Northern Lights (1978) - full transcript

NORTHERN LIGHTS has the feel of an old black and white photograph discovered in an attic. The bitter-sweet story of young lovers caught up in an political struggle waged by farmers against the grain trade, the banks and the railroads, NORTHERN LIGHTS brings back a forgotten era of American history and evokes the austere beauty of the Northern Plains. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
(thrilling music)

(footsteps trudging) (somber music)

- [Narrator] I grew up in a little town west of Minneapolis

about 110 miles called Sacred Heart.

(somber music)

Not only worked in town, my father and I also worked

at a farm a mile and a half from town,

and when we got tired of living in town,

he'd move out to the farm and do some farming.

I plowed with a team of horses and a walking plow.

It was the boy that walked, not the plow by the way,

and when the horses got tired, I thought the old man

wasn't looking, I'd lie down, let the horses breathe,

and I'd dream about somebody from the outside world

coming up with some fast stepping horses and tell me,

we're just been looking for a boy that'll go out with us

with our circus, and how would you like it?

Oh, it'd be wonderful, and so forth and so on.

By that time, the dream was over,

time to go home and do the chores at night.

(stairs squeaking) (footsteps thudding)

So when I became 21, I followed in my father's footsteps

and went up to northwestern North Dakota,

right up on the Canadian border and homesteaded

near a little railroad town called Crosby.

(clock ticking)

Just a day or two ago, I was rummaging around

some old papers of mine and I came upon an old diary

I didn't even know I had.

(somber music)

It was written by a fellow I had known up there

on the claim there Crosby, name of Ray Sorenson.

Ray's father Henrik had come up there in the '90s,

so by now Ray, together with his brother John

and the old man was working a decent sized farm

while I was still living in my old sod shack.

(somber music)

(clock ticking)

So I figured, I'm not necessarily getting any younger

at 94 years of age, and here was an opportunity to put down

a good yarn about those old times, good times too,

almost forgotten by most folks,

times when we had (typewriter clicking)

the powers that be on the run.

I had Ray's diary to tell most of the story for me.

So I sat down at my typewriter and got started.

(typewriter clicking)

(bittersweet music)

(distant wind whistling) (pages ruffling)

(Ray blowing)

- March 19th, 1915.

Going to see Inga this afternoon.

Be tough and insist on an answer.

(car cranking)

(car revving)

(car cranking)

(footsteps crunching)

(Inga laughing)

You tell me.

I'll leave you here,

and I got you now.

(Ray heavy breathing)

Now tell me.

If you don't tell me, I'm gonna put snow down your back.

- If you put snow down my back, I'll say no.

- All right then, I won't put snow down on your back.

- Then I won't say no.

- What will you say?

- [Inga] Yes.

(lively music)

- [Ray] September 5th, 1915,

the day of my engagement party.

We started off in the blind pig

in the back of Gordon's elevator.

The joke is that Gordon steels your green from you

in the front and bootlegs it back to you

as booze in the rear.

- That bug in the boy.

- [Ray Voiceover] But he's just a flunky

for the big milling boys in the Twin Cities.

Small potatoes compared to those grafters.

- You're gonna be sold on this League, aren't you?

- Yeah, you're gonna be sold on it too.

Next few months are gonna be critical.

- Oh, come on, don't get started on the League again.

- Don't get serious on us, Sven.

- I'm only saying, think about it.

- [Knut] Time for another toast?

- All right, let's see.

Here's to Ray.

I told him not to do it, but he did it.

(all laughing)

- [Knut] One brother down, one to go.

- You're next, Johnny.

- Yeah.


- What do you got?

- [John] I'm out.

- [Sven] Nuts.

- I gotta go get cleaned up.

Come on, Ray.

Don't wanna keep Ma late.

- I'm gonna stay one more hand.

It's my deal then.

I'm winning.

- You going too?

- See you in a little bit.

- [John] See you at home then, huh?

- I'll be there.

- [John] And don't be late.

- I'll be there.

With John gone,

Sven got going on the League again.

I told him I'd join if I win enough money.

- It's two, Sven.

He gambled on a couple pairs,

but I had three eights.

- Very impressive, right?

