Oddities in the Wild West

Our circumstances have changed. Even though life is about change, embracing it can be hard.

I now have a commuter marriage — an interstate commuter marriage– a very rural interstate commuter marriage. The queen visits the king and the king visits the queen. We appreciate every second of our time together and talk every day. The route to and from our time together is very rural. Very.

I have discovered that there are only a certain number of times I can manage a couple of verses of “This Land is Your Land” while admiring the wide open spaces. It is beautiful country. The antelope that ignore me as I whiz past have assured me this is a fact. I don’t even try my cell phone unless I see a tower in the distance. That would be pushing the rock up the hill.

One hour into the commute to see my husband, I pass the Mercantile/Post Office along the two lane highway and just outside of the town of Buffalo, with it’s one motel of Irish heritage, two gas stations, a Masonic temple, and a population of 330 people.

Two hours in, I stop and gas up and dispose of the last dose of caffeine and refuel with a fresh supply. Halfway there. I’m a comin’ honey, put the wine in the fridge — or the snow bank — whichever works.
Somewhere near hour three, I reach the bustling metropolis of Amidon, North Dakota.

Amidon, North Dakota proudly boasts that it is the smallest incorporated county seat in the United States. Who thinks of these accolades? Founded in 1913, the 2000 census showed a population of 33. In 2010, the population had dropped to 20. A few had apparently shuffled off to join the choir invisible in either the Lutheran or Catholic cemetery farther north on the highway. This drop in population caused Amidon to lose its tiny crown and bragging rights to Brewster, Nebraska. I speculate that the competition for the smallness remains fierce here in rural America. Amidon has retaliated by building a brand new county seat headquarters. Take that, Brewster.

But, should you ever go through the town of Amidon, be sure and stop at Mo’s Bunker Bar – an underground saloon. Really, it is indeed underground. You can’t miss it. But, please, make sure you can pass a sobriety test with the transgender mannequin in the cop car in the center of town and directly across from Mo’s.
You heard me. The Amidon Chamber of Commerce (if there is one) is quite proud of its famous police car.
You see, Highway 85 is one of the main highways to North Dakota and the Bakken Oil Field. The speed limit is 65 on this two lane thoroughfare to controversy but even the countless wide loads go at least 75.

So, when you are bopping along and hit Amidon, the speed limit gradually drops from 65 to 45 to 30 to 25. And there he/she is. Right there, in the heart of this bustling metropolis.

I believe officer friendly started life as a female mannequin in a dress shop in parts unknown. Someone acquired her and put her in a cop uniform and parked her behind the driver’s seat of the squad car. There she sits to this day.

When I was driving our kids up with me to see Dad, they bought into the charade too. After all, Barney/Betty might come to life. I’m certain no bullets will be involved. Barney/Betty is stoically mute on the subject.
The snow on the windshield is a clue. The fact that it is slumped over at a forty-five degree angle has all the accouterment of a store mannequin that formerly modeled ladies lingerie, and a moustache leads to my confusion. But I am not alone. The uniform leads to the thought of too many doughnuts.

Where do you get a doughnut out here? Nowhere. The nearest truck stop is 40 miles away. I also understand a trucker on his way north stopped with a map to ask the peace officer directions. It must be a source of great amusement to the 33 locals.

Urban legend has it that this positioning and posturing – or lack thereof- was intentional. And the Mayor (????) noticed the change in attitude as well as observing the speed limit. So Barney/Betty stays.

And it has gained notoriety. Will Ferrell mentioned this ruse in “The Legend of Ron Burgundy”.]
Amidon is famous. On the map.

I will still slow down, though I know the ruse.

About marysigmond

After four generations in Chicago, a big city transplant to the "wild west" of western South Dakota in 2004. Mom, domestic goddess, CEO of my world and fond of musing about what is becoming the second half of my life. It's a big old goofy world.
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4 Responses to Oddities in the Wild West

  1. Doug M. says:

    You’ve made your trips sound lonely, but beautiful at the same time. Thank God you have the imagination to keep things interesting.
    I think I only know one verse of “This Land is Your Land”, so I would be SOL.
    Amidon, ND – Mo’s Bunker Bar You said “can’t miss it”. If it’s underground….wouldn’t it be easy to miss?
    Thanks for sharing, cous!

  2. Jan Myhre says:

    Top o’ the mornin’ to ye, Ms. Mary! Absolutely the best, lady! You have found your voice and are using it loud and clear. The piece sped along as though I was along for the ride. My only query is, “Was the wine chilled in the fridge or snowbank?”

  3. marysigmond says:

    They are one and the same this time of year. Thank you for your kind support Jan. It is good to get “out there”.

  4. Just Jules says:

    I made it here and am enjoying catching up on my reading… I’ve been to Amidon and before it was the route to the patch.. I learned of the ruse on my first visit and it was the quarter trip smile on my way to Canada, or other parts of North Dakota (South Canada as I refer to it) ever after. The stories you can write in your head, entire books really, as you travel to and fro across the variations of the prairie. I’ve also chilled champagne (ugh on whites and other chillin O’ the wine) in a snowbank.. it’s much more environmentally conscious. Keep writing!

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