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Posted 1/11/12 (Wed)


On the news, or on the road, you see a lot of people living in conditions less than desirable. Campers built for Arizona, surrounded by hay bales (think mice). You see workers living four to a small room. Service workers crowded into one bedroom apartments. People living out of their cars or pickups. Campers sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot for weeks at a time. It’s gotta be tough.
Then I got to thinking about George.
George passed away a number of years ago. He lived a long and wonderful life and built a nice ranch up in Mountrail County. George was tough. Even when he was in his 80s, his handshake would bring tears to your eyes. He had a big smile and twinkling eyes. I was in awe of him since I was a kid. Grandpa told stories of how George would follow the carnivals around when he was younger. At that time, the carnies had a professional boxer (bare-knuckles) who would take on all challengers. I think it was like a $1 if you could last three rounds with him. George would saddle up and head for the carnival if he heard of one within a couple of days’ ride. It got so they wouldn’t fight him!
Now the reason George got into this story was of how he lived when he first hit North Dakota. He was working on a sheep outfit in southeastern Montana. And it was dry. Which is not unusual for SE Montana. The outfit he was working for was going to run out of feed over the winter. They heard of open range up in Mountrail County, N.D., so they loaded a wagon and sent George north to winter a bunch of sheep.
It was late in the fall when George took off. It was winter when he reached his lonely destination and settled in for the winter. Now, this was in the early 1900s. No Carharts. No propane heaters. No camper trailers. There were no trees to cut for a cabin. The ground was frozen so he couldn’t build a sod house. Didn’t bother George. He turned his wagon over. A wagon smaller than a pickup box, and that was his first home in North Dakota! I imagine there were some long nights, and even a cold morning would look good! And I know darn well a pickup with a heater would have looked darn good! A Wal-Mart parking lot, heaven.
And I was thinking this morning of one tough spring when we were calving a bunch of cows in March. Cold and snowy. There were four of us sleeping in a small trailer. I mean real small. One small bed for three men. One guy slept on the floor with the cold calves we had brought into the trailer. The lucky guy slept on the floor. But that’s another story.
And remember this, “Even trolls were homeless until bridges were built!” (Thanks, Hutsy.)