I love walking around our state capitol grounds. I don’t live very far from it, and I’ve got a dog with nearly limitless energy to burn so I’ve become pretty familiar with most of its nooks and crannies. The ultra-green summertime grass out front, surrounded by magnificent elm trees is a great place for those throwing balls, snapping pictures, or just enjoying some time in the great outdoors.
Our 19 story art-deco tower has been scraping our blue sky for the past 80+ years. Yeah we don’t have a dome like nearly all other states' capitol buildings, but they can't boast 80% useable space. If buildings tell something about the character of its people who created it and use it, our capitol building exudes practicality.
Behind our capitol building, a place that doesn’t get as much attention, there’s a large painted metal object tucked in amongst the trees. When I first caught a glimpse of it, I couldn’t figure out what it was. As I got closer I began to wonder: “Is that, a snow plow blade? No, that can’t be. This is the state capitol grounds.” But as I got close enough, I could indeed confirm that it was a snow plow blade. I thought it might be a temporary solution but no, I’ve now seen it there for over the past year.
At first, I was embarrassed by my home state: “Why do they treat our capitol grounds like an old farmstead’s backyard? There must be some off-site storage for equipment like that.”
But, then I got to thinking. This, along with the capitol building, represents the prairie-born pragmatism of many North Dakotans. The front yard is meant for beauty and it must be kept all trimmed up for our and others’ enjoyment, but the backyard has too much good functional space close to where we will need it to let go to “waste.” After sifting that through my mind for a while, I began to realize that this snowplow blade—whether intentionally or not—could indeed be another monument for our capitol grounds, calling her the “Prairie Pragmatist’s Plow.”