From Ghent to Tioga

Little Gunnar Raymond Norgaard made his First Holy Communion on Sunday, June 9th, 2013.  His parents, grand parents, and great grandparents were at Mass for the special occasion, and also his big sister Adeline Susan, not to mention Father Benny of the St. Thomas Catholic Church in Tioga, North Dakota, and a whole host of friends from Tioga.  It was a memorable occasion.

Father Benny and Gunnar.

Four generations, left to right:  Christopher, Jenny, Addie, and Gunnar with Father Benny, Betty and Joe Claeys (my mom and dad), and us.

We picked up Mom and Dad at noon on their farm near Ghent, MN, about 140 minutes southwest of Victoria.  It was Friday, June 7th.  We packed up their comfortable and quite nice Honda Odyssey and took off for an overnight at Jametown, ND, less than five hours way.

The lay of the land and the water on the land was a big topic of conversation at all times.  Flat land and water are very important to farmers and, in fact, determine a lot of their success.  We saw many windbreaks that included lilac bushes in bloom.

No water, no crops.  Too much water, poor crops.  Low spots get drowned out.  High spots get dried out.  Watching the weather and the land is like watching the stock market.  You can’t do much about either one of them.  But they try to harness wind energy in North Dakota, as they do in lots of other places around the country.  I caught a picture of a trucker hauling one of the “wings” of a new windmill down the road.

We decided after traversing practically the entire longitude of North Dakota, that it’s the wettest state in the union.  At least a hundred times, somebody was saying, “Water, water everywhere.”  It was a beautiful day and a big beautiful sky.

Some of the water was new because we saw fence lines dip under water and fence posts totally disappear until they came up the other side of the ditch.

Much of the land was very flat.  Mom would often say, “Look how far you can see.”

Mom also commented on the very long rows of evergreen trees they plant across the fields in North Dakota, probably as windbreaks.

As you can see, it started to rain cats and dogs

Fishermen didn’t seem to mind.  Mom and Dad told stories about their fishing trips, some in the rain, and people they’ve gone fishing with.

Allan said this is a conveyor belt that we saw above the highway, hauling coal from a mine in Underwood, North Dakota, to a processing plant.  The sleeve is over the conveyor belt to keep debris from possibly falling onto the highway or cars beneath the conveyor.

Sometimes there were windmills planted as far as the eye could see.

Part of Hwy 83(on our way from Bismarck to Minot) was under construction, not to mention almost under water.

On the west side of Minot (this is our second day, by the way, after the overnight in Jamestown, ND), we started to see mancamps.

And, of course, the oil wells — which is what brought the Norgaards out here about five years ago already.

After nearly 10 hours of driving (five the first afternoon, and five the next day), we arrived at Jenny’s home.

It’s hard for Mom to walk by a piano without playing it.  Jenny knows some of the same songs.

Gunnar showed Dad how to play some digital games on his new iPod and got the giggles pretty hard at some of the questions Dad asked

Jenny does some outstanding scrapbooking.  This book centered on Goliath which meant it also centered on the family doing things together.

Hi, Sweet Adeline.  Hi, Dad.  I notice there’s some good reading material on the coffee table.

Mom also got acquainted with Addie’s new iPod.

It was fun to sit a while with fruit and wine.

Allan likes to wear that shirt he got from the Norgaards.  Hi, Christopher.

Jenny loves Goliath.

Goliath loves Jenny and she always has treats for him.

Chris took us all for a ride around their country farmyard in his big old Suburban.  Their garden was up and growing.

And he took us right up close to a giant oil rig.  They don’t look so big from a distance.

A lot of oil workers live in trailers that are plastic-wrapped to help insulate them from winter’s North Dakota winds.

Some worker families in Tioga live in interesting neighborhoods.

Grandma Sue sat in back with the kids because we saw it all before.

Christopher got a water permit so he’s drilled a well on one of his properties to sell water to the oil companies. 

We’re standing in a small space inside the largest Cenex station we’ve seen.  It’s bigger than a Walmart and has clothes, groceries, hardware.

The next morning was First Communion Sunday.

The girls had hair duty.

Allan and Dad were ready to go.

Mom and Jenny kept having fun in the other room.