. The river’s low levels have allowed the wreck to begin poking out of the water, and anyone coasting downstream from the Steckel boat landing is likely to encounter it. Thus the sensation.
I finally got out there myself. I’d been eagerly awaiting a time like this ever since the State Historical Society posted about it a while back, which allowed me to figure out its exact location. As a certified SCUBA diver, I’d heard about this site but never discerned where to look for it.Continue reading
Read this post about red posts
Did you know that one thing North Dakota and South Dakota have in common also separates them? It’s the string of quartzite marking posts which dot the border shared between the two states. In fact, the Dakotas are the only states which have such a feature.
These markers were placed along the border as it was surveyed in the late 19th Century. There were originally 720 of them, cut from the red quartzite stone near Sioux Falls, placed along the established border.
Oh, if it were only that simple. Naturally there was a lot of politics going on behind the scenes. Here we had two new states established from the Dakota Territory, thousands of acres of previously unsurveyed land, competing interests, and other complications. These are all documented in the book “The Quartzite Border” – which my wife was kind enough to order from me, directly from the author. He even signed the book and included a nice note to us. At the time, this was a very rare find…but as I type this, Amazon claims to have two copies. The North Dakota State Library has a copy.
Many of these markers have disappeared for a variety of reasons: theft, erosion, cattle trampling them, or construction. I-29 took out one of them. But this one, which I’ve visited numerous times on my way to a glorious old abandoned prairie church, stands firm. Recently I checked it out on the way back from Other Dakota and snapped these two photos. It’s cool to know some of the stories behind these unique stone markers, even as so few Dakotans know they even exist.
This is my fifteenth year doing this.
As crazy as it sounds, this is my 15th year of taking photos of Bismarck-Mandan, and actually of my photography hobby in general. It all started for this blog in January 2006, with a shot of the capitol windows lit to ring in the new year. Thousands of posts later, I’m still ticking. I have kids now, so the frequency has dipped quite a bit, but that’s life.
I almost didn’t head out this morning. My wife woke me up to ask if I was going to take a photo of the capitol windows. It hadn’t even occurred to me! I don’t know why. I’ve hit every other year, except once where I was recovering from surgery at Mayo Clinic. And this one is unique: the top and bottom rows contain the same numbers! This capitol didn’t exist in 1919, and I doubt any of us will be around in 2121, so this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Thanks to my sweetie, I was able to say I witnessed it.
I’m pleased to say I’m still playing some different angles. After all this time, it’s easy to say one has exhausted a photo subject, but that would be lazy. I’m always looking for something a little different than what I’ve done in previous years.
I don’t think I’ve ever tried this from the steps of the State Library. The trees tried to obscure part of the 2020, but it peeked through enough.
Ditto here, but I don’t care. By the way, it rained last night…this sidewalk was, like all of the city streets, and ice skating rink. Wheee!
This statue was gifted to the state in 1910. Yes, for 110 years it’s been ours. I bet she never thought she’d see this day.
So, Happy New Year! I do actually have lots of fun photos to post here. Hopefully I’ll get around to sharing them soon.
Missed out on Bentley
I wanted to find the old church in the ghost town of Bentley, North Dakota this summer, and I found it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really what I had in mind. In fact, once I got there it was hard to find it even though I knew it was there.
The road to the church was even gone, so if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d marked a GPS waypoint I would have been totally lost. So I took to the skies and located it that way. It had been laid completely flat.
Granted, it’s still pretty photogenic in this state…but it’s sad to see a church permanently gone like this.
There are a lot of other sites I’ve actually photographed which are no longer there, reinforcing the notion that it’s important to get out and capture these things while we still can.
Blast from North Dakota’s stereoscopic past
It all started when I started going through a box of old toys and things that my mom dropped off at the house. Most of it was old stuff that was in disrepair or otherwise unusable (such as an old Commodore 64 that I can emulate on my PC), and ended up being discarded. The two items above, however, caught my eye. Both eyes, actually.
