2014: A Year In Review

#1 – 100 Years of Killdeer, City celebrates centennial | July 3, 2014

FROM ROCKS TO RAILS: A brief history of Killdeer

A story about the city of Killdeer would not be complete without the mention of Sam Rhoades.

In 1892 Sam Rhoades was a kid looking for a job and a way out of Texas. He was offered a job breaking horses for $30 a month and decided to try it. He caught the eye of a trail boss and was offered $35 a month to help herd 4,400 steers north. The steers were to be herded north to Dickinson, North Dakota. For a young man, this was just what he was looking for; good wages and he would be getting out of the Texas. After many trials and tribulations they arrived in North Dakota.

With about 1,800 steers pointed in a northwesterly direction over rolling, fenceless prairies they traveled until they reached Indian Springs. It had taken two days to cross Green River and reach the Snow country. The third night they bedded down near an old landmark called Grassy Butte, less than five miles away from the Arnett ranch house.

As they traveled they saw where land drained into the Little Missouri River on the west and to the right, a ruggedly eroded valley drained northward down the Charlie-Bob Creek. In the distance beyond there rose a long ridge of scenery called the Killdeer Mountains.

It is believed that the name for the City of Killdeer came from the close proximity to the Killdeer Mountains. They continued to move the cattle another day and led them along the Long X Ridge down to Squaw Creek and the Badlands. The cattle were then turned over to the crew at the Long X and Rhoades and what was left of the crew, turned and road swiftly south until they came into sight of Grassy Butte and the old Arnett Ranch which was built in 1886. They wintered there and, history tells us today, young Sam Rhoades eventually settled in our area and became a prominent part of our history.

Time moved on and early in October 1914, construction of the Mandan to Killdeer branch line of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company had reached the NW quarter of Section 23, Township 145, and Range 95.

This area is what we know as the City of Killdeer today. This parcel of land and the West half of the NE quarter is the original town site and at one time was in the huge land grant given to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company by the Congress of the United States on July 2nd, 1864.

The purpose of the land grant was to enable the railroad company to sell the land to investors and settlers to provide the financing necessary for building a railway to the Pacific. The Killdeer location was chosen as the site to build the turn-a-round; ending the line west and make the turn back east to Mandan using the same tracks.

#2 – Former Dodge school becomes place for retreat | May 12, 2014

When the school in Dodge was put up for sale by bid years ago, enrollment had declined and at that time the oil boom was on the horizon. No one completely realized the impact it would have on the population of the small community of Dodge or its surrounding area.

When the bid opening was held, four families were surprised to find that they had made a successful bid and now owned a large, older school building. They had joined together with their bid and planned to use the building for investment purposes.

Three families are ordained ministers and missionaries from the Tacoma, Wash. area. All four of the families are involved in ministry.

Reality set in when they learned that they were able to purchase the building and the next question was what to do with it.

One of the families had ties with the Dodge – Carl Brinkman’s grandparents homesteaded in the area. The couple came out for the winter while they were going through the transition period of ownership. A lot of work was needed, but with help from the community they were able to bring it back to be a useable building.

Over the next few years, they learned a lot of valuable lessons.

Another question they began to ponder was what was needed in the Dodge area. How best could the 1922 era building fulfill the community’s needs?

At that time, Brian Larson and Becky Pugliese were hired to begin on renovations for the building.

Larson had grown up hearing about the prairie and the winters in the area.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” Larson said. But he stayed and adapted well to the community and the weather.

Because the building lends itself to hospitality, they tried to develop a plan to make the building self-sufficient. The building was well poised for hospitality for guests or possibly apartment-style living.

In the beginning they would have people show up on their doorstep during a snowstorm looking for a place to stay. While they cannot go long-term in such situations, they tried to help.

They still feel that they have not quite found the niche for the building.

Over time they have made a comfortable living space for people to come and spend a night or two.

There is excitement from the people when they come. “Everyone loves the feel the building has now,” Larson said.

The building is a great place for retreats, both for churches and quilters; there is peacefulness on the property. Larson’s focus is financial, as he continues to look for ways to make the building self-reliant.

Pugliese’s primary focus is on the hospitality and farm area that she has started behind the building. She has plans for the farm area and is exploring the option of living a life of self-reliance by raising her own produce and canning. Chickens are on her list to raise for eggs and meat.

Though it is apparent they have made a lot of progress on their plans for the building, they feel the building is still a work in progress.

#3 – Local farrier demonstrates work at Dunn Center Centennial | August 1, 2014

Smith, a horse farrier in Killdeer, has a unique way of repurposing horseshoes that you don’t know what to do with. He turns them into metal sculptures.

Not only does he make beautiful hand roses, he has come up with iron crosses, silverware and has many more ideas to repurpose and save the metal from horseshoes.

Being local, Smith travels to the horses instead of having them loaded into trailers and come to him.

He started shoeing horses in 2000 and works all over North Dakota and Montana. In fact, he will go wherever he gets a call.

He is originally from Britton, S.D. but recently he became a Killdeer resident.

