Omdahl: Transparency as good as confession
Omdahl shares a humorous take on his upbringing in North Dakota.
My cover has been outed. A friend said he Googled me and discovered that I was older than dirt. Since it may not be dirt from the Garden of Eden, the cat is out of the bag and the truth must be told.
I was born prematurely and have been on a dead run since. It was during the Great Depression when I became the eighth in the family of 11 – and we weren’t even Catholic.
I was unaware of being a person until I was 3 and the touch of a hot stove alerted me. A bag of soothing candy was not a good trade-off.
I must have been a slow child. By the time she was 3, Judy Garland had started her stage career. And at age 3 Albert Einstein started talking, mostly about neutrons and protons which nobody understood until we dropped them on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
We lived in a building on the wrong side of the Soo Line railroad tracks, sort of a one-house slum, which was about the right proportion for a small town like ours.
It you ever looked down the Soo Line tracks you will know that neither could they build a house. The north wind went through it, not around it. Then there were days when a 40-mile north wind would pick up dirt left uncovered by the farmers, combine it with snow and thereby create a snirt storm.
At our house, these snirt storms would whip through this Soo Line house and we would not only hear the wind but we could see it as well. It was like being at the movies when John Wayne would ride through the mist.
Being on the north side of town, we took the brunt of the cold winter wind. The only thing slowing it down was a barbed wire fence on the Pickett farm. That was two miles away so by the time the wind got to our house it had almost regained its original speed.
With eight kids, the hand-me-downs had pretty well handed down by the time the eighth kid got them. That was me. I felt dressed about as good as those poor guys at Valley Forge with George Washington. Except I had shoes, two sizes too big so thick stockings were at a premium.
When I was in high school, I started my career as a journalist by reporting the local news for county newspapers. If you wanted to know who was having tea at the Guerney’s last Tuesday, you could read about it in my news report. And most people in my town wanted to know.
Yes, I did take high school by correspondence. There were no school buses so we either had to walk six miles to a high school or board in town. Neither option fit so it was school by mail.
You could learn as fast or as slow as you wished. Some people finished in three years and others finished algebra in the old folks home.
At first I majored in journalism and social sciences. Later, I picked up political science. I became overqualified to be the local news reporter so I had to find a real job. Which I never did.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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