North Dakota. Not forever, just for now


Natural gas burns at an oil well north of Williston, N.D.

Aug. 19, Grand Forks, N.D.

We’re alive and in Grand Forks, getting ready to press on across the Red River and into the Lutheran stronghold of Minnesota.
Along the way east, we endured an absurd, late-night raid into the Bear Paw Mountains south of Havre, Mont. We survived a visit to the Wild West circus that is Williston, N.D., aka Boomtown, U.S.A.
Now we’re back in the cool, corporate bosom of McDonald’s, America. Hopefully we won’t be here all day.
I hear they got a YMCA in this town. That’s good news on a number of fronts. Most pressing is the distressing fact that we haven’t showered since Max’s birthday. Eight days ago.
We’ve done a bit of hiking and weathered more than a few 95-degrees in the interim. We’re ripe.
When we got here, the table adjacent to the only available outlet was occupied. A retired couple, who seemed nice enough, became the inevitable subjects of our electrical envy.
Soon they were joined or descended upon by an odd-looking rabblerouser who plopped himself down at the next table over. His butt had barely touched down on molded plastic when he got off his first shot at Obamacare.
He seemed to be getting transmissions of doom beamed directly into his circa-2005 flip phone.
When the couple left, we set upon their table like buzzards on road kill. The odd fellow was now on the other side of us. He immediately insinuated himself into our lives. I suppose that’s  just what he does. He’s a lonely man in a lonesome town.
His name is Duane Seloover, and he went to high school in Milledgeville, Ill. He’s a nice enough guy. His dad was a drunk. Neither of his parents reached 50, a milestone he will reach on his next birthday.
My feelings toward Duane shifted subtly from annoyance to acceptance and wound their way to the precipice of affection. I get that way about oddballs.
He showed me a series of pictures stored on his phone. One of his favorites: “Curly for President.” Big Stooges fan.
Duane has a thing for planes, too. He showed me a photo of his favorite, the Antonov-225, the world’s largest plane.
His Facebook page says he’s a bellringer at the Salvation Army. Poor Duane. He’s doing the best he can.
While I grew more kindly disposed to Duane. Becky held her ground. When I said we were from Pennsylvania, Duane asked if we’d ever been to Ringing Rocks State Park. No, I said.
But we will, I promised. It’s an hour away, in Bucks County, and I don’t think I’ve even heard of it. Thanks, Duane.
Duane, well, Duane is worried about the specters who haunt his dreams. Terrorists and sleeper cells and crazy-driving Canadians.
He’s worried about terrorists coming across the border. Grand Forks is situated 76 miles south of Canada, so I guess there’s cause for concern.
“It’s scary,” he said. “How in the world can we keep terrorists from crossing the border if we can’t keep drugs out?”
He’s also worried about African emigrants, some of whom may or may not be active members of terrorist sleeper cells.
He likes to read the funnies, and suggested they might be a good vehicle for Max as he learns to read. And I think that makes eminent good sense.
I asked his last name, then had him spell. I told him he’s the first Seloover I’d ever met. He said there’s just not that many Seloovers around these days.
“We’re not the kind that reproduce,” Duane said. “We don’t make babies. We have other priorities, I guess.”

Duane Seloover of Grand Forks, N.D., by way of Milledgeville, Ill.

Duane Seloover of Grand Forks, N.D., by way of Milledgeville, Ill.

Well, that’s all there’s time for now. Time is short. There’ll no more days to devote to writing till we get back to Pennsylvania.
Later I’ll get around to our final day in Havre, our dinner with the delightful Divishes and our ridiculous, wrong-way adventure in the Bear Paw Mountains.
And when that’s out of the way, maybe I’ll get to our stopover in Boomtown, USA, aka Williston, N.D. The rapacious fracking boom has turned a sleepy prairie outpost into a Wild West carnival of dirt, oil and greed. Even the Walmart can’t keep up with the influx of refugees from the rest of the country, people who have come in search of well-paying jobs, the kind they’d never thought they’d see again.
Till then …

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