When thinking of North Dakota, you don’t think of the sunny southern hemisphere, or of oceans or mountains, for obvious reasons. However, through funds collected by the Mountrail county’s 4-H and Homemakers groups, several young men from that region were able to travel abroad and make connections to such places.
Each chosen delegate served as an International Farm Youth Exchange representative for North Dakota. The delegate was supposed to promote “better international understanding among farm people.”, among other things.
In 1954, the young man to serve as a link to our rather distant friends was H. Donald Piepkorn, of Stanley. He was attending the North Dakota Agricultural College, now NDSU, when he was given this opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to spend several months in South America.
Don used to be a part of 4-H; now he would serve as a delegate for North Dakota in a rural part of Argentina.
On this day, in 1954, the Mountrail County Promoter reported that Don had written home from that exotic land.
In his letter, he said that he had made many friends. He said that the people he had met and lived with were wonderful.
He also showed that he had made it part of his duty to dispel myths about his home, while he was visiting there.
He reported: “The Argentine people think, more or less, that movies are true to life. More than once I have made the explanation that Hollywood is not America. Hollywood is Hollywood.”
Don’s photo was printed in the paper with the news of his note. He was a dapper, forward-looking young man who looked ready to take on the world.
And so it seemed he was — he had a successful life thereafter. After his experience abroad in Argentina, Don returned and graduated from college with a bachelor of science in 1955. He married Clara Helling in October of the year after, had one son, and continued to use his knowledge and experiences to found Valley Chemical Laboratories, Inc., in Fargo, where he lived. Don also owned ChemLawn of Fargo.
Here was a man of farming background whose roots, started in North Dakota and nurtured in the Pampas of Argentina, grew well.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Thursday, Nov. 23, 1989, Fargo Forum p. C8
Thursday, Jan. 14, 1954, Mountrail Co. Promoter, p.1