Dakota Datebook

6:42 am, 8:42 am, 3:50 pm*, 5:44 pm, and 7:50 pm* CT
  • Hosted by Prairie Public

Sitting Bull to Phil Jackson, cattle to prairie dogs, knoefla to lefse. Dakota Datebook radio features air weekdays at 6:42 am, 8:42 am, 3:50 pm*, 5:44 pm, and 7:50 pm* CT on Prairie Public. Find the 2003-2017 archives here.

*These airtimes during Main Street may vary.

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Dakota Datebook is is generously funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of the North Dakota Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Libbie Custer

Sep 14, 2018

On May 18th, 1876, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry rode west from Fort Abraham Lincoln for a summer campaign against the Lakotas, with the regimental band playing the stirring military song: “Garry Owen.”         

Custer’s wife, Elizabeth (“Libbie),” and many soldiers’ wives stood along the road to watch them go. The “sad-faced wives” waved a courageous farewell, smiling bravely “to keep the ones they loved from knowing the anguish of their breaking hearts.” It was hard to keep from despairing when the musicians played the plaintive tune: “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” That became prophecy, for Custer, and the soldiers who rode with him the following month on June 25th would die at the Little Big Horn.

Red Cross

Sep 13, 2018

As more young men left for the battlefields of France, service flags were proudly displayed in homes, business, churches and social organization across North Dakota. In fact, service flags were such a popular display of patriotism, that service flag stationary became available. Each page of writing paper or envelope contained a star for each member of the family serving in the military, along with the emblem of the branch of service to which they belonged. 

The Marquis de Mores cultivated a short-lived cattle empire during his time in Dakota Territory. But a long-running murder allegation also defined his time out west. De Mores wasn’t popular in the Badlands. He had enemies who despised him for everything from how he acquired his land, to his ambitious cattle operation, to his development of Medora—even xenophobia. After all, he was a French aristocrat – not from these parts. But when the Marquis fenced his land, that really lit the fuse.

Summertime Switchel

Sep 11, 2018

The burning question during the hottest weather in summertime in the past in N.D. was simply this: “How can we keep cool?”

For farmers, there was no getting around the sweaty work of haymaking or wheat harvesting with temperatures in the high 80s or low 90s.  Whenever there was no breeze, common flies and horseflies buzzed around the haymakers and sweat ran freely down the workers’ faces, causing them to pause frequently to wipe their brows with sleeves or handkerchiefs.

Meals on Wheels

Sep 10, 2018

On this date in 1920, an ad in the Pioneer Express of Pembina urged threshers not to send away for groceries.  J.T. Cockburn and Company assured the public that they could provide “everything you need for the cook car.”

The cook car played an important role in the history of threshing. It was essentially a rolling restaurant. Threshing was hard, and the field hands worked up mighty appetites. So, owners of the threshing machinery arranged for a cook car to follow the equipment from farm to farm.

When the U.S. declared war on Spain in April, 1898, 16-year-old Jesse Langdon of Fargo wanted to volunteer, but his father told him he was too young.  Impetuous, Jesse Langdon ran away from Fargo to Minneapolis to enlist in the 13th Minnesota Infantry. As Langdon later said: “I lied about my age. I said I was 19. I was big for my age, so no one questioned it.”

Beasts of Burden

Sep 6, 2018

On this date in 1860, the St. Cloud Democrat noted that mule teams regularly passed by on their way to Fort Abercrombie on the Red River in present day North Dakota. Teams of six mules pulled each wagon. September 1st saw a half dozen teams travel through, followed on September 4th by a train of thirty teams. Each train carried a variety of supplies including food, tools, and machinery.

Jewish Homeland

Sep 5, 2018

Among the North Dakota soldiers fighting somewhere in France, were a number of young men of Jewish faith.  Sam Rigler, from Taylor, North Dakota, trusted in his faith to survive life in the trenches.  He was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “There I was huddled up against the side of a trench...  I silently offered prayers to God and asked for divine guidance and protection.” In a letter to his brother, he stated: “The word was passed around that we were going over the top at 5 AM.  Just before daybreak we climbed over, packs thrown away, but rifles loaded and bayonets fixed… The battle was raging, shells cracking, hissing and exploding but a few feet away… we crept along close to the ground.  Dawn was setting in and the explosion of the shells lighted up the sky.  There we were, out there in No Man’s Land and only the will of God could save us.”

Grasshoppers turned up in the Dakotas long before the misery of the Great Depression. On this date in 1919, Professor Waldron of the North Dakota Agricultural College noted that the insects were moving out of the fields following the harvest. They were congregating at the edges of the roads where they could still find some greenery. It meant they would be laying eggs along the roadsides across the state. Professor Waldron urged farmers to rake the soil to the middle of the roads. An ordinary road grader could be used for the task. Grasshopper eggs in the middle of the road would be crushed under the wheels of wagons and farm equipment. Destroying the eggs was the best way to avoid a future plague.

New York State Assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt was a busy man in the summer of 1883. He and his wife, Alice, had bought a brownstone the autumn before. Construction was underway of their country house on Long Island. His account of the naval battles of the War of 1812 had just been released after three years work and would become a bestseller. There were his legislative duties, which caused Roosevelt quite a bit of stress. And there was also the lure of big game.