Sunday, December 31, 2006

Stephen Rolfsrud family enjoys White Christmas in Tucson

Steve writes:

White Christmas. Minnesota did not have a White Christmas this year, so Ford, Jenn, Briggs, Bill and Bailey Breck all had to come to Tucson to enjoy a White Christmas.

The picture with Nancy and Breck in the foreground is evidence of the success of that choice as the fairway shown behind them is covered with snow. Success was limited to the decision to come to Tucson, and not in choice of photographers.

(The trailboss offers two versions of the same photo, for those who have already seen snow but haven't seen Nancy and Breck for a while.)

Briggs and Bill donated the three snowpersons now displayed in the family room to complement the winter atmosphere.

The other picture shows the end of the storm and a return to the usual view out the back door. -- Stephen

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Steve & Nancy gather family in AZ

Steve reports from Tucson:

Christmas 2006

These two pictures are of Ford and Bill playing free golf on Christmas Day. Steve "beered" them on the 22nd tee in front of our house. The other picture is Ford chipping on. Bill broke 99 for the first time in his career. Ford just plain liked the thin mountain air and drove the ball 280 yards.

We include two pictures of Christmas Day in Tempe, Arizona with Jenn's grandmother, Virginia Murman, and Jenn's aunt, Kimberly Murman. We were treated to a five course super feast at the Friendship Village (requiring the Rolfsruds to actually know which fork to use with which course).

Two pictures are of the hike in the Catalina mountains going to the Romero Canyon pools--which have no water in them, at least not until tonights thunderstorms.

Another picture is with Jenn's grandmother and aunt outside of Jenn's grandmother's home in Phoenix.

Ford, Jenn, Briggs, Bill and Breck were here for six days over Christmas. Tenns, golf and hiking were on tap every day along with some excellent Italian meals at Vitello's as well as Nancy's unsurpassable lasagna. Next year we hope to have time to add in bocce ball.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Passion on the Rolfsrud blog???

Our thanks to Greg and Stephanie. Their story later when things cool off a bit.
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My Christmas gifts

Stan writes: Everybody says they don't like the commercialism or materialism surrounding Christmas, everybody says it, but I think I am the only person I know who actually does anything about it. This year I told my three daughters, Jennifer, Marcelline and Missy, that all I wanted from them for Christmas was a story about one of the happiest days they have experienced so far. No bottle of booze, no mittens, no golf kitsch, no bad art. Just a memory on paper. Each one read their "piece" at Christmas and I found it to be one of the most enjoyable Christmases I have ever had. I will share my gifts with you here. Enjoy:

One of My Favorite Days
By Jennifer Blethen

In the Autumn of 2004 I happened upon one of my favorite days. It was actually planned for lots of fun, but I wouldn’t know just how special it would be until the day was over. I got up that morning already packed to go on a rock climbing and camping weekend. After showering and getting some coffee into a travel mug, I went downstairs at the appointed time and knocked on my friend, Rob Vaughn’s door. We then proceeded to his car, stuffed in all our gear and headed North.

After many hours of good conversation and laughing we arrived at Tettegouche State Park . This was my first time climbing on the North Shore of Lake Superior and it is one of the best places I have ever climbed. We parked the car, loaded our bodies like pack mules and found the trail. It wasn't far to go as the water was just a quick jaunt through some woods. We walked along the cliffs to the meeting spot and found a few of our friends already there.

Putting down our stuff, we made introductions and hugged hello’s. I walked to edge of the cliff and took a deep breath. I was surrounded by beauty. In front of me the water extended out as far as I could see. To my right and left, rugged cliff faces dropped down 400 feet below to the giant lake. And behind me was dense forest and lush foliage. It was a beautiful crisp autumn day, my favorite kind! And as it was a bit chilly that morning, we had our coats on, but the sky was clear, the sun was shining and warmth was starting to fill the atmosphere.

We all unloaded our gear and offered up our snacks and yummies to each other while setting up for the first climb. Setting up is always a bit of a challenge. Finding rocks, crevasses, and trees to hold our ropes and fit our gear into isn't always easy and takes a bit of ingenuity and time. Getting all three strong points lined up and a rope over the edge however, is extremely rewarding and makes a person feel smart and happy. And that is just how I felt.

