Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - cruel Mother Nature - caution, graphic content!

On a recent driveabout, we came across a sad sight by the side of the road. This porcupine got caught in the Y of a tree and couldn't get out.
Sadly, life and death is in the nature of things, and this porcupine met his demise before his time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Stories: Alva and Opal Harshfield


Alva Harshfield was born July 18, 1905 and died April 17, 1952. He entered this life on the ranch homesteaded by his parents, John Q. A. and Susan Etta (Carrico) Harshfield.

Alva and Opal Harshfield
Alva was united in marriage to Opal Elsie Phelps, daughter of Clyde and Elsie (Bowden) Phelps on October 12, 1931, at Stockville, Nebraska. Opal was born May 15, 1913 and died March 26, 1972 after suffering a year’s illness from breast cancer.

To this union three daughters were born: Barbara Jean Kinnaman on January 29, 1932; Claudia May Eberly, born March 29, 1935; and Sandra Lee Nelson born on September 22, 1945.

Alva could do anything he set his mind to, he was an outgoing, fun loving man. He was very capable with machinery, knew on sight a good horse and came by having the ability for ranching naturally.
During the years of 1940 through 1944, Alva and Wilbert drilled a lot of water wells around the general area. Some of the people that wells were put down for were: Runners, Kramers, Greens, Browns, Richardsons, Peterson, Hoatson, McNeel, Lake, Titterington, Applegate and beside all the ranch wells. Drilled wells at Wallace for the oil drilling outfits that were there.

Besides loving a good horse, Alva enjoyed people and people enjoyed him. He enjoyed rodeos, good songs and a good laugh. He was only 46 years old at the time of his death.

Opal was very artistic, and loved to draw, paint, quilt and various other crafts. Some of the ranchers still today enjoy the little boot tie-clasps that she hand-carved out of wood and painted them with their cattle brands, or their initials on them.


Both Opal and Alva are missed in the community that they spent so many years in by their family and friends.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Little House on the Prairie

It has been a long time since I've posted any progress on the restoration of my grandparent's homesteading cabin in the Sandhills. We've finally made some further progress, so I thought I'd share.
One of the biggest sticking points has been the windows. There was only one intact window (out of 6) in the house. We've been covering them with plastic each year, but they would go weeks or months with torn plastic and critters getting in, not to mention the dirt.
We also don't have the budget to replace the windows with actual double-hung windows, so we've come up with an inexpensive solution. We purchased storm windows to cover the openings.
It was quite a job, but with only six windows, and a beautiful winter day to do it it was a great afternoon.
On the inside, we simply removed the broken windows and all of the trim. The deep sills can be used for plants or kitties to sit.
For the first time in several decades, the cabin has intact windows. It isn't a permanent solution, and was very inexpensive, but at least the cabin is secure from critters and dirt, so the next time we clean, it will stay a little bit longer!
There is still a lot of work to do before the cabin is the snug cottage in the hills that I envision, but we are another step closer.

To see where it all began, check out this post from 2009:

Crazy? Not us!

And a little further progress, here is from 2010:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

As you'll see from the 2010 post, we primed it that year, but have never had the funds for paint. It's now time to reprime and actually paint.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Stories: Wilbert Edward Harshfield


Born January 24, 1909 and died July 17, 1961 as a result of injuries received in a car accident north of Sutherland, Nebraska.
Wilbert Edward Harshfield
He was a bachelor and spent his entire life at the ranch with the exception of his years in the Army during World War II at which time he served with the Quartermaster Corps, 330 Engineers, and was stationed in Burma.

After the war he returned to the ranch and was living there at the time of his death.

He was a big, loving, pleasant man, with a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his face.

He was “Uncle Chum” to his nephews and nieces. He mended our toys, built us stilts and showed us how to walk on them. Encouraged us to cross the creek with them, and then laughed when we tumbled in the water. He loved to tease us kids; and pulling tricks on us like taking our pancakes that we had slaved over making and tacking them up on the screen door for hinges; putting fish worms down our backs. We loved him for it though, and if you couldn’t take a teasing, you were in for it! I do believe that through his teasing, we kids that grew up with him are better people for having had this experience.

Wilbert was gifted in mechanics and music. He understood machinery and its workings. He could fix anything and build anything. It was common knowledge in the Sandhills, “If it doesn’t work, “Fat” can fix it, or build a new one” and he did.

