Eastern Dakotas Ground Crew: Talk of the Town

Written by Pam Garrettson
Friday, May 13, 2011

Pam Garrettson.Most of our air-ground survey segments are on private lands, whose landowners are really nice about granting permission to count ducks on their land. Some are especially welcoming. The other day, a woman let us put Josh’s truck in her farmyard to keep it safe for the day, and a few years ago, a man returned a magnetic “duck survey” sign that had fallen off our truck the year before. Over the past few days, we have talked with quite a few folks. A big thank-you to everyone; we really appreciate it, and couldn’t do our part of the survey without you.

Like anywhere, folks in the Dakotas are diverse in temperament. In general though, I think it’s fair to say, especially in a world full of media hype, Dakotans are refreshingly understated. This makes a lot of sense. If it’s -40F outside, does saying anything more than “It’s a little chilly” make things any better? For the uninitiated, however, some translation is in order.

For example, someone who characterizes a neighbor as “a bit different,” may really mean, Don’t be surprised if he greets you with a shotgun. Or:

“The road turns a little greasy west of the highway.” Try it and you’ll be stuck up to your axles.
“Looks like we’ve got some weather coming in.” A funnel cloud has been sighted.

Ok, maybe I am exaggerating here, just a bit.

People here also tend not to waste words. This can also take some getting used to. A few years ago, one of our crew was initially convinced that most of the people he met were mad at him. Rob is a loquacious southerner who greets strangers like long-lost relatives and always has a story, most of which are long and begin, “I’ve got a buddy who……”

One day, a landowner invited Rob up into the cab of his tractor, out of the wind, for a “chat.” By Rob’s account, the conversation went something like this:

“Pretty windy today.” “Yep.”
“Do you have your seeding done?” “Almost.”
“Did you lose any calves in that snowstorm?” “One.”
After a few minutes of this, Rob was squirming, and our man of many words was reduced to “Ok. Well, thanks. Bye.”

An old South Dakota silo.

An old South Dakota silo. Photo by Joshua J. White

Done for the day.

Done for the day. Photo by Joshua J. White