New York Times has Something Good to say

Bakken, Ryan. "New York Times has Something Good to say." Grand Forks Herald, 24 August 2003.

Yes, usually when the likes of the New York Times devotes front-page space to a story about North Dakota, the topic is gloom-and-doom. You know, it must be about a flood, a drought, the desolateness, the population loss or how it sure would be a nice place for grazing buffalo.

But, on July 31, the Times published a story about the longevity of the residents of McIntosh County, which touches the South Dakota border and populated by Germans from Russia.

It seems that, of the 3,142 counties in the United States, McIntosh had the highest proportion of people 85 and older. Correspondingly, North Dakota had the highest proportion of over-85s among the 50 states.

The skeptics among us would respond this way: "Duh. Of course there's a high percentage of old folks. All of the young people have moved away."

But the Times reporter refutes that - at least to a degree. He notes that Florida, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have higher proportions of people 65 and older. But those folks don't make it into their 80s like North Dakotans do.

I consulted my on-retainer expert on McIntosh County for his perspective on this phenomenon. He is Kyle "Bubba" Schweigert, defensive coordinator of the UND football team and 1980 graduate of Zeeland High School.

"I know they're tough down there, which might explain why they live so long," Bubba said. "Those over 85 would have worked on the farm, so they were physically fit and not overweight.

"Those people know how to work hard, but they also know how to play hard. When they have stress in their lives, they get rid of it by working hard and playing hard. Maybe all of that red-eye and schnapps thinned their blood."

Red-eye consumption isn't the only reason that this longevity defies logic. Let's just say Germans from Russia aren't tofu-snorters.

"We had lots of traditional dough food made of flour and water," Bubba said. "There were lots of desserts like kuchen and pie that were high in fat. Almost every meal had meat and potatoes - not low-cal stuff. Lots of butter and sour cream on top. And I don't remember skim milk being an option. It was pretty much whole milk from the red cartons."

So, why does North Dakota - and especially McIntosh County - have so many experienced citizens? Funny you should ask. Here are my theories:

If you want to preserve perishable food like meat, where do you put it? In the freezer, of course. So, too, with human meat. With apologies to Ted Williams, frozen people live longer.

Except for locations near sugar beet plants, hog farms and the 2002 NDSU football team, the air is clean.


Women in top condition from evading Leo Reinbold.

Lots of people - some of them women - named Bubba.

McIntosh County has only one elevator, reducing odds of stressed-people trapped in elevators during blackouts.

Ashley's Twin Towers - two grain elevators - are not a key target for terrorists.

Invention of air-conditioned tractor cabs.

Rush hour in Wishek is a bicycle, a tractor and a 1984 Ford pickup simultaneously meeting at main intersection.

We don't have a pro rassler nor an action-movie actor nor a smut peddler as our governor.

The coffee at the Zeeland Cafe is Folger's and costs 50 cents. The coffee's name doesn't end in an 'o' and doesn't cost $3.

The bars aren't open until 2 a.m.

The eyes aren't open past 10 p.m.

Printed with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

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