When he has down time from shoeing horses, he handcrafts the roses using the old horseshoes.

He fires up his portable forge and goes to town. The horseshoe is heated until red hot, then half of one end is pounded as flat as it can get. From there, it is a rolling process to form the shape of the rose and each roll adds another petal. The petals are formed by bending the edges out to form a lip.  It is again pounded down to ensure the edge of the lip becomes as flat as it can be. This process is repeated until they work the rest of the way down the part of the horseshoe that was not flattened.

During the time the rose is being shaped, the horseshoe is reheated many times.

Smith finishes the roses by touching a bit of color highlight to the edge of the lips, which then enhances the rose.

Smith was set up in his driveway last weekend where he was busy helping two men learn the process of building the roses.

Brian Danielson works alongside Smith. He has tried his hand at making the crosses and silverware.

Danielson, originally of Illinois, has lived in the Killdeer area for three years and said he loves it and decided to stay.

Another person alongside Smith, and happy with the area, is Colby Corbin. Corbin originally came up from Texas and laughingly told of setting the forge up in a garage this past winter when it was -40 degrees and still going to work making the roses.

The three will be featured Sept. 13 during the Dunn Center Centennial to demonstrate their work and will have items on sale that day. They will demonstrate shoeing a horse for children and adults who have never before experienced the process.

Smith will have another horse farrier on hand from Missouri that day, who has been shoeing horses for 20 years.

Smith can be contacted at (701) 690-8668 for those needing his horse shoeing services.

#4 – Sheriff’s race heats up

Dunn County Sheriff candidate and former Dunn County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenny LaRocque allegedly used extensive company time and resources to elicit an extramarital affair last year, according to official reports obtained by the Dunn County Herald.

Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker also came under fire from the community when documents were released detailing what some considered misconduct on his behalf at his former job in Montana.

Ultimately, Coker took the election.

#5 – Heart as BIG as a Heifer

Killdeer High School Sophomore Colby Dukart (age 15), grandson of proud grandpa County Commissioner Daryl Dukart, racked up the following accolades: 1st Place in Junior Yearling Heifer; Reserve Champion in Ewe & Offspring and Senior Sheep Showmanship; 2nd place in Breeding Ewe Lamb and Market Lambs (heavyweight); and Blue Ribbon in Cow Calf Pair, and Senior Beef Showmanship.

But, Colby saved the best for last when he donated all of his winnings from the livestock show & premiere sale held after his prize heifer Another Mirada strutted her stuff for the judges. Friends and family of the Dukarts remember Daryl’s daughter (and Colby’s paternal aunt) the charming Johnnie Rae Geving who lost her battle with breast cancer just before Valentines Day, 2014, at the far too young age of 39.

Always smiling and a delight to be around, Johnnie was a beloved member of not only the Dukart clan but the Killdeer High School cheerleading squad (their coach) and a popular local fixture. Enter her nephew Colby. He could not forget his aunt’s brave struggle and the aftermath of the chemotherapy which took not only her health but her luxurious chestnut hair.

So, for the teenager, it only seemed appropriate that he perform a memorial for Aunt Johnnie and, figure out a way to help out Locks of Love the charity that provides wigs for victims of cancer therapy. In short order, he contacted the 4-H, through the NDSU Extension Office, and got permission to forward the proceeds to the charity. But…the best was still yet to come. During the auction, local businesses had a surprise for Colby.

They ran up his bid to over $6,000 with XTO Energy finally cutting the winning check. And, if that was the end of the story, it would have still been good enough to warm the heart but…there was more. Every Sophomore boy only has one thing on his mind and, of course, Colby has his eye on a “few” local girls but, his main concern right now is purchasing his first vehicle.

And, XTO and the Killdeer merchants decided to help a brother out! As Colby left the arena with his prize heifer and his donation to Locks of Love, the businesses stood, cheered and called the young man back. Another $3,600 was donated and, Colby was told to keep it for himself.

He plans to buy a Ford and, will keep saving up. And, again, if this was the end of the story, that would be enough to warm this reporter’s personal heart. But, the kid had one more personal goal that is near and dear to my heart. Sheriff Coker and Chief Dreathbraathen please take note– Colby told me “he wants to stay in Dunn County and be a cop!” His proud parents, Cody and Jen said it best, “We couldn’t be prouder.”

I suggested he contact Coker ASAP and discuss the Sheriff’s new cadet program, so, Clay get with this kid…he already has what it takes. In speaking with this outstanding young man, his modesty was disarming when he referred to Johnnie, “Live strong and fight on.” A testament to his favorite aunt, Colby and his family also were grateful to XTO for their generosity, “This goes to show oil companies want to support our community and our children.”

I couldn’t agree more and, to Colby two of my favorite quotes from my personal hero General George S. Patton–for Aunt Johnnie, “It is…wrong to mourn those who died. Rather we should thank God they lived”; and, to you, young man, “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” My sympathies to you and your family on your loss and congratulations on your personal recovery and selfless act. Job well done and, Dunn County, you should be proud!


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