Welcome to Fun Facts About the 50 States, where – week by week – I’ll be taking you on a tour around this great nation of ours, providing you with interesting, yet completely useless and probably untrue, information about each of the 50 states.
This week, we’ll be picking Canadian coins out of our pocket change and tossing them into fountains to make 89% of our wishes come true as we visit North Dakota. So let’s get started…
* North Dakota became the 39th state on November 2, 1889. It was originally settled by Canadians searching for somewhere to live that wasn’t cold and boring. The expedition was, of course, a miserable failure.
* Westhope, North Dakota, is the state’s busiest point of entry into Canada. Over 72,000 people per year cross the border there – mostly Hollywood types making good on their promises to leave the country after Bush was elected.
* Dakota Gasification Co. of Beulah, North Dakota is the nation’s only producer of “synthetic natural gas” – an oxymoron of a degree second only to “peaceful Muslim”.
* Writing Rock State Historical Site near Grenora, North Dakota, features two granite boulders with carvings of the mythological Thunderbird. Which is either an example of early Indian religion or a declaration of their love for cheap, fortified wine.
* North Dakota got its name from the Sioux Indian word “Da-ko-ta”, meaning “pasty white guys”
* The town of Rugby, North Dakota, is the geographical center of the North American continent, which – for those of you with public school educations – is the one that’s right above that ice-cream-cone-shaped continent.
* In 1987, North Dakota passed a law making English the state’s official language, as a direct snub to those who only speak Canadian.
* “Whut’s dat aboot, eh?” – I mean, who can understand THAT goofy monkey-jabber?
* In 1989, North Dakota attempted to drop the word “North” from the state’s name, seeking to become known simply as “Dakota”. The bill was defeated after their neighbor to the south threatened to change its name to “Smart Dakota”.
* Max Taubert of Casselton, North Dakota built a 50-foot-tall pyramid out of empty oil cans. Experts are still debating whether Taubert was an artistic genius or just a lazy slob who couldn’t remember that trash day was Tuesday.
* Devil’s Lake – the largest natural body of water in North Dakota – got it’s name from a mistranslation of the Sioux Indian word “Miniwaukan”, which actually means “Satan’s Urinal”.
* The Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson, North Dakota, contains dozens of complete dinosaur skeletons and celebrates the North Dakota state recreational pastime of watching things slowly turn to stone.
* Harvey, North Dakota… no relation
* The largest state-owned sheep research center in the US is located in Hettinger, North Dakota, and specializes in trying to discover what it is about sheep that makes ordinary men suddenly unable to quit each other.
* The original grave of Sioux Indian leader Sitting Bull can be found in Fort Yates, North Dakota. His last words before being killed in 1890 were “Me think-um white man not have guts to pull trigger”.
* Jamestown, North Dakota is home to the world’s largest buffalo statue. It’s 26 feet tall, weighs 60 tons and features a small plaque at its base that says “Yes, we KNOW it’s actually a ‘bison’. We don’t care. Shut up.”
* North Dakota grows more sunflowers than any other state, which is why they were going to name their NFL expansion team the “Sunflowers”. It’s also why the last NFL expansion franchise was granted to Houston, instead.
* The historic Opera House in Ellendale, North Dakota was shut down after 90 years of successful operation in 1999 when it made the regrettable decision to put on performances of the controversial musical, “The Pedophiles of Penzance”.
* A “flickertail” is a small ground squirrel native to North Dakota which gets its name from its characteristic manner of flicking its tail just before entering its burrow. Sorta like the way a Democrat flinches upon hearing good news out of Iraq.
* North Dakota’s biggest tourist attraction is the annual Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo, which is the one time of year when residents can chase, tackle, and tie up animals for pleasure without running afoul of the state’s bestiality laws.
* Before becoming President, Teddy Roosevelt came to the Dakota territory in 1883 to hunt bison. He left in 1898 to fight in the Spanish-American War because he thought it would be more fun to hunt Spaniards.
* Known as “The Small, Friendly German Town on the Dakota Prairie”, New Leipzig, North Dakota, hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration during which it invades and conquers the neighboring city of New Paris.
* Every year, New Rockford, North Dakota hosts the Central North Dakota Steam Threshers Reunion, which features a variety of antique farm machinery, some of which is so old that it’s actually been used to harvest non-government subsidized crops.
* Fort Berthold Community College near New Town, North Dakota, was the first tribally chartered college in North Dakota and offers courses in casino operations and victim-card playing.
* Rutland, North Dakota created the World’s Largest Hamburger. Over nine thousand people came to sample the nearly two-ton burger, and all of them went home hungry, since Michael Moore was first in line.
* Turtle Lake, North Dakota hosts the annual United States Turtle Racing Championship. The losers of the race compete again later in the day during the United States Turtle Soup Cook-off.
* Bismark, North Dakota features a statue of Lewis & Clark’s Indian guide Sacagawea. She’s depicted gazing westward toward the country she helped open, while the baby strapped to her back is shown giving the finger eastward to the country that forced his mom to live on a reservation.
* The Lewis & Clark expedition encountered hungry grizzly bears in North Dakota, which is also where they lost their first Indian guide, Snackagawea.
* North Dakota’s highest point, White Butte, features numerous small piles of rocks. Known as shepherd’s monuments, they were piled there by sheepherders as a way to pass the time. Sorta like a primitive version of Microsoft Solitaire.
* The International Peace Garden straddles the international boundary between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba. Like the peace movement itself, it’s filled entirely with pansies.
* The Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota was the principal fur-trading site in the region from 1829 to 1867. It was one of the few places in the country where no one would raise an eyebrow upon hearing the phrase “I’m going into town to see if I can trade my beaver for a bottle of whiskey”.
That wraps up the North Dakota edition of Fun Facts About the 50 States. Next week we’ll be shopping for discount Drew Carey glasses as we visit Ohio.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go head into town to see what I can get for this bottle of whiskey.
[The complete e-book version of “Fun Facts About the 50 States” is now available at Amazon.com. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free Kindle apps for your web browser, smartphone, computer, or tablet from Amazon.com]