BROCKET, N.D. — You’ve probably seen them: glossy photos and slick videos of the Badlands and trendy urban hotspots, all aimed at potential tourists and billed as the “real” North Dakota. (To the skeptics: North Dakota does have trendy urban hotspots. I don’t patronize them, but we do have some.)
As a North Dakotan, I certainly value tourism promotion. Yes, please visit us. We’ll be gracious hosts. Spend your money, help our economy. Given poor crop and oil prices, we can use it.
But the “real” North Dakota, or so it seems to me, consists of places like rural Brocket, N.D., population about 50. Agweek photographer Nick Nelson (he took this photo of me) and I visited Brocket on a recent story trip. In it, I’m standing on a field with good-but-not-great soil; behind me is a rockpile and a slough with a few geese and countless blackbirds. The scene isn’t exactly serene — the birds make a lot of noise — but it’s a warm, sunny and good-to-be-alive moment.
This part of North Dakota won’t ever get much attention from the tourism industry — with the possible exception of folks trying to attract bird hunters — but I like it nonetheless.
The truth, of course, is that the “real” North Dakota is a composite. It’s the Badlands, the trendy urban hotspots, the field with good-but-not-great soil adjacent to a slough and far more. (Just as the “real” Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana are a composite of many diverse places and environments within their respective borders.)
But the next time I see a glossy photo or slick video promoting the “real” North Dakota, I’ll think about this field and the thick-with-blackbirds slough.
What do you consider the “real” North Dakota? The “real” Minnesota, South Dakota or Montana? Drop me a line and let me know.