WILLOW CITY, N.D. — Fifty-two-year-old Robert Albright, a farmer who grows a variety of crops on his land in Willow City, about 25 miles northwest of Rugby, N.D., likes taking videos of his farming equipment and the various aspects of his everyday life.
Not many North Dakota farmers go viral on social media, which is why he's surprised that more than 10 million people watched one of his most recent TikTok videos.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Albright posted a TikTok of himself helping two newborn fawns cross a rural street in between Willow City and Towner. The minute-long video showed the two fawns that could barely stand on their own legs huddled together in the middle of the road.
He said he was driving on Willow Road near Willow City when a doe crossed the street right in front of his truck and ran into the woods. Wanting to get a few pictures and see what the doe did next, he decided to pull over and get out.
All of a sudden, Albright said, he heard the mewling sounds of the newborn deer right at his feet. He said it looked like they were only a few hours old.
“Well, then I figured ‘We better get you guys off the road,’” Albright said.
The video shows Albright bending down and picking up one of the fawns and placing it on the side of the road. He turned around to pick up the other one when the first walked back onto the road. At one point, he had one in his arm while at the same time trying to nudge the other with his foot towards the road's edge.
Albright said he thinks the video went viral because people probably haven’t seen fawns that young before.
Many of the more than 30,000 comments on the TikTok thanked Albright for helping the animals, and others shared smiling emojis for the newborn deer.
Albright, whose name on the app is "Ogeeez," said he stumbled upon TikTok and created an account because he saw many farmers posting videos of their crop dusters and about their farms.
Before his video went viral, Albright had about 200 TikTok followers. After posting the video of the fawns, he said he gained 19,000 followers overnight. He currently has about 74,000 TikTok followers.
Albright said his two children, who are 20 and 12 years old, sometimes tease him about the attention. He said he'll tease them back by rhetorically asking them how many followers they have on their social media accounts, subtly bragging about his recent surge in popularity.
“I guess the best description would be that they look at me and shake their heads and smile,” Albright said.
In addition to the viral TikTok video, Albright posts about how North Dakota’s severe drought affects his crops. He said he tries to keep these drought videos light-hearted.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, so there’s no sense fretting,” he said.
Albright said he will continue creating content in the future.
“I really am excited,” he said. “Now I got an audience.”
Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.