Tag Archives: Molly McLain

Wind Turbine Mosaic in Langdon, North Dakota

Some of the 20th century Cold War missile public art in Langdon, North Dakota. The Langdon Elementary School is immediately behind this missile.

Some of the 20th century Cold War missile public art in Langdon, North Dakota. The Langdon Elementary School is immediately behind this missile.

Molly and I are now back in Fargo, having returned from a couple days in Langdon, northeastern North Dakota. To my right is a small pincer sized Cypriot coffee (I trucked back a couple bags of the stuff upon finishing my eastern Mediterranean archaeological trench supervisory work in June 2012, some details of that here and here and here), and on the stove is a long link of smoked garlic Langdon Locker sausage (sides include grated horseradish, stone ground mustard, ketchup). Oranges are also going to make an appearance for breakfast.

While in Langdon, though, Molly was on a special assignment with the Langdon public school system and the Northern Lights Arts Council. Her colleague and friend, Mindi Paulson, had an idea a couple months ago to co-lead an art project that would produce a mural for the entrance of the Langdon Elementary School. They decided to reflect the built landscape, or the wind turbine field immediately southeast of Langdon. The interesting thing about this 21st century wind turbine field is that it surrounds abandoned 20th century Cold War ICBM architecture, namely the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex. In running errands here and there while in Langdon, and in viewing 20th century missile architecture in Langdon, I got to thinking about the perceptual shift in the Langdon landscape.

Teacher Mindi Paulson (far right) leads students in grouting the public wind turbine mosaic at the Langdon Elementary School.

Teacher Mindi Paulson (far right) leads students in grouting the public wind turbine mosaic at the Langdon Elementary School.

Last century, at least up until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR, the public art projects in Langdon understandably amounted to potential nuclear holocaust, a byproduct of many things: competing D.C. and Moscow ideologies, Eisenhower’s military industrial complex, Cold War anxiety, eventual acceptance, and so on. David Mills has a lengthy monograph on this subject.

And this century, instead of massive Federal military infrastructure projects that reflect potential nuclear Armageddon, we get architecture that reflects and generates green, renewable energy. And you can see how it bears on the public art projects. So today students learn about wind turbines and the hands-on of making wind turbine murals. Last century the public art was a different story. In the discipline of history, we call that a perceptual shift or an intellectual turn. Or something like that.

Teacher Mindi Paulson explains the process of grouting to the students as Molly McLain grouts.

Teacher Mindi Paulson explains the process of grouting to the students as Molly McLain grouts.


White Chicken Chili

Molly's white chicken chili.

Molly’s white chicken chili.

There’s something like a 3rd or 7th polar vortex bearing down on the northern Great Plains and Great Lakes region on this sunny, cold Saturday lunch hour. Yesterday Molly suggested that we make white chicken chili. I set the navy beans to soaking yesterday afternoon, and she put soup together just before lunch today. Lots of coriander, cumin, Tochi’s taco seasoning, green and red chilies, etc. This is what she was telling me after I asked, “Why is this so delicious?” We also added cilantro just before serving. Note: what you can’t see in this photo are the two chihuahuas at my feet. Seriously. They are named Willow and Honey. This soup is heating us up for sure. Polar vortex, your serve.


Harley McLain

In 1979-1980, JB and Harley McLain (brothers) cut this wrote, played and cut this album in Hollywood. It appropriated the "NPL" acronym, but replaced the Non-Partisan League with the Natural People's League. Note the earthworms that make up the "NPL."

In 1979-1980, JB and Harley McLain (brothers) wrote, played and cut this album in Hollywood. It appropriated the “NPL” acronym, but replaced the Non-Partisan League with the Natural People’s League. Note the earthworms that make up the “NPL.” Photo by Darren King.

If you haven’t yet caught the passing of Harley McLain, here are some links on stories that The Bismarck Tribune, The Fargo Forum, and News Dakota have put together. Please take the time to read them. They are beautifully written. While I have only known Harley since 2012, it appears that the entire northern Great Plains has known him since at least the 1960s. This is testament to his beautiful soul.

