Insurance Coverage Law Blog has been around for just about five weeks now, and I want to thank the many people who have become loyal readers. The number of readers and the level of interest has been, to me, surprisingly high for the early weeks of a niche blog.
For those who have read my profile in the Contact Us link above, you know that I am a NoDak-in-exile. Well, no more, at least until Tuesday. I am in North Dakota right now, suitcase packed with skates and warm clothes, to visit my family. (I did get waylaid by weather, and the plane was unable to land in Williston, in northwestern North Dakota, due to ice on the runway. I spent the night in Dickinson, in the southwestern part of the state, where I went to two quarters of undergrad at Dickinson State). I’ll see one of my sisters and my mother later today, and my brother later this week. I loved growing up on a farm, and I love the people of North Dakota. The town where I went to high school is called Wildrose, and this year is the last year for the school. Like many other small town schools in the state, it’s closing for lack of students.
These small North Dakota towns did not develop naturally, but were instead a construct of the railroads, which placed towns with grain elevators every six miles along the track so farmers would have an easier time to ship their crops and livestock, paying the railroad to do so, of course.
As the number of farmers fell steadily over the years, the small towns made less and less sense economically. Today, a lot of them are a couple hundred people or fewer clustered around a grocery store, a couple bars and a school, if they’re lucky.
Generally, the school is the biggest employer in town, as well as the place where nearly everyone comes together to watch high school basketball. The school is not only the center of the community but the source of much of a town’s identity. When it closes, the heart of a town is gone with it.
It’s a tough thing for people here to face that the place where they’ve spent their entire lives can’t retain enough people of child-bearing age to provide even one or two kids per grade. In Wildrose, which has always been a grades 1-12 school, some of the grades have no children at all. The entire enrollment, I believe, is somewhere around 40, and that includes kids from Alamo, a nearby community that lost its school more than 10 years ago.