One of them had a disc in it (they were called “reels”), but I didn’t find any other reels. One of my favorites as a little kid was one about dinosaurs, and I’d sure love to find that one again for old time’s sake. But I started thinking about this vintage technology and couldn’t help but wonder…are there any North Dakota-related View-Master reels?
It didn’t take long on eBay before I discovered a set of reels from 1956, and of course I had to have them.
This arrived shortly after I fervently clicked Buy It Now – a new, unopened 1956 set of three View-Master slides portraying North Dakota tourist attractions!
The pack contained three reels, an insert describing the the photos portrayed, and a couple of order forms for other Sawyer products. Sawyer invented the View-Master, and is no longer in business. The company’s View-Master division has traded hands a few times.
These are the three reels in their protective sleeves. Even though the paper package has never been opened, the film slides in the reels have a slight bubbling to them. I’m guessing they’re some sort of acetate film medium that does this sort of thing after sixty years.
The reels are in pretty good shape, although they do have some dust and that sort of thing. Parts of the reels are slightly bubbled as if they have pimples, and there was some powder in the sleeves, but otherwise they’re totally fine.
Naturally we threw them into a film scanner, although it took some rigging. Want to see some of my favorites?
Here’s the capitol building, long before the Judicial Wing was constructed (or probably even conceived). I like the water tower on the east side. Who knew there were trees on the mall, my favorite frisbee spot?
Here’s an entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I may try to find this monument and take a current photo. A friend of mine recently did that with the tree at the nearby entrance to the campground west of Medora, a tree which appeared in a family photo from his childhood.
Here’s a dam photo. I was just up at the tail race with my kids a week or so ago, and the water was nowhere near this high. I just looked at the photos from that day and I guess it was closer than I thought, but this is still a high level. Remember, the dam was only officially completed in the early 1950s and didn’t begin its work as a hydroelectric power plant until 1956 or even 1960, depending on which source you consult.
Back to the capitol. The Pioneer Family monument no longer has the fence around it, and the marble posts are long gone. I have a postcard of this somewhere as well. Again, I love the water tower.
It wouldn’t be North Dakota without a farming photo or two. The harvesting equipment of today is significantly larger, and of course there’s the GPS and air conditioning.
Here’s another example of things being bigger now: lignite coal mining equipment. The draglines I’ve done video and photo work on north of here weigh in at up to thirteen million pounds (13,000,000)! The coal haulers have a 160 ton or greater capacity, too.
Here’s the front of the insert. Click on the photo for a full size (ie, legible) version.
And, of course, the back. Click for the readable size image.
And, because I can’t change who I am, I spotted a typo. I think maybe someone had Fargo on the brain when they wrote the section about “Tiago”. Hey, at least they didn’t call us South Dakota!
I may post some additional images from these reels down the road, we’ll see. We only scanned one of each image, it might be interesting to take a crack at scanning both. What am I talking about? Well, the View-Master is stereoscopic, meaning that the creators of these reels took photos with two cameras spaced slightly apart. For each image you see, there’s a left one and a right one. So you get 3D depth perception as you do in real life. It’s wonderful. But I currently lack the ambition to scan both perspectives of each of these images and don’t really have a plan for how I’d combine them into a 3D-viewable digital image anyway.
Certainly some of you have enjoyed View-Master reels? Feel nostalgic yet?
Global War On Terror Remembrance Wall
The Global War On Terror Wall of Remembrance made its way to Bismarck last weekend, and I was able to take my kids there and give it some context. One side features terrorist attacks on our country going back over thirty years as well as important points in history along the way. The other side features names of those who lost their lives due to terrorism or the war against terrorism.
I thought ND National Guard Adjutant General Al Dohrmann put it best when he said tht every name on this wall was the most important person in the world to someone. I sat in front of this wall with my kids and did my best to impress that upon them.
Click on the image for a MUCH larger version
After a long day at the Touch the Trucks event, and hungry as heck, my kids did a great job of patiently listening to me trying to give context to this traveling monument. On the way to get our Pizza Burgers Flyin’ Style at Big Boy they asked me about how I remember the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and it was good to share my memories of the day. I hope they don’t have a similar experience in their lifetimes, although I’m not too sure what the odds are on that.