I was thinking the other day about a photo of a younger Harley with his wife, Julie. In the photo Harley’s shirt read, “Question Authority.” He did that, of course. It made me think about how in Harley’s questioning of authority, he himself became his own author. In that, he believed in the state of North Dakota, and therefore the country and world (I’m convinced that he still does from the other side). He believed in it so much that he decided to speak up about a variety of issues, and with his particular charm and wit.

Tracy Potter, after hearing about Harley’s passing, remembered his good friend on Facebook. Tracy said,

Sad news today from Molly McLain. Her father, my friend, Harley McLain rejoined his beautiful wife Julie yesterday. Harley was a remarkable man, who had more influence on North Dakota with his guerrilla theatre approach to politics than many much more serious reformers. Out of his campaigns and legal action, North Dakota’s corrupt ballot structure (which Harley argued offended his “poetic sensibilities”) was ruled unconstitutional by Federal courts, giving us the modern, rotating ballot. Always fun, always interesting, and always the kindest, gentle heart. I’ll miss him.

Harley McLain, circa 2007.

Harley McLain, circa 2007. Photo by Logan Hanson.

Today and tomorrow and forever, we will continue recounting Harley stories and memories. They bring simultaneous tears and laughs. Harley impressed himself upon anyone who was within his range. Darren King, a slaying upright bassist and family friend of the McLain’s, said:

A couple of days ago North Dakota lost one of its great dreamers, political activists, songwriters, fathers, and forward thinkers. I look forward to jamming again someday Harley. Thanks for helping to raise me.

In conversations around the McLain family table last night, between JB McLain, Chris McLain, Molly McLain, Mira McLain, Matthew McLain, and Ben Simonson, we figured out that Harley, during his life, hung out with Allen Ginsberg, Hunter Thompson, potentially Keith Richards (happening into one another on some boat in the Mediterranean), and for a short time he lived down the street from one if not all of the Ramones. And these were just the individuals we pegged around the table last night. The list by no means is exhaustive.

The most important thing about Harley is that he would treat these individuals the same way he would treat anyone else: without pretension, with respect, and ready for insight and humor and give-and-take conversation. Harley loved people. He loved individuals. If you look at someone who knew Harley, you’re looking a bit at the man himself.

Bless you, Harley McLain. Thank you for the wonderful family you and Julie gave to North Dakota. And to use a bit of Scandinavian subtlety, I’m particularly fond of Molly.

From a sunny Valley City, North Dakota, Aaron L. Barth.


Blizzard Grilling On the Northern Great Plains

Rick Gion recently returned from southwestern North Dakota, having hunted pheasant around Mott and Regent. He brought back pheasant, and we — Rick, Molly and I — ended up grilling them last night. Rick pounded out the pheasant breasts and made a roulade, tying them up with peppers, jack cheese, and prosciutto. It, the weather, also decided to turn to a blizzard — icamnatanka — leading up to the grilling. So we just forged ahead. Molly prepared a delicious wildrice-mushroom hot dish, inspired by Linda Whitney (my aunt) and her knowledge of how they prep wild rice hot dishes up around Devils Lake, North Dakota in general. It was a northern Great Plains winter meal through and through. Here are some photos from the late afternoon and evening.

A bag of sensibly priced charcoal purchased as the blizzard set in.

A bag of sensibly priced charcoal purchased as the blizzard set in.

Rick prepares the pheasant-breast roulade.

Rick prepares the pheasant-breast roulade.

Molly's wild rice-mushroom hot dish. This is perfect eating for a blizzard.

Molly’s wild rice-mushroom hot dish. This is deliciously perfect eating for a blizzard.

Grilling the roulade. The temps were sub-zero at this point. In the distance from the grill is a mildly creepy-looking snowman I built the night prior, in anticipation for the sub-zero weather.

Grilling the roulade. The temps were sub-zero at this point. In the distance from the grill is a mildly creepy-looking snowman I built the night prior, in anticipation for the sub-zero weather.

The plated meal. We ended up finishing the roulade in the oven after putting a char on it with the grill. Wild rice-mushroom hot dish to the left, and steamed broccoli above, this just below a bit of table red.

The plated meal. We ended up finishing the roulade in the oven after putting a char on it with the grill. Wild rice-mushroom hot dish to the left, and steamed broccoli above, this just below a bit of table red.