Single pump station

DONNYBROOK If you are second, you are at the end of the line. That’s the way it is when you stop for gasoline at this tiny Ward County community located along U.S. Highway 52 northwest of Minot.

The Gas Depot has just one gasoline pump. There’s none of that new fangled choose your octane, use the credit card slot, listen to the outdoor speakers under a protective canopy stuff either.

Nope. Just a single old, rusty gasoline pump where customers can watch the numbers, which are not all perfectly aligned, roll over with a click and a thud. Buying gasoline at the Gas Depot is the way it used to be many years ago. Even the sound of the churning pump differs greatly from today’s modern C-stores.

There’s just one choice of fuel at the Gas Depot too. No diesel. No premium. Just unleaded. Simple. Easy. Customer friendly.

“You don’t see a single pump anymore. All I have is unleaded gas,” said Carlton Mahlum, manager. “There’s a lot of customers that say they don’t see a pump like that anymore. I agree with ’em.”

It is not only a single pump sitting in front of the Gas Depot, but a single nozzle too. Today’s modern gasoline pumps have several nozzles and can fill vehicles from two sides. At the Gas Depot it is first-come, first-served and wait your turn.

The Gas Depot is actually an old railroad depot from a community long vanished from the area. Inside Mahlum cooks occasional food orders in an Auto-Fry, sells items like cookies and candy bars and watches while regular customers play a card game or two at a lone table.

There’s no digital read-out to tell him how much gasoline a customer has pumped or give him the total price. If necessary he looks out the window, sees the numbers on the pump and enters them into the cash register.

“It’s kind of the honor system,” laughed Mahlum.

According to Mahlum, business has been steady lately due to railroad and trenching crews working in the area. The single pump has been up to the task, but if the old pump should fail there’s still plenty of parts available to make repairs. Somebody had the foresight to stockpile parts when similar old pumps were replaced years ago.

“Business is pretty good. You have your good days and your bad days,” said Mahlum. “It’s pretty decent, especially during the summer when I get a lot of Canadian traffic stopping.”

The small facility is owned by Cenex of Berthold but does not carry the Cenex name. How much longer the Gas Depot and its grizzly old gasoline pump will remain a fixture alongside the highway at Donnybrook remains unknown, but it continues to serve as a reminder of days long past, even in rural North Dakota.