The hail, you say
As the old poem goes, the fog comes on little cat feet. The hail on June 9th, 2001, however…well, that came in its own indescribable fashion. The most noteworthy memory of this is the two underpasses on 7th and 9th Streets filling up with ice and water. I was at a friend’s house that evening and remember walking to Thayer Avenue just east of St. Alexius to watch the city clearing chest-high piles of hail stones with a payloader and grader!
In the process of going through old motorcycle racing video tapes last week I found the footage of this event, footage I had presumed lost. This was before I was into photography or videography, so even though I had a digital camcorder at the time I did not have a steady hand. But shaky amateur footage is better than none, right? Have a look:
Click on the YouTube logo to view in a larger window
it was over ninety degrees out that evening, so once all the hail fell it began to melt and give off steam. That’s why it seems so dark and foggy, it was a sauna outside. My camera gave multiple high humidity warnings before actually shutting down to protect itself. 12th Street was half river, half avalanche for the duration of this storm. It was unbelievable. The hail piled up in a low spot at 12th Street and Thayer Avenue, forcing the city to bring in heavy equipment and dig/plow it out. . The clouds were incredible. And the underpasses needed to be dug out and cleared by that same sort of heavy machinery.
Do you remember this storm?
I always knew that this would happen, but I was hoping not today
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with sadness that I announce this unfortunate news: the 2014 Christmas tree (pictured above) adorning the capitol’s Memorial Hall is the last live tree I will ever be able to photograph for you. Starting today, the tree will be an artificial tree purchased for Christmas 2015. Fire code dictates that they can no longer do a live tree, and let’s face it – North Dakota has already had one capitol burn down, and they’d like to avoid another.
I eagerly await the tree each year, and I took great pleasure in this post which shows how they brought the monstrous live tree into the building each year. But the magic is gone, sorta. After catching word that this year’s tree would be an artificial one, I decided to juice up on cold medicine, climb off the couch, and go visit the capitol. I went at 5:00 before the doors were locked, hoping to get a glimpse of the new tree. When I arrived, the assembly was just beginning. Here’s how it happens now:
The tree is assembled in sections. The wide bottom parts are large curved metal pieces with electrical wiring attached for lights. One good part about this tree is that it will contain lights, something that was an absolutely no-no with the live trees.
A ladder is used to help in assembly, but the tree is intentionally designed to support the weight of people climbing it to complete the task and attach all the various accoutrements. That’s good, because it is MUCH taller than the ladder.
Once they get to the narrower parts of the tree, it is no longer quite as sectional. These hoops and point represent the top four sections.
These make up the foliage, which is designed to look like some specific kind of fir tree I forgot to mention. And yes, they go in very specific locations just like your tree at home.
All lined up and ready to attach. I was sick today, so I didn’t hang out to watch the foliage be attached. I’ll probably check it out in the morning if I’m feeling better.
These are already pre-wired with pretty warm-white LED bulbs, something I already mentioned that was verboten on the old trees. They look really nice and are going to be very bright once the pieces are all combined.
One of the things that makes the tree so special each year isn’t changing one bit: the decorations made by North Dakotans through the ND Council On the Arts. They await in these bins, ready to adorn the new tree.
Here the guys get the top of the tree ready to mount. It’s so high that they need to do this before they take it to the top of the tree. This tree is significantly taller than trees in the past.
The crew was working into the night to finish the tree when I bolted back home to my couch and some Theraflu to continue my recovery from the crud that’s going around. I’m not going to try to get a photo of it until after all the decorations are attached, which is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, December first).
It’s sad that we can’t have a real tree, but the Facilities Management folks did a lot of research before choosing just the right artificial tree for the Memorial Hall (subject to the procurement process, of course). They understand the personal connection that North Dakotans have to the capitol Christmas display. It isn’t their fault that there won’t be any more real trees, as it’s fire code that has finally ruled out.
One could be cranky about this, but I choose instead to appreciate the work that is put into decorating the capitol each year so North Dakotans can enjoy the season at our favorite local landmark. I humbly suggest you do the same.