Plains Folk

Pumpkin Blachinda


You wouldn’t know it by listening to our politicians or radio talk shows or interest groups with their own agendas, but things are going pretty well in North Dakota. If you are one of those whose attitude needs adjustment, then I have two words for you: pumpkin blachinda.


I’ll get back to those two words, but I’m taking the long way around, starting with a drive into German-Russian Country on business late last week. We were making arrangements for the meeting of Preservation North Dakota coming up in Wishek May 18-20. For the first time I got inside the Wishek Civic Center, that storied hall built of fieldstone by the WPA in the 1930s, and it was an if-these-walls-could-talk situation if I ever saw one. That place is a treasure.


We went up on Vetter Hill over Linton way, rang the Prairie Bells, and contemplated the Grotto of the Holy Family. Go up there sometime and push the button that says, “Push This Button”—don’t be afraid!—and see what happens.


We checked out the goods at Linton’s Model Bakery, a fine establishment, and observed the kuchen production process. We stopped in at Big Joe’s for a shack of knoplha soup, seasoned like nowhere else, delicious—I knew I detected turmeric. It’s from the pickling spice, says Laura the proprietor.


On to Bismarck’s Wood House to meet a party of students coming out of NDSU and to have one of these great Wood House pumpkin rolls, thence to Richardton to check into Schnell Hall at Assumption Abbey. There we were well taken care of by Brother Michael and the Benedictines. Assumption Abbey—there’s another treasure of the northern plains.


Our mission in the West River with the NDSU students was to do some restoration work on the historic Hutmacher Farm, in Dunn County, which went well indeed. Mainly because college students these days are great people to spend time with, and they do good work.


While we out there throwing mud and laying stone, people kept stopping by to take pictures and ask questions. People from Kansas, Minnesota, Wyoming, and I don’t know where all. People driving diesel pickups, flatbeds, and tank wagons. People new to North Dakota, but really interested in the place.


Which raises another question, which is, where is all this disreputable riffraff the press keeps telling us is overrunning western North Dakota? Every time I spend time in the region, which is often, I meet people working hard, doing their laundry, sending money home to their families, trying to figure out how to bring their families in to join them, and interested in talking about their new home. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, or maybe I’m just not looking in the wrong places.


Looping back from Dunn County we stopped at the Brad Gjermanson bucking horse sculpture on the hill overlooking the Knife River, and who should pull over alongside us but Brad’s folks, Stanley and Sharon. That was a lovely chat, the germ of a future column, I’m sure.


Final stop before heading home: Fried’s Family Dining, at the Sunset Exit of Mandan. I’ve been worried about the place ever since the Fried girls gave over to new management last year, but I’m happy to say, it’s in good hands. Which gets me back to my announced subject: pumpkin blachinda. For the uninitiated, that’s a sort of a turnover. Get in there and get yourself one. Go ahead, have it with whipped cream.


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