Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day,
rarely of what they had seen.
State 13: North Dakota - August 23, 2017
Woke up in Fargo, ND, and ready for day of driving West across the prairies of North Dakota. Our first stop for the day was a 1 ½ hour drive west to Jamestown to visit the Cross Country Couple’s “Roadside Attraction” for the state of North Dakota: The World’s Biggest Buffalo. At 26 feet tall, 46 feet in length, and weighing in at 60 tons, this behemoth buffalo visibility extends all the way to the I-94 highway! The bison was commissioned and constructed in 1959 using steel beams and wire mesh covered with stucco and cement to attract tourists to the area. Since the buffalo was never officially named, a local contest was held in 2009 to name the world’s biggest buffalo in commemoration of the buffalo’s 50th anniversary! In addition, the person who submits the winning name will receive a $1000 cash prize. Over 3500 suggested buffalo names were submitted, and the 5 finalist's proposed names were: Sir James, Dakota Thunder, Beauford, Dakotah Spirit and Benny. On July 24, 2010, The Buffalo City Tourism Foundation announced the winner of the World’s Largest Buffalo naming contest was Michael Shirek of Devils Lake, ND. He won the $1,000 prize and eternal bragging rights, for submitting the winning name of Dakota Thunder. Please see the pictures below.
Upon the completion of the World’s Biggest Buffalo in 1959, the city of Jamestown expanded the site with the construction of Frontier Village. Modeled after a 19th century western town, Frontier Village was created by relocating historic buildings including a: bank, barber shop, general store, train depot, black smith shop, surveyor’s office, and sheriff’s office brought in from all over the region. The buildings were filled with period appropriate antiques to bring the world of the prairie pioneers to life. Common attraction within Frontier Village includes: stage coach rides, wild west shoot outs, and best of all, Frontier Town is free and open to the public! Please see the pictures below.
One specific building within frontier town immediately caught our attention, and would not let go: The Louis L’Amour Writer Shack. Louis L’Amour was an author and short story writer specializing in the Western genre, and many of his works were turned into films. John Wayne was once quoted as saying L’Amour’s “Hondo” was the best western story he ever read. L’Amour published 101 books with over 200 million copies in circulation, and all of his books are still in print. The many awards bestowed upon Louis L’amour include: 1982 recipient of the Congressional Gold Metal, 1984 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient from President Ronald Reagan, 1972 recipient of North Dakota's Rough Rider Award by North Dakota Governor William L. Guy, and in 1972 he was awarded an honorary PhD by Jamestown College. Although L'Amour was a non-smoker, he died from lung cancer on June 10, 1988 at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 80.
At first, I felt L’Amour’s writing shack was out of place in a 19th century western frontier town, but then I learned the following. During the 1960s, L'Amour planned to construct a 19th century Western frontier town named Shalako, complete with an unpaved main street, and wood planked sidewalks. The town was to consist of buildings typical of frontier towns such as: a barber shop, a hotel, a general store, saloon, a church, and a black smith among others. However, Shalako never came to be due to insufficient funding. Perhaps L’Amour’s writing shack in Frontier Town located in his birthplace of Jamestown, ND is the most fitting memorial for the 20th centuries most prolific western writer, and one of the most popular authors in the world.
I had never heard of Louis L’Amour before. His work was before my time, and his passing occurred when I was a young boy. I must also admit, I am not a big fan of westerns or frontier life. I can’t really explain why, but something drew me into his writers shack in Frontier Town. I read every display presented about his work and his life, and was mesmerized by the 3 typewriters on display used to construct his stories. I sat in the shack, and watched a 30-minute interview with L’Amour from 1972. I have a great appreciation for his talent, abilities and accomplishments, and will be picking up a few of his novels for the many cold and quiet western nights in the back of the of the van that lay ahead on my cross country journey. When we were walking through the book section of Walmart the other day, we saw his books are still for sale even 30 years after his death, which are pictured above.
We departed Jamestown, ND, and set in a course for a 2 hour drive to the state capitol of Bismarck. On the drive over, we notice Rosie’s miles per gallon dropped from the usual 16 down to 13, and slowly continued to decline. North Dakota is a notoriously windy state, and we attributed the decrease in gas mileage to increased wind resistance. However, when we arrived in Bismarck our MPG was at 8 and Rosie’s dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree! I was just happy to be in the capitol city instead on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere like the last time Rosie broke down in West Virginia!
We pulled Rosie over in the nearest parking lot, and commenced calling all of the garages in Bismarck. After an hour of frustrating calls, the only place we could find who knew how to work on Promasters, could fit Rosie in their garage, and had the availability was the Dodge Dealership in Bismarck. Damn! We hate going to Dodge dealerships, but unfortunately we had no other options. Since the dealership was nearby and Rosie was still drivable, we put on her hazards, and limped her into the repair shop. We waited in the waiting room in anxious anticipation for over an hour while the mechanics examined our poor sick Rosie. It turned out a faulty sensor had triggered the dashboard lights, which we had replaced. We also needed a tune up with new spark plugs and a new air filter, which caused the decrease in MPG. In addition, the incompetent idiots who previously rotated our tires didn’t adjust the air pressure compounding the problem. The repair bill was extremely expensive as we expected. However, when you are driving 30,000 miles across the county in a year MPG is literally gold. We found a Walmart in Bismarck, ND, to sleep for the night. Tomorrow we tour the capitol, and we can’t wait!