Family moves from a beach to a bean fieldThe Threadgolds traded a home near the beach in Southern California to one atop a soybean field near a tiny central North Dakota town. The mayor describes the town of Goodrich as dumpy. The Threadgolds view it as near-paradise.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
GOODRICH, N.D. — The Threadgolds traded a home near the beach in Southern California to one atop a soybean field near a tiny central North Dakota town.
The mayor describes the town of Goodrich as dumpy. The Threadgolds view it as near-paradise.
“They call us the ‘crazy Californians,’” said David Threadgold, 45, an illustrator and graphic artist who moved his wife, daughter — and job — to the area a year ago.
Friendly bets have been made by locals to see how long they last. It’s been a year, and the family is well into its second winter.
“We’re all scratching our heads wondering why they’d want to move here,” said Scott Gesellchen, the mayor of Goodrich. “I think a lot of the people around here would want to move to the bigger cities if they could.”
Suzie Threadgold, 46, David’s wife, said she and her family have no reason to leave.
Tired of traffic, crime and the high cost of living, the couple sold their home near Los Angeles and made the move to North Dakota.
The only thing the family misses about California is a “good taco,” David said.
The couple’s home was so close to their neighbors in Los Angeles “that you could hear them brushing their teeth,” Suzie said.
“Now,” said 17-year-old daughter Caitlin, who grew up surfing in California, “we live in the boonies.”
The Threadgolds have three dogs, 19 cats and plenty of solitude. A freshly killed deer hangs in a tree next to the family home.
Big city technology has allowed them to live the rural lifestyle.
David does illustrations in pen and ink for magazines, and has designed a presidential seal that includes a lifelike eagle that President Bush uses for some certificates. He has designed packaging for everything from pet food to Cabbage Patch dolls.
Most of his work is de-signing packaging for toys, including for the world’s largest toy maker, Mattel Inc., which produces everything from Barbies to Hot Wheels. One of Threadgold’s specialties is designing kid-appealing packaging for Hot Wheels. Mattel says two of the die-cast toy cars are sold every second.
“I’ve got more work than I can use,” Threadgold said.
Satellite Internet service allows Threadgold to send his designs to El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel, or directly to China, where the toys are made and the packaging printed.
Threadgold said the result is the same whether he sends the artwork from a cubicle in California or from his studio at his home in Goodrich.
“I couldn’t have done this five years ago,” David said.
The toys arrive in North Dakota from China in as little as two weeks after Threadgold submits the artwork. He travels to Bismarck, nearly 100 miles away, to check on the final product on the shelves at Wal-Mart and Target. He sometimes buys the toys and gives them to local children — what few there are in Goodrich, a town of about 160 people near the geographical center of North Dakota.
Patty Dockter said Threadgold has given toys to her 5-year-old grandson. “He’s very talented and very generous,” she said.
David had come to North Dakota on hunting trips and was drawn to the state’s wildlife and elbow room. On one trip, he befriended Patty Dockter’s husband, Clifton, a farmer who offered to sell the Threadgolds some land. He never thought anything would come of it.
The Threadgolds pursued the offer, despite Clifton’s best effort at playing devil’s advocate.
“I had some doubts,” Clifton said. “When he came here it was in the spring and I warned him that he’s got to realize it gets cold here — I wanted him to know what he was getting into.”
Patty Dockter said any doubts about the Threadgolds’ ability to adapt are now erased.
“They seem to enjoy it more than people who have been here all their lives,” she said.
The couple sold their home in California and built a new one on five acres of a former soybean field. They paid only a few thousand dollars for the land, and say their mortgage on the new single-story home has been slashed by two-thirds compared with the one they owned in California.
Caitlin said her parents had talked about moving from California for years. But when they discussed moving to North Dakota, “I really didn’t take it seriously,” she said.
“At first, I missed my friends. But I like it now,” she said.
Her friends in California talked her into dyeing her hair blue before leaving for North Dakota. By the time she reached the state, her hair had faded to green.
“I did it to freak the kids out, you know this ‘crazy Californian,”‘ she said. “It worked.”
Despite the green hair, she’s made many friends in Goodrich, and has played basketball and volleyball on the high school teams.
Caitlin will be among a graduating class of seven at Goodrich High school this year. Her senior class in California numbers more than 1,000, she said.
Her surfboard has been idled since the move.
“You can still get into trouble here, but there is less trouble to get into,” Caitlin said.
She plans to attend college in North Dakota and seek a degree in graphic design. Friends and family say she’s got her father’s talent.
Gesellchen, Goodrich’s mayor, said the city itself has little to lure anyone there. The city does boast a bank, post office, grain elevator and cafe, but many other buildings are derelict, leaning from weather and age.
“The whole Main Street should be condemned,” Gesellchen said. “We’re hoping for lighting to hit and burn it down.”
Still, the mayor, a former over-the-road-truck driver, said he’s been all over the U.S., and Goodrich still is “the best place to live.”
Luana Rauser is one of the Threadgolds’ closest neighbors, and one of Suzie’s new friends.
“They live across the street but across the street is a quarter mile away,” Rauser said. “Her and I gab.”
Rauser said she knows of other people who moved to the area without any real plans.
“They came to get out of the rat race, with big huge dreams, looking for a cheap house to buy and all the sudden, there were no jobs,” she said.
Threadgold, she said, “brought his job with him.” That set him apart, she said.
“We’re very accepting of productive people,” she said. “Welfare cases just put a financial burden on the locals.”
Rauser sees the Threadgolds as an example of how technology can benefit rural areas and bring in new blood.
“The Internet is going to be a lifeline for us and North Dakota,” she said. “There are a lot of brains out there, and the potential here is great. I think it will create jobs and make these little towns come alive again.”
Clifton Dockter is not so sure.
“I think we are going to see some people come here, but not leaps and bounds of it,” he said. “Some of these towns are never going to be saved — that’s a part of life you can’t change.”
Dockter, 66, has lived and farmed in the area all his life. He said he learned a lesson when the Threadgolds moved down the road, about “how lucky we are to live here and that we take a lot of this for granted.”