October 12 Wilton Miners are no more

Wilton Miners Football mascot

You will never see this again.  It does not exist.

There is no more Wilton Miners Football team.  This night was their last home game as the Wilton Miners.  From now on, the Miners’ identity is merged with that of the Washburn Cardinals to become come the Southern Mclean Roughriders.

A new identity

The students of both schools (Washburn and Wilton) voted to form the new co-op for 9-man football.

On the last night of home turf play, the Miners lined up against whom else but The Cardinals.  Here their opponent.  Next season, their teammate.

The Miners got spanked pretty hard in this game, so it appears it will be to their advantage to merge with the stronger Cardinals.  But I don’t think that will make it any easier. School pride will be eroded a bit.  Personal and school identity will be a bit more vaporized.

Both Washburn and Wilton are losing something.  Like many small North Dakota towns that lose their railroad, their businesses, their schools, this is progress of a deteriorating sort, a kind of devolution.

October 10 Wilton’s pond at sunset

Sunset at Wilton Centennial Park

This is one of my favorite images in my year-long project of shooting North Dakota every day of 2010.  Some days my photos are so amateurish and bad that I don’t post them.

But on this day, just a short walk from my home I saw what might work for a good image. Of course it’s the Golden Hour, and it shows.  The color is radiant in the trees and along the horizon.

Most unusual (and if you’re from North Dakota, you know what I mean) there is no wind.  The reflective glass of the Wilton Centennial Park pond is perfect to bounce back the trees and light around it.

I could easily vote for this as my favorite photo of the year in North Dakota 365.  What do you think?

September 30

Last days of a golden era

Last days of a golden era

It won’t be long now and you’ll not see this site again.  The building will be gone. The McLean County Courthouse at Washburn, one of the few Romanesque courthouses in the country has stood overlooking the Missouri River for a century.  Compared to other structures of this age, it’s in good shape — not perfect, but good.  However, it’s been overrun with bats who have caused an airborne toxicity for workers.

Voters decided that indeed, it’s time to govern the county from a more modern and healthy building.

My buddy Kat is a willing model and here leans against the retaining wall at the courthouse front entrance.  In the long tall shot above, she’s posted against the front entrance railing.   She’s wearing the right colors for the building shot in the golden hour — my favorite time of day.  Shadows are long, contrasts are great and color is warm.

I hope to capture and show more of this grand historic structure in the weeks to come before it’s only a mark in history.

Have you noticed how the emphasis in years past was on local government and so courthouses were an important center of activity as well as outstanding architecture?

In your county, does your courthouse represent an era gone by, or an edifice of modern technology?

September 14


Sioux Pilot House


It stands with promise..the promise that it will get the attention it needs. It’s only a promise, little work goes on to give Washburn’s Sioux Steamboat the face lift she needs.    The Sioux Steamboat stands on the banks of the Missouri River where a vibrant steamboat trade existed until the state built a bridge over the Missouri in 1971.


Even now, at least one farmer has land on an island in the Missouri and has to cross back and forth to tend to his crops.  I understand that since there is no more steamboat trade, he traverses the river in the winter on the ice, shuttling supplies and harvested crops back and forth.

Below the water lies at least one wrecked steamboat, and an entire fort.  The river shifted some in the years since the early 1900’s, and more changes occurred when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river at several locations.

So, for now, as a reminder of what lies below, the Sioux stands above, waiting for a fresh coat of paint.

September 5

Wilton park bench

It’s become one of my favorite locales for seasonal photo shoots. I’ve returned often to the Wilton Centennial Park and on this evening caught the empty picnic table, the orange lights and the quiet environment.

Looking back in North Dakota 365, I surprise myself at how many different ways the park can be photographed.  It all started way back on January 4 this year.

September 3

Wilton Miners HS football

Huddle time

Friday night lights.  It’s a small town tradition, meeting at the high school football field for a little early evening entertainment with your neighbors.  It happens in larger cities, too, but

I’ve noticed that in smaller towns, it’s more of a community event, not just a school-supporter event.  For me, it’s easy to catch a home game because the football field is on the other side of the block. It is the last point of the city before the wheat fields and shelterbelts begin their stretch across the horizon.

The young men in identical garb, identified only by their numbers draw the community to the sidelines.  The players are there to compete, to prove their young manhood, to execute their learned maneuvers and plays.

However, it’s not just the players who are there with purpose.  Their support staff includes a host of schoolmate performing their duties.

