Plains Folk

Return to Highway 200


This has to be the best turtle yet. He makes Tommy the snowmobiling turtle in Bottineau look lightweight. He makes the We’el Turtle in Dunseith seem clunky. As big things go, Rusty the Turtle, alongside Highway 41 just north of Highway 200 at Turtle Lake, is just a great turtle.

And I’m getting more and more impressed with the Highway 200 corridor east-west across North Dakota every time I drive it. Last year I wrote about the elegant community hall and interesting historical monuments in Zap; Lindemann’s restored historic Standard service station in Golden Valley; the amazing concrete sculptures in front of Dodge High School; the historic grave-art to be found in nearby Golgatha Cemetery; cream can suppers in Dunn Center, along with the remarkable Schollmeyer farmhouse south of that town; and the charms of lovely Spring Creek, which winds its way alongside the western reaches of Highway 200.

I never spoke with you about other charming sights to be seen in towns along the eastern half of 200, except for detailing the history of the Bjornsterne Bjornson Bautastein in Mayville. Sykeston, for instance—what an evocative place, with its monumental brick high school, its footbridge across the lake, and the heritage buildings on Main Street—why, the ornate brickwork and stained glass windows of the old Citizens State Bank, those are just downright stirring. The heritage level of this little town is transporting.

Over in Hurdsfield, the very simplicity of the little green-and-white City Hall & Library makes me want to go in. I hope there are children still making use of this place, because its perfect lines and colors would have a good chance of imprinting a child for life as to the quiet pleasures of books. Surely this place must have a really kind sort of part-time librarian, don’t you think?

Are you the sort of traveler whose expectations are met by such modest, genuine pleasures? If so, come on with me back to the highway, where the Dairy King is Hurdsfield’s oasis on 200, and where creative spelling is a culinary art. I mean, I never saw anybody spell Fleischkeugle that way! And there are two sizes – go for the big one, $6.50! Have some rhubarb-custard pie with it.

You want to stoke up if you’re headed west, and time your journey to hit Dodge at lunchtime, partly for the plate lunch that the Dodge Community Store will serve you, and partly for the local color that gathers around the tables in the back.

Years ago I told you about the Sons of Martha monument behind the Joseph Henry Taylor log cabin in Washburn, but I’m still amazed at how little-known this fascinating piece of remembrance is. It reproduces the entirety of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Sons of Martha,” which is a favorite of construction engineers all over the English-speaking world. Harry McLean, himself a great engineer, had the poetic monument emplaced in his old home town.

Just over east of Dunn Center, the Knife River Flint Quarries on the Lynch ranch have been declared a national landmark. Up the road in Washburn, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center has installed beautiful new exhibits. By the way, the iron statues of Sheheke, Lewis, and Clark in front of the center were created by the welding artist Tom Neary, the same fellow who did the iron heart in McClusky, and Rusty the Turtle in Turtle Lake—which is, perhaps I already mentioned, a really fine turtle.

I’ve established a Facebook page for travelers who wish to share the joys of North Dakota Highway 200. Search it out and come on in.


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