I was here for a week that first visit to South Dakota. I spent many hours alone in the hotel room, a dark dismal room that fit my mood. While my husband was escorted to meet the people who would become an integral part of his professional life, I watched TV, browsed the internet and read. I also watched the mounting snow wondering how I came to be in what I now call the Storehouses of Snow.
One day an employee of the university who someone thought had a story similar to mine picked me up. He had been in the ministry, a Norwegian and Lutheran. I suppose no one in South Dakota could imagine that I could be Norwegian, be in ministry and not be Lutheran. Born and raised in rural South Dakota our similarities were slim. Further, he now had a PhD in Sociology from South Dakota State. I suppose the intentions were good.
He didn’t understand how I could be Norwegian and have been raised Pentecostal. That I could be a good Norwegian and not grow up in the upper Midwest a Lutheran was way beyond his grasp. We visited for an hour or so. He picked up the tab for lunch muttering something about being reimbursed by the Dean. Obviously, he did not enjoy our lunch meeting any more than I did.
I was looking forward to the Sons of Norway Waffle Feed. Now for those of you not from the upper Midwest, I suppose you wonder what is a feed? More accustomed to words like Waffle Breakfast, I did. I suppose the choice of words comes from the farming background of most of the inhabitants of South Dakota. Feeding the cattle, pigs, and other livestock evidently is synonymous with feeding people as well. Livestock are fed "feed" so are people.
We had never been part of Sons of Norway in Brooklyn. They drank and had bars in their lodges. Like the VFW or American Legion, they owned their own buildings and were known for their drinking and partying. Good Pentecostals did not engage nor desire to be seen in such places. However, a Waffle Feed seemed harmless. I’ve since learned that the Sons of Norway folk here usually do not have their own buildings, do not have bars and do not serve alcohol at their meetings.
My husband’s glee continued even at the Sons of Norway feed. He saw important people. I suppose he had yet to realize that Brookings is a relatively small town. Many of the leaders are Norwegian. Plus it is always good politics to be seen supporting community events.
I didn’t expect to be served true delightful Norwegian waffles, and I was not disappointed. Standard waffle fair was served with a side of pork that we do not eat. Surprisingly, the Norwegians here do not make delicious authentic Norwegian waffles, nor do they know what they are... how strange?! Equally strange the people though it was strange to see us at their community event. Nevertheless, my husband pursued and found the then president of the lodge who is a delightful person. She did her best to make us welcome; we joined the lodge by the internet that weekend.
Thinking that joining Sons of Norway would be a way to meet people in Brookings has been a disappointment. Hoping to connect with Norwegian roots has not materialized either. Mostly older people, they still wonder what this Pakistani and American couple are doing in their midst. I’ve offered to speak on Growing Up Norwegian in Brooklyn at their meetings but they have chosen people to speak about Poland instead. I may not renew my membership this year.
We headed south that day, then west. I had seen the signs for the Corn Palace and we drove to Mitchell. If you haven’t seen the Corn Palace, it is an interesting structure. I thought about Mount Rushmore, still a childhood dream of mine, but knew it was too far. Snow still covered the barren landscape as we drove back to Brookings.
It was time for Rodeo. I’d never been to a Rodeo and can’t say it was ever an ambition of mine.
Let me pick this up the next time. We’ll explore the world of the Rodeo through the eyes of a girl from Brooklyn.