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Posted 12/24/12 (Mon)

I’ve mentioned it before. And I have to say it again. Get off the Interstate and visit the small towns in the Dakotas. I know most of you that get this column live in small towns, so I’m kind of preaching to the choir. But don’t overlook what you have in your hometown.
We spend a lot of time on the highway. Looking at cows and horses and kids. And people. I eat (a lot) at all kinds of restaurants. I could do like that Ziggie Report or whatever it is. You know. That rich couple that got rich just by writing about restaurants. That’s probably not the right name for it, but you know what I mean.
I had heard about this German restaurant in New Leipzig. In fact, I’ve even driven in there to eat before. And couldn’t find the restaurant. Now, New Leipzig is pretty small. And a grown man should have been able to find the café. Main street is two blocks long at the longest. And it is narrower than that. I thought there must not really be a restaurant there. Then, one day, we found it. The “Leipziger Hof.” I guess that is German for restaurant or something.
It was like traveling across the ocean without having to go through airport security and cabs and rude travelers. The “hof” (I hope that means café) was filled with wonderful art and statues and filled with a wonderful aroma. Music from some kind of opera played in the background The food was fantastic and the service wonderful. I had a big schnitzel with peas and fries. Shirley had the little schnitzel with peas and fries. It’s gone now. But I’m glad I saw it.
At one time you could visit the Owl and the Pussycat in Amidon, the Buckskin in Killdeer, the Final Go-Round in Morristown. The Oasis in Buffalo. Some are gone now. Lost to the fast food and drive through restaurants, but a few exist. Don’t pass them by for a big mac or whopper. You’ll be sorry you did.
Another thing about rural areas is the people. We count on each other. And that leads to this story.
We never get old. I can remember when thirty was old. And forty. And fifty. Now sixty don’t look too bad. But most of us live in the years when we were 17 and playing ball. Or riding broncs. And going to the sock hop and the drive-in movie. We age fast slowly. If that makes any sense.
We have a friend and neighbor who ranches near you. He’s getting a little long in the tooth but doesn’t know it. Like most ranchers in the winter, he looks a little rough as he waits for the sun to shrink those drifts away. Last week, he was hauling a load of cattle to the sale and his pickup gelled up. That number two diesel farm fuel will do that.
It was cold and miserable. He got out and started walking. Now here is a rough looking guy, dressed in his work coat, which has been ripped on barbed wire and patched up with twine, walking across the reservation. Picture the grizzled rancher with a three-day beard and a little placenta on himself and his clothes. And a little used hay and oats.
This young lady with a small child comes flying by. Gets a quarter of a mile down the road. Stops. Turns around. Comes back and asks if she can help. He says, “Probably not, unless you are a mechanic. But I could use  a ride.”
This young lady gives him a ride to a farmhouse. Nobody home. So she goes out of her way to give him a ride to town.
This rancher, who, like I said, is getting a little long in the tooth, but still thinks he is the 17-year-old bull rider, had to ask. “Why did you turn around and come back?”
The young lady  replied, “My parents taught me to always help old people in trouble!”
Getting old is hell, but it beats any other options!