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Bull Riding, Bemidji
by Sarah Dahlheimer


My boyfriend and I and our favorite married couple to hang out with go to the bull riding show at the Sanford Center on Saturday night. I watch a girl ride a galloping horse, one-handed, around a darkened corral with a blinding spotlight following her, while we sing the national anthem and she holds the American flag. The forty bull riders, clad in protective vests and chaps, hold their cowboy hats over their hearts at one end of the arena. As the horse passes by the young men, it spooks—but the girl has perfect control over the horse that likely is blinded by the spotlight. At the end, as the crowd cheers, the horse rears up onto its hind legs. We are all proud at that moment.

Some of the bulls are small with horns filed down to nubs, and they are trained to exit the arena as soon as they’re free of their riders. Others have more spunk. One immediately rams its rider into the gate, charges after the “clowns” in the ring, and then goes back for the rider. The rider jumps up on the fence, holds shakily on until the bull is chased away, and then collapses to the ground. He has to be carried out of the arena. We never hear what happens to him.

After eight seconds a buzzer goes off, announcing a winner or a loser. Several men make it, but most fail instantly, throwing hats off and kicking the dirt, angry at their defeat. One skinny boy holds on for eight seconds, jumps off after the buzzer sounded, and holds his hands high in the air, shouting victory.

“Psh, what is he? Fourteen?” a man behind me laughs.

I look up at the other bull riders sitting amongst the rails above the bulls. None cheer for the kid. They look jealous or ashamed as they await their turn to be thrown off their bulls.



Bullseye, Verndale

by Anne Sinotte


It’s Saturday night, March 23, in central Minnesota. I’ve spent the day at a snow tubing hill with friends and family. I forgot how much fun it is to race down a hill completely out of control.

A friend called and wanted to get some dinner, so I go directly from tubing to meet him, my hair matted down from my knit cap, and my Sorrel boots still on my feet. We go to a new restaurant in Verndale, and the parking lot is full. That’s always a good sign. Three snowmobiles are parked in front, where someday there will be green grass but which is today buried by several feet of snow.

As we walk in, I’m hit with a mixed din of laughing voices, multiple televised basketball games, and knives clinking on creamy, ceramic plates. Four young cowgirls are sitting at a high top in the bar. Each of them is wearing oversized cowboy hats, polished cowboy boots, and blue jeans with sparkles covering their back pockets. I realize too late that I’m walking through the invisible cloud of their combined perfumes.

Camouflage is the preferred fashion tonight. At least four people at every banquet table have, somewhere on their body, at least one piece of the green and gray pattern. Men, women, toddlers, and grandpas are wearing it. Camouflage knows no boundaries.

The snowmobile owners sit along the east wall, slightly in front of a gynormous TV screen in the corner of the cavernous restaurant area. Steaks sizzle with cedar chip smokiness as the waitress whisks them past us and onto the snowmobilers’ table. From each of the ten televisions positioned around the bar and dining areas, a different NCAA game bombards our senses.

The snowmobilers have removed the straps of their bib snow pants from their shoulders, and have unzipped the bibs down to their hips. The straps lie on the floor next to the legs of the chair, drooping like crepe paper decorations that have been stretched too far.

Fifteen banquet tables are filled with large families, elderly diners, groups of couples, groups of men, and bunches of friends eating dinner together. I feel like we’re the only couple eating without companions. Televised shouts and squeaks from basketball shoes prick my ears as I drink my Captain and sour. He’s drinking a Miller Platinum. I don’t like beer, but his bottle is pretty to look at.

Chairs scrape as people push back from their tables, full. The remaining carnage is quickly removed, the tables misted with a long-necked spray bottle, then wiped with a gray bar rag. New people fill the chairs and the cycle starts again.

Our server is a husky young man. A few beads of sweat shine on his forehead as he brings our meal. He’s earning his money tonight. Another young server scoots behind him on her way to her tables. She turns sideways and the unmistakable bulge of pregnancy surprises me as it stretches her tee shirt to the edges of its cotton limits.



Herberger’s, Bemidji

by Hannah Solheim


I spend my Saturday night closing the coats and lingerie section. I put away some freight consisting of large white panties and unmolded brassieres.

At my register, a customer asks, “Why doesn’t anyone check the back of my card? It says ‘See I.D.’ for a reason.” I nod in agreement with her even though I don’t agree.

It slows down around 7 p.m. I browse through other departments and spray myself with Dot by Marc Jacobs, the 3.4-ounce-sized bottle worth $89. Two sprits four to five times a week—I must’ve used half of this test bottle. I straighten racks of spring coats, buttoning or zipping up to imaginary throats, and size bras from the smallest cup and band size to the largest, 42DDD. I close down four tills; my fingers darken after counting over $1,200.

I go home to cinnamon whisky.
Sarah Dahlheimer is pursuing a BFA in creative and professional writing, and often writes about different aspects of life in northern Minnesota. Anne Sinotte hails from a small town in central Minnesota, and writes of family and the natural world; she will be graduating with a BFA in May. Hannah Solheim is an English Major at BSU.