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Building the Dreams; Despite North Dakota's harsh, unforgiving climate, the prairie's beauty -- natural and man-made -- finds a way to survive
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Travel; Tourism -- North Dakota
Author: Wilson, Jason
Date: Sep 21, 2003
Start Page: W.18
Section: MAGAZINE

You don't usually think of architecture when you think of North Dakota. Unless, of course, it's the kind of if-you-build-it-they- will-come architecture that rises high above the prairie as you travel the interstate west. You know the kind. The World's Largest Buffalo, 26 feet high and 60 tons, at Frontier Village in Jamestown (the state's second most popular tourist attraction). The 45-foot- high Casselton Can Pile, probably the world's largest pile of oil cans, and North Dakota's answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Thirty- eight-foot Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, keeping an eye on the sleepy town of New Salem. No, visiting North Dakota is not like visiting Rome or Athens or Washington. There are no grand cathedrals or monuments or palaces, no ruins that will survive for centuries. But if you travel North Dakota, a more modest architectural significance eventually strikes you.

Over and over again during our drive, [Dale Bentley] played a cassette by singer Chuck Suchy, who is more or less North Dakota's Bruce Springsteen. Dale told me that Suchy scrawled his lyrics onto his tractor while he worked his fields. Nearly every time the cassette came around to one particular song, "Story of Hazel Minor," Dale stopped talking and motioned for me to listen.

Over coffee and Norwegian pastries, Perry Anderson, [Julie Anderson]'s father, told me that he'd gone to school in Manfred until eighth grade, but that they'd closed the school back in 1973. Now, Perry lives a few miles away in Fessenden, near the county fairgrounds. "You don't have a lot of kids growing up here anymore," he said. "My son's school only has four kids in one class and six in the other. They're down to nine-man football in the smaller towns around here." After the sweets it was getting dark, so Dale and I said our goodbyes and headed south toward Bismarck. "Keep an eye out for deer," Dale said. After several hours of sitting in pews next to Dale -- a man whose job it was to save churches -- a question occurred to me: Was he at all religious?

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