Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Skills USA

So who is going to fix our cars when this generation of mechanics and auto body specialists retires? And build our houses, and put in (and fix) our plumbing, wiring, heating and air conditioning? And build and maintain our roads and bridges? And cook and serve food in our restaurants? And cut our hair and do our nails? And take care of us in the hospital or nursing home?

Here is a list of the contests that are a part of the Nebraska Skills USA Competition:
3-D Visualization
Advertising and Design
Architectural Drafting
Architectural BluePrint Reading
Automated Manufacturing Technology
Automotive Parts
Automotive Service Technology
Automotive Refinishing
Basic Health Care Skills
CNC Turning and Mill
Collision Repair Technology
Commercial Baking
Commercial Photography
Computer Maintenance
Criminal Justice
Culinary Arts
Customer Service
Diesel Equipment Technology
Crime Scene Investigation
Electronics Applications
Electronics Technology
First Aid/CPR
Food and Beverage Service
Industrial Motor Control
Job Skill Demonstrations
Medical Assisting
Metric 500
Motorcycle Service Technology
Nurse Assisting
Power Equipment Technology
Precision Machining Technology
Pre-School Teaching Assistant
Related Technical Math
Residential Wiring
Structural Steel
Technical Computer Applications
Technical Drafting
Television (Video) Production
GMAW Welding
GTAW Welding
SMAW Welding
Welding Post Secondary
Oxy-Acetylene Welding
Welding Fabrication
Web Design

The Champions from Nebraska's competition will go on to Nationals. They will be offered scholarships and job opportunities. Right out of high school or with a two-year degree, these talented young people can take up a career that is productive and rewarding.

According to the instructor I spoke to, graduates of the two-year electrical program at Mid-Plains Community College can command wages of up to $80,000.00 per year. And that is without the crippling student loan debt that it takes to go to a four-year college.

Now don't get me wrong. I see the need for both white collar and blue collar jobs. Both four-year colleges and two-year colleges and technical schools have their merits.

I just know who I am going to call when my furnace isn't heating during a cold Nebraska winter (or spring, as the case may be). I can only hope that there is someone out there who can do the job.

Something to think about.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The North Platte Canteen

I am going to cheat once again with my blog post. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a seven minute video must be worth a couple pages of text.

The North Platte Canteen is one of the most heartwarming stories to come out of the homefront of World War II. At that time, North Platte was a sleepy little western Nebraska town of about 12,000. Little did the volunteers who started the North Platte Canteen in the Union Pacific Depot on Christmas Day 1941 know that it would take more than 55,000 volunteers to keep the Canteen open for 54 months during the war. The Canteen closed it's doors on April 1, 1946 after serving more than 6.5 million (yes, that's six and a half million) service men and women.

But, the video tells it much better than I can.

Thank you for stopping by. Now you know why the tradition of serving coffee is alive and well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Little Hands

Last night's concert by Beth Wood was amazing. If I had the energy to collect my thoughts and upload some pictures, I would, but that will have to wait.

Her lyrics touched the heart of everyone here, and I'm sure we all have our favorite. But I would like to share with you a part of the song that really struck me last night:

...And I'm just wondering about the little things
And what they all add up to mean
The sum of which I may never understand
We've all got big plans
And little hands

...We do the best we can
With little hands

One of the wonderful things about song lyrics is that each person can read into them the particular message that touches them. What this song means to me, is that we all need to do our part, no matter how small a part that is.

Whether it's turning off your lights for an hour during Earth Hour (which we forgot to do last night), recycling, volunteering in your community, or just being kind to someone, it all adds up and makes a difference.

Thank you for stopping by. I'm serving coffee, but the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I just returned from the Nebraska SkillsUSA annual conference in Columbus. It was an awesome experience. I will write more about it, probably until everyone is tired of reading about it, but a short note and a few quotes will have to do for today.

SkillsUSA is a career serving student organization (CSO) serving high school and college students enrolled in programs preparing them for technical, skilled and service careers. Students embrace our slogan "SkillsUSA: Champions at Work" by learning leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development - traits that go into shaping responsible, reliable employees who will one day become leaders in the workplace.

