The sudden national fame for 85-year-old North Dakota newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty because she wrote last week that the new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks is "impressive ... welcoming ... [and] is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating" in the city reinforces two things for this blogger:
1. Almost everyone loves a story about someone who seems to be just so darn nice and who's still going strong at an age when many of us will just be glad to still be around.
It's an issue that's been controversial since at least the 1960s and, through the years, the University of North Dakota has vacillated on whether to keep its controversial "Fighting Sioux" nickname for its sports teams.
Today that controversy was extended, yet again, when North Dakota's Higher Education Board decided to go to court to challenge a voter referendum that could have forced the university to adopt the name again.
The tough economy has taken its toll on most states, putting budgets deep in the red and putting people out of work.
But North Dakota has a low 3.5 percent unemployment rate and a state budget with a billion dollar surplus. That's because of a major oil boom in the western part of the state, a discovery of at least 2 billion barrels to be gained by fracking — the controversial process of injecting fluid deep into underground rock formations to force the oil out.
A couple months ago, Jake Featheringill and his wife got robbed.
It wasn't serious. No one was home at the time, and no one got hurt. But for Featheringill, it was just the latest in a string of bad luck.
"We made a decision," he says. "We decided to pick up and move in about three days. Packed all our stuff up in storage. Drove 24 straight hours on I-29, and made it to Williston with no place to live."
That's Williston, ND. Population — until just a few years ago — 12,000. Jake was born there, but moved away when he was a kid. He hadn't been back since.