FARGO, N.D. -- Rural communities often are linked by a particular ethnic pride. We have our Germans from Russia, our Swedes, our Polish areas. With a first name like "Mikkel," I often find myself in conversations about my Norwegian background. My...
FARGO, N.D. -- Rural communities often are linked by a particular ethnic pride. We have our Germans from Russia, our Swedes, our Polish areas.
With a first name like "Mikkel," I often find myself in conversations about my Norwegian background. My mother's family from eastern South Dakota included family names such as Severson, Legard, Lono and Bortnem, that came to the United States in the 1880s. My father's mother came over on "the boat" in 1904. She was a Paulson and lived near Philip, S.D., about 70 miles west of Pierre.
Family is important.
One of my Dad's neighbor cousins from Haakon County, S.D., is G.D. "Guy" Paulson, a career scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Fargo, N.D. Guy retired early from USDA and used his wood carving skills and other attributes to build a replica "Hopperstad stavkirke" or stave church in Moorhead, Minn., at the Clay County Historical Society's Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.
Recently, I met Scott Klevberg, a Norwegian-American farmer from the Hatton/Northwood, N.D., area. I often urge farmers and ranchers to be good ambassadors for their profession. Scott is as good and generous as any ag ambassador I've known.
I learned about Scott from his aunt, Joanne "Jo" (Klevberg) Barke, who goes to my Faith United Methodist Church in Fargo. She grew up in the Northwood area. Scott, 36, resumed a family tradition of farm management that had started at the beginning of the 20th century. Jo is often telling me about Scott's exploits -- a coyote hunt, or the antique cars he has collected and his farming. Recently, she told me that Scott was hosting a visitor on his farm this year -- a musician from Oslo, Norway.
Ole (pronounced Ooh-luh) Klevberg, 23, grew up in northern Norway and now lives in Oslo, where he serves up coffee drinks and folk music in big doses. Through the Internet, Ole found Scott and told him he'd be coming to the U.S. They hadn't established a hard family link, but Scott agreed to host young Ole on his farm for more than a month. Ole could help sort potatoes, maybe learn how to drive a vehicle around a field.
Ole flew in to Chicago and took the Amtrak to Fargo. I was doing a story about Scott for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald's "Salute to Agriculture" sections. I volunteered to pick Ole up at the depot at 3 a.m., so Scott wouldn't have to come into town from Kathryn, N.D., where he and his farming partner were picking potatoes. We had a hearty breakfast at Jo's, went to the field and I left Ole and his guitar there with his "cousin," Scott.
Before he left, Ole had ridden in his first small airplane and shot his first rifle. He had some fun with this Northwood cousin. He'd seen how hard American farmers work to bring their crops in.
In early October, I chauffeured Jo and her husband, Chris, up to Northwood to hear Ole play. The locals had gathered at "The Hut," a typical, small town night spot. The patrons, sitting with neighbors who have each other's biographies memorized, stopped to listen while Ole Klevberg offered up a series of plaintive relationship songs. They embraced him as one of their own.
Scott didn't have much to say when I asked why he'd host a perfect stranger for a month. There just aren't that many Klevbergs in the world, he said. Now he has a new cousin.