FARGO x FX ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARIES
In anticipation of the new FARGO series premiering tonight on FX, our good friend Hannah sent us up north to explore real deal Minnesota and North Dakota.
Since Anna spent the first 10 years of her life in Iowa, we were looking forward to a month long endeavour of hot plates, warm hearts, and snow drifts. We found ourselves in the middle of the polar vortex enjoying a true midwestern winter, in every sense. We came out of it with four documentaries and countless stories of the people we met along the way
Our first stop was with the local square dancing club that held practice every Tuesday night in the Cash Wise rec room. A group of mostly, admittedly, seniors – the room is full of people young at heart.
As our first lesson in midwest culture :: move it or lose it. Its harsh living in this part of the world during winter, and the landscape is certainly unforgiving. In contrast, it was a wonderful moment to walk into this grocery store back room and receive such a warm greeting. This was the first of many experiences that would communicate a wonderful local, universal truth of “all we have is each other”. Square dancing, while seemingly too wonderful to be true, provides the perfect weekly escape for so many – an opportunity to venture forth from their own personal snow fort, socialize, and empathize.
At the square dance we were lucky enough to meet Duane.
Duane, a veteran airman, lost his wife several years ago and has since kept his spirits high by circulating throughout the dance circuit that spans from Fargo, ND to the Twin Cities (and most towns in between). A true gentleman, he invited us to his farm where he told us stories of growing up, serving in the armed forces, and raising a family on the land we sat on. When he and his wife purchased the property they lived in the log cabin down the hill that was an original settler’s cabin – rustic, pure, and without running water.
Our second lesson :: don’t be afraid of hard work. Duane shovels his own three hundred foot driveway. He’s approaching his 80s.
We visited Pie Day at the Sons of Norway, where we were given the excellent tip to go visit with Aaron and Arvid Swenson – master wood carvers and twin brothers living in Flum, MN.
Both brothers provided a wealth of knowledge for the traditional Nordic crafts, but also a very lovely insight into the local culture. Its no secret that most kids tend to stay close to home and, even in this current global age, family ties are a stronger pull than the great unknown. It was so wonderful to visit with the brothers because they gave a perspective that has seemingly been a bit forgotten – you can achieve your dreams in your own back yard.
Our third lesson :: stick to what you know. stick with your partner in crime.
The landscape is other worldly – barren and frigid but also completely exquisite. The different shapes and textures the snow takes as it falls and after it has been frozen and refrozen to the ground are completely mesmerizing. It’s impressive that anyone can exist here, but its understandable that anyone chooses to exist here. There is a certain peace and calm in the quiet.
Chris Cantler, a local taxidermist, invited us to his shop for an afternoon to watch him at work. In many ways people in this region are still close to their prairie and settler roots, meaning the life skills of their predecessors live on – hunting and farming are two enormous uses of time. Chris kindly explained to us that the driving motivator behind both activities is a respect for the land and a respect for one another – something that was repeated time and time again by various interviewees we met along the way.
Our last stop before heading West was Hilbillies Ice Bar on Lake Lida. Each year, as soon as the ice freezes over and the fishing season begins, they drag a full bar out onto the ice (complete with holes inside to the lake below). Standing in the middle of a lake with so many huts, so many trucks, and so much activity on it is somewhat surreal for us currently residing in Los Angeles. These people know how to have a good time and it was truly refreshing to watch how this community makes time to have a good time – part of it is certainly due to the fact that its a farming community and winter is a time to wait until spring, however after spending a couple of hours in the ice bar it was apparent that these priorities persist throughout the year.
Lesson number four :: have some fun and laugh, its just as important as whatever is worrying you.
After our day at the ice bar it was off to Regent, ND to visit with Gary Greff on the Enchanted Highway (a whole other wonderful experience and story for another day) before hopping on the plane to head back to Canada ::
Which brings us to our fifth lesson :: no matter how long you’re going for, try to pack light. the airplane might be small.
An enormous thank you to everyone who opened their homes to us throughout our journey, it was so very nice to meet each of you. Fargo will always hold a special place in our memory, ironically due to the extreme warmth we found inside and extreme cold outdoors.
Be sure to tune in to the premiere tonight, we’re looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks of the show.