Ask any North Dakotan if they remember the big March blizzard and they'll likely reply, "Which one?"
We've managed to get half-way through March 2011 without a major winter storm like the one the ones, actually that struck North Dakota in 1951.
Mike Sitter, 91, of Granville, remembers the monster storm that hit the area the first week of March 60 years ago. "It came up awfully fast. It was really a bad storm, there was nothing you could do,'' Sitter recalled last week.
Montana got a taste of the storm before the heavy snow and minus-20 degree temperatures hit the Minot area, buffeted by 55-mile-per-hour winds.
"For the first time this winter, a virtually complete tie-up of highway travel has reached its fifth day," The Minot Daily News reported March 10. "In fact, it's a question whether this region's highways and country road systems have ever been tied up more completely, in so brief a time."
While only a foot of snow fell during that storm, because of the wind, U.S. Highway 2 between Stanley and Williston was blocked for a week, and many travelers became stranded.
Sitter was living on a farm outside of Granville at the time and recalled that locals relied on horse and sleigh to get around, and the horses were also used to pull stuck vehicles out of snowbanks.
Still, the population of Granville swelled that week.
"Granville has become the haven of marooned travelers in the past few days as several hundred motorists have sought refuge here from the weather.
"Many have continued their journey by train, including at least two expectant mothers and two sick persons, while between 300 and 400 others have taken temporary refuge in the Granville hotel, private homes, and business places converted to sleeping rooms," the March 10 edition reported.
Another brutal storm about a week later resulted in similar circumstances in Berthold where up to 300 people became stranded, again with residents taking strangers into their homes for days.
"I guess a situation like the one we had here brings out the best qualities in people," observed then-Police Chief Ness.
Farther from Minot, airplanes were used to check on snowbound farm families in McLean County.
"Residents of the county have been advised by radio broadcasts to use the following signals marked out on the ground to indicate various types of distress for which help is urgently needed:
W for fuel.
X for livestock feed.
F for food.
I for medical help."
At the ripe age of 91, Sitter can probably recall many winter storms of equal significance, and is still sharp enough to know that what are now sometimes called "weather events" do happen this late in winter.
"We never know what's going to come in March. It's been that way forever," he said.
Klan meeting in Des Lacs
It might not be well known, but it is well documented that the Ku Klux Klan was active in North Dakota back in the 1920s, most notably in Grand Forks, where several Klan members were elected to city offices.
A story in the Aug. 28, 1924, Ward County Independent, though, reveals that people here were at least open to hearing what the Klan stood for at that time. The "speaker" in this story, reprinted verbatim, was never identified nor the exact location of the meeting.
"An organizer for the K.K.K. delivered a public address in a grove on a farm southwest of Des Lacs, Tuesday evening. The speaker gave a fluent and forceful exposition of the principles of the Klan. An audience estimated to number 1,500 people sat about on the grass surrounding the speaker or seated in nearby cars and for a couple of hours listened as the speaker denounced, in no uncertain terms, the law breakers and enemies of the United States.
"Probably half or more of the crowd were Minot people attracted by the posters which had been distributed about the city days in advance of the meeting. The meeting was called for eight o'clock but it was fully nine when all had succeeded in finding the place and the speaker opened the meeting. As the hundreds of cars streaked across the prairie headed for the grove, their bright headlights cleaving the air with beams of light made the scene one of unforgettable splendor.
"The speaker, in his opening remarks, stated that the order comprised 25,000,000 members all 100 percent Americans, as foreign born are excluded. All the learned professions, the fraternal orders and the better class of citizens generally being associated with the movement. He said that the tenets of the order were founded upon the teachings of the Scripture, in fact non-believers could not gain admittance to their councils. Their aim was to preserve the Nation inviolate of domination by any foreign government or influence.
"He said that 75 percent of the nation's wealth was under the control of the Jews. He advocated 21 years' residence as a requisite to naturalization.
"The speaker paid his respects to Minot in no uncertain terms. He said that iniquity and vice was rampant in the city and that the duly constituted authorities were merely winking at the violations of the law as they did at bootlegging and prostitution. He said that the Klan purposed to see that laws were enforced.
"He said that they stood for a strict enforcement of the provisions of the 18th Amendment, and warned the bootlegging fraternity that they would soon be called to account. At this point in his address he remarked that within a year the bootleggers in Minot would have to be primed to spit they would be so dry.
"The speaker, during his address, occupied a Ford car which had been draped with the stars and stripes. It was evident from his remarks that he was an ex-service man. The evening prior to the Des Lacs address a gathering of members, it is said, was held at a school house east of the city."
(Kent Olson is managing editor of The Minot Daily?News)