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Rex and Pat DeSmith, Published September 24 2013

Letter: Spirit of North Dakota shines across land during ‘GameDay’

I sat here in western Wisconsin reading about ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to Fargo on Sept. 21. What did I think they would find? I thought they would find the same thing I found. I am a guy who grew up on the rolling hills of western Wisconsin with family values, dedication, honesty, spirit, having fun and fresh air just to name a few. Even the Green Bay Packers. I thought nothing could match that.

Then back in 1980 my employer, Greyhound Lines, said, “We’re relocating you to Fargo, N.D.” And guess what? I have not been the same since. While driving for Greyhound, I was able to visit 42 of the 48 states. From Vancouver to Orlando, from Boston to Los Angeles, and Houston to Winnipeg, but I always came back to Fargo-Moorhead.

My first winter in F-M was an eye-opener. Wind chills of 90 below zero and temperatures of minus 20 to minus 40 with no wind. Blizzards are like nothing I have ever experienced. We have storms in Wisconsin, but compared to Fargo, ours are a picnic in May.

My wife and I were married in a blizzard. We knew it was coming, and it did. We were married on a Saturday in January 1988. The storm hit, the gates came out and we spent the next three days in an apartment in north Moorhead. Now 26 years later when we hear about the storms, we look at each other and say, “Wish we were there.”

Winters are harsh, but spring always comes. If sandbagging needs to be done, like it does each year, schools are closed and everyone on both sides of the river roll up their sleeves to fight the rising Red River.

You may be thinking, if I think it’s so great, why did we leave? I ask myself that a lot. We got spooked, and I mean spooked. It was the flood of 1997. Sandbagging was going on, and it was still storming in April.

Would we ever come back? In a minute, if all the pieces fit. We love it there. This spirit is not limited to the F-M area. It’s like the Red River – it flows all up and down the valley and all the way to Montana.

What did the ESPN “GameDay” people think? I think they too saw the spirit of North Dakota, the Red River Valley and the spirit of the Bison fans. A great place to visit and a great place to live. It’s like the old saying goes: “Home is where you heart is.” At least it is with us. Go, Bison!

The DeSmiths live in New Richmond, Wis.