It was dark, but that doesn't mean it was very late. In the Red River Valley of the North, the sun sets by 4 o'clock and it
doesn't come up until about 8:30 the following day.
It was cold, but that isn't unusual in the winter either. This particular early evening, it was nearly 40 degrees below
zero. North Dakota has a saying, "Forty below keeps the riffraff out." Some people claim it is the state motto.
Those same people have declared the state tree to be the telephone pole. That is possible, since there are not many trees
in North Dakota. The state bird has facetiously been named the mosquito, and even they have sense enough to head south in
the harsh Red River Valley winters.
A police car pulled up in front of the house where Mission Socorro makes its headquarters. A man and a woman got out of
the squad car and accompanied the officer to the front door, where they were met by the Smiths, who invited them in.
The officer explained that somebody had called in a complaint because somebody was messing around in a deserted house.
The man, who said he had been working the rodeo in Wyoming, and his wife had come to East Grand Forks because they heard there
was a lot of work from the farming. That is true, but not in the middle of the winter!
After getting the couple warmed up and fed, arrangements were made for them to stay at a local motel that contributes
a certain number of nights lodging each year in lieu of a financial contribution to Mission Socorro. The following day they
came back and a couple of calls were made to American Crystal Sugar Company, the largest employer in the area. The man was
given a job within an hour, and Mission Socorro contacted one of the landlords they often refer people to, and housing was
secured for the couple.
The next few years were filled with silence. Once in awhile when Mission Socorro contacted someone at American Crystal,
they would ask about the rodeo fellow. They watched his progress as he worked his way up, eventually becoming a supervisor.
A few months ago the fellow called Mission Socorro. He said they were going back to Wyoming. He had reached retirement
age, and thanks to Mission Socorro giving him a hand up, he was able to do so comfortably. "I owe you," he said.
"Do something good for somebody else in need," we told him, which is the principle that Mission Socorro was
"No problem," he said. "I've already done that--many times."