I have tried to explain what Dickinson, North Dakota is like many times. What people probably need to know most of all, is the great degree to which people in Dickinson hate people who are from someplace else, and that they also hate each other.
More than a hundred years ago when the first settlers arrived in western North Dakota, mostly Germans, Ukranians, Bohemians, and a few Norwegians, they were very poor and conditions were very bleak. Back then, there were far less trees in western North Dakota than you see now.
The settlers had no wood to construct their homes, they had to cut grass sod and stack it to form walls, and they had to use grass sod for the roof as well. There was no wood for the fireplace or stove, they had to burn dry animal dung for cooking and heating.
For a long time in the Dickinson area, people were so poor that there was no charity or hospitality, everyone was just struggling to survive. Also, for almost the entire history of Dickinson, there was no way for most people to get ahead. The only way that local people could feel like they got ahead, was when someone else failed. So people in Dickinson became accustomed to hoping and helping other people to fail, which made them feel better about themselves.
I have thought about a way to describe what people in Dickinson are like, and what living in Dickinson is like. Here is a story that I have come up with, to illustrate several points. Imagine that I fell and hit my head, to where my mental faculties were permanently diminished, and I could no longer operate a vehicle or work at a job. In this mental state of not knowing and not understanding completely what is going on, here is how my life would be in Dickinson:
After a long battle of having been repeatedly denied Social Security Disability benefits in Dickinson, my court appointed advocate was able to take me to Bismarck where I was evaluated and determined to be eligible to receive disability benefits due to my accident, head injury, and reduced mental capacity.
My advocate and public fiduciary were able to arrange for me to have a small ground floor apartment in Dickinson, and they managed my Social Security money to pay for my rent, utilities, food, and clothing. There was a small amount of money left over each month which paid for the public fiduciary accounting services.
One of my activities which I had inside of my apartment, was braiding rope to make eyelets on each end of twenty foot lengths of rope. I would make these ropes with eyelet ends, and try to sell them as tow ropes, for $20 each. This activity was so that I had a job, of sorts, like everybody else.
At 10 a.m., I would put 10 tow ropes into my shopping cart, and leave my apartment to go make my sales route through Dickinson. I would head west through the neighborhood where I lived in downtown Dickinson, to get to the business district and parking lots of gas stations, convenience stores, parts stores, fast food restaurants, and motels where I would offer my 20 foot tow ropes, for $20.
One of the first persons to spot me this morning as I pushed my shopping cart along the sidewalk, was a retired man of about 65 years of age driving a new Buick, named Florian. This man was an important Catholic, and an important member of the community. Florian did not like the looks of me, or what I was doing. He made a right turn at the next corner, in order to go around the block and come up behind me again.
Florian thought about running me over with his car, but he realized that someone might see him, and that he might do damage to his car. He didn’t like the looks of me, my shopping cart, my tow ropes, or what I was doing, this made Dickinson look bad he thought. How to get rid of me and put a stop to this he thought? After watching me for a few minutes, Florian came up with a plan of how he might poison me.
Florian decided that he would go buy some cookie dough mix, some rat poison, mix this up in his garage, heat it up on a hot plate, and that later in the day he would find me again and bring me some cookies. Florian was very happy and pleased with himself, because now he had something to do today, and he imagined how sick I would be and possibly die.
As I continued to make my way through downtown Dickinson, another Catholic, a realtor lady driving a new Chevy Suburban was headed in my direction. She was talking on her cell phone and she saw me about two blocks away as I was getting ready to push my shopping cart full of yellow tow ropes across the street.
This lady looked in her rear view mirror, her side mirrors, and she looked left and right, and she saw that no one was coming and that no one was outside. Just as I was pushing my shopping cart into the street, she ran into the front corner of my shopping cart, causing it to yank out of my hands, and fly through the air, throwing my tow ropes everywhere. My shopping cart was damaged and crooked now.
She laughed to herself as she continued driving, looking in the rear view mirror at the damage she had caused. No one had seen her, I would not be able to identify her, she had gotten away with it. Besides, who was going to care about what happened to me anyway, she would just say that it was my fault, who was going to believe me? Hopefully, she had damaged my shopping cart badly enough, that she wouldn’t have to see me pushing my shopping cart around Dickinson anymore.
I picked my yellow tow ropes up, put them back into my shopping cart basket, and I continued on. Just before noon, as I was going through the parking lot of the Motel 6, I was able to sell one tow rope to a motel guest. He didn’t really need the tow rope, but he thought that it wouldn’t hurt to have one.
I now had $20, and I saw the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign up ahead, not far away. I parked my shopping cart beside the KFC, and I went inside. I was happy that I had enough money to buy whatever I wanted.
After I got done eating, when I went outside, my shopping cart was gone. I panicked, and began looking all over for it. It had taken me hours and hours to make all of those tow ropes, and now they were gone. Finally, I found my shopping cart in the bottom of the canal behind KFC, someone had taken it and pushed it into the canal.
This is what Dickinson is like, the people here hate people who are from someplace else, and they also hate each other. Anything that you do in Dickinson, it will probably make the people here hate you even more. They do not want anyone to get ahead, or anyone to be happy, they can’t allow this to happen, as this would mean that someone was doing better than them. The only way that people in Dickinson can feel good about themselves, is when someone else fails, so they help other people to fail.