Reading North Dakota’s Contemporary Landscapes: Stories of Devolution, Dereliction, Dynamism, and Curation
- 13 Downloads
Most rural North Dakota landscapes are open and vast, presenting views dominated by the horizon and sky. There is a tendency for landscape readers to describe them as empty and untamed, primarily because they are sparsely populated. North Dakota is also one of the flattest states in the nation (but not the flattest). Outsiders seem to connote the state’s landscapes with its people, at times in a pejorative sense. And while defensive when it comes to the merits of their state, North Dakotans often find humor in the attributes of the land upon which they live. Sometimes missed is that human engineering has impacted nearly every square mile: the construction of transportation corridors and other vital infrastructure, modification of natural hydrological systems, and, especially, the domestication of land for agricultural production. Also present are the remnants of hundreds of once more populated rural communities in various stages of decline. Most were sited and settled by railroad companies and associated townsite developers, peaking in population in the early 1900s and depopulating rapidly following the development of the automobile, road networks, and agricultural technologies that reduced the need for farm labor. Reading the remaining cultural material of these towns can lead to an understanding of the human culture that produced it. Here, we offer examples of North Dakota landscape humor, illustrate and discuss the reading of the state’s landscapes, and focus on the remaining material culture of two “left-behind” communities.
KeywordsLandscape reading and humor Material culture Left-behind communities Rural decline North Dakota
- Bauer, K. F. (2018). Free land programs revisited: A case study of four Kansas communities. Manhattan: Kansas State University.Google Scholar
- Berger, M. L. (1979). The Devil Wagon in God’s country. Hamden: Archon Books.Google Scholar
- Bluemle, J. (2016). North Dakota geological legacy. Fargo: North Dakota State University Press.Google Scholar
- Bottineau County Historical Society. (1977). Historical highlights of Bottineau County. Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune Company.Google Scholar
- Dalton, M. (1982). The North Dakota Joke Book. Secaucus: Lyle Stuart.Google Scholar
- Doeksen, G. A., Kuehn, J., & Schmidt, J. (1974). Consequences of decline and community adjustment to it. In L. R. Whiting (Ed.), Communities Left Behind: Alternatives for Development. Ames: Iowa State University Press.Google Scholar
- Dunovan, L. (2018, July 20). Leith may dissolve to avoid concerns over white supremacy. Bismarck Tribune.Google Scholar
- Fenn, E. (2014). Encounters at the heart of the world: A history of the Mandan people. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
- Fleming, R. B. (2002, August–September). The golden age of the general store. The Beaver: Exploring Canada’s History, pp. 32–38.Google Scholar
- Fundingsland, K. (2018, August 30). Ruso on the rise. Minot Daily News.Google Scholar
- Hart, J. F. (1975). The look of the land. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Hart, J. F. (1998). The rural landscape. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
- Hudson, J. C. (1982). Towns of the Western railroads. Great Plains Quarterly, 2(1), 51–54.Google Scholar
- Hudson, J. C. (1985). Plains country towns. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Larson, T. (2012). Manfred: Six years later. Ghosts of North Dakota. http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2012/05/14/manfred-six-years-later/. Last accessed 17 Apr 2018.
- Larson, T. (2017). What happened to Ghost Town Omemee, North Dakota? www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com. http://www.ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2017/04/28/what-happened-to-ghost-town-omemee-north-dakota/. Last accessed 4 Apr 2018.
- Leonard, A. G. (1906). State geological survey of North Dakota, Fourth biennial report. Bismarck: Jewell State Printer.Google Scholar
- Lewis, P. K. (1979). Axioms for reading the landscape some guides to the American scene. In D. W. Meinig & Jackson (Eds.), The interpretation of ordinary landscapes (pp. 11–32). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Linklater, A. (2002). Measuring America. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
- Manfred History and Preservation, Inc. (2018). Greetings from Manfred! http://www.manfrednd.org/. Last accessed 17 Apr 2018.
- Marquart, D. (2006). The horizontal world. New York: Counterpoint, Perseus Group.Google Scholar
- Meinig, D. W. (1979). The beholding eye: Ten versions of the same scene. In D. W. Meinig & Jackson (Eds.), The interpretation of ordinary landscapes (pp. 33–50). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- North Dakota Department of Agriculture and Labor. (1906). Omemee. North Dakota Magazine, 1(1), 51–53.Google Scholar
- North Dakota Department of Commerce. (2017). Quick stats. https://www.commerce.nd.gov/uploads/26/CensusNewsletterDec2017.pdf. Last accessed 13 Sept 2018.
- North Dakota Public Service Commission. (2018). psc.nd.gov. https://psc.nd.gov/docs/consinfo/railroad/rail-abandonments.pdf. Last accessed 2 Apr 2018.
- North Dakota State Highway Commission. (1924). Map of trunk highway system, State of North Dakota [map]. http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org/digital/collection/uw-ndshs/id/3718. Last accessed 2 Apr 2018.
- Paul, A. H. (2008). The Dakota railroad blues. Prairie Perspectives, 11, 71–80.Google Scholar
- Roadside America.com. (2018). A very long, straight road: Hickson to Streeter, ND. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11799. Accessed 16 Sept 2018.
- Sauer, C. O. (1925). The morphology of landscape. University of California Publications in Geography, 2(2), 19–53.Google Scholar
- Spokesfield, W. E. (1929). The history of wells county, North Dakota, and its pioneers, Jamestown.Google Scholar
- State Historical Society of North Dakota. (2018). www.ndstudies.gov. https://www.ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iv-modern-north-dakota-1921-present/lesson-1-changing-landscapes/topic-3-ghost-towns-and-railroads/section-2-omemee. Last accessed 2 Apr 2018.
- The Bismarck Tribune. (1913). Manfred. North Dakota: Bismarck.Google Scholar
- U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1910). Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census.Google Scholar
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). North Dakota, 2010. Summary population and housing characteristics: 2010 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2017). https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Accessed 10 Sept 2018.
- Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. (2007). North Dakota State Rail Plan. https://www.dot.nd.gov/divisions/planning/docs/railplan.pdf. Last accessed 2 Apr 2018.
- Vang American Lutheran Church. (1970). Vang American Lutheran Church, 75th anniversary. Manfred.Google Scholar
- Wick, D. A. (1989). North Dakota place names. Bismarck: Prairie House.Google Scholar
- WorldAtlas. (2016). https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/least-densely-populated-u-s-states.html. Accessed 10 Sept 2018.