- Lay off, Sven.

It's my engagement day.

Never met an organizer yet

with a sense of humor.

(Kari speaking foreign language)

(plates clattering)

(Kari speaking foreign language)

- [Ray] When I finally got out of there,

I knew I'd be in trouble at home,

and there are two things Mother doesn't tolerate,

missing grace and talking politics at the table,

but Father would be all right.

I could just see him, waiting to get

that first drink under his belt.

- [Mrs. Sorenson] Amen.

- Amen.

(indistinct family chattering)

(Mrs. Sorenson speaking foreign language)

- [Henrik] Bunch of hypocrites.

Not all of them, but most of them.

(Thor speaking foreign language)

(Knut speaking foreign language)

(Henrik speaking foreign language)

- Hello, Inga.

- You come for dinner?

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- There's no hurry, William.

It's a special occasion.

- [Ray] Of course, it was a strange

engagement party without Inga's parents there.

Ole and Adelaide had decided to hire out

to a threshing crew at the last minute.

Couldn't come.

Anything to make ends meet, but Uncle Thor tried

to cheer everybody up by telling his grass story

for the hundredth time.

(Thor speaking foreign language)

(Knut speaking foreign language)

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- So where's the toast?

- What was that?

- [John] Where's the toast?

- Well, if it's a toast you want, you'll have a toast.

(all laughing)

Here's to Inga and Ray, good people.


- [All] Skol!

- But make sure Ray, that you make love

like a Viking marauder.

(adults laughing)

- For my part, I have, I've written,

I've written a poem that, so here goes.

"Ole was a hunter who hunted the buffalo,

but Lena hunted Ole and laid the poor boy low,

and when the couple went to bed

to keep their marriage pledge,

Lena stayed on her own side, Ole hugged the other edge,

and so it went for one full year,

and Lena's belly rose and Ole's friends came by

to toast the thing that they supposed,

and Ole smiled and Lena smiled and let their neighbors know

that they did sure appreciate

the friends that loved them so.

The next year too a child was born and once more

guests came by and Ole smiled and Lena smiled

and no one questioned by,

and finally one cold winter's night,

Lena turned to Ole and said,

Ole, don't you want to come to my side of the bed?

Said Ole, Lena, dear, I am a hunter who hunts the buffalo.

I learn my trade from the Indians and I do things just so.

In olden times, the Indians rode up and speared their prey,

but now we have repeating guns, we fight from far away.

So Lena dear, we have two sons

by this method tried and true.

I'd be nothing but a Tusken to come and sleep with you."

(scattered laughing)

To Ray and Inga, skol.

(adults laughing)

- Forsythe is only giving Papa a month.

- Charlie Forsythe, the banker from Crosby,

is demanding his mortgage payment.

He's down to McGregor already.

Ole and Adelaide can work their fingers

to the bone, but only a good harvest can help them now.

(rooster crowing) (chickens clucking)

(sheep bleating)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(Mrs. Sorenson speaking foreign language)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(Mrs. Sorenson speaking foreign language)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(Mrs. Sorenson speaking foreign language)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(somber music)

- [Ray] After Inga and the guests had gone,

father and I took a walk up on the hill.

He drank a toast to my engagement,

but asked me to hold the wedding off 'til after harvest.

Inga's parents are too worried

about mortgage payments right now,

but I wonder if he knows I'm more worried about him.

(distant wind whipping)

(wind whooshing)

(Henrik singing nonsensically)

(stairs creaking)

- [Ray] Everything all right?

(Henrik speaking foreign language)

- That little gray bird, trying to get in, kept trying.

Then I heard him at the kitchen window.

I covered that.

You still hear him banging, trying to get in.

- Better get some sleep, far.

Well, I'll leave the lamp.

(Henrik speaking foreign language)

- [Ray] Goodnight far.

(Henrik speaking foreign language)

(knife clanging)

(Ole speaking foreign language)

(shotgun booming) (pig squealing)

(Ole speaking foreign language)

(pig grunting)

(Ole speaking foreign language)

- [Ray] September 15th, 1915.

Today we went to Ole and Adelaide's to butcher him.

Ole's up against it.

