Tag Archives: children in Dickinson North Dakota

Why Do I Even Care About Children In Dickinson, North Dakota

In my previous blog post, I wrote about my concern over not seeing children playing in Dickinson, North Dakota.  I do see that about 10% to 15% of the families in Dickinson do sign their kids up for, and drop their kids off at soccer, hockey, basketball, swimming, baseball, and tennis.  It is good that these families get their children involved in sports and activities.  I would say that these same families probably keep close watch over how their kids are doing in school, and what they are doing after school.

Unfortunately, outside of the small percentage of children that get dropped off at after school athletic practice, I don’t see children playing anywhere in Dickinson.  In my previous blog post, I gave many lists of reasons why children aren’t outside playing in Dickinson.  To simplify the reasons, it comes down to the fact that mothers and fathers are struggling with time, money, and energy, and it is easier for them to have their children stay inside where nothing can happen to them, they won’t get hurt, and they won’t get into trouble.

However in Dickinson, this is the worst that I have ever seen things for children.  One of the reasons why things may be the worst for children, is probably because about half of the families with children have lived here for five years or less.  These parents that moved here for the oil boom, they don’t have grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, for their children to spend time with and do activities with.  Especially parents from the South, they probably don’t mix very well with the local people, and their children probably have some trouble in school getting along with local children.

That’s what is going on, but why do I care?  In Dickinson, to put it politely, the adult local people here are the most hostile, unfriendly, uncooperative, unhelpful, narrow minded, ignorant, uneducated, primitive people that I have ever seen.  I don’t want the local children to turn out like their parents.  I don’t want the out of state children to grow up and be like the local people here.

I would like to see the children in Dickinson outside colonizing vacant lots and building forts with scavenged material and found junk.  I would like to see them building tree houses.  I would like to see them outside exploring drainage ditches, canals, old barns, old bridges, and woods.  I would like to see them using their imagination, following their curiosity, developing an appreciation for adventure, enjoying exploring new things.  Knowing that it is O.K. to have fun, to have adventure, to dream and use their imagination.

I don’t want the children here to turn out like their parents, kept down, kept ignorant, kept uneducated, scared of everything new, scared to try anything new, and sour about everything that is new, foreign, or unfamiliar.  The adult local people in Dickinson remain fixed in their ways partly because of their own fear, and partly out of being conditioned to reject education, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.

Some examples:

  • I met a local man in his 70s, who was walking for exercise in the T-Rex Mall, which is about 150 feet long and 25 feet wide inside.  I talked to him about the West River Community Center which has an indoor lap track that is 1,000 feet long.  I explained that there are many older people who go there to exercise, to walk the track, to use the indoor pool, to use all the different kinds of exercise equipment.  This older gentleman was just too scared to go to the West River Community Center.  I know two other older local men, one 60 years old, and one 66 years old, and they are both too scared to go to the West River Community Center, even though they are both lonely and interested in meeting women.
  • I know more than several local people in Dickinson who are very interested in history and rodeo, but they have never been to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, some of them have never even heard of it.  I explained that the downstairs is a museum of North Dakota history, with old photographs, old tools, old clothes, old firearms, and old wagons.  They are interested, but they are too scared to go, even though it is only about fifty miles to the west on the interstate.
  • I have met several local people who never learned how to swim.  They would like to go boating on Patterson Lake or the Missouri River, but they have never been boating in their life.  They believe that if they were even fishing from the bank on Patterson Lake, they would drown if they fell in.  They probably would, because they are so scared of drowning and swimming is such a mystery to them that they can’t understand how to do it.
  • I hired a local person to come to work with me in Watford City.  This local person is almost 60 years old, and he has lived in Dickinson his whole life.  The last time he had been through Watford City was about ten years ago, though he had been to Watford City many times in his life.  The town of Watford City is about 1/2 mile wide by 1/2 mile long, with about 10,000 people.  In the first week, he got lost three times in Watford City, once while he was following me.  Twice he became very upset because he was so disoriented and confused. One of these times I was able to give him directions on the phone, the other time I had to go and get him.
  • A very good location for fishing, camping, and getting away from people is Cedar Dam Reservoir which is about six miles south of New England.  There is a sign for Cedar Dam Reservoir on Highway 22.  This would be an excellent place for high school students to take their girlfriends, because there is hardly ever anyone there, and there are miles of places to park on public land.  I asked one of the wildest New England girls if she had been to Cedar Dam Reservoir, and she had never heard of it, or been there.  I asked many local people who fish, if they had been to Cedar Dam Reservoir, some of them have never heard of it, most of them have never been there, though it is only about 35 miles south of Dickinson off Highway 22.

