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Do you have a love/hate relationship with your ancestors? I do, especially this time of year, as winter approaches.

After all, if my great-granddads and grandmothers were going to leave the homeland and get on a boat anyway, why not get off in Hawaii or somewhere a lot farther south of the North Pole? 

Oh sure, they wanted to come to America, the land of milk and honey, and make a better life for themselves. And no doubt they wanted to settle where all of the other Norwegians were settling, to make for a less-dramatic adjustment. 

But who the heck was the first Norwegian to stake a claim in North Dakota and start this crazy “suffering through winter” trend, I’m wondering, as we settle in for our first major winter storm.

Sure, based upon the timing, I know that it might have been the only land available. But couldn’t great-grandma have said to great-grandpa, “Yah, you know Eric, it might yust be a little bit too nippy dare in the vintertime.”

“Oh heck, Ma,” Eric responds, “Vee is used to vinter.”

Not this kind of vinter. The average temperature during the winter months in Bergen, Norway, is 40 degrees. Not 40 below, but 40 above -- and that’s a big difference.

But it’s a dry cold here, right? Not always. And cold is cold.

Then again, what’s really crazy is that we’re still here. And what’s even crazier is that I used to live in California and came back and sometimes wonder if I am insane.

Then I go to the bank, and everyone there says “hi”.  Or I go to the grocery store and don’t have to stand in line at the checkout counter. Or I have a tooth problem and the dentist gets me right in. And I buy a new pickup truck and the dealer suggests that I drive the new vehicle home and tells me to drop the check by whenever I can.

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Or the ranch road fills in with snow and the neighbor helps plow me out. Or I leave town and people volunteer to watch over the place, while someone else takes my horses to the farrier to have their hooves trimmed. Then I talk to engineers, from Oklahoma or Texas, who are here because of the oil boom. And they and their young families love the place and hope to never leave.

It’s because of the people, they say. And that’s nice because people here treat each other with respect, and respect is one of the greatest gifts that one human can give to another. And maybe that respect stems from the fact that the severe winters, and the nature of farming and ranching, causes us to have to depend on each other.

In America’s big cities, some of that is lost. People don’t even know their neighbors. And cynicism is more prevalent simply because there are more scammers per square mile, I suppose.

And I sometimes wonder if the great divide between urban and rural America, at this time, is all about urbanites crying out for more attention and ultimately wanting more respect. 

Whatever the case, when it comes to North Dakota, it’s all about the people. Good people that at one time raised big families on every one to three quarters of land.

So, thank you great grandpa and grandma. You knew what you were doing, after all.

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Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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