Last week, the New York Post put up a graphic that identified North Dakota as “the best state at solving Wordle.” I’m not sure my participation is helping those numbers, but I absolutely love Wordle because I love WORDS. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh man you are so deep I hope they have a Nobel Prize for deepness because you would win it” – but listen, some people like sports and other people like collecting decorative spoons and I like words.
I like the look of words; such as how “murmur” is flat and unassuming but is filled with lines that roll up and down. I like the sound of words; “truth,” for example, is spoken in a short staccato at the front of your mouth, while “lies” slides slowly from the back. I like how words can be broken apart and pieced back together to make new words, such as how “icicle” and “dream” make up “dreamsicle” and all of those things are different but can be married into the same family and therefore related.
(That feeling you’re experiencing right now is what happens when your entire body does a massive eyeroll.)
Words need to be used, so I take them out for a spin through writing exercises. There are roughly an infinite number of ways to do a writing exercise, but my preference is to pick out a single word and see what story it wants to tell. So, I play Wordle because it’s supplying me with an endless stream of possible words for writin’. Here’s a poor example of Wordle performance, but good example of finding some great words:
I feel like I could spend two weeks on those five words alone. “’I’ll write myself a note so I don’t forget,’ she said; both of them knowing full well she wouldn’t.” “The pride paused momentarily behind the blue line. With a tap of the goalie stick, they emerged; moving as one on a hunt for the net.” (Meh, that one is pretty terrible.) I mean, BRINE alone is worth the day. “He packed the cooler tight with his personal brine of Coors Light, beef jerky, and clementines, and loaded up the fishing boat for a long, slow pickling in the summer sun.”
Anyways, I recently used the word APPLE and thought I’d share the story with you. Please don’t tell me if you think it sucks.
THE APPLE TREE
Try as he might to convince everyone otherwise, Ronald Moen sure did love his apple trees. In fact, he loved them so much that Jerry figured he’d better mention it, just so there wasn’t any trouble.
“Oh, yeah, they’re real delicious,” Jerry said, using his watering can to gesture to the Moen’s front steps – which, because it was now August, was decorated in an acre’s worth of handpainted wooden sunflowers. “Ron and Melba keep a basket of them on the porch for anyone who wants some. They’ll give you a whole bagful if you ask…you know, so…” The egg salad sandwich he had for lunch flipped in Jerry’s stomach at the thought of being unneighborly to these nice young folks. “You don’t need to worry about those trees. If a branch or the cherries are bothering you, you tell Ron and he’ll take care of it, to be sure,” he nodded. “You don’t need to worry about those trees.”
Mark – who had the same baby face of all the other Tollefsrud boys; Jerry’d have to rib Bob Tollefsrud a bit about it the next time they were at the VFW – grinned. “As soon as I saw those apple trees, I knew we were going to buy the house. I had apple trees in my backyard growing up, too.”
“Oh, yeah?” Same look of mischief, too; whole family of scamps. Jerry wiped a leather-tanned hand over his forehead. “Well, like I said, Ron and Melba keep a basket on the porch, so…”
It was at that moment that the Moen’s garage door opened and Ron came lumbering out.
“’Lo!” he bellowed, sucking in his Santa Claus belly so he could slide a small axe into the waistband of his toolbelt. “Ronald Moen, how you be.”
They exchanged the usual introductions – who knew whose cousins, how it sure was a hot time to move but winter was right around the corner so no complaining allowed, if Mark’s kids and Ron’s grandkids were excited about school, that sort of thing – and then Mark said,
“I was telling Jerry here how much I like your apple trees. I’m going to go get one of my own this afternoon.”
“You’re gonna need more than one so they can fertilize each other,” Ron boomed. Across the street, Jerry’s old, nearly-deaf dog lifted his head because Ron’s voice could awaken the dead. “My mother-in-law gave us them two as a housewarming gift. Gave us saplings because she loves finding work for me to do. Yep, they are a lot of work. A lot a-dang work.”
“I don’t –” Mark started.
“They get real buggy, you know. Plus, we didn’t have a fence when we were first married and the deer were always after ‘em. A lot of work. You hunt, don’t ya?”
“Me, too. I had to miss the goose opener a while back because them apples were dropping like a rainstorm. We donated thirty pounds to the food bank that weekend. It was in the paper.”
“I think my aunt said something about that.”
“Who’s your aunt, Glennie? Yeah, she makes a pretty good apple pie. Melba does, too. She said she brought one over to your wife last night.” He rubbed his belly. “That’s why I keep those dang trees, so she can make apple pie. Lotta work. You should get yourself a couple of maples instead. Real easy, and they have that nice bright color. That’s a maple right there. Couldn’t get one in the back, though, because I didn’t want to shade them apple trees too much.”
