At the very southern edge of North Dakota, a strange vision emerges. Enormous metal sculptures of fish, pheasants, a tin family and more — like toys left behind by a species of giant children — are scattered every two to four miles along a 32-mile stretch of road north of Regent known as The Enchanted Highway.
The tin family consists of a 45-foot smiling farmer father in blue overalls holding a giant pitchfork. The mother, who holds a basket of metal flowers, is 43 feet tall and their son a mere 23 feet tall. My daughter Natalie and I stood on the farmer’s feet and didn’t come up to his shirttail.
Further up the road we saw a 70-foot-long and 40-foot-tall rooster and a group of other giant metal birds. And then a “pool” of 30-foot-long fish: a walleye, a bass, a salmon and others. A 70-foot-rainbow trout jumps through the surface of the water, signified by a suspended blue metal water line.
According to the Enchanted Highway Web site, Gary Greff, a local schoolteacher, thought they metal sculptures would bring tourists to Regent, which had 160 people by the count of the 2010 census. He planned a motel and café. We saw a couple of other cars stop by the sculptures, but there was no sign they had stopped in Regent. We stopped at an ice cream shop that was selling Enchanted Highway knickknacks. Nearby a billboard proclaimed that the town was the former home of former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D). We bought some water and a couple of postcards and moved on.
On July 4, 1886, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech in Dickinson, part of what was then the Dakota Territory. Roosevelt had spent almost three years in the Dakota badlands, gaining physical strength, hunting, running cattle and trying to forget the simultaneous deaths of his mother and his wife.
Dickinson is not far from Medora, today a tourist town, which was the only place we could find a hotel room. Earlier we had stayed in a Williston, N.D., hotel that was basic, to put it politely, yet more expensive. But it was fully booked for subsequent nights at any price. Aside from being a long drive from some interviews, Medora is no hardship. It makes the most of the Roosevelt connection. There’s the Rough Rider Inn. The Theodore restaurant. The Bully Pulpit golf course. And, most important, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a stark dry expanse of cliffs cut into the earth. Read More
Impressions of the oil boom counties of western North Dakota: big trucks, big ranches, big construction sites. Even on a Sunday, trucks are rolling. This is why the state’s unemployment rate stands at 3 percent, the lowest in the country. But some of the ranchers have mixed feelings.
We stopped at Donny Nelson’s ranch where two drilling rigs towered over the rolling plains and stood awkwardly out of place in front of an imposing butte known locally as Thunder Butte. There’s hardly a ranch that doesn’t have some of these rigs or pads from which companies pump oil, and capture or burn off natural gas in flares. Nelson also has a bunch of drilling pads, most of them close to the house where he lives on 8,000 acres. Read More
This is the second story of our Keystone: Down the Line project, from July 8 editions of The Washington Post. It explores the impact the pipeline expansion could have on the relationship with the most productive U.S. trade partner: Canada. If built, it could bolster ties. But delays are pushing Canada’s leaders to look to China’s oil-hungry market.