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Ladies: More Single Men In This State

Are you a lonely lady ISO a good man? Go west. Very far west. North Dakota to be exact.

Here's the catch: It has to be a small town in North Dakota.

Turns out, women in the state are moving away in droves, heading to big cities to pursue professional careers. They leave behind a slew of young, single men who are staying put to manage their family's farms, reports The Associated Press of a disturbing trend.

How bad is it? Every year, the Wabek Bar in Plaza, North Dakota, which is about 70 miles from the Canadian border, hosts a bachelorette auction. It was started a few years ago by the bar's owners, Kim and Angie Letvin, when they noticed the men were getting lonely. The Letvins import pretty girls and auction them off to the highest bidder for a fun date. The proceeds benefit a charity. Some guys say it's the ONLY way they can meet a woman in that town. The auction is so popular that about 100 folks show up--which is more than half the total population of Plaza. At the most recent auction, some dinner dates went for more than $100. A skydiving date brought in a hefty $425.

There are about 254,000 men in the state of North Dakota who are 15 and older. Census figures show that 32 percent of them have never been married, compared with 23 percent of the 258,000 women in that age group. And in the rural counties, the gap is even wider. Perhaps more telling is the fact that in the past 10 years, the number of adults in North Dakota between 20 and 34 years old plunged 16 percent. "Most people get married in their mid-20s. We're losing those people. You can see that in many of these rural areas--right after high school, they leave," Richard Rathge, director of the state data center at North Dakota State University, told AP. "The longer one delays marriage, the more we become fixed in our ways. And that's when a person is less likely to get married."

Enter Singles in Agriculture. It's a national organization that is trying to match up single men with single women who have a background in agriculture. So far, there are 1,000 members in 41 states. Local chapters sponsor dances and camp-outs so the singles can meet one another. Farm life is unique, and a marriage will stand a better chance of success if both partners grew up on a farm and know what to expect. Otherwise, it can be a hard adjustment, says Curt Stofferahn, a rural sociology professor at the University of North Dakota and co-director of the Center for Rural Studies. "If you don't find someone who was raised on a farm, they find the life rigorous," he told AP.

Meanwhile, Keith Hegney, a 27-year-old bachelor from Plaza, North Dakota who is ISO a wife, said he doesn't understand why life in a rural area would be a turnoff for a woman. "I don't expect her to start running cattle," he told AP. "All that matters is that she's a good wife and mother."

--From the Editors at Netscape

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