SkillsUSA is dedicated to building champions for America's work force and emphasizes high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education and pride. SkillsUSA also promotes community service, patriotism and an understanding of the free enterprise system.

SkillsUSA Nebraska has yearly state competitions that allow students to showcase their skills and an opportunity to advance to national competitions.

You can find more information at www.SkillsUSANebraska.org.

This is also the perfect time to mention the important work being done in this area by Mike Rowe. You may all know Mike Rowe as just the host of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. But he also plays another role as the champion of the skilled trades in America. You can find that part of his work at www.mikeroweworks.com.

Here is a quote from Mike's open letter to President Barak Obama shortly after his inauguration.
Forty years ago, people understood that sweat and dirt were the hallmarks of important work. Today, that understanding has faded. Somewhere in our economy’s massive transition from manufacturing to financial services, we have forsaken skilled labor, along with many aspects of our traditional work ethic. Trade school enrollments are down, even as our infrastructure crumbles around us. I don't think that's a coincidence. Community Colleges are routinely described as alternatives to a “proper” education. Madison Avenue bombards us with messages that equate happiness with leisure. Hollywood portrayals of hard work usually embody an element of drudgery or some silly stereotype, and jobs once considered vital to our society are now simply overlooked. The ranks of welders, carpenters, pipe fitters, and plumbers have been declining for years, and now, we face the bizarre reality of rising unemployment, and a shortage of skilled labor. Strange days.

Whether through elitism or indifference, the net result is the same – people have slowly shied away from these jobs. Not because they aren’t important or lucrative – but because they are simply not celebrated. This perception is real Mr. President, and I believe it’s standing squarely in the way of your recovery plan, as well as your initiative for Volunteerism and national service. In my opinion, it needs to be corrected as soon as possible, which brings me back to my idea.

mikeroweWORKS.com is a destination for anyone looking to investigate a career in the Skilled Trades. Its purpose is to encourage, educate, and celebrate the business of Work, by focusing on those opportunities related to rebuilding our national infrastructure. The idea grew from the mission of Dirty Jobs, and evolved with the help of loyal viewers who constantly provide the site with daily links to scholarships, apprenticeships, fellowships, and other worthwhile programs. Large corporations have offered support. Industry leaders, Retired Generals, teachers, laborers, professors, parents, and students have all gotten involved. My hope for mikeroweWORKS is that it function not just as a useful resource, but also as a “call to arms,” and ultimately, a PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. I would like to see mikeroweWORKS help assure that those three or four million jobs you wish to create, are jobs that people feel proud to have.

People often tell me that Dirty Jobs reminds them of a time when Work was not seen as a thing to avoid. When skilled tradesmen were seen as role models, and a paycheck was not the only benefit of a job well done. We need to recapture that sentiment. We need to celebrate, on a bigger scale, the role models right in front of us. Dirty Jobs has given me the opportunity to do that. With a little luck and the right support, mikeroweWORKS, will take it to the next level.

Many of the comments from the instructors and advisors I met at SkillsUSA echoed these views.

Something to start thinking about.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee will be served during tonight's House Concert (shameless self-promotion!). I hope to see you all here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Right Here in Nebraska

Sometimes blogging can be hard work. It's not that there isn't enough to write about, or that I don't like writing, it's just finding the time to do it.

Other times, it's easy. Thanks to this gift from my friend in Grand Island, my post for the day is ready-made.


Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on, and there's Diet Coke in the fridge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Personal Resolutions

New Year's Day may have been quite awhile ago, but it's not too late to make a resolution. I have been toying with the idea for some time, but Monday and Tuesday made me realize that it's time to stop procrastinating and make a commitment. Sounds ominous, doesn't it?

As many of you who know me no doubt already know, I am embarrassingly, paralyzingly, deathly afraid of storms. Thunder, lightning, rain, wind, tornados... Anyone who has ever witnessed a meltdown during the height of a storm will understand. I lose all ability to think rationally after the first clap of thunder.

