The Last Windrow: My design of the Minnesota state flag would feature a gopher

They've been ignored far too long, and who would want to tangle with an enraged pocket gopher?

Photo illustration / /

This is a test. How many of my friends can, without looking, tell me what their state flag looks like?

No peeking now.

I rest my case.

Minnesotans are contemplating changing our state flag, we are told, to better represent the Gopher State. I'm wondering why there is no gopher on our flag?

I know we have tons of pocket and striped gophers tunneling underground as these lines are written. But somehow they've not been brought to the surface and shown flying above our Capitol in St. Paul.


I grew up among the cornfields of Iowa and I admit that I never really took a close look at my home state's flag. Just last week, in advance of this column, I looked it up.

Not really very impressive.

State flag of Iowa.
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Iowa's official state bird is the goldfinch. No goldfinch. No Hawkeye logo anywhere. Not a farm animal in site, and above all things, no ear of corn.

Just a bald eagle holding on to a ribbon that says, "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." The flag does feature red, white and blue colors, but that's about it.

They could have done better.

South Dakota state flag.
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South Dakota's state flag isn't much more exciting. It does feature my college's colors of light blue and yellow — SDSU. I wonder how those coyotes down in Vermilion like that?

The logo states that the state was formed in 1889 and the artist shows a farmer plowing a field, a steamboat heading up the Missouri, a smokestack, and I think I see some tepees in the distance. And it does promote Mount Rushmore, so doing some justice to information.

But a little busy for those of us with failing eyesight.


North Dakota state flag.
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North Dakota's flag is more readable, showing again a bald eagle with a ribbon clenched in its beak with the words "E Pluribus Unum" printed on it. I wonder who thought up that original phrase?

The eagle has a bundle of wheat grasped in the talons of one foot and a bunch of arrows grasped in the other. I'm not sure what the message is supposed to be, but I wouldn't want to mess with anyone from North Dakota who was carrying that flag. The eagle looks fierce.

So we come to Minnesota's flag. I've seen a few early ideas of what it should look like and so far I'm not very impressed. So far those suggested designs don't come across as depicting the state I now call home.

Minnesota state flag.
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If I were to design the new flag I might include the state bird, the loon; the state fish, a walleye; the other state bird, the mosquito; the unofficial state pest, the deer tick; a howling timber wolf; the state flower, the pink lady's-slipper; and maybe toss in the official mushroom and somehow incorporate the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior.

But wait! I read in the small print of the application that the aim is to simplify the Minnesota state flag, not add to the confusion! The discussion is that there is too much stuff already on the flag.

So it's back to the drawing board for me.

I know one thing. Somewhere in my flag design there's going to be a gopher. They've been ignored far too long. Who would want to tangle with an enraged pocket gopher? Not me.

They might be small, but they're wiry. Nothing to mess with, like us Minnesotans.


See you next time. Okay?

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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