In the examples that I gave above, I was trying to explain that I have only lived in Dickinson for less than five years, but I have been many places not far from Dickinson, that lifelong residents of Dickinson have never been to, or even heard of.  This should not be.  They have been brought up and conditioned to believe that what they know, is all they need to know, they don’t need to know anything else.  That what they don’t know, is not worth knowing.  They have also been brought up and conditioned to not go looking for anything else, there is nothing else, and they need to stay right where they are, or something bad will happen.

The point of this blog post, was to explain that I don’t want children in Dickinson to be scared or unaccustomed to getting out, exploring, playing, having fun, taking risks, seeking adventure, and trying new things.  I don’t want them to turn out like the adult local people here.

Concern About Children In Dickinson, North Dakota

Approximately one year ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Children Do Not Play In Dickinson, North Dakota.”  In that blog post I wrote that I hardly ever see children playing in Dickinson.  I don’t see them in the street, in their yards, or in their neighborhoods throwing balls, rocks, frisbees, boomerangs, or spears.  I don’t see them riding bicycles, jumping ramps, building ramps, building forts, or building tree houses.  I don’t see them walking to convenience stores or grocery stores to buy candy or soda.

I wondered why I don’t see children playing, like children used to play when I was a kid.  I will give a few reasons that I could think of why children don’t play in Dickinson:

  1.   Both the mother and father work, and they have instructed their children, “Come straight home after school, get off the school bus and go right in the house, do not leave the house, do not go outside, do not break anything, do not get hurt.  Your mother and father can’t leave work to respond to an emergency, so don’t make us lose our jobs.”
  2.  The mother and father are struggling financially, they are very scared of hospital and medical bills, and they are always telling their children, “Get out of that tree, don’t climb that tree, get off the roof, get down from the roof, you stay away from that river, you stay away from that lake, get out of the street, don’t play in the street, stay away from those kids, I don’t want you playing with those kids, I don’t want you riding your bicycle, I don’t want you playing football……We can’t afford for you to get hurt.”
  3.   I have seen some parents, especially women, that think everything their children do is a nuisance, and they try to eliminate everything, “I don’t want you making a mess, I don’t want you getting dirty, I don’t want you ruining your clothes, I don’t want you getting hurt, I don’t want to take you there, I don’t want to come and get you, I don’t want you going over there, I don’t want them coming over here, I can’t afford that, we don’t have the money for that, I’m not wasting money on that.”

There is a small percentage of families in Dickinson, where the parents think that it is important for their children to do things, and they are able to spend some money on their children, and they have the time to drop their kids off and pick them up from cub scouts, boy scouts, girl scouts, soccer practice, swimming practice, hockey practice, tennis lessons, or music lessons.  Maybe 10% to 15% of families in Dickinson do this with their children.

I feel bad for the other 85% of children in Dickinson, that stay inside, mostly because they are instructed to do so by their parents.  As I already described in the numbered lists above, their parents don’t want them getting hurt or getting into any kind of trouble.

At the West River Community Center in Dickinson, which is one of the nicest gym facilities in the United States, 10% to 15% of the parents in Dickinson drop their kids off for swimming practice, basketball practice, or hockey practice.  About another 10% of the families in Dickinson encourage their children to go to the West River Community Center on their own.  But this still leaves about 75% of the children in Dickinson staying inside at home.

I am concerned about 75% of the children in Dickinson staying inside at home.  This is not good for a number of reasons.  They are not getting enough exercise, they are not developing strength, stamina, agility, balance, confidence, and learning their own abilities.  I don’t think that things should be like this, especially because Dickinson has so much open space.

In many areas of the country, they used to have summer programs.  Some summer programs were organized and sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department, some were sponsored by churches, and some were “Outward Bound” programs.

