July 19, 2016


A week or so one of the strongest hailstorms in recent memory hit the town of Killdeer, North Dakota. I’m sure most of you saw it on the news, or on pictures posted on social media.
Shirley grew up at Killdeer. We ranch near Killdeer. And I feel I’ve been part of Dunn County since I started to sneak in to Theresa’s bar nearly 50 years ago.
The town is full of our friends, neighbors, and relatives. And since the Bakken boom, it has been the home for hundreds of workers from all across the nation.
I first started getting reports of the hailstorm when news flashes came across T.V. Then pictures started being posted on Facebook. Then we started calling friends and relatives to see how they had fared.
Most of us have been through hailstorms. Many of us have been caught in a brief hailstorm when horseback, or watched a hailstorm coming in from the west in a big thunderhead.
We’ve felt that hot, humid air switch to a chilling breeze and realized that in a few moments, this year’s wheat or corn crop would probably be harvested by the “white combine.”
I drove up to Killdeer to check my cows and some alfalfa I had hoped would make a second cutting. Some showers that actually gave us a good hay crop have hit that area. Something that eludes much of the Dakota prairies.
When I saw the alfalfa, I felt kind of bad. The hoped for second cutting had been cut off and beat into the ground. But the cattle weathered the storm in good shape. None dead. No eyes knocked out. Just a few bumps and bruises.
I drove into Killdeer and a sense of guilt came over me. I drove by trailer after trailer that had been decimated. Many homes beyond repair. The siding was gone. The windows on the west and north were gone. The roof damage was tremendous. And I was worried about a few bales of hay.
I drove by the housing east of the elevator. Families sitting out in front of a house, maybe rented, maybe owned, but families and workers sitting in front of a house with a look of shock on their faces. And I was worried about a cow. Damn me.
By now, the windows are boarded up. The siding is being replaced. The roofers are replacing shingles and the totaled out cars and pickups have been towed or hauled out of town.
And hopefully, the shock has been replaced with a sense of resolution and the rebuilding is in progress. And thankfully, in all that devastation, a few physical bruises will heal.
And the Dunn County spirit will heal the emotional bruises that remain.