Here's a quote from the National Weather Service website from Tuesday:

Wild weather ensued across western and north central Nebraska on Monday, March
23rd, with severe thunderstorms that produced isolated tornadoes, some large
hail and damaging winds. In addition to the severe weather, a cold front
and associated strong upper level system brought strong gradient wind gusts that
created blizzard conditions as heavy snow fell resulting in closed roads across
parts of Sheridan County. Early reports indicated snow accumulations of 6 to 8
inches near Rushville, with snow drifts up to 4 feet observed 5 miles north of
Rushville. To add to the wild weather the first tornadoes of the season
occurred. A brief tornado touched down 9 miles south of Brownlee in Cherry
County, where the tornado damaged a lean-to on a barn. Then another tornado
touched down 7 to 8 miles north of O'Neill, where early reports indicated some
downed power lines and a few grain trailers tipped over. Below are images taken
from Google Earth Professional that show storm reports across western and north
central Nebraska on Monday.

Which brings me to my resolution: To be BRAVE! I haven't quite figured out how to do it yet. My heart was pounding just looking at the clouds on the way in to work on Monday, and seeing the rainbow colored weather map indicating all the watches and warnings, but now that I've written it, I am committed to it. I will stop being a coward and learn to enjoy our wild Nebraska weather...

Thanks for stopping by. If it's storming, the coffee will be served in the basement to the accompaniment of the weather radio.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crazy Days

So we are all finally home from our travels.  

Last week, Tim came home from college on Spring Break on Sunday.  Mark left for Chicago for a Union Pacific training class on Monday.  I left for Lafayette on Wednesday.  Sam went to Burlington Colorado to tour the prison there with his Government class on Wednesday.  Tim and Sam left for a ski trip on Thursday.  Mark got home on Friday, Tim and Sam got home late Sunday, after which Tim drove back to Lincoln for class on Monday, and after a two hour delay at the DFW airport and a one hour delay at the Denver airport, I arrived back in North Platte at about 10:00 on Sunday.

And it's not like the office has been at a standstill while I've been gone.  Saturday was the first Recreation and Outdoor Show at the Platte River Mall, and of course, the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau had a booth there, too!


Since February 26, Mark and I have been home a total of about eight days.  It's like this every spring, which is one of the busiest times of year in the tourism industry.  It's fun, exciting, but also exhausting, and it's good to be home for awhile.

So, those of you who are planning to attend our House Concert 

on Saturday, don't try to give the house the white glove inspection, because it won't pass!  However, there will still be good times, good people and good music to enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cajun Karl and Acadian History and Culture

The Lafayette Museum of Natural History and Planetarium's back door opens right onto the square that is home to Downtown Alive.  We were treated to a tour of the Museum, and a Cajun dinner featuring a delicious Gumbo.  It was cooked for us by Cajun Karl, who is really Karl Breaux, a French speaking Cajun who is a champion of the Cajun culture, and a fantastic cook who has his own cooking show on local television.

Karl Breaux is a French speaking CAJUN, born in Lafayette, Louisiana and has received awards from the governments of France and Louisiana for his efforts to protect the French language. Karl's commitment to the culture of the legally recognized "Acadiana" region of French Louisiana is evident in his efforts to highlight the various historic and eco-cultural destinations. 

Karl works with his family in their supermarket and has cooked for many years at hunting camps, family outings and public events. Karl has a unique way of enjoying Louisiana’s Paradise while showing how a real and True CAJUN cooks the traditional meals as well as the modern methods of preparing Great Home Cooked Meals. Karl's authentic product line finally gives everyone a chance to experience a family style Cajun meal, just like someones' grandma cooked it here in South Louisiana.

To quote Karl’s favorite saying: 

“Love everyone and have fun, it is a short life” 

We were fortunate enough that he came to the Heritage conference on Saturday to give us a cooking demonstration and an education on Cajun heritage.

