New book showcases quirky N.D. culture“Sundogs and Sunflowers: Folklore and Folk Art of the Northern Great Plains” is a compilation 30 years in the making celebrating the folk heritage of the Northern Great Plains.
“Sundogs and Sunflowers: Folklore and Folk Art of the Northern Great Plains” is a compilation 30 years in the making celebrating the folk heritage of the Northern Great Plains.
Published by the North Dakota Council on the Arts, it is compiled and edited by North Dakota State University Professor Emeritus Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz and NDCA folklorist Troyd A. Geist. Published collections of North American folkways seldom include folklore texts or representative traditions from the Great Plains region.
Invariably, much attention is given to such areas of the country as New England, Appalachia, the Ozarks and the Deep South. Duncan Emrich’s “Folklore on the American Land,” for example, runs more than 700 pages but other than for a few black-and-white photographs taken in the 1930s and 1940s, it is nearly impossible to find folklore examples from the northern Plains.
“Sundogs and Sunflowers” represents an effort to remedy this and to focus attention on the folk traditions of North Dakota and the Northern Great Plains. This 352-page, coffee-table-size, full color, hardcover volume features more than a thousand examples of folklore and folk art, as well as more than 300 images.
Most of the material comes from North Dakota with every single one of the state’s 53 counties represented. Traditions from the prairies of South Dakota, western Minnesota, eastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan also are included.
Much of it is unique to the Northern Great Plains, while other examples are found also in different parts of the country but often changed to reflect this areas’s regional character. From 2010 to decades past, the material covers ghost stories and other strange tales, legends, blizzard stories, weather lore, proverbs, folk expressions and folk speech, folk beliefs, folk medicine, holiday celebrations, hunting, fishing and trapping traditions and folk art.
Bear walkers, Bigfoot, haunted houses, the blizzard of ’66, the floods of ’97 and ’09, sundogs, rodeos, jokes, antler-carving, sunflower pie, decorative Easter eggs, methods to foretell the weather using onions, American Indian flutes and more.
Some of the material may be recognized from family members, friends, and neighbors — some may even be in the book. Jamestown artists included are Rod Dewald, Sandy Barnes, Drex Young and Carroll Wentland.
Following are but a few examples of regional folklore that can be found in the pages of this compilation:
* Bigfoot stories are told by prairie folk in North Dakota and western Minnesota. But how does one know when the legendary “Hairy Man” is nearby?
* Proverbial advice from South Dakota: “After dinner, sit awhile. After supper, walk a mile.”
* Folk Remedies for freckles: “Wash your face in goat’s milk” or “rub your nose with morning dew.”
* Signs of a Coming Cold Winter: “If the wasps’ nest is large” or “if a caterpillar has a thick, furry coat in the fall.”
* Fishing Lore: “A dragonfly landing on the tip of your fishing rod is a sign of sure luck when fishing.”
* Geranium Cake is made using the fragrant leaves of rose-scented geraniums. The complete recipe for this unusual family dessert is included.
* Haunted Houses on the Northern Great Plains? One also can read about haunted churches, haunted schools, haunted roads, a haunted lake, a haunted bed and even a haunted missile site.
* “Monster Fish” that are “the size of cars” are said to swim in the murky depths near the intakes of North Dakota’s Garrison Dam.
* Small Town Humor: “They don’t even use signal lights when they drive in town. They don’t need to. Everybody always knows where everybody is going.”
* A Question and an Answer: “What is the only reason North Dakotans should lock their car doors in August? ‘Cause if you don’t, your car will be filled with zucchini!”
The book is available at The Arts Center in Jamestown, and Valley Drug, the Barnes County Historical Society and Eagle’s Nest Book Store, all Valley City. The cost is $34.95 plus tax.