Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
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May 31, 2007 |
My family is going on the PHC cruise around Norway's fjords in July. What a scenic place and maybe the most scenic spot on our withering planet. So why would so many Norwegians break away and trek to the barren prairie of North Dakota and Minnesota when they had so much going for them over there?
It's only a few weeks before the cruise. And if it's half as good as the last one to Alaska, the misses and I will feel we got our money's worth.
Grand Junction, CO
A good question, Ron B., and I suppose the answer is: bitter poverty and hunger. You can't eat rocks. The mountains and fjords with 3000-foot sheer cliffs are glorious to look at, but generations of young Norwegians grew up there with no good prospects for a decent life, shackled to a rigid class system that was backed up by the church, and so they lit out for America. They were glad to go. They suffered terrible loneliness and culture shock, especially when they hit those treeless prairies, but the Red River Valley that you call "barren" is the richest farmland on God's green earth. It was Canaan, compared to Bergen. They longed for Bergen once they were free of it, and they kept their artifacts, but they made a life on the prairie they could not have made in Norway. Now, of course, Norway is a different country. But in 1880, Fargo looked awfully good to a young Norwegian. They were no fools. But we can discuss this further in July.