“Maples are nice,” Mark said. “I’ll see what my wife wants to do after I get that apple planted.”
“Two trees,” Ronald said, and Jerry’s dog barked. “You need two to produce fruit.”
“Yours are close enough,” Mark kept on grinning.
Jerry’s egg salad sandwich turned over again.
“My what now?” Ron said, after a pause.
“Your apple trees,” Mark said. “I don’t need two trees, because yours will fertilize mine. They need to be closer than fifty feet, and the one is right on the edge of the fence.”
Ronald put one hand on his belly, and the other on the head of the axe. “Well, they need to bloom at the same time.” His voice no longer rumbling over the sunny sidewalks.
“Oh, that’s no big deal,” Mark said. “The Garden Center has some young apple trees that’ll fit the bill.”
“The Garden Center,” Ron murmured.
“Yessir. I’d love to have you guys over for a beer later this week. Maybe you can give me some pointers on how to take care of it.”
“Will do,” Jerry said. Ronald rubbed his belly.
“Speaking of the Garden Center, I’d better get after it,” Mark said. “Great to meet you guys. We’re really happy to be here.”
Jerry nodded and Ron nodded and Mark nodded and Jerry’s dog went back to sleep.
Ronald didn’t see Mark plant the apple tree, but Jerry did. Jerry saw everything from the rocking bench on his front porch. He watched Mark return with the young apple tree, the top wrapped loosely in the striped bag of the Garden Center. He watched Ron help Melba into their own vehicle, his voice echoing across the block about his desire to surprise her with a supper out. They returned during the few minutes Jerry’s wife convinced him to spend inside eating his own supper.
Ron was out in the garage when Jerry returned to the porch. Jerry waved a beer in his direction, and Ronald crossed the street and settled himself onto the top step.
“New neighbors,” Jerry said.
Ron took a drink. “S’pose we need them so we don’t have to keep looking at each other’s old mugs.”
“Funny thing about the apple tree.”
Ron snorted. “Lotta work.”
They sat together for a long while, until the only lights in the neighborhood belonged to the street and the two of them.
“Well,” Ron said, hitting his knee, “’Bout that time.”
Jerry went inside but he didn’t go upstairs. Instead, he stood by the window. Across the street, Ron closed the garage door.
Jerry’s dog sensed movement first, and Jerry squinted, trying to make sense of the dark. Finally, Ronald’s belly took a shape of its own. It stretched and shifted until it became a man lugging a large package wrapped in striped plastic over to the Tollefsrud’s front steps. Ron set the tree – a second tree, identical to the one Mark had planted earlier that evening – by the door, and adjusted the ribbon Melba had tied to the front. Next to the tree he set a grocery bag filled with apples.
Jerry nodded, and headed off to bed.
The photo above was taken at an apple orchard somewhere in Minnesota (it was two years ago and my memory stinks). This week’s news has a boatful of water samples and a lead dog. Read on.
One of the lovely readers of North Dakota Nice was a member of the organizing group who put together “Voices for Ukraine” – an event in Grand Forks where community members were able to talk about their experiences and connections in Ukraine. (KNOX Radio)
Grand Forks’ Madison Eklund is taking a four-month sabbatical from her job as a postal worker in order to embark on a solo – she is one of less than 10 people to take this trip, and the first to do it alone – 1,600-mile canoe trip from St. Paul to the York Factory in Canada…and she’ll be collecting water samples along the way for the state of North Dakota. (Grand Forks Herald)
This article is a brief look at the North Dakotans who were deemed worthy of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” – including a man who bagged a fox with a treasure trove of money, and the World Champion Miniature Writer. (Fargo Forum)
North Dakota’s mobile food pantry is on the move, heading to Center, Hazen, and Beulah next week. (KX Net)
Congratulations to Cavalier’s Eva Robinson, who took 14th place in the Jr. Iditarod sled dog race – and to her lead dog, Frost, for receiving the Blue Harness Award! (Grand Forks Herald)
We have reached the point in winter in which North Dakotans adopt the age-old adage, “Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening, and park like you’re the only car in the lot.” From the months of April through December, a driver will identify an empty gap between two uniformly-striped parallel lines and maneuver their vehicle so it is placed between those two lines. From January to March, however, it’s less “neat and orderly lines of cars” and more “uffda, whatever.”