This is the last of their pigs, the one Inga and the kids

raised on a bottle.

(knives scraping)

(hacksaw scraping)

When we were through, Howard came over and started

to badger me about the League again.

- Somebody ought to do something.

- [Ray] Howard and Sven want to start organizing

down around Wildrose and they need men to help.

A lot of talk, but nothing ever comes of it.

Anyway, I had to get home to help father with the cattle.

Hang over here boys.

(cows mooing)

(brand sizzling)

With grain prices down,

we need the cash now.

We spent the afternoon rebranding for the new owners.

- [Henrik] Get up.

Get up, you devil.

- [Ray] Now all father's got left is Blacktoes.

- Look him go, calf.

- [Ray] He's so fond of the little calf.

I don't think anything could make him give it up.

(cow mooing)

(wind whooshing)

(Henrik groaning)

(Henrik singing in foreign language)

(wind whipping)

(buttons clicking)

(knocking on door)

- Far?

(door creaking)

(rooster crowing)


(footsteps tapping)


Come back by Olsness' road.

I think he'd use it lot.

(distant wind whistling)

(footsteps tapping)

(Ray heavy breathing)

(dismal music)

(Mrs. Sorenson speaking foreign language)

- When the threshing crew gets here, we've got to be ready.

- Yeah, yeah.

(pots rattling)

(oven clattering)

- So sorry, Ray.

They'll be here soon.

(Ray groaning)

(wagon creaking)

(dismal music)

(wheels creaking)

(pallbearers groaning)

(pastor speaking foreign language)

- Amen.

(mourners singing in foreign language)

(mournful music)

- Ray, they're here.

- [Ray] The day after the funeral,

the threshing crew finally arrived.

We worked straight up the section road

and finished our place and Knut's in five days.

Today we're setting up at Ole's.

The wheat is still dry and in good shape,

but Ole's in bed with a high fever.

Kenny, Klaus, and some of the others

have rallied together to help, but Uncle Thor is afraid

there's a new blizzard blowing in from Canada,

so there's no time to lose.

(crew member yelling)

(thresher chugging)

(crockery clattering)

- Inga, how soon?

- About 10 minutes.

- How's your papa?

- He's worried.

- Well, don't you worry.

Things will work out.

(door clattering)

(crew members yelling indistinctly)

(thresher chugging)

- [Inga] Coffee!

(coffee filling)

(Thor speaking foreign language)

(thresher chugging)

(wind whistling)

(thresher chugging)

(crew members yelling indistinctly)

(wind whipping)

(horse neighing)

(wind whooshing) (thresher chugging)

(crew members laughing) - [Ray] But we did it.

When we went back to the cook car,

we had saved 90% of Ole's crop.

Thank God for friends and neighbors like these.

(crew members speaking foreign language)

Harvest dance in town tomorrow night.

About time for a celebration.

(festive music)

- Back.

- Back.

Over. - Over.



(Inga, Ray laughing)

(heartwarming music)

- November 1st, 1915.

Inga and I have set our wedding date,

but mother won't be here.

(footsteps clicking)

Let me help with that.

The farm no longer seems like home to her with Henrik gone.

Her sister Amanda is sick back at the old home place

in Ohio, and mother is going to visit her for the last time,

(footsteps clicking)

(footsteps trudging)

(wagon creaking)

(somber music)

but our lives go on, and now new problems have appeared.

Grain prices are still down, and we've had to take out

a second mortgage with Forsythe to meet expenses.

The railroads have raised shipping rates

to the Twin Cities again, and everyone's feeling the pinch.

As times get harder, League organizers like Howard and Sven

don't waste any time, but they're dreamers if they think

they can fight the big money boys head on.

Try to tell them that.

Sven never misses a chance to get on me about the League.

- Howard and I were thinking, your uncle Thor Nyquist

lives down on the Wildrose Road.

- Yeah, that's right.

- Well, we don't have so many

old rebel Norwegians down there.

Now that threshing's done, you go down there

and talk to some of those men with your uncle Thor,

it'd really help us get things rolling.

- Well, John's gonna need me at the farm now that Far's dead

and in a month, I'm gonna be a married man.

