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  #231  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:12 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four

I woke up several times that night in Longville because the pilot’s lounge was built into a shared complex with an ambulance service. They never slept over there, and I could hear every conversation that took place through the air ducts. The registers were like loud speakers and the voices of the paramedics sounded tube-like and concentrated coming through them.

I got up at first light and made coffee from the small can I bought the day before. I read my devotion for the day, Genesis, Chapters 1-3, beginning a new Bible-in-a-Year series that day. Then I carried all of my bags out to the Dove and packed up. By 7:30 AM, I was airborne again under partially cloudy skies. I saw the airport and the little town of Longville below me on a downwind departure.



It was already cloudy and rainy some 275 miles to the northwest, so I had to divert. I first made an approach into Langdon, North Dakota (D55), but soon discovered that it was unapproachable. Like the airport I overflew at Gettysburg, it was closed and being repaved.



I cranked to starboard and flew another twenty miles to the northeast where another North Dakota town lay before me. Soon, I was on the ground again, this time in Walhalla (96D). I hoped I would be able to wait out the weather there.





When I landed and taxied over to the ramp, there was an Air Tractor getting ready to depart.





I walked over toward what appeared to be a terminal building. The Air Tractor took off and banked into silence as I walked over to the pilot’s lounge.



There was an after-hours access lock which allowed me in with the CTAF frequency. Inside, there was a couch, chairs, a coffee table, and a restroom. The coffee table was littered with a mound of magazines that had been piling up there for years.



It was a little too nippy outside for shorts, so I changed into my pants and put on a coat for a walk into town. Before I left the airport, however, I walked over to the crop dusting hangar. I wanted to talk to the people I heard working inside.





A guy was driving a forklift inside the hangar and moving chemicals around, and another guy was using a push broom out on the tarmac nearby. When I walked in, the guy on the forklift shut off the motor and asked me if I needed anything. I introduced myself. He called himself Scott. He asked me if I knew how to push in the code at the terminal building---pronouncing “code” as if he were pinching his nose or maybe had a cold and his nose was plugged. It was that unique North Dakotan twang accent that I found amusing to listen to.

I told Scott that I had already been inside the pilot’s lounge. I told him I was on a 40-day flying mission through America and that I needed to wait out the weather. The guy with the broom walked into the hangar and we shook hands. His name was Brice. Like Scott, Brice was a young man in his thirties. I thanked the two workers and told them I was going to walk into town. Then I heard the forklift start up again behind me as I headed over to the highway.
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  #232  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:14 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)





I came across the Walhalla High School Football Stadium as I walked into town. It was the home of the Eagles.



I continued walking down the highway into town.













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  #233  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:15 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)

Walhalla was rooted in agriculture, and the evidence of that was everywhere. I crossed the tracks and began walking through the streets of downtown to witness something remarkable. The place was dying. That, too, was evident.







On the other side of the tracks, I came across a diner with nobody inside. It was not going to open until later in the day, so I just kept walking, even though I was pretty hungry.





There was an abandoned gas station and convenience store that would serve in many ways as a precursor to much of what I witnessed in Walhalla that day.





A bank was the most recently built structure in Walhalla and stood in striking contrast to the buildings around it.





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  #234  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:16 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)







The Walhalla Masonic Temple, built in 1928, was under renovation.











There was an abandoned house with two ancient pines leaning before the entrance like sentinels. The door was open, so I went inside.



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  #235  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:18 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)











Inside the house, I began to wonder about all the people who had lived within its walls. I wondered about all the conversations and laughters and arguments and grievings and celebrations and embraces that happened there but were now cast in the greying light of memory and written somewhere in the decay and slowdown of time and conscience that eventually brought everything down with the gravity of death, but that only the coming flames of such an end could one day purify and resurrect anew as if no furniture at all had been left behind to begin with.









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  #236  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:20 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)

I wondered how it was that so many people could not possibly know or care what it was that I was feeling or experiencing at that moment in that house---that house, which had in a few uncertain steps become an emblem of certainty that what was coming was coming soon, and that it did not matter how many people did not know or care that millions of other houses and habitations and proud structures across the country would become like that one in the approaching days---a desolation unto itself within, and a testament to a mass oblivion without. In the Lord’s presence, I was not in the least bit terrified. And I wondered why nearly everyone else would be.



Then I left and walked down the street some more.











As I came to an intersection, I saw the crackwork of time getting coated with fresh snakes of tar as a young man trailed the driver of a truck and squirted the hot sticky tar out of a swiveling wand.





Then I came to a church. I walked over there to see if the doors were open.





They were, so I went in.
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  #237  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:21 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)

There was one other soul inside as I came in. She was deep in prayer and did not expect me when I walked into the sanctuary. I did not stay long, but I saw that it was quite beautiful inside. Then I left.





I started walking back toward the diner to get something to eat. There was another church nearby, but it was locked up, so I just kept walking.





There was a street sweeper kicking up a lot of dust as it moved along.



Behind it, I found a group of children selling cookies, cocoa, and lemonade on a street corner in front of another abandoned house. They were Alice, Page, Tyler, Sawyer, and baby Briggs. I bought two cups of cocoa and two cookies.



They asked me where I was from. I told them. The street sweeper kept kicking up a lot of dust that was blowing over our way, so we all tried to use body language to make the dust guy, as Sawyer called him, go sweep somewhere else. After a time, I thanked my friends for the good cookies and cocoa, then continued walking back to the diner.



The high school was open, so I went in.





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  #238  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:24 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)



Back outside, I found an alleyway to walk down and proceeded toward the Highway 32 Diner.









