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The secret to loving where you live

I was born in North Dakota but moved to Idaho when I was 5. I loved the small town I grew up in though I moved away promptly after graduation. After quite a bit of exploring, and many states tried on for homes, we moved back to Watford City in 2000. I loved the tiny town and the tiny grocery stores and the simple life. Not to mention my roots were deep and I had cousins I’d never met who grew up here.

We moved away one more time for a job or two but returned in 2003. Home. That’s exactly what it felt like coming here. I was tempted to move away in the early days of the oil boom, when chaos took over calm. But my roots and family were here and nearby and even the thought of moving away would haunt me with its loneliness.

I could always tell which of my Idaho friends was here with the oil boom when their Facebook profile picture would change to a North Dakota sky. Yes indeed, the sky does something to you here. And so does this sweet little town of Watford City. I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful people who come and go here. I even lived in a camper for year and a half and joined them everywhere but the laundry mat. Thank God I had family who let me come to their house for that!

We moved to a new house in April and I’ve been devouring the history of the people who homesteaded here so many years ago. I am living nearby the very church that my great, great grandparents helped start when they moved to this very area I am enjoying now. Their 13-year-old-son was the first person buried in the cemetery even before the church was built. Surely not the contribution they were intending, but life was hard and loss was plenty.

I dive into these stories. I read and research and ask questions and I imagine what life was like for them. I am honored to learn their stories, to meet them so many years later.

I told my husband the other day that I figured out the secret to loving where you live. Knowing me, he asked if it was learning everything about it and its people. Oh yes, that is certainly one of the ways! How much more do I love Mckenzie County when I get to know the people who persevered here. I don’t see the lack of trees. I see the trees they planted still standing proudly in circles around what used to be a home. I see the work of their hands and the dreams in their hearts everywhere I turn. I know why even the thought of moving away during the peak of the oil boom mayhem filled me with loneliness. How could I leave all that I’ve come to know and respect about those who were here before us? I dove into life here many years ago, seeking to know and to savor.

The secret to small town living is simple. Join in to what it has to offer.

We go to all the parades and the free BBQ meals downtown and all that is packed into life here. We go to the petting zoos and the fair and to Art in the Park and Watford Market and to Homefest and Ribfest. We meet new friends and say hello to old ones. We visit the Pioneer Museum and the Heritage Park in town and get to know even more about our former and current neighbors here. We love our sweet town! If you haven’t joined into life where you live, please do. I think it just might change everything!

Written by Rebekah Engebretson


Rebekah lives in a little house on the prairie with her husband and 4 daughters near Watford City. She is a huge North Dakota fan and loves people and taking pictures and personality tests.

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