Time Zones

Damian Bernhardt wants to push Mountain time back — way back — where he says it rightfully belongs.

This rural Taylor rancher and longtime oilfield worker thinks it’s time to put the correct boundary in place and quit catering to eastern interests.

“What are the reasons for changing Mountain to Central time, other than to say we love Minneapolis?” he said.

Right now, the boundary that separates the two time zones embraces counties in the southwestern corner of North Dakota that either never wanted to change or fought at the ballot box to remain in Mountain time.

It probably would surprise most people to know that the real boundary between the two time zones is much further east, slicing through the state just at about Buffalo in Cass County at the 97.5 meridian. That’s based on the 1884 International Meridian Conference, which established prime meridian at Greenwich, England, and divided the globe into 24 time zones each spanning 15 meridian degrees.

That’s a little complicated, for sure. But what it means is that minus all the political jerrymandering that occurred — primarily by the railroads to create unified time systems — the starting point for Mountain time is technically at the 97.5 meridian, about 40 miles west of Fargo.

“I just think it’s ridiculous. It’s bad enough that we’re so far north that the winter dark and summer light are exacerbated and then take a 300-mile offset from the real boundary. Out in Crosby, it’s 11:30 p.m. before the sun goes down and it’s hard when you go to bed by the sun and get up by the clock,” Bernhardt said.

He’s willing to start a movement to push back time and says anyone else interested should get in touch.

“I’d just like to start something and get people to realize they’ve been snowed. I don’t think people are fully informed,” he said.

Robert Werkhoven, mayor of Valley City, said it would be kind of weird to be on Mountain time while nearby Fargo is on Central time, partly because of all the business, appointments and athletic events that go back and forth.

On the other hand, the mayor said, “I’m going to be 85, and I don’t really give a .... anymore. When I was a kid out flying across the Pacific Ocean, we’d cross the International Date Line and `Bingo!’ it was tomorrow, or yesterday. I guess if push came to shove, we’d just suck it up and live with it,” he said.

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John Lowe leads the Time and Frequency Services Group for the National Institute of Standards of Technology, an offshoot of the federal Department of Commerce.

Lowe said time zones always have been subject to political pressure and the result of wanting to keep certain population groups together on the clock.

“Even out on the ocean, they’ve messed with time zones, though in some far oceans the lines are nice and straight,” he said.

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As for an effort like Bernhardt’s, Lowe said the reality is that time measured on the clock is immaterial.

“The days and nights would remain the same, it would just affect the clock on the wall. The truth is that time is a complete human construct, so we’re on the same page and we can meet at 4 o’clock instead of when the sun is directly overhead, or at sundown,” he said.

He asks what difference it really makes.

“If everybody in the world agreed to be on the same time, if we all agreed to that, the system would still work,” he said.

Bernhardt disagrees.

“I don’t believe it doesn’t matter. There is such a thing as Mountain time zone pride. I think we can all agree to that. There’s a different flavor in western North Dakota; it ain’t the east,” he said.

If anyone’s interested in joining the cause, contact Bernhardt at Berdam@msn.com.

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(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or lauren@westriv.com.)