You’d be surprised at small town America and the stories you might hear if you spend some time at a local watering hole. We know, you’re likely on your way to almost anywhere else. Our little home towns with our single stoplights, and noon special diners are rarely the desired destinations for travelers.
Except for maybe once a year, when any Midwest town worth driving to, has it’s annual celebration. Where I’m from we will celebrate anything in the summer!
We celebrate water towers, chislic, flowers, outlaws, quarries.. Literally anything… We also have Pow Wows, All kinds of Reunions, Centennials, Sesquicentennials for those fancier towns established before statehood in the Dakotas.
The highlight of these small town celebrations is people show up… Sons, daughters, cousins and friends come home to visit, because if we don’t celebrate Jesse James, who will???
Most of these celebrations are capped with a street dance, and if you’ve never attended one I highly recommend it! If you don’t like drinking and dancing on Main Street to a cover band playing Don’t Stop Believing, I still 10/10 would recommend going just to people watch. Or listen.
I have heard some of the wildest stories (probably starred in a few as well) at gatherings like these. The story will be told, and you’ll be as confused as a fart in a fan factory. Oh but not for long! There will be a guy who won’t say names, but he’ll tell you all about the “cover-up”... Could be a murder, could be a robbery, could be a story about someone breaking into cars stealing change, maybe poachers… It doesn’t have to be sensational, it just has to be unsolved, or at least without a clearly defined sequence of events.
It wasn’t until I started listening to Dakota Spotlight this past spring, that I discovered I wasn’t alone! I wasn’t the only one who refused to accept one of these conspiracy theories without a second thought.
I wasn’t the only one who was irritated hearing a whale of a tale with no facts. I was no longer alone in my search for some damn answers, and mostly, I wasn’t alone in my disappointment. The kind of disappointment you feel when society feels like sandpaper against the grain of your morality. Angry after you hear a story about a teenage girl found dead in the creek on the edge of a town you practically grew up in, but would barely tell you her name. Or when it happened. Yet, somehow, all of them knew with alarming confidence who was responsible, and why…
It wasn’t until I heard James Wolner tell the story of Viktor Newberry, that I finally felt like I wasn’t the only one pissed off at all these people who seem to know it all, but have never thought to do anything, other than gossip, about it…. This wasn’t poachers, or a change thief. This was a young lady who these people claim was murdered. Why in the hell isn’t anyone raising hell about this?? Alas, across the prairie in Glen Ullin North Dakota the story of Viktor Newberry’s death and the cover up that followed was told to James. Unacceptable without facts, finally someone set out to find some.
Last spring I was sick of hearing about quid pro quo, conspiracies, cover ups, collusion, but mostly I was sick of hearing about “fake news”... James so accurately described what I was feeling I had to add a little snippet!
The thing about conspiracies, is that they’re supposed to be secret… If a whole town knows about it, it’s not much of a conspiracy. If the allegations of a cover up were true, and everyone knows about it, aaannnddd nobody does anything about it? That’s not a conspiracy, that’s bullshit. That’s blatant abuse of power, and a bunch of dumbasses who allow it to happen.
I don’t even think I was through the first episode of Dakota Spotlight before I was emailing James. It felt like I had a kindred spirit up there in North Dakota, and turns out I was right!
I reached out to James and he’s been an incredible resource, I enjoy collaborating with him on various projects! He’s been so kind to offer help and encouragement, I’ve come to think of him as a friend (even if he is from ND)... Hahaha! Just kidding! North Dakota is great in the summer!
*I should really get some sound effects to highlight these hilarious jokes*
James’ podcast journey with Dakota Spotlight began much like mine did. Albeit about 3 years apart, but that’s ok, somebody has to know the things.
He found himself in Glen Ullin, North Dakota for their annual Fall Festival. Somehow he ended up listening to some guy in a bar tell him about a guy named Viktor Newberry, how he was whacked by the Boston Mob and the local police covered up the true nature of his death.
Well, he wasn’t just going to take the word of some guy who likes to tell stories. So, he started checking it out. Just like anyone else could, but won’t for some reason. They’d rather sit there with their rumors, than actually try to find out some facts. My experience with Debbie Vallejo’s case, and James’ deep dive into the life and death of Viktor Newberry struck every chord in my soul. Not in a weird way, but in a “oh yay, I feel less like a crazy person!” sort of way...
Let’s see what he’s up to……