When I made it back to the diner, it was already fairly busy and packed with people. I walked up to the counter and ordered a chicken wrap with onion peels.



After lunch, I walked back to the airport. I walked into the Walhalla Co-Op Oil Company and saw some fairly decent examples of taxidermy there.



Nearing the airport, I noticed two things: One was a sign to the Gingras State Historical Site. The other was a specifically mowed area on the side of the highway where a small ornamented cross stood. I thought I would ask the crop dusting people about them.





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  #239  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:27 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Four (cont.)



Back at the airport, I asked Brice and Scott about Walhalla. They said it was a town that was already half dead. People started packing up and leaving years ago, as they had in countless other small farming communities across the country, because the only work that could be found was in larger metropolitan areas. The cross, said Scott, was set there to honor a Canadian businessman who had been killed when he was riding his bike there on the highway about fifteen years ago. He owned a trucking crate business in Walhalla, and his wife made sure that the place where her husband died was tended to on a regular basis.

Brice told me about the Gingras State Historic Site just beyond the alfalfa fields and a stand of trees at the end of Runway 33. It was where an original fur trader set up his home and trading post, and the restored buildings were over there just down the road about a half mile away.



I decided to walk over to explore the Gingras site, but first I wanted to check the weather. I walked back over to the pilot’s lounge. It was sprinkling on the F-86 Sabre, and I needed to see how bad the rain might get before I got back.



I was about a quarter of a mile down the dirt road when a suburban came barreling around a turn from the opposite direction. It pulled up to me and the window rolled down. There was a young woman in her twenties with red hair and glasses. She asked me if I needed a ride. The driver was an older woman in her seventies with short greying hair. I told them that I was walking over to the historic site.

“In the rain?” said the older woman. I told her yes, in the rain, but it really was not raining that hard. I told her that I would still appreciate a ride over there, even if it was only another quarter mile away.

They told me to get in the back and shove a box of videos out of the seat so I could get in, which I did. Then the older woman turned around in the road and hit the gas, making the pebbles skid under the tires and rattle in the wheel wells. I told them that I was flying through America on a 40-day mission trip. I said that I liked seeing historical sites. The older woman, with a chubby, wrinkled face and flabby arms and bright blue eyes filled with happiness, was Linda. The young woman with red hair was Kimberly. They pulled up to the site, and Linda began telling me about the legend of the French fur trader, Antoine-Blanc Gingras.



Linda told about how the Sioux once martyred a number of white settlers there on the banks of the Pembina River and put the bodies on the site where the two buildings stood. The red building was the restored Gingras home where he raised his family of some 12 children. The old trading post was a facsimile of the original. Linda told me that she used to work at the Gingras site for twelve years as a docent.

Linda turned around in her seat and asked me what made me want to go around America in an airplane. I told her I prayed a lot about it. I told her that after my overseas mission trips to Ghana and Ecuador, the Lord told me that he wanted me to fly around America and meet its people and to serve as a witness to what was coming. We talked about Gingras and the early settlers, about how well they all managed in a world without electricity. The thought was a little disconcerting that, soon enough, people would once again be living like the fur traders in that regard, but Linda and Kim agreed: They also knew and felt such a time was coming, and coming soon.

I thanked Linda and Kim for the ride, and they drove off when I got out. Linda was driving like she was in a hurry. I heard gravel getting kicked out under the tires as she gunned the engine, and then the suburban disappeared down the dirt road.

The buildings were locked up. There was a sign posted about North Dakota no longer having the funds to keep the Gingras place open. I explored the site for awhile anyway.











It was not raining that much, and I walked through the surrounding wheat and alfalfa fields back to the airport.



When I got back to the pilot’s lounge, I took a nap and woke up at about 5:00 PM. Outside, it was raining steadily now, and Scott and Brice and all of the crop dusting personnel had gone home for the day. I cooked up a big pot of blueberry granola, and I ate it.

That night, I slept on the couch with hope in my heart. The final week of the flying mission was upon me, and I did not yet want to go home.

Home. I wondered what that was. I loved flying with God so much that I began to wonder if I even had a home anymore.

I guessed that I did. I could feel him taking me there.
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  #240  
Old 10-11-2017, 01:47 PM
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Default Day Thirty-Five: Part I

I woke up to a spectacular sunrise on a crisp cool morning in Walhalla. I did not waste time packing up. I knew I had a lot of flying ahead of me that day.





I saw Brice pull up to the crop dusting facility in a pickup as I walked back over to the terminal building to use the restroom. I went back out and cranked over and sat there idling on the ramp for a few minutes to warm up the oil. Then I waved to Brice as I taxied out and took off in a clear sky heading west-northwest, leaving Walhalla to my port side.



About thirty minutes into the flight, the landscape below began to change. There was a rounding accumulation of trees and lakes that began to pile upon itself in a strange rising departure from the plains below.





I descended to make a straight-in approach for the International Peace Garden (S28). Taxiing in, there was a sign for U.S. Customs, the only place to park on the ramp. When I shut down, I was the only bird on the field.







I thought about the bad experience I had the year before with U.S. Customs at the Piney Pinecreek airport. I looked across the tarmac where there was a checkpoint. I could see a slow trickle of cars and trucks and eighteen-wheelers going through the checkpoint, and air brakes were chirping and diesel engines were grumbling to a stop. Then I saw a customs agent up on the roof. He was looking over at me.



There was a U.S. Customs barracks facility right off the edge of the tarmac. A deck of stairs let down from the asphalt. I did not want to stir up any weird or unjustified suspicions from the people inside, so I went back to the tie-down cross to think over my options.

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