127 Years of North Dakota

Sometime this afternoon, North Dakota turned 127 years old. 

Today in 1889, North and South Dakota were admitted as twins to the Union, comprising the 39th and 40th states, though no one knows in which order. President Benjamin Harris instructed Secretary of State James Blaine to shuffle the proclamations so neither Dakota could lord over the other which was first. With an eagle feather taken from a bird in North Dakota, Harrison signed the Dakotas into statehood. 

North Dakota is one of the youngest states, interestingly enough. In addition, 38 states preceded it in the 90 years beforehand, and just 10 states would follow the Dakotas in the next 70 years. 

I've been in Watford City for five months now, and I spent 22 and a half years in Fargo on the other end of the state. I must say, North Dakota is a peculiar state. 

Vast, flat, treeless tracts of farmland and stretches of straight roadways that have few services and tiny towns. Over 750,000 people flung out over 70,000 square miles, but one sixth of the state's population found in its biggest city. 

An enormous subterranean supply of oil and gas only able to be recovered through specific means only made available in recent years. 

An appreciable link to one of America's most popular presidents and a stronger tie to America'a most famous explorers. 

And today, a pipeline protest gathering international attention and a downturn in two industries that drive the state's economy.

North Dakota is a classic boom-and-bust story. From the years of the Dakota Boom, to the Dust Bowl, to the return of rains, to the oil booms of the 1950s, '80s and 2000s and the slowdown since 2015, the state is a yo-yo. 

Its population is the highest it has ever been--about 756,000 in 2015. Its population is among the youngest in America--the average North Dakotan is 34. 

And yet in the 1980s and '90s, the state was draining like a colander. Huh. 

I'm not sure what lies ahead in North Dakota's next 127 years. Two years ago, I wrote something similar on the state's quasquicentennial. I certainly didn't predict slumping commodities as we have now. 

And I didn't predict the influx of families who have made their homes here. 

Heck, the McKenzie County Farmer saw 753 children stop by its office for downtown trick-or-treating on Halloween. In 2008, the city's population was twice that number. 

Young families are building lives here, something that goes unreported in newspapers outside of western North Dakota. In Fargo, mostly all I ever read about Watford City was its crime, not about the booming youth population, need for daycare or new high school. 

I think North Dakota has some good years in front of it, but we can't forget the boom-and-bust cycle of this state. 

But boom or bust, I'll be here in my lovely home state.