North Dakota Tough: Unknown And Forgotten Stories From A Rural State is not a follow up to “Horns Up” but instead is a collection of sport stories. It’s a eclectic collection. The only thing they have in common is some tie to North Dakota. The stories are interesting. Kolpack’s introduction and epilogue discuss the ‘toughness’ of North Dakota farm kids and whether some of that ‘hard-edge’ has worn off over the years. Kolpack also compares North Dakota ‘Nice’ to Minnesota ‘Nice’. Jeff would rather have North Dakota keep it’s uniqueness. I’m not sure the two states are that different. I agree, that it might be better if ND could stay the way it was but the future waits for no man, not even Jeff Kolpak. Speaking of unique flavor, Kolpak has an odd style of writing, that I find jarring at times, but it also makes me laugh. So I look forward to his next book and his next sports column.
Amazon Book Preview of “North Dakota Tough”
Excerpts From The Book
The Starting Line Up
The Table of Contents with [my comments on what the chapter is about.]
- The Cows Don’t Care about Carson Wentz [various, football]
- The Kid on the Horse [Dave Osborn football]
- Native Sons of Sakakawea [Randy Hedberg football]
- Legend of Steve Blehm [Devils Lake basketball]
- Small Town Ball [Ayr, ND basketball]
- Farm Tough [Collin Larsen wrestling]
- Cowboy Tough [Brad Gjermundson rodeo]
- JFK, Vietnam and Bison Football [Paul Hatchett]
- Gil [Nick DeLuca football]
- One Night in Madison [UND hockey]
- Cinderella Wore Spikes [Drayton, ND baseball]
- The Skipper [Doug Simunic baseball]
- State of N.D. vs. Don King [Virgil Hill boxing]
- Epilogue [Norval Baptie skating]
XIV Epilogue: The Cows Don’t Care if We End Up Like Maple Grove, Minn. But I Do.
I don’t know what Clay Jenkinson’s ACT score was, but I’m guessing it was double digits better than mine. He has a way of taking a subject, – putting sense to it and explaining reasons as to why. His weekly guest appearance on the Mike McFeely talk show on WDAY-AM radio in Fargo is a must-listen segment. I had several questions for him on the attitude of the state when we sat down at a Bismarck coffee shop on a cool August morning. I wanted to pick his mind because he has a pulse on North Dakotans. He also had a question for me.
Is North Dakota still tough?
My response: Not as tough as it used to be.
“There’s something different about this state,” I said.
“Why?” Jenkinson asked.
“I think it’s changing,” I said, “but a lot of people grew up not expecting handouts.”
“Is it because we’re rural?” Clay asked. “But there’s rural Arkansas and rural Mississippi.”
Hard to answer that in one or two sentences.
“I don’t doubt what you’re saying but I’m trying to figure out what it is about us,” Jenkinson said. “It was easier to be a nice North Dakotan when we knew that I probably knew somebody who knew somebody who knew your brother. And now the degrees of separation are much greater on average. I think it still works in small towns.”
The fear is the exodus of the small communities and the intensive growth of the state’s larger cities like Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks is leaving behind a legacy of the work ethic.
“Our connection with the farms has really eroded,” Jenkinson said.
Low population and relative isolation made it a simpler lifestyle. As we approach the end of 2018, things are changing. Jenkinson called it the Fargo Effect.
“Do we get to maintain that character or does it slip always” he said.
“These are the hard questions and no one is asking them.”
..Jenkinson took issue with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s comment on the crime rate spike of recent years.
“He was essentially saying welcome to the world, it’s just the way it is,” Jenkinson said. “First of all, I don’t think it’s true and we shouldn’t allow that kind of thing to be true. If you went to every North Dakotan and said, is North Dakota better? Equal? Or in decline? Almost every North Dakotan would say it’s better. They may tell you things like we have better air traffic, we have better satellite television, we have better restaurants, whatever they would say. We have nationally-important set of sports teams at NDSU and UND.”
But at what cost?
“Most people would say, no real cost,” Jenkinson said. “So maybe it’s just is better. Maybe we want to be Maple Grove, Minnesota. Maybe we don’t want to be that old North Dakota anymore. I don’t think you can maintain the qualities from North Dakota that are the best qualities if we cease to be connected somehow to agriculture and small towns and the land.”
The reason we live here, Jenkinson said, is not because of great boutique restaurants. If you want that, move to Seattle. The reason to be here has to be you love this place. What is it, then, about this place? Winter makes it a real hassle.
“The compensating reason to live here is there is a quality of life you can’t have in other places,” Jenkinson said. “What is that quality of life? It’s access to hunting. Access to recreation water in the summer. A neighborliness and a friendliness that’s not like Minnesota Nice but a deeper niceness of character. When I was growing up, we lived here because it was safe. If we’re joining the real world and the benefit is prosperity but the cost is what was uniquely wonderful about North Dakota, l think that’s a conversation worth having and I’m not sure I want to live here. Then I might live in the suburbs in Minneapolis.”
.. NDSU football makes a living on in-state players with a hard work ethic. UND is a national pulse of college hockey. Both programs operate at the highest levels of their divisions. But I’m with Clay Jenkinson. I’m nervous what the future holds.
We do not want to be Maple Grove, Minn.