So here, in a nutshell, is the history of Acadiana (Direct quotes are from the Travel Host magazine that was in my hotel room):

The 700,000 Cajuns who live in South Louisiana are descendants of French Canadians.  About 18,000 French-speaking Catholic inhabitants from Brittany, Poitou, Normandy, and across France established the French colony of Acadia, now Nova Scotia, Canada.  The year was 1604 - sixteen years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, thus establishing one of the first permanent colonies on the North American continent.  By the time the British won the colony from France in 1713, they had established a thriving, self-sufficient community.

For refusing to pledge allegiance to the British crown, which required renouncing their traditional Catholic religion for that of the Anglican Church, they were forced from their homes in 1755. This cruel and tragic event, known as Le Grand Derangement, separated families and forced people to flee with only the possessions they c ould carry.  Homes and crops were burned by the British and the Acadians went to sea under dreadful conditions.  More than half lost their lives.

The survivors were scattered along the U.S. eastern seaboard and France until 1784, the King of Spain consented to allow them to settle in South Louisiana.  Most followed the path which led to New Orleans.  There they received a hostile greeting from the French aristocracy so they headed west of the city into unsettled territory.  They settled along the bayous of south central and south western Louisiana where they could live according to their own beliefs and customs.

For several generations, the Cajuns raised various crops and lived on the bayou where they fished and trapped.  Today, Cajuns are famous for their unique French dialect, their music, their spicy cooking and for their ability to live life to its fullest.

According to Karl, a law was passed in the 1920's that made it illegal to speak the French language in schools and public buildings.  This law persisted up until the late 1960's or early 1970's, in an attempt to assimilate the Acadian people into main stream America.  While many, including Karl, resisted the homogenization of their culture, the harsh restrictions had a severe effect.  Now some of the schools offer "French Immersion" education in which children are taught all subjects in French, along with a course on English.

It seems we've come a long way.

The Cajuns aren't the only distinct ethnic group to call the Lafayette area home.  After the Napoleonic wars, many French emigrated to the area, as did Catholic Germans, Lebanese, Vietnamese, who were accepted to the area because of their shared faith.  Many slaves and free people of color added their beliefs and customs to the mix.

The motto of the people of this area is "Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Which is translated as "Let the good times roll!  Whether it's a shared beverage after a long hard days work, a celebration of one of the many festivals, or the grand Mardi Gras, they know how to have fun!

So dust off your copy of Evangeline by Longfellow, find a CD of Cajun music (I just know there are some available for download from iTunes), throw some shrimp and crawfish in a pot and call some friends.  You can experience a little Cajun culture right in the heart of Nebraska.  OK, it probably won't be the same, so you should just plan a trip down here.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Downtown Alive

Following the swamp tour, my group loaded back on to the motorcoach for a stop at the Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center, which is actually a national park.  Jean Lafitte, in addition to being a pirate was also instrumental in saving New Orleans from the British during the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.  He's a local folk hero, and there's a series of sites dedicated to the history of the region that bear his  name.

By 5:00, we were back at the hotel for a quick change, then back on the motorcoaches for downtown Lafayette for Downtown Alive.

Every Friday night from 5:30 to 9:00 in the spring and the fall, there is live music in the square in downtown Lafayette.  I believe they are close to celebrating their 25th year.  There's food (of course!), music, dancing, 

and an all around good time.  It was great to see entire families, including grandma and grandpa dancing and having a good time.

The crowd was huge, and Louisiana has quite liberal alcohol laws, but no one got out of hand or unruly.  We were told that Louisiana has more than 100+ festivals every year, celebrating everything under the sun.  If your town isn't doing something like this, aren't you jealous?

The band that was playing on Friday night was Louisiana Red.

A long but very fun day. A bit more tomorrow, then I think I'll be done with Louisiana.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Nebraskan in Louisiana

The good people at Heritage Clubs International have kept us so busy that there’s too much to put into one post, so you’re going to be hearing about Lafayette Louisiana in the next few posts. 

Just to reassure everyone that there is a little bit of work being done, here are pictures from the trade show floor where all of Nebraska’s representatives are busy selling the Bank Club Directors on the virtues of our various destinations. 

