Oh my, the story of the Vigeland Wergeland (say that five times fast) just got more complicated. We all know about the magnificent statue of Henrik Wergeland, Norway’s great Romantic poet, that stands in Island Park of Fargo. Those of us who read inscriptions know that the bronze was made by Gustaf Vigeland, Norway’s great monumental sculptor. An artist befitting the subject, and vice versa. A few days ago, touring the Vigeland Museum in Oslo, I was excited to espy the plaster cast of Wergeland from Vigeland’s studio–thus anchoring for my mind the trans-Atlantic connection at both ends. Now it appears we have a triangle on our hands.

For today, In Kristiansand, the place of Wergeland’s birth, we stumbled into Wergenslandparken, and here is what we saw! An identical Vigeland Wergeland! Back into the website of the Vigeland Museum, searching out some now-disconnected pages, I find this exposition.

So it was Vigeland’s idea there should be a monument to Wergeland in his home town, and somehow, at about the same time, he made a dup to be emplaced in Fargo, North Dakota. How did this connection happen? I know that Dr. Herman O. Fjelde of Abercrombie was involved in securing the statue for Fargo. How did he know this was even a possibility? On return home, I’ll investigate this.

We’ve gotten interested enough in Wergeland–not only his stature as a literary figure but also his zeal for human rights–that we want to visit his grave in Vår Frelsers Gravlund of Oslo. We’ll be back in that city in a week or so, arriving in evening by train to catch a plane home the next morning. Presuming the trains run on time, we figure we have time to race over to the cemetery, pay our respects at dusk, and examine the memorial placed on Wergeland’s grave by the Jewish community in recognition of his work on their behalf.

In the meantime, tomorrow noon we catch our train for Stavanger, where in a few days we join the annual conference of the Agricuiltural History Society. Today, when we called in at the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum of Kristiansand, we were privileged to view a remarkable artifact: the Maisengel (corn angel), which was included in a retrospective exhibit. I take this as a blessing for the upcoming meeting of agricultural scholars.


Gray dawn, and I awoke with no idea where I was. I don’t think it was the Opland aquavit I had for a nightcap. It was the strange dream that had visited me, and from which I fully emerged on waking only after giving my head a vigorous shake.

The dreamy situation was a prairie town, somewhere, probably on the North American continent, but I’m not certain. Its name, no kidding, was Alice. As in Alice, the famous object of reference for the I-94 Buffalo-Alice exit sign in North Dakota, but also, of course, the famous ideal of Nevil Shute’s outback novel, A Town Like Alice. I know them both well. So I’ll just let Alice float somewhere.

Alice had a country store peopled by an ensemble of characters, some of whom ran the place, while the others came and went and conversed. The store functioned as a sort of community development agency. People came in to talk about and work out the problems of the community, some of which were things, and others were people. The people-problems seemed to reside mainly at the other main establishment of the town, a tavern. People kept talking about what was going on over there, and I kept mum, because in my dream-memory, I was well acquainted with the tavern and its denizens.

The Alice store was also a sort of museum, with artifacts there among the merchandise. Moreover, people kept coming in to show me stuff and ask about it. I wish I could recall all the things they brought me, but the only one I remember was a calf blab, like the one hanging on the wall of the museum in Dunn Center, North Dakota. And there was food, too, baked goods I was munching while chatting about matters antiquarian.

It surprised me when I observed evening was falling. I realized I had gone off to this place without telling Dr. K where I would be, and she would be worried by now. When I emerged into the twilight, I could not find my truck. I wandered for some time, until finally I walked out of the town and found my truck parked along a dirt road. When I started it up and tried to pull away, I found the road blocked by a stretch gate. There emerged from the brush alongside the road a rustic character, whom I think I had met in town. He insisted that I walk with him to see his orchard. After that he walked me back to my truck and opened the gate for me.

As I was driving away from Alice, I awoke. Confused. Also relieved. Then happy to realize that I was in the Hotel Norge, Kristiansand, and that downstairs there were coffee and a Norwegian breakfast buffet awaiting. Sweet.

Caffeinated, I picked up a plate and started in at the end of the groaning board. And there it was, in its place of primacy–smör, a crock of butter. Along with several hearty loaves of grainy bread from which to carve the foundation of your breakfast. Life should be like this. And end with a raspberry tort.


Spending early morning in Oslo catching up on communications and confirmations. On to Kristiansand tonight – working our way toward the AHS conferencre in Stavanger. Hiking, museuming (musing? museumizing?), reading, writing along the way. Gorgeous weather (about to change). Eating well. Sleep habits irregular. . . .

Love Locked Forever

Yesterday, we woke up in Oslo to the celebration of our fifteenth wedding anniversary. How fitting that we are in some interesting place, learning new things about people and history and foods…and traditions. Strolling across a bridge in Frogner Park, we chanced upon these padlocks, wondering what their story is about. In New Zealand, rural fence lines are decorated with bras, something like how we see cowboy boots on barbed wire fences in the U.S. But, as we learned, the locking of the padlocks are globally, not nationally or regionally, steeped in tradition. While we could see initials and dates and hearts, we did not then know of the Love Locked Forever symbolism. The names or initials of sweethearts, and often the date, are inscribed on the padlock, and the key is tossed into the river to symbolize unbreakable love. A blessing of our partnership and shared travels has been that we often stumble into marvels. We are not carrying padlocks in our tucker bag, but we carry the sentiment forthwith.

Lincoln in Oslo

Spent most of yesterday in and around Frogner Park–first going through the Vigeland Museum, then wandering for hours among the sculptures in the park, sustained only by key lime pie and coffee from the park cafe. I am at a loss to describe the extent and effect of these works of Gustaf Vigeland. Maybe later. For now, I offer some observations about two direct connections between Oslo and our home in North Dakota.