All his nieces and nephews and his host of friends have a special little niche in our hearts for Wilbert “Fat” Harshfield.
Wilbert left his mark on the Sandhills, today as you drive up through the hills, you can see hundreds of trees that this man planted mostly all by hand. These trees not only provide shelter belts, but provide cover for the wild life that he so enjoyed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Taken to Task

Below is a blog post from August of last year. I made it during a road trip through central and eastern Nebraska. Not long ago, I received a message on Facebook from someone who had shared this post and received a very stern reply from a local who took umbrage with it.

I am resharing this post, with the comments from the criticism included in their respective places. I do this not to ridicule the very valid criticisms or even to apologize from my original post. What I want to do is to draw attention to two things - first, the pride of the residents of a community; and second, the valid observations of "fresh eyes" to a community. I invite you to read and to contemplate how you see your hometown, and how others might.

August 9, 2014

We headed north out of town and took the Broken Bow cut off. When we got to Highway 2/92, we turned north, so didn't actually go into Broken Bow. We followed the BNSF tracks past the tiny community of Merna with its Anselmo-Merna consolidated school on to the community of Anselmo.
The aptly named "Cathedral of the Sandhills" - St. Anselm's Catholic Church.

Fortunately, the doors were open and we got to enjoy the stunning interior.
The first sight that caught our eye is the "Cathedral of the Sandhills", St. Anselms Catholic Church. It makes sense that a community named Anselmo could be named after St. Anselm, but it doesn't sound as if this is the case. Anselmo is the name of the founder of the town, and the Cathedral - built in 1928 - followed. 
The rectory.
None of that takes away from the magnificence of the church, though. Fortunately, the doors were open and we could venture in for photos. There is a book inside with the history of the church. Sadly, there weren't any brochures or pamphlets to take away. I would gladly have dropped some coin in the collection plate to be able to have the info with me.
The parish hall - the original church.
Next door is the parsonage, and further west from that is what I took to be the original church, though there is no signage whatsoever to confirm this theory. Wikipedia confirmed this, and we also learned that the entire complex, consisting of four buildings was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Where to start ... we appreciate the positive comments about our church. It is a beautiful building and we are very proud of it. Our priest is currently in the process of reordering brochures ... we DO have them. The hall was recently repainted and yes the book at the church explains its history. Most people that visit this property, stop into the church first where they learn of these things. 
Anselmo centennial mural
Downtown Anselmo has seen better days. Though a mural celebrates its centennial, its glory days are definitely behind it. The Masonic Temple/post office does sport new Anderson Windows, but since the stickers are still on them, it doesn't look as if it is in regular use.

The negative comments about the other places in town are simply just rude. Small towns do not have the population or tax support that lets them fix anything they want. Small towns struggle just to survive. Our community is full of very hard working people and everyone tries to the best of their ability (and resources) to keep buildings in operation. Our buildings may show some wear and tear, but there is a lot about our town that you will never know or understand. Have you ever heard of the saying, "it's what's on the inside that counts"?
Post office and Masonic Temple
According to the University of Nebraska history of Anselmo, rather than being founded by early settlers, Anselmo was actually founded by the railroad, which needed another point for water and coal. Might this explain the lack of civic pride in Anselmo? Or is the state of the community simply a result of the depopulation of this area of the Sandhills?
Anselmo street view.

I believe this is the grocery store, but it wasn't open.
The Anselmo Market IS a grocery store, the sign was being fixed and looking in the window would make the contents obvious. You obviously must have been in town on a Sunday, as this is the ONLY day they are not open. They will open for "emergencies" on this day and all it takes is a quick phone call. The owners of this store have also invested in a local rental property to offer housing for people that move in/out of town along with running the local bar, so that a restaurant is available to people. They have pride and love for the people of Anselmo. 
A necessity in a rural Nebraska community - the Volunteer Fire Department
I'm very glad you snapped a picture of our fire department, as they own several newly purchased pieces of equipment and have approximately 40 volunteers (one of the largest fire departments in the area). 
The former bank, and a former restaurant.
The former bank/restaurant was in operation until the late 90's when an elderly couple passed away. It is full of Christmas decorations that fill the yard of a local couple (and daughter of former owners) that put up a MASSIVE display during the season every year. People travel from many miles away to see this display. The building serves as great storage for all of these treasures. 
An historical display in the downtown park, This is possibly the opera house, also included is a sod house and the original jail - all in a very bad state of disrepair.