There’s a mathematical equation for when this occurs, which is [Amount and Color of Snow + Number of Previous Days Below-Zero] x [Everyone’s Feelings of Doneness in Regard to Winter]. When that result is greater than the number of Midwesterners traveling to Arizona, Florida, or Mexico, society’s laws of parking no longer apply. Many people think it only has to do with the amount of snow on the ground – I mean, how can you park in a spot when it’s under an unmolded snowman? – but in actuality, a North Dakotan will actually attempt to remain within the (invisible) lines until it gets so cold that their car auto-start becomes self-aware and just keeps itself running 24 hours a day. After that, it’s Jeez, Louise to any semblance of order.
This is perfectly fine. In my opinion, once your car is covered in a semi-permanent layer of snunk (snow and funk) and you’re worried about breaking a hip every time you set a foot on the ground, parking is the least of your concerns. I mean, technically, if you put your vehicle into Park, your car is parked.
Plus, if we really think about it, we North Dakotans are cool with parking like we’re the only ones on the road because we are comfortable with everyone driving in a similar fashion.
When Kyle and I first moved out to the country, all of our neighbors welcomed us with both open arms and a warning: “Don’t speed through Thompson.” What they meant was that we shouldn’t go more than one mile an hour over the posted speed limit anywhere on Main Street – because (back then) Thompson had one policeman, and he didn’t have a whole lot to do.
If you don’t count the millions of “Drive carefully”s and “Watch out for deer”s we hand out like tatertots to one another, that Thompson speed trap warning was probably the first and only rule I’ve ever received about driving from a fellow North Dakotan (who wasn’t employed by the DMV or one of my parents). This is because North Dakotans are generally good with whatever is happening around them at any given time – driving or not – so if someone wants to go 10 MPH in a 40…well, they are probably early for a luncheon or uncomfortable on ice and should take their time. You betcha.
(If you’re like, “Ha ha, that Amanda, always exaggerating” – well, here’s an exact instance of that happening:
I used to live in Boston. Boston drivers are the exact opposite of North Dakota drivers, and so when I moved back to Grand Forks I brought with my Nokia flip phone, my framed poster of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, and my burning desire to go Mad Max on anyone in my vehicular way. I was driving downtown to see my grandfather, and I found myself in an unusually long line of cars going 10 MPH on a major thoroughfare. I swung my car out into the other lane – it was a two-lane road – and zoomed past a whole bunch of completely unaffected drivers who were totally fine with this unexpected slowdown. Finally, I reached the first vehicle, putt-putting along without a care in the world. I got my hand ready for the honkin’ of a lifetime – and realized it was piloted by my own grandfather. He waved. I waved back, and slowed down so that I could resume my spot in the back of his line.)
We North Dakotans are also fine with driving like we are the only car on the road because sometimes we ARE the only car on the road. Our former house in the country was off of a long, straight gravel way that was used more as a way to split sections of farmland than as an actual vehicle bypass. Kyle and I were holding down our driveway with two lawn chairs one Sunday afternoon when a truck passed by on the gravel. Ten minutes later, another truck drove by, followed closely (or like another ten minutes) by a car. “We have to move to town,” I told Kyle. “The traffic out here is getting ridiculous.”
Anyways, springtime is in the air. Soon the snunk will melt and we won’t have to think (or not think) about parking anymore – because everyone will be stuck in road construction on the way to the lake.
I was going to take a picture of the grocery store parking lot, but I didn’t want someone to see their car and think I was teasing them. So, instead, the photo above is of a Fighting Hawk (not THE Fighting Hawk) at a recent UND hockey game. He felt appropriate for this story somehow.
This week’s news has Consequences of the Soul and Youthful Yetis. Read on.
Valley City students earned 371 feet of duct tape, which they used to adhere their principal to the wall. (Valley City Times-Record)
A dozen quilters in Bowman created their own fabric expression of the book, “The Book of Lost Names,” and those quilts are now on display at the Bowman Regional Public Library. (Bowman County Pioneer)
Bismarck’s Abigail Meier is representing North Dakota in the National Art Honor Society’s Consequences of the Soul virtual art gallery. (KX Net)
Austin Covert and Ryan Nitschke, two chefs in Fargo, are semifinalists for prestigious James Beard Awards. (KVRR)
Minot (/Scandia) artist Andrew Knudson will be painting live at a joint event by the Minot Symphony Orchestra and the Taube Museum of Art. (Minot Daily News)
Congratulations to Norma Nosek, Wahpeton Daily News’ Citizen of the Year! (Wahpeton Daily News)
And congratulations to Samantha Vosberg, the Richland County’s New Monitor’s Citizen of the Year! (Wahpeton Daily News)
Dickinson’s Youthful Yetis rode 200 miles in a month in order to raise $4,300 for St. Jude’s. (Dickinson Press)