We all took turns climbing and when it was my turn to go over the edge and repel down to the bottom it was very exciting! One reason this is exciting is because usually a person climbs up and then repels back down. In this case we are situated on top of the cliff so we have to go down first in order to climb back up. This way there is some pressure to know that you will be able to make the climb back up, because if you can't your friends will be pulling you back up. Another reason this is exciting is because you are directly over the freezing cold water. The tradition is, once you reach the bottom you are to lean back in you harness and dip your head in the water. As it was nearing winter and definitely not hot enough to have wet hair, I opted to just splash my hand in the water for all above to see.

I climbed up the cliff with ease and joy as we had started on an easy route to get the hang of the day. I felt strong and healthy as I used my whole body to pull myself up this cliff. My life in this moment felt sure and happy as I placed it in the hands of my own strength and ability and also in the hands of my trusted friend at the other end of my rope. The clarity in my mind, the health in my body, and the happiness in my heart made me feel so alive. I knew I loved myself.

By the middle of the day the sun took the place of our coats and extra clothes, that were now strewn about in heaps next to our gear. We had eaten lunch, set up and climbed several routes and our faces were sore from smiling. Then night drew near, our coats were put back on and we packed up our day. New friends were now old friends as we headed to Finlandia state park to camp for the night.

That's Jennifer in the photo above. (Don't tell her mom, though.) In January Jennifer is heading to Hawaii. In the photo below are Jennifer, Marcy, Maxwell, Danny, Stan, Kathleen, Missy, Emily. -- Not pictured were Christmas Day guests Stephanie and Greg.

More to come.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Getting ready for Tucson

Unseasonably warm weather this December has led Steve and Nancy into their back yard to hone their play time skills for activities in Tucson. Yard darts are a favorite with the Saddlebrooke crowd so this enterprising couple is sure to make a big splash when they spend their upcoming Christmas holidays there. While temperatures in Mankato are warm these days, we're assured that Arizona will continue to be "shorts" weather, so Steve and Nancy will be sure to pack their best brief outfits. Ain't global warming great?
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Virgil gives a big $15 "thumbs up" to Saddlebooke course

Virgil writes from Tucson:

Best $15 of golf I've seen lately! As you can see, it is unlike the other courses here, pretty flat out, though the back nine gets more terrain and interesting holes. It is a long course with huge, wide holes you can hardly miss. No carries. For now, no houses to hit. Steve, you will love this course. Stan, being the steady, down the middle type, doesn't need fairways the width of football fields but might like this course as well.

Considering it is brand new, the course conditions are not ideal but acceptable and quite playable. Designed to be a high quality course with nice markers, cart paths, etc. Right now there is a lot of road construction going on but I expect the road will be paved quite soon. More trees arriving daily. This bargain won't be this good for long.

Now guys, I am getting exhausted trying out all these golf courses for you. I am going to have to cut back and attend to business here, so no more photos for a while.


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Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The real reason Virgil's Mexican restaurant hasn't opened yet

This is the new (used) golf cart acquired for use at the Tucson house. There are some issues about batteries, but then, most toys use a lot of batteries these days. Spiffy cart though, huh? Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tacos will have to wait, Virg has more trouble

Virgil, alone now in Tucson, writes to his partners:

Just when I think I have repaired and cleaned everything I need to around the house so I can concentrate on my new business (see photo), more stuff breaks down.

Another light timer is worn out, the batteries on the cart are not working well, and now the water feature is malfunctioning. Don't know exactly what is wrong but it seems to be having trouble pumping water to the top pond.

It drained most of the bottom pond and in the process jammed the filter with debris as the leaves were more likely to flow out as the water went down.

Something similar happened last summer to Barb, but it came back just fine when we got here. Maybe some creature or debris is plugging the pipes. We'll have to put our heads together when you get here to figure this one out if it doesn't just snap to by itself.

I have filled the batteries on the golf cart to their proper level, repaired the charger, etc. after listening to all the old, wise sages that inhabit the area, but the charge life is still only about half of what it should be.

