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Noem’s Dad Stories Provide Primer on How Not to Parent

A couple weeks ago, Governor Kristi Noem told the NRA about her father’s staged abandonment of her in the Wyoming Bighorn Mountains when she was ten years old. I’m not sure whether we should cry child abuse or plagiarism, but I know my partner in parenting would cry, “What the hell were you thinking?!” One of my readers sees a parallel to Freida Berlin’s upbringing in Orange Is the New Black Season 5:

Seth Tupper highlights other details from Noem’s biography that paint a problematic psychological profile of her father:

There was the time her father grew irritated with his children’s inability to move an ornery cow into the barn. He stormed toward the cow, wrapped his arm around its neck and “began punching her giant black nose,” according to Noem. She and her brother watched as their dad lost his footing and became pinned under the angry animal. Noem and her brother had to draw the cow’s attention away to save their father.

In another story, Noem was 12 or 13, riding with her dad in a semi as they hauled a load of corn out of a field.

“As we started rolling down the road, he suddenly remembered that he needed to bring another vehicle home too,” Noem wrote. “So he turned to me and said, ‘Here, come take the wheel. Take the truck home.’ His only advice: ‘Make your corners wide.’”

Noem had never driven a semi but somehow managed to get it home safely.

A different driving adventure didn’t turn out as well. Noem was 14 when a farmhand told her to back a semi out of an outbuilding on a busy day during the fall harvest. She accidentally backed into and wrecked her dad’s pickup, which was parked behind the semi. Noem went out to the fields, climbed into her dad’s combine and broke the news.

“He sat there, his jaw clenched, hands gripping the steering wheel, staring at me for a long time. Finally, he said, ‘All right. Get out,’” Noem wrote.

That story is followed in Noem’s book by a memory of fixing fences with her dad. When she didn’t produce a needed tool immediately on demand, he barked, “Listen, you should know what I need before I know what I need!” [Seth Tupper, “Noem Is Just Like Her Father in Good and Bad Ways,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.04.24].

Noem has exploited stories about her dad, including his death from jumping into a grain bin, to boost her political appeal throughout her career. But her camping-abandonment story and the details above from her book paint Ron Arnold as an angry, mean, and reckless parent, the kind of dad we men should try hard not to be.


  1. Nick Nemec 2023-04-26 07:02

    Climbing into a bin of flowing grain with a crusted top to break the crust is possibly the stupidest thing a farmer can do, at the least it is a indication of poor decision making skills or possibly a death wish.

  2. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-04-26 07:07

    The wise reader at DFP is skeptical every time Noem goes bangin’ on about her dear departed daddy.

  3. larry kurtz 2023-04-26 07:27

    Mrs. Noem’s daddy issues likely pale in comparison to what Ron Arnold did to Mrs. Arnold but it does explain much about the hatred Kristi has for the little people and for other women.

  4. Tom 2023-04-26 07:34

    corn bin, we’re in it…

  5. Colette 2023-04-26 07:43

    Disappointed at the terrible comments. She is being straight with all of us on how she grew up. I grew up much the same. Our fathers were stern and tough and raised us to be tough too. I have similar stories. That generation grew up very hard and poor and lived their lives very simple. When you grow up on a farm/;ranch everything we did was dangerous.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-04-26 07:50

    Insulted By Me? Have I Been Rude Towards You?
    – If you find yourself on the receiving end of an insulting or rude remark, you can counter it with kindness and class with just one question.
    “Are you okay?”
    – So recommends Harvard trained etiquette expert Sara Jane Ho.
    – When you say, “Are you okay?” don’t be short or sharp. Use a friendly affect.
    – Saying nothing can convey a similar message, Ho adds, and might be more appropriate if the person insulting you isn’t a friend and requires a bit more formality.

  7. Donald Pay 2023-04-26 08:33

    Yeah, I’m with Bonnie on this. Is it true or is it post-modernist fiction?