Cheerleaders of course are among the most visible and photographic, too!  They’re just as focused on their “plays” or their routines as the players on the field.  Like the players, they’re there with purpose.

They are making their own memories and their own personalities are forming even as they watch the game, plan their routines and perform for the crowd.

Equally vital to the Friday night activities are two other groups.  The statisticians are there to keep the information the coaches and players need to formulate and execute their plays.

And then there  is the concession stand. It’s where everyone seems to end up sooner or later and frankly it’s where most of the community chatter (gossip?) can be exchanged.  The wait-staff of high school students and advisors provide the hot food, hot coffee and cold soda pop over which neighbors chat while the game goes on.

Yeah, it’s Friday night lights.

Though it’s harvest season when tractors, combines and other equipment are in full operation this time of year, they all seem to pause on Friday night while an entire collection of subcultures interact and support the community event.

September 2

Wilton Miners Jr. Hi football

There are some things that are just plain fun to shoot — like the Wilton Miners Junior High matchups.

When I’m not shooting or writing for industrial purposes, or shooting weddings, portraits or senior pictures, I like to shoot this kind of “memory.”  Of course it helps that the football field is on the other side of the block from where I live. 

So, when I hear the official’s whistle I know there’s some action by which I will be entertained and will be able to capture some images of these future Brett Favre’s.

They certainly play some of the most physical and acrobatic football that I’ve seen in sometime.  They throw themselves in to each play, it would seem.

I’m not sure how many will continue their football career, but at this stage I’m rooting for all of them to keep on — especially since it gives me something fun to shoot on a late fall afternoon.

This being a Thursday night, I know that the big kids are gonna take over the field tomorrow night, probably under the lights. So for now, this full sun opportunity to catch some action is an easy task with the light being as it is. I can freeze action and get clean and clear shots that wouldn’t be as likely as under lights.  Again, this is another example of the Golden Hour, when photography comes alive, when shadows are long, contrasts are good and the light is right.

(To my own dismay, I didn’t keep my eye on the action to see whether this receiver actually got away from the block to catch the ball that was headed his way.  I know I wouldn’t have.)

August 21


Lined up at Wilton Grain Elevator


It’s that time of year when farmers haul their grain to market.  But unlike in years past when a tractor and flair-box wagon hauled the grain, farmers today use semi-trucks to get their crop to town.


Unrolling the tarp


Drivers pull their trucks up under the sampling auger. They unroll the covering tarp so several samples can be taken.  From that, the grain is evaluated and given a grade to determine the purchase price.   Then the pull in to the line to wait their turn to dump the grain from the belly of the trailer in to the elevator hopper where it is stored until sent to a mill elsewhere in the U.S.

Today, I had to weave my way through the trucks along the road, but I don’t mind. I like the sensation of  harvest. The mammoth combines in the field to the large trucks at the elevator it’s a massive job, much different from the days when I grew up on the farm with a tractor pulling the combine and a tractor hauling the wagons to town. It’s one more step in the process of feeding the world, a job that North Dakota farmers do with superior results.

August 17


Man and his two best friends


A summer evening’s walk puts three friends together in different combinations.  Late in the day, about 8 p.m. a man takes his two friends, (best friends ?) for a walk down Louise Avenue, the street on which I live in Wilton.  I see these three walk every evening, a ritual that is good for all three.

Others walk in the evening, too.  I drove out of my home after photographing the man and his dogs, headed to the highway on the outskirts of town to find three more friends on an evening stroll.  It is one of the most pleasant and healthy rituals these people can adopt.  A small town such as Wilton allows them plenty of room and safety for their ritual.  No gangs, no thoroughfares, no traffic congestion, just a pleasant stroll anywhere in town.

God bless Small Town, USA.

August 14


Captains Cabin's ride for CF


Every summer, Ron and Marge at the Captains Cabin in Washburn sponsor a ride to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.  I’ve been otherwise occupied each weekend they hold the ride, but this year, I was free and caught the event.

Ron in the CF tent after the ride

It was a questionable ride from the beginning as rain was moving through the area. So the ride started about a half hour late and dodged rain most of the day.  It was cold and windy but in the end a good hardy crew raised several hundred dollars to fight Cystic Fibrosis.  That’s a good thing for me personally since I’ve had 4 cousins die from the illness.  Thanks to Ron and Marge for their support.

(I’ve got a file on my other computer of more pics and will post them here when I consolidate files.)