I have had to stop the cart two rounds after 16 holes because the charge is so weak the cart can no longer climb hills. Both times, however, I had to drive it several miles to check in at the pro shop/starter, so it would appear that the cart is capable of going a full round if you do not drive it to check in (they have some weird rules that require a lot of extra driving around to play a round here).

But a normal cart is expected to be able to make two rounds on one charge. We can have the batteries checked, but I suspect we have to purchase new batteries sooner than expected. I would suggest trying to get through this season by driving a car down to the pro shop and starter to check in and only driving the cart for the actual rounds. Then we won't care about the battery condition over the summer.

Once I finally get past these items I can get back to my real work, running my new store. I have heard that there are teeming masses crossing the border and when they get here they are really hungry. I am anticipating big things.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Training for marathon

Check this blog regularly to mark the daily progress of Virgil and Steve Rolfsrud as they diligently train for the upcoming Tucson, Arizona marathon. The men are running up to 20 miles a day now at the Saddlebrooke Training Center and find themselves in remarkable physical shape. Posted by Picasa

Two of Hannah's six children: Johanna and Eloise. That is Eloise's husband at right, and I believe his name is Tim Thorson, but I was taking pictures, not notes. My memory is so bad I am hoping someone will email me at so I can get this right. Help please. Posted by Picasa

Aunt Hannah always knew exactly where she was going. . .

Dear Siblings:

I met Aunt Hannah's youngest in the nave of the Trinity Lutheran Church Monday, during our cousin's funeral. It wasn't the first time we had met, of course, but it was the first time in a long time. I guessed that it was Joseph, and he confirmed that I was indeed Stan, because, you know, I look just like Erling.

Joe had slipped out of the church sacristy to deal with a crying two-year-old. I had slipped out to get a photograph of the congregation. My work was done, his was not. So there we were, long-lost cousins, setting about together to silence a wailing child.

I applied my new grandparenting skills, and wouldn't you know, Kayla quit crying immediately and smiled for her closeup.

I think her name is Kayla, and she is a mostly a very good girl. I am sorry if I got the name wrong, but my memory simply isn't what it should be anymore... but neither is yours.

Wooden spoon
That evening at Hannah's wake we met Joe's lovely wife Hatalina (phonetic spelling). Joe met her in southern Mexico and convinced her to leave her extensive family there to live in Watford City. They lived with Hannah until her death, sharing household tasks. Hatalina told an anecdote at the wake about a wooden spoon and her mother-in-law that was both telling and cheerful.

Joe was with Hannah as she died and he spoke of his willingness to let her go. And why not, Hannah had prepared for this moment all her life, and she knew where she was going next.
Her children related many stories of her life on earth, as a creative and resourceful mother and a loving and spiritual parent.

Flour sack
Her eldest, Harold, told of never wearing a store bought item until he was 14. Hannah sewed flour sack clothing and she didn't need to buy any patterns, they just came to her as she pressed fabric against her live model.

Harold and I attended the same college (Concordia) and were drafted into the same Army (U.S.). He was taking digital photos. He had driven to Watford from his home in Tennessee, which is in the mountains near Dollywood.

Most of his career was spent in Clinton, Iowa, 30 years or so, I believe. One of his skills is hanging drapes. He was assisting a business friend in that regard a few years back on a job site in Eden Prairie. Turned out it was just down the block from us on Canyon Ridge. Harold came over to knock on our door, but, sadly, we weren't home.

Aluminum sheets
Harold recalled that his mother was so good at making clothes that she won a Pfaff sewing machine at the Minnesota State Fair in 1951 for the best flour sack creation. (We were at the Home Economics building last year. It appears homemakers aren't doing much of that particular craft anymore.) Now Hannah had two Pfaff sewing machines. She sold one for cash.

Harold's wife, Sue, a very creative, resourceful person in her own right, remembered Hannah's chicken coop, covered in aluminum sheets cadged from printing press leftovers. Hannah made wooden window scrollwork with a jig saw too, and Sue marveled at how everything fit together in an orginal work of art. And she marveled that a woman would work with wood.

That's Aunt Hannah, around 1946, with our mother, Beverly, and Linda and Becky, as well as the Rev. Ted Weltzin with baby Harold Theodore.

Resourceful, indefatigable Hannah kept everything and organized it in or on homemade shelves. She entered crossword puzzle contests. . . and won.

