The Polk Progress was a Nebraska treasure that ceased publication in late 1989 after 82 years as a weekly newspaper. From 1955 until its last issue, the editor and publisher was the late Norris Alfred. In its last few months, the Progress had 900 subscribers in 45 states. Alfred was a remarkable Nebraskan with an uncanny eye for connecting the present with the future. Prairie Fire has collaborated with the Alfred family, the University of Nebraska School of Journalism and the Nebraska State Historical Society to locate and archive many of Norris's writings. We are capitalizing on our good fortune to present many of the Norris Alfred writings to our readership. We believe that his observations are as fresh and relevant to today's world as they were when originally written.
September 2, 1992
I doubt the world will ever be rid of guns, warships, warplanes, or missiles, whether they be guided or helter-skelter, but it is a peaceful idea to consider this early September, peaceful morning in Polk, with a bit of ground fog, calm air, and a rising sun quietly shining on the foggy ground.
I know the fog will disappear within the hour, but the guns and fear they generate won’t. Fear has replaced hope, not only in nations where political turmoil has replaced civil order but even in these wonderful United States where a democratic government believes in the necessity of a strong military force because, as our president stated: “It’s still a fearful world.”
A large, standing army does not generate hope. It is only an admission of fear, which generates more fear. During the night, a thunderstorm rumbled and flashed over Polk and soaked the terrain with a half-inch downpour. I heard the thunder, about one a.m., and, knowing the sounds were natural, not militant, went back to sleep.
In the dissolution of Yugoslavia into several nation-states those rumbles would more likely be mortar shells exploding. Those sounds would cause sleeplessness rather than reassurance that clouds were making an electric response to one another or/and the ground they were floating over.
The nobility of the human species is at risk with guns. Of course, the idea humans are noble as a species of life on earth is a human concept. I doubt if whooping cranes, spotted owls, least terns, dolphins, elephants, prairie dogs, Eskimo curlews (if there are any) would describe humans as noble.
As a species we are arrogant in our assumptions of superiority. We lack humility and waste our years trying to prove our excellence. We are latecomers on the scene—a planet that has given life and death to flora and fauna for no human knows how many eons. The distant past is as much conjecture as the distant future.
We need to understand and respect our transience. We are not forever; only time is. We are intent on domination, not understanding our dependence. Our leaders are followers because the planet is our only place and leaders have no other livable territory in the universe to which they can take us.
For better or worse, where we are is where we will always be until we die. Actually, the prospects are more hopeful than doleful. I have often thought I’d like to write a book about what I don’t know. The problem with that ambition—How can I know and write about what I don’t know? I could title it: Mysteries and lead off with: “A dandelion bloom is yellow. Why? Because it isn’t any other color.” Which answer is similar to the one a boy asked, on seeing an elephant at a circus: “Why is it called ‘elephant’?” He was told: “Because it looks like an elephant.”
The last sentence in a letter from a reader of this Journal states: “Thank you for sharing your daily thoughts. They keep me stimulated and entertained. Our daughter’s husband took his own life in July and your continual good spirits through thick and thin are an inspiration to me. Thank you so much.”
There were times, during that long siege of illness, when I’d go to sleep not caring whether I woke up the next morning. But I’d remember my mother’s favorite quote (Bible?): “And this too shall pass” and wake up the next morning ready to growl, crawl, and endure another pain-racked day, thankful I could keep going.