The Burlington (BNSF) still passes through town regularly.
BNSF does still travel thru town quite frequently. A recently added second track makes way for trains about every 10 minutes. Some of which make a stop at the new Andersons Grain facility just out of town (which is an annexation of Anselmo). They sought out our small community because of its commodity potential. It has been a huge success.
The Anselmo community hall. It might still be in use, but is pretty dilapidated.
Our community building is NOT in use due to the enormous cost that it would take to make it comply with government regulations. It is a sad situation but one we have no control of due to rules that we do not have the power to change. 
One of the saddest sights of all. A large collection of classic cars, in a building whose roof is caved in.
The "saddest site" building with all the old cars does need some work, but the owners of the building and it's cars have struggled with health issues for the last several years and medical trips consume most of their time. They are two of the dearest people that live in this town.

The Catholic church is definitely worth a visit, and exploring some of the other unique buildings on the main street is worthwhile, but it won't take you very long.

 I apologize for the length of this response but I DO NOT apologize for any of the explanation. Those who live here ... love it here, and as you can tell we are very defensive when someone makes judgements that are very unjustified. I'm sure you will never understand the meaning of these things addressed, but I would just ask that you be more careful in choosing your words when you describe other people's possessions. 

Comments from the person that shared these criticisms with me

Recently an article you wrote about Anselmo NE resurfaced on Facebook.  I reposted as I was born and raised their and am very proud of my church.  Was a bit disappointed about the rest of the article but, regretfully now, did repost it.  


An individual (who I do not have permission to name) responded to the post with the following letter and I believe that you should be exposed to this viewpoint.   Dig a little deeper when you write, especially as someone who is promoting tourism.  Please avoid tearing down a good community you never took the time to truly know.

Thank you for your time and I hope that you will be a bit more kind with your words in the future.  I have a public relations/journalism degree and I see no true purpose of your rhetoric.  You did a wonderful job describing the church.  If you wanted to write more about the town, as all good journalists know, investigate without assumption please.

My Response

Thank you so much for forwarding this comment on to me and for including your own observations. This is exactly the dialogue I hope to inspire with my posts.

I understand you and the other local resident coming to the defense of your community. That is as it should be. However, after reviewing the original blog post, I stand by what I wrote. You have to understand, I do not attempt to be a journalist, and to some extent don't even strive to promote tourism, though I do like to pique interest.

What I do is to give my observations as a visitor with "fresh eyes," describing how I see the community as someone new coming to town.

I very much understand the challenges faced by rural communities in Nebraska and throughout the Great Plains and Midwest. If you follow my facebook feed, you'll know that I am always sharing articles about these challenges and examples of how some communities are overcoming them. Yes, there are reasons communities become worn down, but there are also communities who overcome these problems. Sometimes it takes hearing the observations of an outsider - describing just what they saw - to realize just how bad things are.

It's great that there are usually brochures in the church - on the day that I was there, there weren't. The owners of the grocery store sound like perfectly wonderful people, but on the day I was there (which was a Saturday, by the way), it was closed, and because of the signage problem indicated in the response, a quick drive-by observation couldn't determine whether it was still a going business or not. 

The downtown bank/restaurant is pretty much just as I describe it in my post. It's great that it is used as storage, and great that the owners put on a fabulous light display during the winter. But it would be a lot more wonderful if it were still some kind of a going business.


The building with the antique cars is very much in danger of collapsing entirely. I understand the aging populations of our rural communities and the health, time and financial problems that they face. That doesn't make my statement of the endangered building and how sad it is any less true.

No further investigation is needed to observe and decry the dilapidated state of the buildings. Not all is rosy and prosperous in rural Nebraska, and a true observation will describe both.

Further thoughts

It pains me that I insulted people and made them feel badly. I am very pleased that, in a roundabout way, I learned about the pride people have in their community and that they, very eloquently defended their town and pointed out the truth behind the facade.

