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.