Monday, August 19, 2013

Down a North Dakota memory lane

This morning we kayaked on Lake Sakakawea, the the lake created when Garrison Dam backed up the Missouri River between the two small North Dakota towns of Pick City and Riverdale.  The ranger at Lake Sakakawea State Park suggested we put our kayaks in the water at the marina because motor boats that go up nearby inlets have to go at idle speed -- that is, very slow.  Great suggestion.

We kayaked for two and a half hours.  Then we had lunch and showers, and set off to see if the nearby town of Coleharbor would stir new memories for Jim, who lived there for one year starting in the summer of 1954.  No such luck.  Jim was only only 6 years old, plus the short amount of time he was in Coleharbor didn't provide an opportunity for memories to be reinforced.  

But this is what Jim does recall about the year his family lived in North Dakota while his dad worked on the Garrison Dam:

--Jim, his parents, sister Cathy and half sister Dee lived in a two room house that was on a farm.  Jim thinks they rented it from the farmer who managed or owned the farm.

--They had running water but no indoor bathroom.

--Jim played with other kids who lived in similar houses on the farm, and the farmer’s kids.

--Waiting for the school bus, the snow was as high as his little kid shoulders.

At the Coleharbor post office, two men nodded as we drove by.  We thought they might be the right age to remember “the good old days" when Jim lived there, so Jim turned the car around. Jim told them what he remembered of his home (a small “migrant worker” type place on a farm).  They thought maybe he lived in one of about five boom towns that sprang up during the dam construction years.  Jim thinks not, but it was fun hearing some Coleharbor tales.

After Coleharber we drove to Garrison, which has a few businesses including a grocery store where we picked up some milk, and a “bottle store” which is North Dakotaese for a beer/wine/liquor place.  On the way back we made several stops near the Garrison Dam.

The tip of my kayak at bottom center and Jim to the right as we glide though shallow inlets of Lake Sakakawea near Pick City, ND.  Something made a big enough splash near my boat that it made me yelp.  Jim thought it was a bass about 18 inches long.  I thought it was some some of land/water mine.  Jim probably had the right idea.  
Jim and the residents of Coleharbor, North Dakota who graciously took time to talk with us about the town and where Jim's home might have been.  The guys told us Coleharbor used to have 3 gas stations; now it has none.  They also told us the town had 79 residents.    
We've seen huge fields of sunflowers all over North Dakota.  Apparently ND is one of the leading producers of sunflowers in the United States.  About 80-90 percent of the crop is made into oil.
And another shot of sunflowers, one of the few crops to originate in North America.
Sorry for all the sunflower shots, but it's amazing to see yellow flowers go on forever.
After looking around Coleharbor, we drove to Garrison about 18 miles northwest.  Garrison claims to be the walleye capitol of the world and they've got the sign to prove it.
Also in Garrison:  A Rexall Drug store.  It's been along time since I've seen one of these.
The Garrison Dam between Riverdale and Pick City, North Dakota, is the fifth largest earthen dam in the world.
This is the Garrison dam spillway.  A spillway releases flood water so it does not flow over the dam and damage or destroy it.  Garrison's spillway was never used until 2011 when flood water had to be released or nearby interstates and railroads might have been damaged.  However, other places down the line suffered as we saw in Niobrara, Nebraska in August of that same year.

1 comment:

  1. Very Cool. Sort of a cold weather, Grapes of Wrath. I have seen Jim slinging lumber around. You can tell that he has been doing since at least the age of six.