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Eric Peterson, Published January 01 2014

Bison fans start to trickle into Texas

FRISCO, Texas – Merle Gullekson was around 40 miles down the road Wednesday when he found out he had misplaced an important item at a South Dakota rest stop.

Gullekson’s checkbook, which contained four tickets to Saturday’s Division I FCS national title game, fell out of his pocket in the bathroom.

“Someone could have easily thrown that checkbook in the garbage and kept the tickets,” said Dave Artz, who was part of Gullekson’s nine-person travel group of North Dakota State football fans.

The No. 1-ranked Bison play Towson (Md.) University in the title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Luckily for Gullekson, another group of Bison fans, also on the road to Frisco, found the checkbook and called the Clay County Sheriff. Gullekson, who lives in Perley, Minn., and his group were near Brookings (about 40 miles away from the rest area) when they were alerted the checkbook and tickets had been recovered.

The NDSU fans that found the tickets arranged to meet with Gullekson in Sioux Falls and returned the checkbook with the tickets.

“They wouldn’t take anything,” said the 76-year-old Gullekson, who has been a longtime Bison season-ticket holder. “They were very nice people. They just said ‘Pass it forward.’”

Artz said Bill and Geri Harbeke were two of the four people in the group that returned the tickets. He didn’t get the names of the other two.

“Someone was watching over Bison Nation there,” said Artz, who expected his group to arrive in Frisco today.

Bison fans were already starting to trickle into Frisco on Wednesday. A large yellow tailgating trailer with Bison flags was in the parking lot of one the Frisco hotels. Nic Prothero, part of the “Six Flags Tailgating” group, helped drive the trailer from Fargo to Frisco. Prothero said he and a friend left Fargo on Monday and had two overnight stops before arriving in Frisco on Wednesday afternoon.

“We wanted to have an extra day or two just in case we had (travel) issues,” Prothero said. “We really wanted to be here for (today) because that is when everyone starts to show up.”

Prothero had a late addition to his group. Bri Steinkamp booked a plane ticket on Tuesday afternoon for $434 and flew in from Denver via Phoenix on Wednesday morning. Steinkamp is a senior at the University of Minnesota and was on semester break, visiting her parents in Denver. Social media helped get Steinkamp to Texas.

She tweeted on Tuesday afternoon: “Accepting donations for a flight to TX tomorrow. Anything will help”

Prothero’s tailgating group told Steinkamp to book the ticket and responded “we’ll pass the hat around to cover the ticket.”

Steinkamp said the majority of the ticket cost was covered through those donations. Steinkamp has tailgated with the group a couple times over the past few seasons. Saturday will be her third Bison game. Steinkamp’s connection to the group is through Sami Monson, also a senior at the University of Minnesota. Monson’s dad is part of the “Six Flags Tailgating.”

“We try to go to at least one game a year. We drive from the Twin Cities,” said Monson, who is from Williston where she flew in from on Wednesday.

Steinkamp said she likes Bison tailgating more than the tailgating at the U of M.

“I’m a Bison tailgating fan,” Steinkamp said. “It’s awesome.”

Prothero stopped at the state line to hang a yellow Bison flag on the “Welcome to Texas” sign and take a picture.

“When we stopped at the state line and put up the flag, there were two people with North Dakota plates that honked,” Prothero said. “So they (Bison fans) are starting to trickle in. (Today) is going to be huge.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com