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OPINION

Can you imagine?...

Marvin Baker

We often find oursleves pondering the what ifs of the world but we can’t see far enough into that crystal ball to make sense of it.

When we look at the state of North Dakota, there’s a lot of things we wish we could change, but cannot.

Imagine if we could, or what if something was completely different than it is in reality.

As an example, can you imagine if the community of Devils Lake was built farther away from the lake and at a higher elevation.

There would never have been any flooding, dikes wouldn’t have had to be built to protect the city and roads to south of town may not have had to be built up and up and up to stay ahead of the rising water.

Can you imagine if Hector Field was built northwest of Fargo, say maybe 10 miles out? The city can only expand to the south because Moorhead, Minn., is east, West Fargo is west and Hector Field is north.

The way Fargo is growing, it might eventually be the longest city in the United States.

Can you imagine if Bismarck landed the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks, the prison, back in territorial days?

My guess is Bismarck would probably be a lot bigger than it is now because the city was destined to grow anyway because it’s a capital city. The university would have been a bonus.

Maybe it’s just as well how things turned out because Grand Forks would have suffered had it landed the prison. Without the influx of university students, the city of Grand Forks may have shrunk in population.

Can you imagine if New Rockford would have ended up with the state capitol?

Residents there mounted a challenge in 1915 to have the capitol moved from Bismarck to the Eddy County seat.

Do you think New Rockford would have grown to 73,000 people like Bismarck has? Even that long ago, could New Rockford have accommodated all the legislators in town for the session? It had approximately 2,100 people in 1915 and Bismarck’s population was about 6,000.

Can you imagine if the 49th Parallel was established as little as 10 miles south of where it was?

There was a Metis community where Walhalla now sits called St. Joseph. It was a stopover point for ox carts traveling from Winnipeg to St. Paul.

St. Joseph peaked with a population of about 5,000 and after the 49th, or Canadian border, was established, many of those Metis drifted north to what is now St. Boniface, Manitoba, a Winnipeg suburb.

Had the border been 10 miles south St. Joseph, or Walhalla, would have been in Canada and may have grown much larger than it is. It’s doubtful it would have grown to be the size of Winnipeg, but it would have been a principal community bumping up to the U.S. border.

Likewise to the south; Mobridge is about 40 miles from North Dakota state line and had the border been established farther south or the Mobridge townsite farther north, Sioux County would have had one of the larger communities in North Dakota.

Can you imagine if Minot would have landed an Army post instead of an Air Force base? Depending on what the mission was, that post might have been much larger than Minot Air Force Base and may have been more like Fort Riley, Kan., or Fort Leonardwood, Mo.

Can you imagine if North Dakota was settled by someone other than those who did settle here?

Most of us are Norwegian, German, Swedish, Danish and Dutch. What if Italians, Spaniards, Portugeuse, Russians and/or Greeks would have settled here in large numbers?

How different would North Dakota be? How similar would it be? Would that melting pot have been a totally different situation than how it turned out?

Can you imagine if the Non Partisan League would have remained a popular political party? It took the state by storm 110 years ago and did some great things for the state and its farmers.

Would a strong NPL have gotten us through the Great Depression, would we have prospered during the World War II years and would it be a credible third party in today’s politics?

Finally, imagine if North Dakota wasn’t cold and windy? What would our population be, imagine what we could do in the winter? What if we had a rain forest climate like southern Alaska? Would we be growing wheat and canola? Instead, there would probably be a healthy logging industry.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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