Plains Folk

The North Dakota Rant

We do not live in a Homeric age, and so we do not speak in iambic pentameter (although I could do so if called upon). Every age, every place has its customary modes of expression. One of ours, here and now, is the rant. This literary form thrives on the Internet, especially in anonymous sectors of that virtual world. A rant is a litany of denunciations and indignations spoken to let off steam.

The form broke through into national advertising in Canada a couple years ago with a Molson beer commercial featuring a young man speaking a piece known simply as “The Rant”—a catalog of resentments dealing with American misunderstandings of Canada. Unfortunately, the young fellow who delivered The Rant so passionately has since moved to the states.

About the time George W. Bush took office as president I began receiving copies of a rant entitled, “Brushing Up on Southern Manners.” This was a list of cautions to “ALL visiting Northerners And Northeastern Urbanites” as to their behavior when visiting the South. Every caution closed with a warning something like, “or we will have to kick your —.”

Now, that sort of rhetoric might seem unlikely on the northern plains, but remember it was mild-mannered Canadians who made The Rant into an icon of popular culture. Sure enough, in subsequent weeks I received no less than eight copies of a rant, adapted from the southern version, purporting to have been “Issued by the North Dakota Tourism Bureau to ALL visiting Californians and Northeastern Urbanites” and closing with the ironic benediction, “Enjoy your visit in the Peace Garden State!”

All versions are semi-profane, but some tone down the usage in the style of Sarge in a Beetle Bailey cartoon, a pattern I will follow here in the interest of decency. I call this document the North Dakota Rant. It admonishes us, among other things, thus:

Don’t order filet mignon or pasta primavera at Kroll’s Kitchen. It’s a diner. They serve breakfast 24 hours a day. Let them cook something they know. If you upset the ladies in the kitchen, they’ll kick your @$%. [Clearly, the author of this rant has been watching those Kroll’s commercials on TV.]

Don’t laugh at the names of our little towns (Minnewauken, Rolla, Gackle, Osnabrock, Cando, Walhalla, Zap, etc.) or we will just HAVE to kick your @$%.

We have plenty of business sense. You have to to make a living up here. Naturally, we do sometimes have small lapses in judgment from time to time, but we are not dumb enough to let someone move to our state in order to run for the Senate. If someone tried to do that, we would kick their @$%.

Don’t laugh at our giant fiberglass cows and our turtles made out of car parts. Anything that inspires tourists to buy 50,000 postcards can’t be bad. When you’re in Jamestown, don’t point at the *&!# on the giant buffalo or we’ll kick your @$%.

We are fully aware of how cold it gets here in the winter, so shut the %&! up. Just spend your money and get the %&! out of here or we’ll kick your @$%.

Don’t complain that North Dakota is flat and that there aren’t enough trees. If you whine about OUR scenic beauty we’ll kick your @$% all the way back to Cleveland.

Last, but not least, DO NOT DARE to come out here and tell us how the prairie should “go back to the buffalo.” This will get your @$% shot (right after it is kicked). Just mention this once and you will go home in a pine box. Minus your @$%.

I’ve posted full text of the rant at my website.


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