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updated: Apr 24, 2010, 9:50 AM
By John McCafferty (aka McSeas)
Apres le deluge, mon café. . . Relaxed and happy after the violent weather I had just survived, I cruised western Minnesota and found some lively music on the radio. A pleasant day beckoned, and a mellow mood created by a light rain.
I stopped for one more coffee an hour or so east of Fargo, my gateway to the Great Prairie, and talked to the young cashier about My Storm.
"Do you suppose that's the storm of the century?"
She laughed. "Happens all the time. There'll be more. Just wait a while."
"Forget it!" I said. "I'm fleeing to North Dakota!"
She laughed again. "It's worse there."
I stared at her in mock fright while she kept chuckling at me, a sissy Californian. "I'm headin' for the safety of Fargo," I said, and beat it.
Next time there's a storm, I thought, I'll pull over immediately, stop the car and enjoy the ride.
Here's Fargo, lightly condensed, as seen by the shadowy figures that write for Wikipedia:
"Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota and the county seat of Cass County. In 2008, its population was estimated at 99,200, with Moorhead, MN, adding another 35,000. Fargo is the crossroads and economic center of a large portion of eastern North Dakota and a portion of northwestern Minnesota. It is the retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and educational hub for the region and the home of North Dakota State University. The local newspaper is The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The city motto is ‘Gateway to the West'. Fargo was founded in 1871."
I drove around the rainy streets, and found the town to be exactly what I had expected: a fairly old, somewhat worn-down but pleasant farm town. More of a city than a town, actually, and on the south side (unless I was badly turned around again) lay a very attractive shopping mall, with a high ceiling to keep out the frequent rain and snow. I saw a busy sandwich stand and bought a very fine corned beef sandwich on rye.
Chatted with the owner between customers and told him I was glad to be at the scene of "Fargo", one of my favorite films, one of the few I had watched more than once. Footnote: The others are, "Patton" and "The Treasure (‘we don't need no steenkeen badges!') of the Sierra Madre".
We exchanged favorite "Fargo" scenes: mine were of the lonely, snowy roads, and his was of the maniac stuffing body parts into a wood chipper. We laughed at that memory. Then he said, "Speaking of ground meat, Hey! This is a sandwich shop! You want fries with that?" Funny.
"But Fargo was filmed in Minnesota," he said. "Brainerd, I think."
What a shock! I was disappointed. The name "Fargo" carried much of the film's mystique. I checked later: He was right. Some of the scenery was also from Edina, MN, and the snowy road scenes were from all around the region, in both states.
It was a good town to stop in, but I needed to make tracks and left after lunch for Bismarck, capital of North Dakota. An interesting name, I thought, wondering if some pioneer had misspelled it. Later found that it was renamed (from Edwinton) in 1863, in honor of Otto von Bismarck, in hopes of attracting business from Germany.
I also wondered what was there. There certainly wasn't much on Hwy I-94. Not much on either side, either. Some irrigated wheat-like stuff, some just . . . prairie. Short grass and a few rocks here and there. Low-lying hills.
I imagined Sioux warriors in full battle array galloping their horses toward me, coming over the hill from the south. They carried their coup sticks as drum majors carry their batons, but the Indian sticks were decorated with feathers and scalps. Down the slope they came, scaring the wits out of French trappers and the Lewis and Clark bunch . . .
What a great land, this America. I whipped the flanks of my little rented Dodge and pushed on to Bismarck.
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