Conventional wisdom says that Kevin Cramer leads Heidi Heitkamp in the U.S. Senate race in North Dakota. That might be right, based on the fundamentals, but that doesn't mean he's going to win. The U.S. Senate campaign in North Dakota is far from over. The fundamentals are against Heitkamp, including partisan loyalty, voter turnout and previous results. Another of the fundamentals out of the candidates' control might favor Heitkamp. That is timing.
Seeing Lincoln's sparrow shouldn't be a surprise; the species is fairly common in our area during migration. Its field marks are subtle and identification is sometimes tricky. Plus, Lincoln's sparrow doesn't stick around very long. Finding one depends a little bit on luck. It's not a sure bet, in other words.
The man behind one of the initiated measures on North Dakota's November ballot is also a candidate in one of the state's most watched legislative races. The two may be related. Gary Emineth, petitioner and candidate, has a history of political mischief making.
Lest you should think I have become a crank about inaptly named birds, let me present the western kingbird, a species whose range matches nearly exactly the conventional definition of "The West" in North America. So, too, is the kingbird's behavior despotic, as we Americans have assumed a monarch's would be. The kingbird even displays a little crown.
North Dakotans seem to like government by petition. Since 1914, when this novel notion was adopted in the state, voters have used it 272 times, and every instance has provided some insight into the mood of the people. This year is no exception. The four ballot measures on this year's ballot (included in the total) originated by petition. Two of these express anxiety; the others express aspiration.
The Nashville warbler belongs to a group that birders call "confusing fall warblers." It is not the worst of the bunch, so getting to know the Nashville warbler is a way to break the code cloaking fall warblers. We'll do that, after this little digression.
Next to the Bonanza farms, which proved the fertility of the Northern Plains and brought on the Great Dakota Boom, the soybean is perhaps the most influential development ever in North Dakota agriculture. The soybean has been a subtle instrument of change, subtle meaning "so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe" but quite thoroughgoing nonetheless, so profound that it has changed the state's landscape, its economy, its politics, its worldview, even the way we talk about the weather.
Hummingbirds have a way of taking up space. Despite their small size, they dominate any scene they enter. It's just plain hard to overlook a hummingbird. Partly, that's because hummingbirds choose scenes that humans also appreciate. They hang around flower beds, for example. They show up around water. They are attracted to bright-colored feeders and colorful fruit.
Students arrived on college campuses over the weekend, just as the state begins the most intense examination of its higher education system in decades. That might not matter much to students, but it likely will occupy the attention of administrators, higher education board members and state legislators, and probably of voters in the not-too-distant future.
Remember the hot August Saturday night in that dusty little town you came from, when Main Street was lined with cars with the windows rolled down and the women folk in the front seat visiting while their men leaned against the side door of the tavern wondering whether to go in, and the youngsters lined up outside the show hall waiting for the corn to pop and the movie to start, and how once inside your face was smeared with popcorn butter from the popcorn and the loudspeaker finished playing "They Call the Wind Mariah?"