I THOUGHT I KNEW FLAT having grown up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie where the land seems to stretch far and unbroken into flat infinity.
But not until this year, when my family traveled thrice nearly 300 miles north and west to Fargo, North Dakota, and back did I truly understand the definition of flat.
I doubt I have ever seen a city as flat as Fargo. You know, when you spill a glass of milk on the table how the liquid flows fast and free over the edge of the table. Well, that table would be Fargo. The milk would be the Red River of the North. I totally understand now why this city is so prone to flooding each spring.
I swear, if I had driven to the western edge of Fargo, I would see the world’s largest buffalo—26-foot tall, 60-ton concrete Dakota Thunder sculpted in 1959 by Elmer Petersen—90 miles away atop a hill in Jamestown’s Frontier Village. I saw the buffalo about 20 years ago while en route to a Helbling family reunion in Mandan/Bismarck, cities which actually do have hills. I think.
About those buffalo… The flat and forever Dakota plains provide ideal grazing grounds for these massive creatures, or at least once did. Dakotans are proud of their native bison as evidenced in business names; art like “Herd About the Prairie” in Fargo; and even a bison mascot for North Dakota State University where my son is now a student.
My apologies for momentarily edging away from that flat land issue. Even I, a girl of the prairie, find the Fargo flatness somewhat unsettling. I’d like a few more mature trees, especially on the sprawling growth west side of the city, upon which to rest my eyes. I’d like a few rises in the land, other than the rare man-made ones, to break the monotony of a straight horizontal line.
I expect that if I lived in Fargo, I’d adjust and think nothing of the flat landscape. But when you’re a visitor, you notice things like the lay of the land and the wind, oh, the winds of Fargo.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling