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Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).
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On May 8,1855, in the days before there were any bridges across the wide Missouri, a surveyor named Charles Manners and two teams of eight surveyors under contract to the US government crossed the already fabled and still untamed river in a canoe piloted by a local Native American tribal member. It took them several trips back and forth across the river to move the entire team and all their gear. On the last trip the canoe almost swamped and sank because it was overloaded down to the gunnels with a cast iron monument that weighed between five hundred and six hundred pounds. The surveyors noted in their records that only the considerable paddling skills of their Indian canoeist kept them from sinking.
Once the survey team and their gear were safely on the west side of the Missouri, they hauled the iron marker to a high bluff overlooking the river valley. After some searching they found a wooden post overgrown with weeds that had been erected the previous year to mark the place where the fortieth parallel of latitude intersects the Missouri.
The Great Plains Art Museum opened a new exhibit titled “Contemporary Indigeneity: The New Art of the Great Plains” on June 1. The exhibit will run until July 27.
A blind jury of Plains researchers, conservationists, artists, and museum workers chose more than forty pieces of art that examine current Native American life and culture for inclusion in the show. Works chosen include sculpture, textiles, paint, crafts, and more.
In the small, isolated hamlet of the Great Plains where, if I did not grow up, at least I spent my boyhood, a place where the nearby cattle significantly outnumber the people still today and little but the changing of the seasons occurs to mark the passage of time, there was seldom anything grand or calamitous that might serve to strike awe into a youngster like myself. My friends and I would swim in the public pool or take laps around the town on our ten-speeds in the summertime, casually fish the creeks and ponds year-round, and in winter sled the mighty bluffs adorned in all varietals of yucca and cacti, but by and large there was nothing daunting, nothing sensational, and little to make any real impression upon me in my youth; aside from the occasional death in the family or vacation to California, mine was in many ways a forgettable childhood. One great exception was the omnipresence of an immense granite monument sitting just outside the courthouse, utterly massive to an undersized boy, and with a warrior atop it. The soldier, forest green from head to toe, not unlike my plastic army men, sported knee-high boots, held a rifle in one hand, and had the other raised bravely as a fist, charging forward with a curious, saucer-like helmet on his head and a gallant, stoic expression forever worn upon his face. At least, that’s how my seven-year-old self remembers him, the soldier of my youth, the only soldier I can recall ever having met until I left for university. Thus, as a child, I was introduced and reintroduced unceremoniously to the Great War whenever I stopped my bike in front of his monument to marvel. He made me want to be a soldier myself, though I knew better even then to think I was made of the stuff of warriors. This soldier was impressive, and sometimes I would even try to invent for him a story in my mind, but I knew nothing of war, even less about his war; it was difficult for a little boy growing up in a tiny town in Nebraska to imagine how something that happened so long ago and so far away could matter very much to me.
The year 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, the First World War, or whatever else we might like to call it. As human beings, we celebrate anniversaries, often for no other reason than that they have predictably and yet again arrived. Birthdays are a great example of this, wedding anniversaries another. We delight in the inevitable, or at least the predictable; oh, but how we love a celebration! And what better to celebrate, what more important to remember, than the eve of the event that would forever, irreparably alter our world—before fading bleakly into the annals of history, damned to obscurity by the black-and-white photography of the time, the death of those who lived it, and the subsequent emergence of still sexier villains, greater crimes, and the notoriously and increasingly finite attention span of the American populace. Indeed, it would seem that the event that shaped the last hundred years has been relegated to that of a supporting role in many texts and minds alike. However, as the centenary fast approaches, even we the people may pause to consider, perhaps for a final time, the war that did not end all wars.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in the doors of Prairie Plate Restaurant, Waverly’s new farm-to-table restaurant, was the way the light inhabited the room, drawing you to the lake view that lay just beyond the windows.
Renee Cornett, head chef and owner of Prairie Plate, greets me at the door and begins to dive into the history of the land. She and her husband, Jerry Cornett, run Lakehouse Farm, a certified organic farm situated roughly fifty yards from the front door of the restaurant. After they started their farm in 2011, they began renovations on the house down by the lake for the restaurant that would eventually open its doors on April 2, 2014.
For the last few days, I have been remotely keeping vigil with a family as their son is being cared for in an intensive care unit in Minnesota. Watching from afar, my heart goes out to them over and over again each day. The details are not clear to me, but what has been shared is that he came home after a night of excessive drinking and was later found unresponsive. His mom, a medical professional, did CPR until the paramedics arrived. I could have been that kid, and those parents might have been mine, sitting at the bedside, talking to neurologists, making tough choices.