- Ray, you argued with me for six months

before you even signed up.

Now that we can use that big mouth of years,

you got nothing to say.

- Well, I'd like to help, but I just can't.

I'll see you around.

(train whistle blowing)

I've got enough problems without Sven.

Inga is afraid that Forsythe might not give Ole an extension

on his mortgage in spite of the good harvest.

(typewriter clicking)

Ole can't sell his grain until prices go up,

but Forsythe may not wanna wait that long.

(typewriter clicking)

- [Teller] Mr. Sorensen, Mr. Forsythe'll see you now.

(footsteps clicking)

- He's delinquent here.

- Yeah, that's three years ago.

It was a bad year for everyone.

- Well, Ray, we get no pleasure out of foreclosure.

- Ole's been a good customer of yours for many years.

- Yeah, I know, and my father knew his father.

Too good to family, I understand that.

- He's a hard worker.

He can't help flax wilt.

I hope you'll be able to give him a break, Charlie.

- Well, I'll tell you what, Ray.

I'll do everything I can.

- Thanks Charlie.

(wind whistling) In spite of my protests,

Howard and Sven finally got me to go to a League meeting

up around Kenmare over the weekend.

(engine rumbling) The League program

sounds good on paper.

Who wouldn't want state banks, elevators,

and a few good farmers in there running things

instead of those stuffed shirts from Bismarck and Fargo,

but is it fair to raise people's hopes

if nothing can be done?

(footsteps trudging)

- Look, Ray.

(crockery rattling)

- Let me have it.

- Drinking and arguing about burgers

doesn't get the work done.

We're alone here now.

It's just the two of us,

and you've got to take on a bigger share of the load.

- [Ray] You're too much John.

- If we work, we live and if we don't, we die,

and it's that simple.

It's survival.

- Grain prices, short weights, dockage fees,

phony grading, land speculation, mortgage rates.

That's what survival's about.

That's what survival's about. - No, no, no, no, no.

You guys can talk 'til you're blue.

(John spitting)

(Ray chuckling)


(John speaking foreign language)

(Ray laughing)

(horse neighing)

(wind whistling)

(horse galloping)

- [Ray] Inga!

(horse braying)

(engine rumbling)

(engine backfiring) (horse neighing)

(Adelaide speaking foreign language)

- Yeah, they're part of it.

(hammers pounding)

(Adelaide speaking foreign language)

Irv, be sure you get the door.

- Yeah, I'll get it.

(hammers pounding) (horses neighing)

(footsteps trudging)

- Looks like Ole's taking it pretty hard.

- Yeah, yeah, I guess I should go talk to him.

(hammers pounding)

- Don't say it.

Don't say anything.

(hammers pounding) (horses neighing)

- [Ole] No, Inga!

(Adelaide speaking foreign language)

(wind whipping)

(wagon rattling)

- [Ray] December 1st, 1915.

Inga is gone, and who knows what will happen to us now.

The family can stay with their Uncle Murphy who runs a store

in Crosby, but Ole and Adelaide are farmers.

They'll be fish out of water in town.

(wind whipping)

(knife pounding)

- You're not helping anything, you know.

- And you are?

(knife pounding)

- No, I'm not.

I'm doing the only thing I can do, tend to my own business.

- Good for you, John.

- Yeah.

(bottle rattling)

- You smug bastard.

- It's time to go.


Let's talk.

- No talk.

Come here, snok!

(chair slamming)


- [John] All right, go on!

You dumb square head big king!

You want peace, but then you're too drunk.

What do I care, go on! (wind whipping)

- [Ray] The hell with you, John!

(wind whooshing)

(Ray screaming)

(somber music)

(door creaking)

- He's right in here.

(rooster crowing)

(hay rustling)

- Ray.

Wake up, Ray.

(goat bleating)

Wake up, Ray.

Come on.

Feeling pretty sorry for yourself.

Enough of that.

(glass rattling)

Instead of this, could have been up in Wildrose

where we needed a man.

Let's go get some coffee.

Come on.

- [Ray] December 15th, 1915. (distant wind whistling)

This was supposed to be my wedding day.

John's no help.

All he talks about is money.