Cedar posts
Her heart went out to those less fortunate, and she was often heard to lament what she would do for them, "If I only had a million dollars."
We spoke of our trip to the Dakotas a few summers past, when Kathleen and I loaded up Aunt Agnes and Aunt Hannah in the back of the Buick and went for a jaunt to the farm. The two grey-haired ladies chatted away non-stop this special day, telling every old story from Watford to Keene. "There's the bridge where they lynched a man. . . the best fence posts are made of cedar and come from the river bottoms. . . your grandmother homesteaded over there. . ." and so on.

Macrame purse
My Irish wife wasn't sure she would be easily-accepted by these strong-minded Norwegians, but her fears soon vanished. Taken by Kathleen's stylish cream-colored macrame purse, when our penurious aunts learned Kathleen had purchased it for 75 cents at a yard sale, she was forever within their graces.

Plaster plaque
Cousin Eloise, who lives in St. Paul, and Cousin Johanna, who now lives near Alexandria, told of other aspects of their mother's life, notably her spiritual certainty and guidance. Eloise quoted the same scripture passage that hung over the crank wooden telephone in our Lake Andrew kitchen, back when our phone number was "long-short-long." You know, the verse on the brown-toned plaster plaque: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believeth in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

That's from memory, my dear siblings. Isn't it good to know we haven't lost it all?

The Rolfsrud Twins, David & Douglas

David Rolfsrud

Douglas Rolfsrud
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Sorry for the delay. . .

I had intended to write up Hannah's family yesterday, but there was no food in the house after our trip to North Dakota. Kathleen said she was going to the store for fresh bread and left me alone with Emily. Fifty minutes later, Grandma returned with a baby walker, assembly required. Please understand that Emily is in a critical stage of her development, so we had to drop everything right now and rush the new walker into immediate service. She is now merrily pushing her way around the kitchen, under adult supervision, of course.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Peace on Earth

Our immigrant grandparents, Nils and Rebecca Rolfsrud, are buried in Clear Creek cemetery near Keene, North Dakota. The recent passing of our Aunt Hannah, 91, marks the death of the last of their children. She was the youngest, and lived to be the oldest. The others are Halvor, Rena, Agnes and Erling. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A report from western North Dakota

Dear Becky, Linda, Solveig, Steve and Virgil,

Your road warriors, Kathleen and Stan, have returned from a mission to western North Dakota to attend the funerals of our cousin, Louise Haugen, and our Aunt Hannah Weltzin. The experience was most worthwhile and enriching. We hope we gave some measure of comfort to our loved ones there. For our part, we feel strengthened by the warmth and constancy of family ties and benefited greatly from the experience.

We left the Roosevelt Inn, Watford City, at 8 a.m. this morning and arrived home 10 hours later. We were pleased with our progress and as I sit here in the basement office tonight, whiskey in hand, I have some details I will endeavor to put down, as energy and lucidity permit.

The weather was cold, but perfect for travel. The pastel skies met the snow-covered prairies in a far-distant horizon that made the journey feel more like a voyage than a drive. We shipmates set course from our cozy cabin, against the gales whipping the waves of rolling prairie. Eighteen-wheelers were passing ships and the winds influenced everything: we saved 10 gallons of gas today, thanks to a spanking fresh northwester pushing us all the way home.

We made our trip quickly, efficiently and legally, but we make no claims to setting any family land speed or endurance records. That standard, sadly, is forever out of reach, carved in stone for all time 12 years ago by senior warriors Linda and Ron, during their epic dash from Colorado to Erling's Alexandria wake. Nonetheless, we humbly ask that you give our achievement an honorable mention whenever high plains travel lore comes up. Ten hours from Watford to Shakopee is not bad, not bad at all.


Speaking of Linda, let's get the anxiety out of the way right now. Linda, the flowers you selected and ordered were gorgeous, delivered on time, and greatly appreciated.

We saw them at Louise's wake, her funeral and the second bouquet at Hannah's wake. I think both reflected well the support and sympathy we have for our loved ones in this far away place. You done good, Linda.

(You may double click on the image below and you'll get full-sized evidence of the gift card.)