Before any readers start complaining, “They already have the cub scouts, girl scouts, boy scouts, and little league baseball in Dickinson”, you have got to remember that only 10% to 15% of families in Dickinson participate in these organizations, for various reasons.  Some of the reasons for non-participation include the requirement/expectation to be at every meeting/practice, penalization for not being at meetings/practice, competitiveness, politics, favoritism, and lack of enjoyment by non-athletic children.

I am concerned about the 75% of children in Dickinson that stay inside at home, and are not participating in scouts, team sports, lessons, or the West River Community Center.  I want to talk about the possibilities for other summer programs.

This past summer, I was having a discussion with a well known Dickinson musician named “Boston Steve”, who is in his sixties, and moved here from Portland, Maine in 2014 with his wife Melissa.  I was talking about Patterson Lake, and how nice it was that Dickinson has this lake right in the city.  Boston Steve said, that he had to proposed to some people, having about ten Sunfish sailboats at Patterson Lake to teach kids how to sail in the summer.  He said that he would volunteer for free, if someone would provide the boats.  I thought that this was an excellent idea.

When Boston Steve was a kid, and when I was kid, I used to go sailing quite often.  Sometimes on larger boats with other people, but also by myself on two-person boats.  These were some of the best times in my life.  On a nice warm day as a kid, I could not wait to get to the water, to put the mast, rudder, and centerboard on a boat, to wade out into the water with it, to jump in, and silently and effortlessly take off going 5 mph to 10  mph, without having to peddle or paddle!

Boston Steve was not an uptight asshole, a drill sergeant, or a coach like some youth activity directors.  All he was talking about was having kids sign up, giving them all swimming lessons, and having every one of them wear life jackets.  Teaching them in a friendly manner, knowing that all the kids couldn’t wait to get in the water and get in a boat.  And at first, not allowing anyone to go past the rope line and buoys.  He would not have had many demands, rules, or expectations.  It was for fun, not a competition.

The sailing would not have to cost the kids or their families anything.  It would be nice if a city transit bus, or another transit service could pick the kids up and drop them off.

If you can have a sailing class for kids in the summer, you can also have a horseback riding class in the summer, and also a hiking class on local buttes.  Every week, the hiking class could climb a different local butte.

The Dickinson Summer Outdoor Recreation Program Schedule could be:

Mon. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon……….Kids Rock Climbing Wall Class at WRCC

Tue. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………Kids Sailing Class at Patterson Lake

Wed. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon……….Kids Horseback Riding Class at Fairgrounds

Thu. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………Kids Sailing Class at Patterson Lake

Fri. 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m……………….*Kids Butte Climb (new location each week)

Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………..*Kids Mountain Bike (new location each week)

*Parents welcome to climb or ride along.

What would the costs be?  Let us say that each class requires two WRCC personnel, in addition to an unpaid volunteer or two.  14 hours of classes x 2 employees x $30/ hour = $840 per week.  (I use $30 to account for the wage, plus payroll taxes, plus workers comp., plus overhead).  12 weeks x $840 = $10,080.  This is the labor cost for the summer.

What do the horses cost?  Could someone provide 6 to 8 horses with saddles for two hours, once a week for $500?  12 week x $500 = $6,000.

What do the Sunfishes or equal cost?  Used ones, about $500 to $1,000 each.  10 x $800 avg. each = $8,000 one time cost.  Twenty-five life jacket = $1,000 one time cost.

What do the Mountain Bikes and BMX Bikes cost?  They cost just about nothing if you take what the City of Dickinson Police Department has in lost and stolen bicycles.  I have bought five of these bicycles for $25 each, and they don’t cost a lot to fix.  There are about fifty for sale at the Dickinson Public Auction each summer.  The inmates at the jail could fix them.  Tires, tubes, and twenty five helmets = $1,000.

Of course, of course there has to be liability insurance to cover the liability of Rock Climbing Wall class, Sailing class, Horseback Riding Class, Butte Hiking class, and Mountain Bike riding class.  What would this insurance cost be, $10,000 each summer?

Labor Cost……………$10,080




Total = $27,080 per summer

The sailboats and life jackets would be a one time cost of $9,000.

Where does the money come from, this $27,000 per summer?  Many activities in Dickinson, such as the downtown summer concerts, raise more money than this through donations and sponsors.