He's still holding our grain off the market,

waiting for prices to go up.

So we're broke.

The worse things get, the more Sven and Howard lean on me

about organizing in Wildrose.

- I'm going to bed.

(chair rolling)

Ray, don't do anything stupid.

I can't roof by myself.

They'll be all right without your help.

(wind whistling)

(water splashing)

(rooster crowing)

(hay rustling)

- I'm going.

I'm going, John.

- Is the League gonna roof this barn for us?

The League gonna sweet talk Forsythe

into forgetting our loan?

I gotta have it this week, Ray.

I've got to.

We're gonna lose this place.

- [Ray] You're right.

- I'm right?

So you'll stay?

- And that's why I'm gonna go because I'm not gonna let

fellas like Forsythe steal another farm.

That's ours included.

(hay rustling)

(engine rumbling) (intense music)

I drove south of Crosby to Corinth and then turned east

to Wildrose, stopping at farms all along the way.

Everywhere I found farmers skeptical or scared.

They've been stung by politicians

for so long, they're suspicious.

I traveled as far east as Hamlet and McGregor

and found the same thing, a lot of discontent,

but reluctance to do anything about it.

(intense music)

(engine chugging)

(intense music)

Inga and I tried to stay in touch while I was gone,

but only a few of her letters reached me.

Her family had gone on to stay with relatives in Milwaukee,

and Inga was left alone with Murphy in the store.

I'd only seen her a couple of times since the foreclosure.

So it was a welcome relief to go up

to Crosby for a weekend.

I found that Murphy's store is being boycotted

by local businessmen as a hotbed of League activity.

- Banker and one of these grain commission boys,

and throw in a railroad man, put 'em in a barrel,

roll it down the hill, and you know there'd be

a son of a bitch on the top every time.

(patrons laughing)

- [Ray] Murphy is planning a meeting about the problem.

- [Inga] Thanks.

- [Ray] And Inga is helping with preparations.

How's it going?

- [Inga] There's a lot to do.

- Well, we'd better get busy.

- [Inga] Yeah.

(footsteps clicking)

(pan clattering)

- [Ray] What time is it?

- [Murphy] 8:30.

(clock ticking)

(engine rumbling)

- [Ray Voiceover] January 4th, 1916.

I had to leave early so I could reach Wildrose

by nightfall and still make some stops along the way.

Late in the afternoon, I spotted a couple of farms

set near the Little Muddy River and decided to try my luck.

Have a mortgage with Forsythe, don't you?

- Oh, that's kind of personal question there.

- Well, I know you do.

- [Farmer] I've got a little one with him.

- Well, what happens if you get in the hole

and he decides to foreclose on you and there's not

a damn thing you can do about it?

- Well, he'd have to grow a might

before he'd foreclose on me.

- [Ray] Yeah, but if you get in the hole, he can do it.

- Well, I'm not in the hole yet.

- See, I've got the same problems.

If I want to be able to get the price I want for my grain,

something's gonna have to change.

That's what the League is trying to do.

- I just don't see where it's gonna do us much good.

I'll tell you what I'll do.

Seeing you're so serious about this thing,

I'll make you an offer.

I'll wrestle you for it, and if I pin you,

you get outta here and leave me and Harry alone.

If you pin me, we'll join up with you.

You game for that?

He's gonna take us up on that.

(horse neighing)

(hay rustling) (cow mooing)

(Ray, farmer groaning)

Yeah, now sodbuster.

- You just lost, you dumb cowboy.

- [Farmer] How you figure that, sodbuster?

- You just lost.

(downtrodden music)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(Kari speaking foreign language)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(clock ticking)

(rocks clacking)

- [Krist] Laid up now, huh?

- Well, there you go, Krist.

No more rocks.

- There's more of 'em out in the field.

- Oh, come on, Krist, give me a break.

- So you can pick them up too at the same time.

(Ray chuckling)

- Why don't we come, come and talk with me?

All right? - Yeah, all right.

I'll do that.

I'll get over there with you.

So, I don't think you're very smart.

You come out to the farm and haul rocks.

- I did it to show you that we were working for you,

that we wanna work for the farmers.

