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.