Elizabeth Brannon, Minot
In June 2006 I moved here from the Tampa Bay area. In my 16th Street Northwest home on the top of the hill with a fantastic view of the Minot valley and a coulee behind it that offered meandering wildlife to entertain my housebound cats, life was as close to perfect for me as it ever had been. It also was a time of restoration for me, after too many personal losses in too few years, and a place to cherish my grandchildren as finally I lived closed by.
But in just those six years, my house was revalued three times (upwards, of course), living costs began to skyrocket while Social Security raises didn't happen for two years in a row, the overall economy eroded what little in investments I had, and the oil industry began chipping away at the North Dakota lifestyle. Then came the flood last June that changed the face of Minot forever. If that weren't enough, the oil boom mushroomed out of control.
I am disillusioned by our state legislators who forgot their North Dakota roots once enough oil money was waved under their noses and at times I am enraged when I click my remote and see Gov. Jack Dalrymple's face on the screen and hear him bragging about our wonderful economy in North Dakota. Then a headline trumpeted that our state had a $2 billion surplus! Meanwhile, many young men and women had to move back in with their parents because their rents had been doubled and sometimes tripled, a woman cashier at a local thrift store, who lived in low-income housing, told me her rent had been raised a full $100 a month recently. (I gave up my house phone three years ago when I had to begin paying a $20 premium for prescription portion of my Medicare Plus policy. Where would I find $100 a month, I wondered.) Last May I had to get a small mortgage on my home which had been free and clear until that time ... to do such frivolous things as have tests done, go to the dentist and have minor home repairs attended do.
And, every time I went to the grocery store I crossed another item off my weekly list. Even Walmart was hiking food prices as much as 25 and 50 cents at a time. The plus? It was a good time to go on Weight Watchers and has resulted in 17 pounds lost so far.
And I am one of the very fortunate ones. I was not directly affected by the flood, yet it still left its impact on us all. Had I been, I would have had to walk away empty-handed as so many elderly valley-dwellers did.
Fortunately, I never lost the Tampa Bay mentality: I never forget to lock my home and vehicle, and I no longer go out evenings by myself: no more after-dark quick trips to Marketplace at Arrowhead, to the library when I realize my books are overdue, and especially not to Walmart.
During the day I try to run my errands between 9 and 11:30 a.m. After that, it's nonstop traffic, drivers who totally ignore the speed limits, and it's taking your life in your hands at the four-way stops in my neighborhood. The blinking red lights are much more of a hazard than the big four-way stop signs were. My neighbor marched into the police station after one too many scary close calls at such an intersection and was told to call FEMA to complain! Yeah, right ... as my kids used to say. One Sunday morning on the way home from church a woman blew through the 4th Ave. NW and 6th Street four-way-stop intersection at approximately 40 mph. Had I started up immediately (no one else was stopped at this intersection), I would not have survived the crash.
As I write this, my house will change hands within the month, and I just came back from Tennessee and have had an offer accepted on a home there just down the street from my younger daughter. I forced back tears as the plane landed in Minot on Sunday night, realizing it was the last time I would return "home" as a Minot resident. From now on, for me it would be back to the too-short visits here to my daughter and family, to get my "fix" of the cold weather that I actually love.
I have already missed "my Minot" for more than a year; soon I will be missing it from afar. My fantastic next-door neighbors exemplify all that was right about this city. With more and more older residents selling and "getting out of Dodge," the way of life is fractured forever. Farewell, Minot. It was nice while it lasted.