She’s Not From Around Here: A casseroler’s take on life in hot dish territory

Written by: Amy Allender

“Wow, look at all those shades of brown.” The comment was delivered with faux awe from my passenger seat. Her sarcasm was friendly, not fiery. We both laughed.

“Now, now—don’t be judgmental. Look,” I said while pointing out the windshield. “Right there. Val’s Cyclery is bright green. Fun fact, it’s also where I take my skates to be sharpened in the winter.”

We were driving south on 3rd Street, straight through town. My friend had just flown in from California to spend five, glorious, fall days with my husband and me in Minot. Her jokes about the lack of color and trees were lighthearted. She knew I had fallen in love with this town. A town I never knew existed until my husband got military orders to Minot, Air Force Base. A town she never knew existed until she got my “change of address” card in the mail. I was a proud transplant, taking root in my new, proverbial pot.

As a military spouse, I’ve called many different zip codes “home.” None, however has ever captured my heart and imagination quite like Minot. Putting my finger on exactly why I like it here is tricky. It’s a complicated combination of both tangible and impalpable qualities and quirks. I can’t always describe it, but I always know it when I see it.

Like how locals describe location based on the location of something else—even if the latter has been closed for years. Example, “It’s in the plaza where the old Tuti Fruiti used to be.” Or how Dizzy the Clown is a really big deal—and once you meet him, you start to get it. Or how if a destination is more than fifteen minutes away I start to question if it’s really worth the trip.

As an outsider, a foreigner, a transplant—I love to sit back and watch life unfold in this place so unlike any other. I find it utterly fascinating and have made it my business to become well-versed in all things Minot. A self-titled “Minot Guru.”
But let’s get to my drive through town with a friend who was visiting. There is a vast difference between coming to Minot for a visit and living in Minot. Those who come to visit may remark on the blandness and remoteness, but those who live here will look at those same “bland” buildings and see something remarkable.

While I have come to love this place deeply, I won’t claim it’s something it’s not. You’ll never hear me tell someone with no connection to Minot that this is a must see tourist hub. This is not a town bursting at the seams with traditional vacation fare. Be that as it may, I’ll always reassure those who move to town that Minot is a great place to come home to.

Sure, anyone can have a great time here, but you’ll have an even better time if you come visit someone. A visitor with no connection to town cannot expect to understand what makes the Magic City so magical. It’s not about the Dala horse in the park or the waterpark attached to the mall. Minot’s magic is held in the spaces a passerby may overlook. It’s the rough hands of a seasoned rancher holding a door open. It’s a chorus of children laughing and singing with Ms. Kristy at Main Street Book’s story time—the best you’ll ever go to.

It’s losing track of time because the sun never seems to set in the summer, and the glamour of a field of sunflowers that stretches to the horizon. It’s all the small ways this community cheers on good ideas and helps them take flight.

That’s the difference between arriving in Minot as a visitor versus deciding to live here. As a transplant, this may be my most valuable lesson learned, my most sage advice: when you move to Minot, don’t approach life here as a visitor—expecting the fun to always be obvious and aggressive. Instead, relocate with the mindset of someone ready to live here. When you live here, really live here, you’ll find charm, oddities and a community dazzling with dimension. I know there are many who are not bewitched with life here.

There are many who think I’m crazy for seeing this small city with the light of an artist’s muse. That’s okay. I’m just one transplant of many. But maybe, just maybe these ramblings will cause you to look around with new eyes. Just be warned, like me, you may become enamored and addicted to watching life unfold up here in Hot Dish Territory.

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