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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

Moon Lake

Saturday, July 10, we zigzagged down miles of gravel roads separating fields of crops until we arrived at Moon Lake outside of Valley City, ND. I've never seen a campsite so out of place, but it was nearly full when we arrived. We visited with a group of campers parked near us, admiring their 1968 Winnebago they were travelling in. Almost all of it was original, and it showed its age well, but once a vehicle reaches a certain age the peeling paint and torn fabric begin to add to the charm in a weird sort of way.

We got a surprise when we noticed that one of the other RVs was plugged into an outlet on a light pole, so the next morning we watched like hawks until the camper next to the pole drove away, and then we snagged their lakefront spot. After that, we waited until the RV next to it that was taking advantage of the electricity unplugged and we took the outlet for ourselves.

Sunday was an adventure. A couple, Mishke and Olson, arrived with their four grandchildren. They had a boat with a tube to pull and some kayaks, and they offered to let us use the kayaks and take us out on the tube. We pulled out our paddle boards and inflated them, sharing them with the grandchildren. The kids were friendly and sociable, and very enjoyable to talk to, and they loved spending time with the dogs while we were on the water. I don't think it ever occurred to them to be afraid of our nearly 150 pound Great Dane that likes to jump on people, and they even made sure not to leave eleven year old Truffle out, which always makes me happy since he tends to get ignored as people are enamored by Marley. And since Truffle likes kids more than anyone, I'm sure he was thrilled at the attention. I took a kayak out for a while, and before they left Abe asked if we could get a ride on the tube. I don't remember the last time either of us had so much fun! Mishke was a great driver, dragging us back and forth across the wake, and by the time we were done my arms were killing me from holding myself down, trying to keep my butt on the tube, and Abe's stomach and cheeks were killing him from laughing so hard.

That evening after the family left, I was inside working in the kitchen when I heard Abe talking to someone. By the time I finished up what I was doing and went out to meet our visitor, he'd already, leaving two business cards with Abe. The pastor, Bob Reith, had wanted to bring his son out and talk to us and asked if we'd be around. Abe had assured him he would be there for a few nights, but when Pastor Bob showed up the next day we were gone, riding our bikes around Valley City. When we returned to the RV there was a note asking Abe to call when we got back. When Abe called, Pastor Bob invited us to stay at Sheyenne Riverbend Farms, his 65 acre farm where he had hookups, and he offered to take us to dinner to visit. Abe said he'd talk to me about it and decide which night would work, and call him back in the next couple days. Abe and I discussed it and decided, what the heck, we'd do it. It was a strange offer, but we didn't get any bad vibes from Pastor Bob so we let him know we'd be there Thursday.

We spent every day enjoying the peace and quiet of the lake, with the only other campers being the various people who pulled in in the evenings and were gone before we went outside every morning. We paddle boarded all the way around the small lake, and rode our bikes into town, thanks to the outlet that let us run the air conditioning. I'm learning more and more that I love small towns. Or rather, I love the people in them. We've met the best people in or around small towns. Kind and helpful, and there's nothing like small-town wisdom gathered over years of watching how the world works and, particularly with farmers and ranchers, living their lives constantly depending on God to provide through ups and downs and the general instability that comes from living off the land where so much is completely beyond your own control, especially in years like this, when drought is hurtingthe crops' yield. They've come closer than most to mastering the art of taking responsibility for themselves, while knowing that there are times when they need to receive or give help.

On the ride back from town, we passed an old school. Three stories high in the middle of fields with only one house anywhere near it, the only indications that it was a school were the broken down playground equipment next to it, and a brick wall with the name of the school on it, surrounded by names of teachers and others, maybe students, or people who donated? It didn't say so I can only guess. I am drawn to every abandoned building we pass, and this one was no different. But we respected the no trespassing sign and stuck to the mowed path around the school to look and take pictures.

By Wednesday, Abe and I decided that, as much as we liked our spot next to Moon Lake, we were tired of being chased inside by mosquitoes and horseflies as soon as it started cooling off every evening, so Thursday we left for Pastor Bob's farm. He met us there and, as soon as we were hooked up, showed us around. Part of the farm is used to grow alfalfa, but with the rest, Pastor Bob hosts weddings, reunions, and other get togethers. A house, a school, and a church, all of which were moved onto the property and all of which are over a century old, and the steel building that functions as the events center grace the property. The school and house are rented out for people to stay in, but the beautiful little white chapel is still used to perform weddings He was able to show us the events center and school, but the church and house were locked so we had to wait until Friday to see them. Wow. I thought the lake was beautiful, but this was far beyond. We didn't get to see the deer, turkeys, or pheasants that occasionally wander through, but even without the animals this was the most peaceful place we've stayed other than next to the ocean.