- Oh, well you figured you could trick me

into joining up, huh?

- We're not trying to trick you into anything.

We're farmers ourselves, we're.

- Yeah, but I think you guys are too slick to deal with.

- I mean, if you get in the hole and the bank forecloses,

there's no one to help you right now.

- Yeah, but a small farmer is better off stay by himself.

- Well.

Well, you're a mighty stubborn man, Krist.

- Oh, I'm pretty hard to get.

I gotta study it out and figure out.

- Okay, you do that, you do that.

- See how it'll work.

- We're pretty stubborn too, you know?

- [Krist] Well, you gotta be stubborn once in a while.

(Ray chuckling)

- [Ray] So I'm gonna see you when I come back through.

- [Krist] Well, I'll take that and you be good.

- [Ray] Well, I am.

I'll see you.

- [Krist] Well, I'll go bye then.

(rocks clattering)

(engine rumbling)

- February 5th, 1916.

When I got back to Crosby, all I wanted to do was see Inga,

but Murphy, always the star socialist,

was starting to wonder about the League,

so I had to hear him out.

- Ray, I'm worried about Townley.

He's out telling people anything to get their $6

and nobody can control him anymore.

- [Ray] What do you mean?

What do you mean?

- [Murphy] He doesn't have a long range plan.

All he wants to do is get the $6 for the membership.

- Townley and Teigen and those fellas from

the Socialist Party, they went out and started

organizing farmers and they were successful,

and what happened?

They got booted outta the Socialist Party.

Socialists just don't make success, that's all.

- No, no, that isn't true, Ray.

- That's true.

I've never met a, I've never met a successful socialist.

- No, I know.

They all think we're crazy.

- [Ray] You don't know what's going on, Murphy.

I don't care what you say.

As far as I'm concerned, Townley.

- [Murphy] No, it's not just.

- [Ray] Who'd you hear that?

- [Murphy] I've heard it.

(distant children playing)

- Mama says he hates the city.

He just sits in his room all day.

(dog barking)

Worked in a factory for a while, but they laid him off.

Doesn't even talk to the kids anymore.

(engine rumbling)

- [Ray] This morning, Inga and I

went back to the farm together.

(engine rumbling)

(cheery music)

Can't catch me.

(Inga laughing)

(quirky music)

(Inga yelling)

(quirky music)

(Ray growling)

- I love you.

I love you.

(quirky music)

- Smelly lutefisk, I corner thee.

You're a horse!

(Ray neighing)

Good horsey, good horsey.

Time to go into your stall, horsey.

(Ray neighing)

Nice horsey.

(Ray neighing)

- Can I get out now?

When was the last time we did this?

Let's see, I was 12.

- I was eight.

(Inga giggling)

- [Ray] Poor monsters.

- Yeah.

- You're my monster.

(Inga chuckling)

We both wished that our day could go on forever,

but of course it ended.

The old life was over for us now.

Our only hope lay in building something new.

(hopeless music)

February 15th, 1916.

The price of wheat finally went up to a $1.12 a bushel,

so John came up to Crosby to sell.

(reins ringing)

It looked like his waiting tactics had finally paid off.

I came up from Wildrose to help him at the elevator,

but the roads were bad and I got in late.

- [Murphy] Come on, Gordon.

It's late in the season and nobody else

is gonna give you wheat like this.

You can't find wheat like this.

- [Gordon] Sorry, pal.

I'd like to, but that's all I can do.

Number four.

- [John] Now wait, Gordon.

- [Gordon] Look, man, just calm down.

- It's not number four.

- Well, don't blame me for the snow.

- But there's no damage.

Look at the stuff.

- All I know is you threshed in the snow.

Look, John, I'm a businessman.

I have to sell this stuff in Minneapolis

after I buy it from you.

- Now wait, Gordon.

This is going to ruin me.

- Take it or leave it.

- Oh, come on.

Look at it, god damn it.

This is number one, not the clog.

- [Ray] Take it easy.

Take it easy.

- I checked every sack, Ray.

That's beautiful wheat in there.

You were some booster.

You never give up, do you?