First, among the exhibits in the Vigiland Museum are numerous plaster casts for works destined to be rendered in stone or bronze and emplaced elsewhere. In a corner stands Henrik Wergeland, Norway’s great romantic poet, as fashioned by Vigeland. This took me by surprise, although it should not have. Immediately I realized that this was the plaster version for the bronze Vigeland would have cast for Island Park, Fargo; it stands there still.

The second thing we went looking for. In 2014 Governor Louis B. Hanna of North Dakota traveled to Oslo to dedicate a bust of Lincoln in Frogner Park. The bust of Lincoln was a gift from the people of North Dakota, as duly authorized by the legislative assembly, to the people of Norway in celebration of the centennial of their independence from the tyrannous Swedes. Hanna, as befitting a leader of the Progressive Era, loved monuments. Moreover, there were political overtones, for Hanna, a Republican, delivered the casting of Lincoln, founder of his party, to the people of Norway, immigrants from which comprised a substantial part of the voting population of the state of North Dakota. And yet the journey, and the gift, transcended politics. They spoke to a common love of liberty, the kinship of peoples of good will. This is why during the Second World War, the Lincoln monument in Frogner Park was a gathering place and symbol of hope for the Resistance.

Here stands Lincoln today. God willing, this monument will again become a symbol of liberty and hope across oceans and borders.

Morning in Oslo

We’re lodging in the hotel at the central railroad station, which is just about perfect for our needs and preferences. Ordinarily central city would not be my comfort situation, but it’s Oslo. Passage here: trans-Atlantic was a breeze, some discomfiture with getting bookings settled at our Amsterdam connection, and then, arriving Oslo Lufthavn, totally chill. Convenient fast train in to Oslo Sentral. A walkabout last night, with the obligatory ascent of the Operahuset for a look around, thence around the quay to a food truck-bar complex to grab a bite of supper, hang out, and read. Up in the night with old-guy leg cramps, which disturbed Dr. Kelley’s sleep, so she’s lying in this morning. While I work out, write a review, and graze the breakfast buffet. Excellent coffee, of course.

Not sure what Dr. K will propose for the day’s itinerary, but I think we need to get over to Frogner Park and see the Fjelde bust of Lincoln that Governor Hanna sent over and that became such an important symbol of Norwegian resistance during the Second World War. I’m sure sometime during the day we’ll settle in somewhere for reading and writing.

Speaking of which, I did finish my paper for presentation in a few days in Stavanger, and found myself channeling Bernie DeVoto by resorting to synecdoche. I know that’s a wonky literary term, but it just means deploying a representative and symbolic personage or episode in order to represent a larger and complicated subject. In this case, the larger and complicated subject is the changing climate (Little Ice Age to the modern, warming era of the Holocene) and the difficulty understanding it while experiencing it. Late in the paper I home in on 1886, the perilous pinnacle of the range cattle industry on the northern plains, to argue that the cattle kings assumed continuity of the LIA regime of cold, open winters favorable for over-wintering livestock, but in fact, the warming climatic regime was set to deliver disastrously snowy winters. In that year the Motana stockman John Lepley penned a ballad, “The Cattle King’s Prayer,” imploring the Almighty for “Italian skies and little snow.” I will sing his ballad. It’s a good one.

Is this sort of literary touch acceptable in a scholarly paper presentation? I know it will go over fine; I’ve done this sort of thing before. It will come as a surprise to the international scholars among us, but there will be anough old friends present to warm the reception. Dr. K says this is unfair. I’m seventy years old, and I don’t care. I also believe there is enough fresh substance in my interpretive paper to carry it.

Now, before Dr. K emerges and we organize our recon of historic points of interest in the city, I’m turning back to the buffet and to Randall Parish’s 1907 history, The Great Plains: The Romance of Western American Exploration, Warfare, and Settlement, 1527-1870. Organizing a review of it for Plains Folk. Good morning.

To Stavanger

High summer in North Dakota–so naturally, we’re getting ready to leave the country. Tuesday we fly to Norway to tour around a bit and attend an academic meeting–the annual conference of the Agricultural History Society, in Stavanger, 4-6 August. We’ll fly into Oslo, there to see some sights, thence to Kristiansand, where we hope the sun shines. After that we board a train for Stavanger, and at conclusion of the conference, we’ll also take the train back to Oslo.

It’s 1:00am, and Dr. Kelley is still hard at work on a project for NDSU Press. She needs to get this book to the designer before we leave in order to keep to production schedule. She already has pulled one all-nighter on it. Me, I just a few minutes ago finished a draft of the paper I am to present in Stavanger: “A Radical Misapprehension: Reckoning with Climate Change on the Great Plains of North America.” I’ll give more details later. For now I’ll just say, the argument is that major human developments on the plains–the rise of village farmer peoples on the northern plains, the acquisition of horses and emergence of Plains Indians as pastoral peoples, the rapid rise and fall of the range cattle industry, and agricultural settlement by EuroAmericans–all were enabled by the advent, duration, and conclusion of the Little Ice Age.

It’s been a full summer, and lately, we’ve been pushing hard, so we’re both looking forward to the trip. And, believe it or not, looking forward to the transactions of the conference. Because of the venue, the attendees will not be just the usual suspects. Oh, we’ll see old and good friends, but also meet quite a few new ones. With maybe some new ideas. The quality of work at the AHS conference typically is remarkably high.

We’ll be packing some work along, but Dr. Kelley promises to relax now and then while we’re gone. I hope so. Although I find myself packing a number of short writing projects, and I’ll have to log on via Chromebook and work on getting my fall courses in order.

Rest now.