By the time we arrived at the farm, Abe and I were filthy. I'd taken a bath in the lake a few days earlier, rinsing the water off quickly with fresh water from the RV when I was done, and Abe had gone swimming a few times, but we were unsure where we'd be able to get water or dump our gray tank next so that was it for bathing. Now we had full hookups so when we were done with the tour, we both took a luxurious shower. It's amazing how heavenly the simple things like showers become when you have to go without. After we were both scrubbed clean, Pastor Bob showed up with his son, Paul, and took us to dinner at City Lights Supper Club Lounge, a really good restaurant with wonderful food and a relaxing atmosphere, following it up with a tour of Valley City. Paul was in a bad motorcycle accident fifteen years ago that, after five weeks in a coma, left him struggling to walk even with a walker and, although he is clearly highly intelligent, it left him with severe short term memory loss causing difficulty with communication. In spite of this, he is one of those rare, exceptional people few of us will be fortunate enough to meet in this life, more full of joy than anyone I've ever met. He saw beauty everywhere in the world around him, was supremely grateful for every good thing in his life, and was filled to overflowing with love for God and for his family. The evening was over too soon, but Pastor Bob showed up the next evening to take us out again, this time driving us to Jamestown thirty miles away to show us around.

We went to the Frontier Village, with several old buildings that were donated, including Louis L'Amore's writer's shack which now houses a display of his books and has a video of an interview with him playing on repeat. And the best surprise of all, a shelf of used Louis L'Amore books with a note to take one to read while visiting the Frontier Village, or if you don't have time to read it on your visit, just take one with you. I contemplated it for a minute because I always feel greedy taking freebies, but with Abe's encouragement I found one (Trouble Shooter, one of his Hopalong Cassidy novels) to read during our travels. There was also an old printing press that was a total shock to us. There, open to the public, were drawers of the old die-cast letters that used to put in, one by one, to print books. They weren't locked up, and I didn't even see a camera keeping an eye on them. That makes North Dakota the most trusting state I've been in, and speaks volumes to the trustworthiness of North Dakotans. The barbershop was behind bars, but maybe that was to keep people away from the razor blades. Before we left, we had to stop by the World's Largest Buffalo, a massive buffalo made from a whopping sixty tons of concrete.

The rest of the evening was spent getting more of a tour until we were starving and went to eat. Pastor Bob took us to the S & R Truck Plaza & Cafe in Jamestown, where he used to visit with his father. Abe saw the Belly Buster Burger and decided he had to try it. Two half-pound beef patties, bacon, and veggies. The waitress gave him an incredulous look when he ordered it and said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to finish it.

"Have you see it?"

"No, I haven't."

"If you finish it, I'll give you a dollar."

After Abe got his dollar, he had Boston Cream Pie. He felt awful that evening, but he said it was worth it. Their food was to die for - literally, if you eat too many Belly Busters.

In all the hours we spent with Pastor Bob, he never once tried to proselytize. He didn't try to convert us to Lutheranism, even though he was a Lutheran pastor. He was open about Christ and talked about Him, but as a natural part of his life, not as a way to convert us. It was impressive that he was just a good man with a huge heart that wanted to do something nice, and we sincerely hope that we were a blessing to him in return. That evening we said goodbye to Pastor Bob and Paul. I wish we'd been able to stay longer and spend more time with them, but we wanted to go to church and it was fifty miles away, too far to drive there and go back to the farm afterward. We will see them again. Hopefully we'll be able to make it back to North Dakota in the not too distant future.

Saturday morning we showed up at the Fargo Seventh Day Adventist church. The people were friendly, and the kids were quick to smile and say hi to us strangers. After the service, they had a haystack potluck and we were joined at our table by a couple, Dan and Kelly, and their two daughters, along with a friend of their daughters. We spent the meal, and quite a while after until nearly everyone else was gone, with Dan and Kelly regaling us with stories from the twenty years that they lived and worked in Africa. They spent time in Sudan and in Zimbabwe, and maybe in other places but either they didn't say or I don't remember where.

Now we're in Minnesota, the state that I can't pronounce without throwing in the accent, parked in a city park with electricity. Who knows how long we'll be here, what we will find to do here, or who we will meet.

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Kandy Thietten
Kandy Thietten
21 июл. 2021 г.

Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoy it!


21 июл. 2021 г.

Thanks for sharing Kandy and Abe. It’s fun to follow you two.

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