No Place Like Home

Kayla Rust puts a pin on her hometown of Alkabo in extreme northwestern North Dakota.

Kayla Rust may have the smallest hometown of any North Dakota State student.

Alkabo, N.D., population: 7.

The junior in elementary education and human development and family science lived in Alkabo with her parents, siblings and grandparents, seven hours from Fargo. Another family spent summers there and one man resided there in hunting seasons.

“Thank goodness for my siblings, otherwise I wouldn’t have had any entertainment growing up,” Rust said, adding Alkabo’s population often fluctuates from five to nine people.

For fun, Rust participated in volleyball, basketball and track and field in high school in nearby Westby, Mont., and she played softball in the summer.

“That was like our life,” she said, adding, “Everyone was in band. Everyone was in newspaper. You just did everything.”

The Alkabo School is now a historical museum commemorating the community. 

Rust added she was the only participant in FFA one year because she was the only person interested, so the school made it available.

“It was just kinda cool that one person could make up one club,” she said.

Coming to Fargo for school at North Dakota State, Rust said her options exploded, from seeing movies to going bowling versus just driving around the countryside with friends.

As much as she liked the small town experience, she “kinda got sick of” it.

“I needed that big town experience,” Rust said.

She’d like to go back to Alkabo someday, but she came to Fargo for its bigger city atmosphere and education beyond the two-year schools closer to Alkabo but farther away than Minot State.

“It’s also just kind of nice to be a number versus back home,” Rust said. “Everyone knows your name and your dog’s name and your great-grandma’s

Alkabo’s Main Street business district features three abandoned buildings, a bank vault and a sidewalk being reclaimed by nature.

name, whereas here you’re a number and that’s kinda cool too.”

Alkabo will lose another resident when Rust’s brother attends college this fall, but their uncle just moved back, keeping Alkabo “still at that stable seven.”

“My family will still live there. They’ll probably always live there,” Rust said, but added Alkabo will likely become a ghost town someday. The town lacks services such as underground water. Her father hauls water for their family and church.

The Alkabo School, however, is a bit of a tourist attraction as it’s a museum dedicated to the school and community’s history with walk-through exhibits, old photographs and school artifacts.

Rust said she’s gone through the school’s guest list and seen people from all over visit, like Alaska and elsewhere.

“You just kinda wonder, ‘Why is this so fascinating?'” she said.

Alkabo did see some activity during North Dakota’s oil boom as truck traffic, a couple man camps and gravel pits popped up near town. Westby got busier too.

Settled into campus life and working at Academic Collegiate Enhancement, Rust looks back fondly on her Alkabo years.

“We definitely found a lot of ways to get in trouble,” she said with a laugh.

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