Nate Is A Weasel: Dakota Border War


Here’s what textbooks won’t tell you about the history of North & South Dakota: anything. Most people believe that’s because there’s absolutely nothing interesting about either of them, and most people are right. The Dakota Territory was the part of the Louisiana Purchase that Minnesota couldn’t be bothered with. The only people who said they wanted the land were the Sioux, but we thought they were kidding. “Let us take this land off your hands,” we instructed them after our musket smoke cleared. And now we are stuck with it.

Today there are two kinds of Dakotans: those with the grit and determination to stay, and those who can afford a bus ticket out. The very grittiest Dakotans have been there nigh on 10 generations, which is how far back you have to go before you find someone who uses the term “nigh on”. And that’s what your Nate Is The Weasel Investigative Team (NITWIT) did – we went back to the records of the 1880’s and unearthed the diaries of the McUlmer brothers.

The McUlmer twins were born in 1865 to a Dakotan woman who, due to issues with short-term memory, named them both “Jed”. Once she passed away, they went their separate ways — one Jed to a rural living in the South, and the other Jed to the big town of Bismarck.  Their 1889 reunion sparked The Dakota Conflagration, which sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel but was actually the bloodiest civil war our nation has ever seen (other than the one).  Fortunately for you, NITWIT has assembled the respective diaries of the Jed brothers to create a timeline of the conflict that forever divided the Dakota Territory in two.

Jed 1 Jed 2
May 14 My long-lost brother, Jed, is due back from Bismarck nigh on. Hope all that fancy schoolin’ ain’t changed ol’ Jeddie. Can’t wait to see him! Yee-haw! It will be an indubitable pleasure to reunite amongst familial settings once again on the ‘morrow. Verily, I recognize that my recent ensconcement within a scholastic milieu may have altered my mien, but I verily hope that this catechized façade does not initiate an estrangement between myself and my beloved brother, Jed. Evermore (and verily), I do hope he comports himself with the appropriate aplomb once properly introduced to my fiancée, Constance Purity Abigail Temperance Dubois.
May 15 Man alive, sure was good to see ol’ Jeddie again! Sure has changed though. Got hisself a pocketwatch and everything. And that Frenchy dame, where’d he dig her up? She’s wound up tighter than bark on a tree. We don’t need more of them Canucks down here anyways. I’ll take Jeddie down to the ol’ fishin’ hole tomorrow to loosen him up some. Yee-haw! Our much anticipated reunion was reasonably harmonious, though it left something to be desired. It distresses me so that Jed appears content to remain in such a remedial state of enlightenment. Constance remarked as much with her missive, “Why, your brother is as common as soap! If only he’d use some!” Ha-ha, my Constance is a wit! To her point, however, I wish to avoid regression to this common state that I once shared with my brother. Henceforth, I have insisted that he drop the honorific “Jeddie” in favor of my given name, Jedediah. I mean, verily.
May 16 Yee-haw, what’s got into ol Jeddie? Says I gotta call him Jedediah now, or some such. Heck if I’m gonna do that! And all that highfalutin language is more cornpone than a hogwash full of knapstraps! If he says “verilee” one more time, I reckon I’ll have to sock him in the mouth. Gotta be that Canuck dame, with all her pretty looks and fancy dresses and pretty looks turnin’ his head the wrong way. Also, bosums. Darn Canucks. I told everyone we need a moat to protect our borders, maybe now they’ll listen. Figure I’ll have a talk with her and straighten this mess out. I attempted to reconnect with my brother through his quaint suggestion of a fishing expedition, but things broke down after my exegesis of caviar. “What’s an exegesis?” he says. Verily! In order to ameliorate matters, I have asked Constance to speak with Jed. In the meantime, I will look to restore my equanimity by immersing myself in a volume of Yeats. Because if Jed says “yee-haw” one more time, I may have to sock him in the mouth.
May 17 Had a talk with that Constance dame, things went pretty well. She explained how Jedediah’s changed some, and how that’s gonna take some gettin’ used to for all of us. I said it seemed my brother was putting on airs, and how I was just a man of the land, workin’ with his hands all day. That seemed to go pretty strong with her. Then we necked a little bit. My idea worked brilliantly, as Jed and Constance are now on the best of terms. Ever since they talked, Constance seems to have a flush to her cheek, a spring in her step, and grass stains on the back of her dress that I can only assume came from her rolling on the ground after a particularly uproarious jest from my brother. O, happy day!
May 18 Got Jeddie to do my chores while Connie and I took an extended buggy ride. What a rube! I told Connie stories ’bout how Jeddie used to wet his britches every thunderstorm. Then we necked some more. She sure is pretty. I was only too happy to oblige my brother by helping around the farm today, as manual labor can be quite invigorating. But truth be told, I never want to milk goats again. Whence Constance returned from her sojourn today, she commenced to calling me “thunderbritches”. After I inquired upon the exegesis of the term, she replied that I “always used a dollar word when two bits would do.” How derisory! I feel her and Jed may be getting too close. And is he using soap now?
May 19 I had to break the news to Jeddie today, that me an’ Connie is gettin’ hitched. He didn’t take it none too well, but we can’t deny what’s in our hearts. Besides, Con-Con is the civilizin’ influence I felt I always needed. I may even start usin’ the full –ing suffix and whatnot. Calumny! Betrayal! Ignomy! I am leaving at once to return to my beloved Bismarck, where I will assemble everyone in the northern Dakota area (there are five of us) to rain vengeful hellfire upon the entire south! I believe Sven owns a flintlock.
May 20 I got the boys to the battlefield and told them we’re going to war for the pride of the southern Dakota territorial region! And we were ready, too. But then someone’s flintlock misfired, spooked Scooter’s horse, and our artillery (a wagon full of rocks) upended. Then Connie started complaining about all the dust, and I told her to shut her Canuck trap. Had to spend the night in the barn. Mixed reviews on the first day of the campaign for the Great Dakota Alliance (North Division). Sven shot off his own toe, so I thought it was thunder and soiled my trousers. Damned incontinence! Reinforcements will be at least three weeks, as the new flintlock pellet has to be ordered from Chicago. I think Constance winked at me, though.
May 21 The good news is that we reached a truce with the Northies, and we’ll split the territory down the middle. They don’t know how bad a deal they’re getting, since their soil has all that black, sludgy stuff just underneath! The bad news is that Connie left. Said something about mining for gold in a place called Californy. Good luck with that! The War of Southern Aggression (Dakota Branch) is over, satisfactorily as far as we’re concerned. All those Southies have is a giant rock only good for sculpting! Besides the truce, we agreed on something else: a moat to keep out those damn Canucks.

Which State is better?

  • South Dakota (52%, 178 Votes)
  • North Dakota (48%, 164 Votes)
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