There’s a movement emerging out here on the edge of the Midwest. It’s still rather tame and quiet, not surprising in that it emanates from a loose coalition of intellectuals—historians concerned that their region is not receiving the attention it deserves. Spearheading the group is Jon Lauck, 42, senior counselor and advisor to US Senator John Thune, who moonlights as a historian while working full-time for the senator out his office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Before signing on with Thune, Lauck, who has a history Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, had been an attorney and then, for a time, was a history professor at South Dakota State University. But he never lost his yen for history and has published four books with university presses on the subject. His most recent tome, The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History, published last December by the University of Iowa Press, explains “Why the Midwest Matters” in its introductory chapter. The book goes on to describe the once vital role that Midwestern historians played during the early twentieth century, explains the subsequent decline of the subject after World War II, and suggests ways in which the field might be resuscitated and made more relevant again in the twenty-first century.
In the little Gage County town of Wymore, an hour south of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a small but important museum of prairie history. It documents the history of Welsh settlement throughout the Midwest. As you approach the downtown museum from the north on Seventh Street, you first see a huge mural of the north wall of the building, overlooking a lovely garden with a path containing memorial stones engraved to Welsh settlers and their descendants, an oak tree (beloved in Wales), and comfortable seating. The whole garden is surrounded by a metal picket fence, again suggestive of the Welsh scene. In spring, the garden is full of daffodils, the national flower of Wales.
Back in November 2013 I jotted down a list of some of my favorite restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska. The restaurants were established within the four years I have been living in Omaha, and they became my favorite places to dine in and take family and friends to. The fifteen or so establishments I wrote down were also places where I felt I was supporting entrepreneurs who have since became friends, and, among others, included Culprit Café (1603 Farnam Street), Kitchen Table (1415 Farnam Street), Lot 2 (6207 Maple Street), Block 16 (1611 Farnam Street), and The Grey Plume (220 South 31st Avenue #3101).
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“Agrippina” begins with stillness. Someone is in a very large bed, wrapped in a sheet. The room is tranquil, everything is in order and the marble floor radiates coolness, heat and Italy. The baroque music begins, and slowly the moment breaks when you realize that there is more than one person in the bed.
The next two hours are a lusciously seductive tale of cunning, deceit and sexual power. The opera reminds the viewer that reckless ambitions, the lust for control and the inevitable loss of innocence are, and have always been, recipes for gripping tales.
Thanks to Thomas A. Edison, capturing and viewing moving images took off across the country at the end of the 19th century, and Nebraska and the Great Plains were no exception. As early as 1897 motion pictures became a part of the cultural fabric of towns across the state. Local opera houses were magically transformed into movie theaters and revealed to us such marvels as “Edison’s Wonderful Cinegraph” and “Jolly Della Pringle,” waves breaking on the seashore, cavalry troops charging into battle, a train moving at full speed, a boxing match, firemen dousing a fire, dancers and the firing of a Gatling gun.
The first motion picture images of Nebraska were captured during the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. Although the film was lost, it depicted President William McKinley’s visit to the exposition.
Glenna Luschei is a familiar name in Nebraska writing circles. A renowned poet in her own right, in 2001 Luschei endowed the “Prairie Schooner” in perpetuity, the journal where she served as an editorial assistant. She has been publishing her own journals—“Cafe Solo,” “Solo” and “Solo Café”—for 50 years, as well as regularly publishing collections of her own poetry. Through it all, Luschei has been a champion of the restorative power of poetry.
Pastoral landscapes and bucolic scenes of Nebraska by oil painter Wendy Hall are on view at Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City through March 23, 2014. Painting professionally for almost 20 years, Hall’s work has gone through some evolution. As the exhibition title, “Pastoral, Bucolic, Idyllic: Home with Wendy Hall,” conveys, the paintings are deeply connected to the peaceful landscape surrounding her Ashland, Neb., farm. The paintings encourage viewers to engage with the subject.
Do you remember your science classes in high school or college? Were they often mind-numbingly dull and consisting of relentless barrages of facts and figures you had to memorize for tests?
Do you still think of science as boring?
You probably never had the chance to attend a lecture—make that a lecture-demonstration—from “Doc” Edgerton.
We are in the midst of a transition to a new economy, one where the ability to harness innovation and creativity trump modus operandi, assembly-line thinking. This pending sea change also holds promise for agriculture, where the food-security challenges facing the U.S. and the world will demand innovative improvements in systems, policy and technology. To channel the energy of America’s young people, and to help promote a culture of new ideas and cross-disciplinary collaboration, the Ag Innovation Prize is offering over $200,000 for student teams “to develop innovative plans to address social and agricultural challenges within food systems, improving the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s population” (www.agprize.com).
In Nebraska you can have just as much fun celebrating the cold as you can enjoying the summer. Visitors and residents alike often ice-skate, cross-country ski and sleigh ride their way through the wintry months. And when the cold gets too cold, our nationally renowned performing arts, sporting events, concerts and festivals easily make winter one of our hottest seasons.
In the small, quiet town of Nebraska City, Neb., lies a rich history of agriculture, conservation, innovation and thrift. What many Nebraskans do not know is a hidden story of ingenuity and frugality that was perpetuated by the Kregel Windmill Company for 112 years.