I believe that this four-part series of articles on Hettinger, North Dakota, is probably the most important thing that I have ever written, in terms of potentially helping other people, and changing their lives for the better.
I see that not very many people have been reading these past three articles, which in a way is disappointing, but not surprising, and probably for the best. Hettinger, with a population of about 1,100 people, can only remain essentially the same if fewer than twenty families relocate here per year.
Several hours per day, I read and watch news sources, such as the Dickinson Press; Google News; AOL News; shared news articles from Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal; news and news commentary on YouTube and TikTok. Every day, throughout the day, I see news about retail theft, burglary, robbery, flash-mobs, assaults, murder, rape, gangs, drug-crime, mentally-ill people in crisis, homelessness, and vagrancy. These things are considered normal and typical in California, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Texas, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and in most states along the east coast.
In addition to news reports every day about the crime that is occurring in the west coast states, east coast states, and in all of the large cities located in the interior of the U.S., I watch videos from individuals about their own struggle with being unable to afford to buy a house, unable to pay their rent, inability to find employment, facing homelessness, being evicted, or already living in their vehicle.
After listening to people describe being the victim of crime, living in a dangerous neighborhood, struggling with high housing prices, being unable to find employment, being broke, living in their vehicle, I sometimes comment back to them that they don’t have to live like this, there are places that they can move where there is decent paying employment, combined with affordable housing, and low crime. In the many times that I have written a comment such as this to people, I have never yet received a reply asking “where”, or even acknowledging my comment that I wrote trying to help them.
In Part I of this now four-part series of articles on Hettinger, North Dakota, I wrote a list of perhaps thirty different cities that I had visited in my lifetime. I then went on to describe some of their characteristics that I observed regarding how livable they were, eventually leading up to my conclusion that I would most like to live in Hettinger if I had a choice. This would be especially true if I had a family, or was nearing retirement.
Getting back to my opening statement in this Part IV article, that I believe this is probably the most important thing that I have ever written, in terms of potentially helping other people, and potentially changing their lives for the better, I am trying to get people to see that they don’t have to live in a dangerous neighborhood, be the victim of crime, struggle with the cost of housing, work for low pay, or be forced to live in their vehicle.
The cost of living in Hettinger is 25% below the national average. The average home price is about $120K, the average income is $50K. Unemployment is 4%. The public school is within walking distance of most in-town residences, and the student-to-teacher ratio is less than 12:1.
There is one nice, clean, medium-size grocery store in Hettinger. There is one Dollar Store, one pharmacy, two gas stations, and two auto-parts stores. One centrally located, medium-size Post Office. Several banks. Several restaurants. A Runnings Farm & Fleet ranch store that sells hardware, tools, equipment, toys, firearms, animal feed, clothing, housewares, auto-parts. And there is a new medium-size regional hospital in Hettinger.
The nearest airport to Hettinger with regular commercial airline service is in Dickinson, a one-hour drive to the northwest. The next nearest is the state capitol in Bismarck, a two-hour drive to the northeast. Dickinson and Bismarck are the closest large towns to Hettinger, with populations of 25K and 75K .
Part of the reason why I have such a favorable opinion of Hettinger being a desirable place to live, is because ALL of North Dakota is very sparsely populated, but especially southwest North Dakota where Hettinger is located. The entire state of North Dakota has less than 800,000 people.
In southwest North Dakota where Hettinger is located, every 10-30 miles, there is the next town with roughly 500-1,000 people. In these small, farming community towns, robberies, burglaries, car-jacking, assaults, rapes, kidnapping, murders, are not normal at all, these crimes seldom occur. But when crimes like this do occur, most often committed by someone from out-of-state, the perpetrators are quickly caught. Had a potential criminal been around long enough, they would have come to realize that there are no large cities within a two-hour drive for them to hide in and go unnoticed.
Readers from states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois, and others, are probably tempted to say, we’ve got the same thing here, very small towns, one after the other, where outsiders don’t go unnoticed, and there is very little crime. I want to point out, that NO, it’s not the same as North Dakota.
Take Utah as an example, with a population of just over 3 million people, even fewer people than Tennessee and Kentucky. There are 1.25 million people living in the Salt Lake City Metropolitan area. The entire population of North Dakota is less than 800,000 people. The largest town anywhere near southwest North Dakota, is two hours away, the State Capitol Bismarck with 75,000 people.
The reason why the very low overall population of North Dakota, and the widespread distribution of this small population is important, is because in addition to being unfavorable conditions for crime to occur, natural disasters and man-made disasters least affect a small population that is spread out like this, in comparison to all of the other states, with the exception of Alaska.
Some examples are: In North Dakota, you will not see several million people clogging the interstate highways at the same time trying to evacuate for a hurricane or flood; You will not see hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a region due to forest fires; You will not see water reservoirs like Lake Powell and Lake Meade that provide water for millions of people drying up; You will not see cities overrun with rioters and looters, smashing windows, setting fire to businesses, destroying parked cars, blocking passage on interstate highways. You will not see the same kind of mandated COVID testing, COVID lockdowns, COVID outbreaks, and hospitals that required mobile FEMA morgues as occurred in other states.
In a large enough natural disaster, or national emergency, take Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for example, first responders are faced with the choice, do they come to work, or do they save themselves and their own families? In all large cities, whether it’s Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, first responders such as law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors, utility workers, have to choose between going to work to save others, or packing up their own families and getting themselves and their own families to safety.
The opposite occurs in towns with populations below about 2,000 people. In a natural disaster or national emergency, the small town police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors, and utility workers, ARE protecting their own families when they come to work. Readers need to understand this completely different mindset in small towns.
The small town police are protecting their own families, plus their neighbors, their neighbors’ kids, their kids’ teachers, their minister and his family, the grocery store employees where they shop, the barber who cuts their hair, the veterinarian who treats their animals. It’s the same for the firefighters, paramedics, nurses, doctors, utility workers, this is their home, there is no other place they would want to be, they’re not going anywhere.
I will add some videos and photographs to this Part IV article within a week, but I am going to go ahead and publish this now as it is.