Dreaming of a Brown Christmas

What snow we have is melting fast. I don't mind one bit. I have always thought a white Christmas was overrated. We'll get snow soon enough. And it will stay through March.

I think it was in the early 1960s that Grandpa remembered doing a landscape job on Christmas Eve. The ground hadn't frozen yet.

We'll enjoy the mild weather while it lasts. It really takes the edge off when you don't have to bundle up so much to go outside.

I am looking forward to the trip to China. One week from now, we'll be in the air. The anxiety over the trip is working its way into my dreams: Last night, I dreamt I had crossed into North Korea but had forgotten my passport. I was sure I was going to end up in a prison camp somewhere. What a relief to wake up in my house.

YESTERDAY, I made a trip to the Chester Fritz Library at UND to find a specific book. Weblog reader Sandy helped me out at Special Collections. The book is entitled The Decline of Rural Minnesota, and it is a good summary of what happened to the small towns over the past sixty years.

In the first place, the countryside was oversettled. The rural areas were never going to maintain the population that immigrated here, especially when they started having such large families. There just were too many people for the land.

The authors, Joseph Amato and John Meyer, are centered out of Marshall, MN. They mainly deal with that corner of Minnesota. However, their conclusions are probably even more true for Norman County, the most rural and agricultural of all Minnesota counties.

"The more rural the area, the faster the decline," was one of their conclusions. Norman County was the first county in Minnesota to suffer natural decline, which means a death rate higher than the birth rate. That happened in the early 1980s.

Norman County has no regional centers. Crookston, Detroit Lakes and Moorhead are all outside the county lines. So, statistics from Norman County are more reflective of the rural situation than the statistics from most counties. The county had 15,000 residents in 1910. Today, it is falling below 7,000.

I would like to find out how many country schools there were in Norman County 100 years ago. Halstad Township alone had 13. They were consolidated down to one by 1950. The same ratio must apply to other areas of the county.