    “You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it…fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf – your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in the flight from the real reality. That is the basic definition of Homo sapiens.”
    ― John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

  8. 96Tears 2023-04-26 10:26

    That Daddy Dearest in Wyoming whopper Noem told the NRA audience was at least as unbelievable as her remarks about her less than two-year-old grandchild and that the NRA audience listening to her was more diverse than a room full of white, elderly men (and then the camera panned the room – whoops!). As another DFP commenter said, Noem wasn’t close to the legal hunting age at the time of her Wyoming tale allegedly took place. Very little of it seemed credible if it even happened at all.

    One of these days, if she’s beginning to be any kind of presidential primary threat, a dark money research team will start peeling back the layers of Noem’s Daddy Dearest fables and her record of getting nothing accomplished after multiple terms in the S.D. House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives and as Governor of South Dakota. For those of us with a front row seat of how unspectacular she’s been in office, the true image of Kristi Noem will emerge nationally as she did at the NRA meeting: A skinny, shallow, middle-aged woman with cakes of makeup rolled on her Botox puffy face, all dolled up at the beauty shop, and struggling to get through the talent portion of a teenybopper beauty contest.

    Seth Tupper’s dark portrait is a Noem autobiography. She chooses these stories. As she demonstrates daily, she’s either the victim of her every story or the hero — or both, depending on who she’s trying to manipulate. They more and more sound like cries for help.

    What’s unfortunate for South Dakota is we have wasted the last five years on a governor who’s not interested in serving the public, but who’s laser focused only on running for the next government job. The next tiara. As soon as she’s done with her presidential fantasies, I hope she gets the therapy she’s needed for many years and hits the reset button on life.

  9. 96Tears 2023-04-26 10:27

    And while we’re talking about Kristi Noem’s presidential fantasies, who the hell is Vivek Ramaswamy???

    Over the weekend, we got the latest measure of strength and awareness in the GOP presidential lineup. So, after five years of using the Office of Governor of South Dakota as a step-ladder running for national office, where did Kristi Noem end up in the NBC poll of 1,000 respondents?

    If the Republican primary for president were being held today, which one of the following candidates would you favor?

    46% – Donald Trump
    31% – Ron DeSantis
    6% – Mike Pence
    3% – Nikki Haley
    3% – Tim Scott
    3% – Asa Hutchinson
    2% – Vivek Ramaswamy
    Source: NBC News survey conducted April 14-18, 2023. The margin of error for 292 Republican primary voters is +/-5.99%.

    Out of seven names, not one of them is Kristi Noem. That’s a pretty easy name to remember. But Vivek Ramaswamy???

    Not a name that rolls easily off the tongue. Maybe it’s time, Kristi. Time to quit and get help.

  10. P. Aitch 2023-04-26 12:44

    Vivek Ramaswamy graduated from Harvard and Yale and is an “entrepeneur” who wrote a book about himself. I listen to “The Joe Pags Show” (KELO radio @ 8:00 pm) every day to keep up with the connies. Vivek has taken the interview time that your Governor used to get.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2023-04-26 13:47

    Well goodness…the stories seem to be stretchers, pure taffy, but who knows? What these stories portend, I do not know. The Governor is unlettered, a child of the prairie, with a typical South Dakota upbringing. She seems to have a need to put a bloom on the thorny rose of her childhood and to sell herself as tough and self reliant. I see insecurity.

  12. Jeff Kosier 2023-04-26 14:38

    Why do you have to criticize Kristi for everything she says and does. Whatever happened to unbiased reporting. Maybe it is time to criticize your reporting. Is there any wonder why our society is so mixed up when reporters like to stretch the truth to there biased liking.
    Just report the facts not the way you think it should be.

  13. Jenny 2023-04-26 14:43

    There is nothing worse than a maniacal angry farmer that barks all day long about how nothing is done right. The unpredictability of not knowing when the next tirade will happen is enough to wreak havoc on the most mentally strong and resilient of us.
    Her family doesn’t really seem that different than any other rural dysfunctional SD upbringing.