(John chuckling)

- He thought he could get along without choosing sides,

just as I once had, but it didn't take a genius

to figure out why Gordon had rejected our wheat.

Sven and Howard had been downgraded too.

If we can't sell our grain, we'll go under,

probably before planting time.

When Uncle Thor heard what had happened, he was furious.

He set up a meeting for Howard and me with some of

the key men over at Krist Toresen's soddy.

- All right, let me ask you fellas a question then.

If you buy a pound of coffee,

who sets the price for that coffee?

- God only knows, Ray.

- God set the price to the coffee you buy, Gordon?

- No, Andy Ingvalson and his missus, and that missus, she's,

one week, she'll have it a cent up and the next week

it'll be another cent up.

- Oh, so Andy's missus sets the price.

Is that what you're trying to tell me, huh?

- Yeah, I think so.

- Yeah, but where does she get the coffee?

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- [Farmer] Who is that?

- I think that has to be Ted from Minot,

brings it up about once a week or so.

- I don't think he comes that often.

It's more like more once a month.

- Oh, I almost thought in my head it was just

once a week or twice a week.

- No, it's only once a week.

- Beside that, I mean, that's beside the point.

Does Ted set the price?

- [Gordon] He's just a salesman.

- That's right, he just works for another company,

and what about that company?

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- Skunks.

- Oh, but are they in there alone?

Are they doing it all by themselves?

- No, no.

(Krist speaking foreign language)

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- Yeah, and the railroads are involved there too.

- They're getting their costs.

You can bet your boots about that.

So I mean, you got so many things there,

it gets pretty confusing.

Maybe God does set the price,

(farmers laughing)

but I mean, what it comes down to,

what you're paying is the cost of bringing

the coffee into Minneapolis, the cost of processing

and packaging it there, the cost of bringing it

into North Dakota, the cost of distributing it

throughout the whole state and then finally on top of that.

- Yeah, and then Mrs. Ingvalson.

- [Ray] Then you got Mrs. Ingvalson,

putting her five cents. - Yeah.

- Five or 10 cents on top of that, right.

That's what you're paying.

That's what's setting the price,

and the kicker in the whole thing though,

is where does that coffee really come from?

- That comes from Brazil, that's where it's grown.

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- Farming's the only business where you buy retail,

you sell wholesale, lower than wholesale,

you have no control over your product at all,

you're just a damn slave.

- And that's what the League's all about

and that's what we're trying to change.

We can't do it without the farmers.

- Ray, you're pretty sharp there, Ray.

- Yeah, for not even having a nice good education.

(farmers laughing)

(Thor speaking foreign language)

(farmers laughing)

- Yeah, but it's not how we say it.

It's what we say, and that's the truth.

(Thor speaking foreign language)

- That's right.

That's true.

♪ I opened my Bible and it brought back old times ♪

♪ I could hear Mother's teardrops on every line ♪

♪ There on the pages the fragments still lay ♪

♪ Of a faded blue ribbon and a lilac bouquet ♪

(hopeful music)

(hammer pounding)

- [Ray] But I've been busy and haven't seen Inga at all.

She writes that Murphy's going to Minot this weekend,

so we'll have the house to ourselves.

Going to stop in at Gordon's first though.

Sven and I are meeting with some Kenmare farmers

about the upcoming nominating conventions.

After that, no more politics until Monday.

(farmers laughing)

(Inga blowing)

(plates clattering)

(knocking on door)

(footsteps clicking)

(Kari speaking foreign language)

(Inga speaking foreign language)

(Kari speaking foreign language)

(plate clattering)

(dog barking)

(knocking on door)

(footsteps clicking)

- [Inga] You've been at Gordon's.

- Yeah.

- Papa was always gone.

As soon as the harvest was over, he'd be out on the road

selling books, to make ends meet, he said.

He was a terrible salesman, so silent and tall.

I think people were afraid of him.

He just wanted to get away.

Mother and I sat alone on the farm all winter

trying to keep the girls happy.

Mother never said what she was feeling.

You don't complain, you know.

It isn't done,

but you can worry.

You can worry and fret it to death.

The roof needed mending.

The fence wasn't fixed.

The cistern leaked.

