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.

Thomas D. Isern

Professor of History & University Distinguished Professor, North Dakota State University

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