  14. Ray Tysdal 2023-04-26 15:16

    Farming is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
    Farm safety and parenting are not the same thing. I would not criticize Noem’s father for his parenting style, I just know it wouldn’t be mine. But making a 14-year-old person with inadequate training drive an expensive piece of equipment is an unacceptable risk. That is not a parenting mistake, it is a serious business management mistake.
    Farmer/parents often teach their children self reliance and responsibility at young ages. But the farmer needs to take off the parent hat and put on the business manager hat and TEACH SAFETY. I know many farmers that take safety seriously and just as many that don’t. Every safety rule is written in blood.

  15. P. Aitch 2023-04-26 17:21

    You got it, Jenny. The level of verbal and physical abuse happening on farms toward women and children is one of SD’s massive “under the rug” tragedies.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-04-26 19:01

    hey, Colette, my dad was stern and tough too. But the frequent occurrence of toughness and sternness does not justify the bad parenting Ron Arnold did, as evidenced by the examples above.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-04-26 19:06

    Jeff, I don’t criticize everything Kristi Noem does, but she does a lot of things that deserve criticism.

    Readers are free to criticize my journalism, and they frequently do.

    But let’s not let Jeff distract from the issue. Every fact about Ron Arnold’s bad parenting is being reported not by me, but by Kristi Noem in her own storytelling. I am simply citing Kristi Noem’s storytelling, and saying, holy cow, I’m glad I don’t follow Ron Arnold’s example.

    Jeff, do you really think I’m stretching the truth? I’m just quoting Kristi, so are you saying Kristi is stretching the truth?

  18. P. Aitch 2023-04-26 19:15

    Abused people often reveal their abuse and try to justify and redeem their abusers due to complex psychological and emotional dynamics such as trauma bonding, codependency, and a desire for validation and resolution.

  19. Bob Newland 2023-04-26 19:56

    Collette: You may have grown up in an atmosphere similar to what Kristi claims, but you are not currently Governor of SoDak, pushing people around and humiliating your own staff members. There are no comments here which disparage this horrible woman enough.

  20. DaveFN 2023-04-26 23:04

    P. Aitch III

    More psychobabble assumed on your part in the name of insight your totally lack. But keep trying.

  21. Aaron 2023-04-26 23:08

    Verbal abuse much worse than what Kristi recalls can be quite common on family farms. As can using unpaid child labor to help pay off huge debts.

  22. P. Aitch 2023-04-26 23:14

    @ DaveFN – Hey, friend. Are you okay?

  23. Jenny 2023-04-27 02:56

    Just ignore Dave, P. Aitch III. Some of the regulars on here have a fit if they disagree.

  24. Jackie 2023-04-27 13:49

    I thought she said she had to quit college to go home and save the farm when her dad died. However, in her book she says she went to town to get a job when she could do nothing to please her father. So which is it?

  25. DaveFN 2023-04-27 17:43

    P. Aitch III

    “Abused people often reveal their abuse and try to justify and redeem their abusers due to complex psychological and emotional dynamics such as trauma bonding, codependency, and a desire for validation and resolution.”

    Use of canned textbook verbiage claiming special knowledge of what another person thinks or feels, labels unique individuals in unique situations with nothing but overgeneralizations and what are effectively imposed stereotypes on our part.

    Any bone fide analyst’s love for the unconscious takes precedence over their love for the patient, and that is as far from thinking/presuming/labelling what someone thinks or feels as one can get.

    The voice we presume to give to others is nothing but our own.

  26. DaveFN 2023-04-30 23:13

    Dolly Parton has a much more compelling narrative. Noem’s is flimsy by comparison.

  27. DaveFN 2023-04-30 23:20

    …Fury’s a wannabe if not downright plagiarist at best.

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