I did learn from this encounter, and I will try to be more sensitive and thoughtful in my posts. I will also continue to be truthful and share what I observe during quick drive-throughs (which is what most tourists do) of Nebraska's rural communities.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Stories: John Q.A. Harshfield and Susan Etta Harshfield


John Q.A. Harshfield was born May 4, 1875 and died April 7, 1948. He was born at Osage Mission (now St. Paul) Kansas. He came to Nebraska with his parents John Thomas and Susan C. (Elkins) Harshfield in 1887 and his brothers, Sidney Clyde and Lorenzo Thomas. The family was accompanied by John Thomas’ brother, David Washington, on the move to Nebraska from Coffeeville, Kansas. The trip was made by covered wagon.

The boys’ mother, Susan Caroline (Shoptaw) Harshfield, died when Sidney was ten, John was seven and Lorenzo was six months old.
John Q. A. Harshfield
After moving to Nebraska, young John left home when he was 13 years old and signed on as a wrangler with a cattle drive. He worked as a “cow puncher” for several years, returning home each fall. From 1892 to 1894 was employed as a “horse wrangler” for Western Union Beef Company out of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and in 1898 was a cow puncher with Fiddle Back Ranch in Wyoming, in 1897 as a cow puncher with the Standard Cattle Company and Bar FS & T7 Ranch, both in Wyoming.
Susan Etta Carrico Harshfield
John homesteaded land 18 miles north of Sutherland on the Birdwood Creek in 1898 when he was 23 years old. He was married April 11, 1898, and lived and toiled on his “Hillsdale Ranch” exactly 50 years. He was buried on his “Golden Wedding Day.”

John Q.A. Harshfield and Susan Etta Carrico were married April 11, 1898 in a double wedding ceremony with her sister, May Estella Carrico and Leonard Laubner. The Laubner’s made their home on a farm in the O’Fallons Community. The two families remained close through the years and spent many Sundays together. Stella’s and Etta’s children, and even their grandchildren know each other well and feel like “family.”

Susan Etta Carrico was born March 29, 1897 and died April 4, 1956. She was born in Parsons, Kansas and came to Nebraska when she was around 16 years old. Her parents were Pius Matthias and Julie Etta (Neill) Carrico. They came to Nebraska by covered wagon and Susan Etta remembered waving at the trains as they went along their way. The Carrico family settled near Hershey, Nebraska on a place owned in 1991 by Gene and Kay Kramer. Pius and Julia Carrico moved to Wyoming in their later years to be near their youngest daughter, Bertha.

Susan Etta (Carrico) Harshfield lived in the Sutherland area all her married life.

During the 1920’s, several Wild West Shows were held at the Harshfield Ranch. These lasted for three or four days, and included such events as rodeos, dances, races of various kinds, an Indian attack on an emigrant wagon train, food booths galore, and various games to test one’s ability to win money as prizes. Indians from the Rosebud Reservation were there to take part in the show. They staged dances and performances of their own to entertain the spectators. People came and camped near the showgrounds at Roundup Canyon. 

John and Etta with hard work and perseverance and the help of their three sons, developed their Hillsdale Ranch on the Birdwood and built it into a showplace. They struggled through droughts, hard times, blizzards; raised five children and two grandchildren. They worked hard but felt they had a goof life. Both were “stayers”.

Their first child was a little girl, however, due to reasons beyond their control, she was born before she was full term and she is buried on the hill behind the house, but no one today in the family knows the exact spot of her burial. She was never given a name.

Next to be born was Olive May; born May 13, 1900; and she died November 4, 1935. Walter Theodore (Ted) was born July 2, 1902 and died April 19, 1976. Alva Perry was born July 18, 1905 and died April 17, 1952. Wilbert Edward, born January 24, 1909, and died July 17, 1961. Gladys Velma, born June 9, 1912.


John Q.A., not only was interested in his family, but the cattle business, and how State and National affairs affected it, and the well-being of his town – Sutherland. At one time he was the owner and operator of 30,000 acres and running 2,500 head of cattle under the Diamond X brand. In 1937, they discovered and tapped an underground stream on the ranch, and with an unlimited supply of water, worked with the government to try and use the water for irrigation in Nebraska. In 1908 he was on the board of directors for the school district. He backed the construction of the Birdwood bridge over the North Platte river north of Sutherland. He was a member of the Nebraska Stockgrowers Association and IOOF Lodge. Hobbies were historical reading and writing. 

Etta’s life was her home, her work and her family.