Now, if everyone would please promptly send their respective assessments to Linda, she can protect her plastic. Remember, Christmas is coming, and besides, she's got a house to build.


Louise Ann Rolfsrud married Kenneth Haugen on June 12, 1964.

They made their home in Fargo for five years where Louise taught elementary school.
In 1969, they moved to the Haugen family farm near Alexander, where she lived the rest of her life.

They started out in a trailer house on the farm. It wasn't that well insulated. Ken claims one morning he awoke and his hair had frozen to the wall. Louise always said that was just nonsense, maybe the pillow froze, but certainly not Ken's hair.

I was in Alexander on Monday. I side with Ken.

Alexander is a sturdy village 17 miles west of Watford City. If you want to imagine driving to Alexander in December, it helps to think of sleigh bells and "Dr. Zhivago."

When you arrive in town, you think you're the first one there, because you can't see anyone else. A full-sized billboard of the Ten Commandments in block letters greets everyone at the town entrance. Unless you were walking slowly, you wouldn't ever have time to read all of them, but of course that doesn't matter, because right away you get the idea that everyone knows them anyway.

Trinity Lutheran seats 250 souls comfortably.

We were glad we came early. We were able to get a seat on the main floor with the other savvy senior citizens. There's a church balcony for those who can climb. And then there's a basement hooked up with speakers connected to the pulpit microphone. It features an electric chair doodad that glides you down the stairs, should you be in need of assistance.

The Roman Catholic Church is across the street. That's where the grieving family is called to prayer and an organizational meeting before the funeral. Then, in a truly ecumenical movement, the Lutheran pastor leads a procession across the street and into the Lutheran church to take up reserved pews. No one thinks anything of it. That's just how it is done.

We were glad we came early, because as people filled out the church you couldn't help feeling it swell with strength and the power of a community sharing values and assets. Our grandparents did this. They established these values and traditions in this forbidding land and what they started remains strong to this day. The faith, the music, the iconography, none of it has changed. It is all there.

We were glad we came early because we heard Eunice Sanders play everything that church piano knew: Jesus Loves Me, Beautiful Savior, How Great Thou Art, What A Friend. Her fingering was magical, grace notes galore, it was all there. The traditions ran on, I thought of Nils and Rebecca and, so help me, I couldn't help but wonder if the organ and chimes had been purchased with proceeds from the sale of gopher tails.

We learned a lot about Louise. Our cousin was a schoolteacher, played the organ, taught Sunday School. She loved scrapbooking, quilting, card playing and gardening. She traveled to warm places with Ken in the winter. Last year she stayed for six weeks in Orlando while entertaining her children and grandchildren. A video tape prepared by a son-in-law showed her on a variety of cruises.

She cared for the farm, for her husband. Her brother Harold said she always wanted to be the best sister, the best wife, mother, teacher and grandma. Her brother says he may actually be the one responsible for this. He says Louise got her toughness and determination when he accidentally dropped her on the floor one day during her infancy.

Her favorite thing was the seven grandchildren given by her three daughters. She adored them all, and they adored her back. At her wake Sunday night, two of them read a book they had composed in her memory.

They all live in or near Fargo, so a trip to the farm was always a highlight. And for good reason. Problem: The grandchildren love kittens, they were coming to visit, and Grandma Louise didn't have enough kittens for everyone. Solution: She simply borrowed kittens from neighbors and had plenty for everyone when the guests arrived.

As she lay on her deathbed, she was blessed with one more grandchild. Delivered just about the time Shana and Erik's Anja arrived in St. Paul, Michele and and Adam produced Alexis in Fargo, then rushed her to Williston where a weakened Louise greeted the newborn with her biggest smile in weeks. (Ken's mother holds Alexis at right.)

The congregation sang. Behind us a beautiful voice reminded us of Beverly. Her clear tones made it easy to join in, easy to harmonize. Kathleen buzzed with the stranger seated next to her: they're strangers no more.

The Alexander cemetery is high on a hill a mile and a half away. The law was there Monday to lead the procession, but it was really more of an honor guard; everyone knew the way and there was no opposing traffic.

Two bright blue tents provided a little shelter from the elements at the bleak, wind-swept cemetery. Some of the pallbearers wore pink, signifying Louise's struggle with cancer, first in her breast, then migrating to her brain.

