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Home is small town basketball in a ‘barn’

Choose to be home, wherever that might be. And if you need a new sense of home, go find it, even in the dead of winter.

Two girls basketball teams are on the court in a building that is a Quonset hut with a rounded roof.
The basketball court in Binford, North Dakota, is in a Quonset. But in the unusual setting, surrounded by basketball players and rural fans, Katie Pinke felt at home.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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Have you ever lost your sense of “home?” I’m not talking about your physical home where you lay your head to sleep or eat meals at a table — I’m referring to that overwhelming feeling of comfort and wholeness. As I get older, I’m learning I find my home in ordinary places and in the everyday.

For farmers, that sense of home might hit during harvest, despite the chaos around you. For ranchers, home might be checking your cows as they graze a summer pasture. For us moms, a sense of home comes when we rock our babies to sleep, knowing we’re right where we’re supposed to be, no matter the hour of day or level of exhaustion. Home might be your favorite vacation spot, visiting your best friend or sipping coffee in a cozy café corner.

Our family packed up our home 3 years ago and moved. We lived with my parents for several months, and now we’re living in a rental until our new family residence is finished. On top of that, the pandemic took away places, people and routine — all of which give me a sense of home.

This winter, I found my sense of home and belonging again in an unusual place, small-town gymnasiums watching girls basketball. Last week we attended four games to watch our daughter Elizabeth play.

Katie-Pinke.jpeg
Katie Pinke

According to the basketball schedule, Elizabeth and her team were going to play in Binford, North Dakota, in early January. I couldn’t help but question if they still play high school sports in Binford, population 160. Certainly, we were supposed to be in the county seat school in Cooperstown — I thought it had to be a mistake on the schedule.

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My parents farm in the northern part of the county and I knew several family and friends would be close to attend the game in Binford, which, by the way, is most known for attracting thousands to its annual PBR rodeo each summer. I picked up my nephew and niece from school to join me on the road trip to Binford, stopping at my brother’s place along the way and then to the farm where more family joined the caravan to Binford.

A colorful mural in Binford, North Dakota, with the words "The biggest little town in North Dakota," "Welcome to Binford," and "Founded in 1899,"along with pictures of the school mascots used by the town over the years, the zipcode of 58416 and more.
A mural in the town of Binford, North Dakota, caught Katie Pinke's eye when her family came to town for a basketball game in January 2022.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

As we pulled into town at dusk, a small herd of deer trotted down the street in front of us. A mural caught my eye, and my brother laughed as I came to a complete stop on the main street to roll down my window and take a picture of it. The mural serves as a welcome mat to the small town.

(Note: No one rolls down their window without a real purpose in January on the North Dakota prairie.)

Binford’s gymnasium is a barn, or a Quonset hut to most, with its round roof and wood ceiling. We sat as a family in the front corner of the gym on wooden bleachers.

During the second half of the varsity game, I walked up to the stage. I don’t know if it was the stage curtain, the barn feel or the small-town gym, but the people, place and feeling gave me a much-needed feeling of completeness, even though I have no real connection to the school or town.

Tacos in a bag from a concession stand in the dead of January. That feels like home.

Putting on long underwear and wool socks to face the biting wind as I hustle from the car to the school, to my brother’s house, to the family farm and to the gymnasium? Feels like a prairie winter — and that feels like home.

Charging up my camera battery and taking pictures again at events I’ve deeply missed? Feels like home.

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Surrounded by my parents, in-laws, sister, brother, nephews, niece, husband and kids, courtside in various schools dotting our rural countryside? Home.

Choose to be home, wherever that might be. And if you need a new sense of home, go find it, even in the dead of winter.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Related Topics: PINKE POSTRURAL LIFE
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