Double Wedding in 1898

Taken from the Sutherland Free Lance Thursday April 14, 1898.
Married: April 11th, at the residence of Pius Carrico: John A. Harshfield and Susan Etta Carrico, and Leonard Laubner and Stella Carrico.

The Sutherland Justice put on his most dignified air of legal wisdom, and a Mackintosh coat, coupled with dignified gravity of clerical mission, and went forth, Monday to solemnize, or at least legalize, the marriage of the afore-mentioned couples and escaped in time to get out a paper this week after performing a feat in legal-clerical practice that is well adapted to the versatile character of an editor Justice. The harsh corners of the legal phraseology was ground down with the smooth and natural rhetoric of the editor of the “Free Lance” and it was a thoroughly unique affair even to the final words that completed the ceremony.

The innate modesty of the Editor asserted itself and the Justice was smitten with a nervous shock when he faced the quadruples situation but the knot was tied in a truly artistic manner.

Dinner was provided for the guests and the newly married couples, and the tables fairly groaned, “if aught inanimate e’er groan” with the good things that go to make up a feast and the guests done ample justice to the viands. The brides – Misses Carrico’s, were residents of the Ritner Precinct and are well and favorably known through the community in which they lived, and it is the judicial opinion of the Court that the gentlemen who filled the capacity of Grooms in the ceremony have procured estimable ladies as life companions.

Messrs. Harshfield and Laubner are well known in Sutherland, and Mr. Laubner was just stepping into the shadows of old bachelorhood and his neighbors thought he was wedded to the idol of single blessedness when he took this seemingly surprising matrimonial step.

The Free Lance wishes the couples all the happiness that can possibly come from married life and tender the best wishes of their many friends.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brews and Bluegrass in Broken Bow

Just as soon as we had a chance, we road tripped to Broken Bow to check out the new Kinkaider Brewing Company. The perfect opportunity came when the brew pub hosted the Dirty River Ramblers recently.

It was a great round trip and we saw some beautiful country!

It's an hour and a half to Broken Bow, we made an overnight trip of it, staying at the historic Arrow Hotel.
We had a great stay. We had a two room suite with a king bed, queen bed, two baths, kitchen and living space. When the hotel was originally refurbished, it was designed as apartments for retirees, then when it was converted to a hotel again, they kept some of the suites. They are very comfortable and nicely decorated.

In the lobby is the Bonfire Grill and Pub. We had to get to the Kinkaider, so we didn't have time to eat, but after the beer and music, we stopped for a nightcap. It is decorated very nicely with a great atmosphere, and the bartenders know how to make a dirty martini, so it's a great location in my book!

So... on to the Brews and Bluegrass!

Located in the heart of Custer County, Nebraska, the Kinkaider is aptly named and celebrates the history of the great homesteading movement initiated by the Kinkaid Act of 1904.

You never know exactly what you're going to get when you try out a new brew pub. Some are great and some not so good. We were very pleased with the brews at the Kinkaider. Mark immediately gravitated toward the Jalapeno Ale. I started with a flight, then settled on the Jalapeno Ale myself, though I was torn between that and the KBC Porter. What clinched the deal was when I found out they offer it as a red beer for only $1 extra.

The owners have a long history of home brewing, and we wish them the best. It definitely won't be our last trip to the Kinkaider.

The Dirty River Ramblers are a bluegrass band out of Omaha currently on a national tour. The Kinkaider was fortunate to get them for the first music event at the brew pub. I'm sure the event was a learning experience for the venue, and there could be improvements. I'm used to music in a concert setting rather than a bar setting, where the audience is quiet and listens to the band. It seemed as if sometimes the band was a bit distracted by the crowd noise. For what it was, it was very enjoyable.

Saturday morning we had a great breakfast at the City Cafe, just down the block on the square from the Arrow. It is as cute a rustic hometown cafe you could ask for, with great home cooking.

And then the drive home! As you can see from the map, we took a roundabout way, going north through the wind farm to the Victoria Springs road and through the recreation area, then south on a county road to Merna.
Where we found a great bunch of windmills on display at the Downey well drilling company.
Then on the county road that goes from Arnold to Callaway, we saw several flocks of Trumpeter Swans in the corn fields. What a sight to see.
Then, of course, was the great sculpture garden in Oconto that was the subject of a previous post.

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