The tall one is Harold and Marilyn's firstborn, John Rolfsrud. They delivered the casket to its appointed spot and Pastor Swenson, with his wife (who works for the McKenzie County Farmer) making a videotape, delivered final thoughts on a life too short.

The warmth this day came from the friends, the relatives, the grandchildren clustered about Ken as he sat under a Fulkerson Funeral Home blanket before the bier. There were flowers, balloons, tears and dirt under the soft pinkish sky.

Back at the church honest-to-goodness gray-haired Lutheran church basement ladies served jello and glorified rice in tupperware with sides of scalloped potatoes and hamburger buns. I chatted with one to be sure they were genuine and not just props brought in for ambience. She was an actual church lady, she said with a laugh, and when she learned that my father's name was Erling Rolfsrud, you would have thought a rock star had just come by for potato salad.

I asked to photograph this national treasure, and she got all a-twitter, giggled and called to her girlfriends: "This is Erling Rolfsrud's son and he wants to take our picture!" The excitment was palpable and I strobed as many times as my digital camera would allow.

It was great to see Karen and Don Kirmis again. Don read the gospel at the service. Karen definitely feels the loss of her big sister. Their son, Paul, joined them at their Missouri breaks cabin, a place we have yet to visit, but fully intend to soon. Paul, unmistakably a Rolfsrud, is a trim, handsome F-16 fighter pilot with Tom Cruise good looks -- the difference being Paul is the real thing. He has served around the world in all our country's hot spots. He was in Qatar during 9-11 and dispatched over Afghanistan. He has flown as close to North Korea as the rules of engagement allow. Now this seasoned combat veteran is teaching the next generation of warriors how to operate the most lethal aircraft in the world.


In this land of the Angus and Hereford there must be a saying, "All hat and no cattle." Well, I parked my fedora in the hat rack at Trinity Lutheran Church in Alexander, below. I thought I was quite dashing, but alas, look closely at my pathetic fedora on the far right. Clearly, its owner has no hat AND no cattle.

The Rolfsrud Cattlemen's Association hosted a dinner for us Monday night at the Outlaw Saloon in downtown Watford.

Arnold and Metha Rolfsrud, and their daughter, Kersti, joined Kathleen and me as the guests of Harold, John, Douglas and David, their spouses and children.

I don't believe I have ever sat at a table with as many Rolfsruds. The evening was absolutely delightful and one we will long remember.

In honor of our hosts, Kathleen and I ordered red meat -- rib eyes, medium and medium well, please. It was a wonderful meal. I opted for a rice pilaf instead of a baked potato. Midway through dinner, a pilaf or something went down the wrong pipe and I was hacking away, trying to cough it out. I stepped into a back room to work out the little devil. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see John Rolfsrud, hovering. He had trailed me, ready to perform the Heimlich manuever. Had I needed one, I would have been well-served. "Johnny", as I used to call him, is a strapping six-foot eight farmer who is also the chief of the Keene Volunteer Fire Dept.

Back at the table, Kathleen was quite taken with twins David and Douglas and their families. Guy and Kelly were unable to attend. Guy is a pilot for a flying service out of Bismarck, and Kelly's spouse, a helicopter pilot, is preparing for another tour in Iraq. Kelly will join the family for Christmas, it was said. I enjoyed the company of tablemates Arnold and Metha, Marilyn and Harold, continuing a wonderful conversation that had begun earlier in the Keene farmhouse. Arnold's family took the train from Seattle, across the Rockies to Williston.

The Outlaw Saloon and Grill opened last July and is part of an ambitious development that has revived the appearance of Watford City. The town looks very fresh. Some say the revival is owed to tourism which has been sparked by the Lewis and Clark interest. Hunters love the deer and pheasant there. Others say the rising price of oil has encouraged more mineral exploration and investment. Whatever the case, our bartender, Rena, said you can't find a house to rent and home prices are rising fast in Watford.

Indeed. I paid $7.50 for a whiskey manhattan in her new fancy upscale joint. Who would have thought it? And Watford City used to be dry.


When we finished our dinner, we drove a few blocks to the Fulkerson Funeral Home for Aunt Hannah's wake.

More details on the Weltzins later.