North Dakota Folklore

Wrong Side Up

A North Dakota Folktale

retold by

S.E. Schlosser 

One spring in the early 1880s, a North Dakota pioneer was plowing his land. As he broke through the long prairie grass and turned it under in preparation for planting a crop of wheat, he noticed an old Dakota man watching him. When the pioneer stopped to rest, the old man approached him. The old man examined the plowed ground and finally picked up a clod of prairie grass which had been turned over by the plow.

"Wrong side up," he said, and put it down with the grass on top. Then he walked away.

The pioneer thought it a great joke at the time. But the old man was right. North Dakota lost millions of acres of good soil, blown away by the wind, because the settlers had turned the prairie grass wrong side up.


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