Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Unlike some larger newspapers, the Plain Talk doesn't enjoy the services of a citizen-based editorial panel.

This column, I'm sure, reflects that from time to time.

We may not have an editorial board. However, I'm glad I'm married, because from time to time I will come home after struggling with a column idea all day long and in about five seconds Cindy will come up with a solution to my problem.

Last evening, as we were eating supper, I told her about a story that I read earlier in the day about North Dakota.

Some people in North Dakota think they can improve their image if they drop the "North" from their moniker. The state would simply be known as Dakota. They hope the name change will help the state seem a little less "northern."

The Greater North Dakota Association, the state's chamber of commerce, is backing a proposal to cut the state's name to Dakota. Supporters insist the plan would help alter the state's image as a frigid, treeless prairie.

"People have such an instant thing about how North Dakota is cold and snowy and flat," said former Gov. Ed Schafer. "We're not going to change that overnight. But (a name change) would get a lot of attention. Personally, I think it would be fun."

Well, this is the kind of wacky thinking that you just can't leave alone without making some sort of commentary. But that was my problem. How do you respond to something like this, other than saying that it's a silly idea that won't work?

Cindy looked at the bigger picture. "So if North Dakota changed its name, then we'd have Dakota and South Dakota. Is that what you're saying?"

"That's right," I replied.

She dabbed at her food, her imagination running wild. She probably was thinking about how both of us have a rather unique familiarity with some of the most obscure regions of South Dakota. While in high school and college, she often visited relatives who ranch near Lodgepole (if you don't know where it is, look it up on the map).

My very first newspaper job was with the Lemmon Leader (again, find a map if you're wondering where Lemmon is located).

In other words, we may both have been born, raised and educated in eastern South Dakota, but we sort of know what life in West River South Dakota is all about.

You enter a whole new world once you cross the Missouri River on a western journey across our state.

There are no neatly manicured fields in many parts of West River. What I remember most about Perkins County, for example, is how quickly you could feel lost from civilization, surrounded only by waving wheat fields and rolling range land where cattle graze.

Neither of us has had much experience traveling in North Dakota, but it's not too difficult to imagine that much of our northern neighbor resembles western South Dakota.

"If we're going to change anything, I think it would make more sense to have an East Dakota and a West Dakota," Cindy said.

I had to agree. East Dakota, naturally, would consist of everything east of the Missouri River. I haven't taken the time to try to figure out the populations of east versus west, but a quick glance at the map indicates more people would call East Dakota home. Its major communities would include North Sioux City, Vermillion, Yankton, Sioux Falls, Brookings, Huron, Watertown, Aberdeen, Pierre, Fargo, Jamestown and Grand Forks.

Even though Bismarck and Pierre would both technically be East Dakota communities under this proposed change, we'll name Bismarck the capital of West Dakota. With its ranchers and cowboys, West Dakota would have more of a western flair.

This transformation may not bode well with everyone, especially South (turned East) Dakotans who don't want to lose the economic benefits of tourism, gaming and industrial development in the Black Hills. But without the Black Hills, West Dakota wouldn't be a very interesting place.

So, there you have it. Change the states' boundaries to create East Dakota and West Dakota. They can then share both the best that the Dakotas offer, such as the fantastic Missouri River, and the worst � those long, cold, lonely winters on the plains.

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