‘The big risks in North Dakota are wind, hail and road kill’

Since the 1920s, when North Dakota began emptying out, they’ve tried to come up with ideas to bring people back.  From time to time, proposals are trotted out to change the state name to something that sounds less cold.   Some of these, such as dropping the word "North," are merely misguided.   Others, such as some I recall from when I still lived there, were in the realm of the truly stupid, such as changing the name to Sunflower or Bison. Bison? I guess they figured the name Buffalo was already taken.  Hello, state officials, the cold isn’t the only problem — the inability of people to earn money is pretty significant too.

So it was with interest that I read this story in the Daily News of Minot, which incidentally, is where I went to college.  The story points out that car insurance is cheap in NoDak, with savings up to $300 a year.  That should bring ’em running back.  Of course, the story also presents some downsides to NoDak motoring: wind, hail and ubiquitous deer.  I did notice, however, that the story left out some risks, such as lots of ice and blizzards.  However, to a true NoDak driver, a mere blizzard isn’t going to keep you from where you need to go, and there are ways around not being able to see where you are driving because of heavy snow.  From personal experience in my teens, I can tell you that when a blizzard is too thick for the driver to see, and you have just got to get to the next small town or someone’s house out in the country for a really kicking party, it works well for one guy to get out and run in front of the car as a guide.  Although you can’t tell where the road is at night, you can certainly see a guy 10 feet in front of the car, and you just follow him on faith.  The guy running can see a lot better than someone stuck inside a car, and even if he can’t, he can feel with his feet where the road ends and the deep snowbanks in the ditch begin. 

When you are driving by yourself, it works the same way.  You can get out and walk a ways, then go back to your car before you die of exposure, or the tracks get snowed over and you become disoriented and wander off into the storm, or your retinas freeze and you become snowblind.  (Note: it is rare that people go snowblind, but I have been snowblind once in my life, and take my word for it, you do not want this to happen to you when you are by yourself).  You then drive by following your own footprints. It takes a while, but you can get where you are going.

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3 Responses to ‘The big risks in North Dakota are wind, hail and road kill’

  1. “You then drive by following your own footprints. It takes a while, but you can get where you are going.” And its springtime by the time you get there, right ?

  2. David, with a little bit of work, this post could be a NoDak version of the Monty Python “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch – see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

  3. I have actually used the technique of following my own tracks a couple times. You wouldn’t want to try this over the course of 10 miles, but for a couple hundred yards it works OK. Most of the time, you would be able to see well enough, even at night, to inch along in the car, but sometimes you come to a low spot where the snow blows over the top of your car and you can’t see well enough to stay out of the ditch, or you can’t tell how thick the snow is in front of you and whether you will get stuck.