The Theodore Roosevelt Airport, West River Community Center, WRCC Hockey Center, Beisiot Activities Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, other facilities, and projects were funded through private donations.  It should be a goal of the Dickinson Parks & Recreation Department, to seek to create a charitable trust with the help of private individuals, to permanently fund summer recreation programs for children in Dickinson.  Old people like children, they don’t have anything against the poor little children.  Just a $1 million endowment, could permanently fund a $30,000 summer program.  But you would continue to seek donations to keep growing this fund.

Children Do Not Play In Dickinson, North Dakota

I have lived in Dickinson for nearly 3-1/2 years now, and I have never seen children playing in the street.  When I was a kid, I spent about 25% of my time playing in the street.  I would try to do tricks on my bicycle, I could ride my bike backwards very well.  I could only ever do wheelies for about ten feet.  I could hardly ever do front wheel stands.  We would build bigger and better ramps in the street, and measure how far everybody jumped.  If there was somebody dumb enough to do it, we would stand garbage cans upright for someone to jump over, which meant they were going to land on them.

If there happened to be a grocery store shopping cart in the neighborhood, we would take a hacksaw and cut the basket off the top of it, and make a chariot out of the lower part.  We would get a rope, tie one end to the seat of a bicycle, the other end to the front bar of the grocery cart chariot.  The bicycle would ride down the middle of the street, the chariot rider would swing out to the curb.

About 25% of the time we would spend on “forts”.  Some of the time was spent inhabiting and maintaining existing “forts”, part of the time was spent prospecting and building new forts.  This seemed only natural to do.  I had a good tree fort in my yard, which I sometimes spent the night in.  I ran an extension cord out to my tree fort and had a TV in it.  However, there was a need for additional “forts” elsewhere.  We constructed a pretty good tree fort about half a block away in somebody else’s yard, without them knowing about it, which is the best way to do it.  We salvaged lumber from people’s trash piles, or obtained lumber from other people’s yards.  We had another tree fort about one block away over a storm drainage canal, it was very picturesque.

I never see kids in Dickinson playing in the street, I never see them building tree forts.  I have not seen one tree fort in Dickinson.  I have written several blog posts about how the culture in Dickinson is different than from where I am from.  For instance, I have mentioned in past blog posts that there is just about nothing an out-of-state person can say that they have, without someone in Dickinson not liking it and having resentment.  If you said that you had an aquarium, a trampoline, a pool table, or a swimming pool, people in Dickinson would not like it, they would think or say,”We don’t need any of that shit around here!”  I explained in previous blog posts, that after visiting the museum in Medora, and having talked to long-time residents in Dickinson, conditions in North Dakota had been very difficult and poor up until the late 1970s when there was an oil boom.

I have only ever met two people from western North Dakota that know how to play.  One of them was Miss North Dakota, who I wrote about meeting in a previous blog post.  Miss North Dakota’s family members have all commented, that while they were all trying to get work done, she was always playing.  When she was in school, instead of participating in sports, she was off playing.  She plays with cats and other animals.  She just wants to play, she is still playing, and she doesn’t want to get married until she is in her forties she says.  The other person that I know, is the same age as Miss North Dakota, and she plays with her cats and dogs too.  I am not talking about go fetch this ball, I am talking about,”Here is your house, and here is your hat, and here is your jacket, put this on.”

The other unusual thing about Miss North Dakota and the other young lady, is that they don’t have a kid yet.  Many other young women in western North Dakota get pregnant right away.  For them, it’s not like, let’s play doctor, or let’s play house, it’s “I’m pregnant.  No, I’m serious, I’m pregnant.”

What I have noticed in Dickinson, is that there is not a wide range of thought, it is kind of narrow.  I have written several blog posts titled “Advice to Women in Dickinson”, where I wrote that young women should not think of moving in with a guy right out of high school and getting pregnant, as the only thing there is to do.

At this point, this post is probably upsetting and hurtful to people from Dickinson.  I am not trying to be mean in this post, other posts I might be, but not in this one.  I want to point out, that people from out-of-state like myself, come to Dickinson, and experience some culture shock.  In the South, where it is warm, people play.  People surf, sail, swim, canoe, jet ski, water ski, ride horses, play tennis, play golf, roller blade, skateboard, mountain bike, play volleyball, have paint ball battles.  Here in Dickinson, kids don’t even play.