The chimney needed cleaning,

and wasn't somebody gonna do something about it

so that you wouldn't have to worry all the time?

But you never said, you never spoke up,

never once in a good God-fearing home

ever said what you meant.

I'm lonesome.

I want him there when I turn over at night.

I want him.

I need him.

(plate smashing)

(Inga crying)

Have you ever looked at your face, Ray?

So hard and stiff.

That's the way papa's face was.

Maybe I've loved you because of it.

- You said loved.

- I have loved you and I'm trying to love you,

but you love what you're doing.

- It'll end, I promise you.

- The people you're fighting don't give up, Ray.

If we win, we'll be fighting them off

for the rest of our lives.

(clock ticking)

- And if we lose?

- We lose.

We'll have each other.

- It's not enough.

- No, it isn't.

(engine rumbling)

- Oh, what's coming in here all dressed up?

Must have got a raise.

- Boy, are you ever looking sharp?

Hey, you're gonna be a little nervous tonight?

- Never mind about that.

Just make sure you're there tonight.

- I'll be there.

Don't worry about that.

- [Farmer] I'll be there.

- We'll be there.

- I'll hold 'em for you.

- Okay, well I'll see you fellas tonight then.

- Yeah.

Good luck to you.

(footsteps clicking)

(paper rustling)

- You've heard a lot, you've heard.

Well folks, we're all here together tonight

to meet a man we've all heard about.

If he was an old gang politician, I would stand up here

and talk about how great a fella he was

until you fell asleep like you do in church,

but I can't do that.

Lucky for me, he's a farmer.

So now I'd like to introduce you to the next governor

of the state, farmer, Leaguer, our friend Lynn J. Frazier.

(paper rustling)

(nervous music)

Election Eve 1916.

Last night, a terrible storm hit most of the state.

(nervous music)

All day we've been moving from farm to farm,

helping people dig out and feed their livestock,

then get their cars and rigs going

so they can go to town and vote.

Telephone and telegraph wires are down all over the state,

so we have no idea what's happening in other areas.

We can only hope that everyone is doing

the same thing we are, getting the farmers to the polls

by whatever means possible.

(nervous music)

(paper rustling)

- Well, I guess the crooks made it.

They fixed it.

(train whistling)

- [Ray] This morning, the Sioux came in

with the Fargo newspapers.

The League had lost badly in all the eastern cities.

It seemed impossible that all our efforts

could end this way,

(town bell ringing)

(train engine chugging)

but then the late mail train came in.

The rural vote had turned things around.

- We won!

We won!

(townspeople cheering)

(cheery music)

With the primary won, we all set our sights ahead

to the general elections in the fall.

Much work remains to be done and there isn't much time

to celebrate, but as John and I drove back

to the farm tonight, we felt for the first time

in our lives powerful,

(wind whistling)

but leave it to the powers that be,

they don't get there by accident.

The long feared letter from Forsythe

was there when we got back.

The mortgage is up, and no elevator in the area

will accept our wheat.

Even if the League wins in September,

help from the farmers' government will still be months away.

Forsythe has played his last card,

but it's a good one.

(wind whooshing)

♪ Helen was the keeper of the Northern Lights ♪

♪ Cold winds blow and disappear ♪

(wind whooshing)

♪ Hopes that never end

♪ They shine and the glow

♪ Through your green

♪ Never what they seem

♪ There they go

♪ Nothing lasts long

Shh, be quiet.

Be quiet.

Inga came out to the farm

when she heard about the foreclosure.

(distant wind whistling)


- I know.

(birds chirping)

- You struggle for a good life and you never get to live it.

- Where are you going now?

- Well, Howard wants me up in Fortuna.

I'll be in Crosby for the election.

- See you there then.

(somber music)

- [Ray] I picked up Howard and we headed for Fortuna,

up near the Montana border.

Who can say what is coming next, but win or lose,

I'm a part of it.

I have a place.

(melancholy music)

(typewriter clicking)

(somber bass music)

- [Narrator] One of these days they'll go too far

and well, you know what I'm talking about.

I'm an optimist and I know that good comes out of the bad.

Things are going to change, I'm sure of it.

I've got time.

I can wait.

(somber music)