Dr. Steve Hoffbeck | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Dr. Steve Hoffbeck


If you have ears to hear lively music, you know the almost-magnetic attraction of ragtime.

Ragtime has syncopation. It has energy, it has off-beat notes, and a solid bottom-bass-line. Ragtime is a distinctively-American kind of music, originating in African-American culture.


Ragtime gets its name from being in “ragged time,” with syncopated off-beats, and it was about the most-popular type of music in America by the early 1900s.


The ski industry in North Dakota has experienced many “ups and downs.” Currently, there are three ski-areas in the state – Huff Hills near Mandan; Bottineau’s Winter Park; and Frost Fire near Walhalla.

In the 1970s, there were four other ski areas: Rolla View in Rolla; Sky-Line in Devils Lake; Grand Forks Villa Vista; and Minot’s Trestle Valley. Today’s Datebook tells the Trestle Valley story.


Emma Kelly was quite an adventurous person, for she was among the first women to endure the extreme conditions of the Alaskan-Klondike gold-rush in 1897. She also established a farm in N.D. as a homesteader on the south shore of Devils Lake in 1904.

On this date in 1904, the Bismarck Tribune described Emma Kelly as a “writer of ability” and “woman of culture” who had fearless and “Romantic Experiences” before her arrival in North Dakota.


Every human society needs rules and laws. But always there will be lawbreakers who violate those laws. Crime brings punishment. In North Dakota, criminals have faced punishment in county jails and in the state’s penitentiary in Bismarck. Today’s Datebook looks at one aspect of punishment – prison uniforms – as it relates to one escapade by an escapee.

In 1894, the North Dakota Penitentiary bought “one hundred suits of regulation striped clothing” so prisoners would thereafter “wear stripes.”


On the night before D-Day in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division at a staging-base in England.

YMCA Basketball

Jun 4, 2020


It is a well-known fact that Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in December of 1891 because his students in Massachusetts needed a way to burn off some energy in his wintertime gymnasium class. Because he had a small space, he wanted to keep the young men from tackling or barging into each other during the game, as in rugby or football. To prevent injuries from having a ball hit or thrown as hard as possible, as was done in baseball or lacrosse, he wrote up a list of 13 rules for a game that could be played indoors or outdoors and in any size space while safely providing plenty of “healthy and invigorating” exercise.


A long time ago, countless multitudes of passenger pigeons migrated through the Red River Valley in search of food. The trees along the Red River were roosting-places, full of commotion and loud noises. The wing-feathers clattered before landing on tree-branches, and the pigeons would call out “KEE-kee-kee-kee,” and “coo-coo-coo-coo.” Thousands of flapping wings sounded like a “roar of distant thunder.”


World War I transformed airplanes from a novelty into a deadly weapon.  Pilots served as aerial scouts at first and then challenged enemy planes in airborne combat, in “dogfights” between fighter planes; and later in bombing runs against cities and troop positions.

Blizzard Word Origin

Apr 13, 2020


We all know what a blizzard is, but we don’t know where the word came from.  The National Weather Service nowadays refers to a blizzard event, which means “sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 m.p.h.” accompanying “falling and/or blowing snow to frequently reduce visibility to less than 1/4th mile for three or more hours.” In the past, a blizzard meant fierce storms of wind and snow that lasted more like three days and three nights rather than three hours. If you have ever been out and about in a real blizzard, you already know what a “blizzard” means. Nonetheless, let’s explore the origins of the word.


Ben Bird was a true cowboy in North Dakota history. He knew how to herd cattle and how to rope and ride.

Born in Texas in 1864, Benton “Ben” Bird came to Dakota Territory in 1886, when he worked for the OX (OH-EX) outfit. He was a cowboy in the great cattle drives, guiding thousands of longhorns to the Little Missouri River country. He rode north with the cattle several times in his early 20s, but in 1892, he decided to quit his migratory ways. He settled down in North Dakota, acknowledging “that he liked it better than any place he had ever been.”