There’s Grand Island

 South Sioux City

And the Omaha Henry Doorly zoo

 And of course, North Platte.

I have to tell you that there are several things that stand out about the Cajun culture.  The first is food, and the second is music.  Not necessarily in that order.  There is also the warm friendliness of the people, the outstanding climate (at least while we’ve been here), and the beautiful scenery and wildlife.  If I had a recorder, I would post the lively bird songs that can be heard all of the time.  Of course, the hotel staff described them as “annoying”, so it must be something that you get used to after awhile.

After a business meeting for “Heritage Partners” (that’s people like me who are selling a destination, as opposed to the Club Directors, who are the buyers), and breakfast and lunch where we also get to rub shoulders with the Directors, it was time for the evening’s dining and entertainment. 

A crawfish and shrimp boil on the beautiful grounds of the hotel, to the music of a Zydeco band.  
I asked someone to give me a description of Zydeco music, and the best they could come up is funky country.  It kind of sounds like country/bluegrass/celtic/rock/blues/jazz all rolled in to one, at least to my unschooled ears. 

Friday was a crazy busy day.  It started with a breakfast hosted by the Nebraska partners, in which we all get to give a brief spiel about our destination.  That is followed by a two-and-a-half hour trade show where all of us “partners” man our booths and the Club Directors come by and visit us for some one-on-one selling.

After that it was off to our local tours.  I was fortunate enough to be on the one called “Cajun for a day”, which included lunch at McGee’s Landing.

I chose the Shrimp Etouffee, 

and was lucky enough that someone at my table also ordered the fried catfish, which they shared.  It was all delicious. 

After that came a boat tour of the Atchafalaya Swamp.  It is an absolutely incredible place.  It is approximately 20 miles in width and 150 miles long, making it the largest swamp in the United States.  As you can imagine, we only got to see a small portion of it. 

It is home to the bald cypress tree, which is now protected after all of the old-growth timber was logged out some time in the mid-part of the 20th Century. The trees in the pictures are about 80 years old, and the ones they logged out were more than 200 years old.

The moss you see hanging from the trees isn’t a parasite like mistletoe, but a plant that gathers all of it’s nutrients from the air.  The Ford motor company used the moss as stuffing for the cushions of his vehicles, up until about the 1950’s.  They specified that the moss be shipped in cypress crates, and the lumber was also used in the manufacturing process.

At this point it would be good to tell you that our wonderful guide Curtis was a native French-speaking Cajun, and admitted that the Cajuns enjoy a fondness for telling a good story.  So I am only repeating what we were told.  I don’t vouch for it’s truthfulness.

I mentioned the crawfish boil we enjoyed.  I learned that: Louisiana leads the nation, producing more than 90% of the domestic crop. More than 1,600 farmers produce crawfish in some 111,000 acres of ponds. More than 800 commercial fisherman harvest crawfish from natural wetlands, primarily the Atchafalaya Basin. The combined annual yield ranges from 75 million to 105 million pounds. The total economic impact on the Louisiana economy exceeds $120 million annually, and more than 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the crawfish industry.  I have vowed to eat more crawfish to support the industry.  Not much of a sacrifice.

On our swamp tour, we saw lots of wildlife, several different species of birds – egrets, herons, and of course, alligators!  Actually, we only saw one alligator, and it slipped under the water before I got the chance to get a picture, but we were told there are LOTS more out there – over a million in the state of Louisiana alone.  There are quite a few alligator farms in the area, and they are required to release 18% of their hatch each year.  Alligators are hunted only one month out of the year.  They are caught on a hook, commonly baited with chicken, then the coup de grace is administered with a firearm. 

The swamp is one of the main reasons the Acadians were able to keep their culture intact as the vast wilderness allowed them some measure of isolation from the attempts at modernization.

If you can make it out, there is a tiny shack in the middle of this picture.  We were told the Cajun couple who lived there raised 11 children in it.

The I-10 bridge through the swamp is 18.2 miles long and is one of the longest bridges in the U.S.  If you look closely at the pillars, you will see that there are high water marks MUCH higher than the water is at the present time.

That’s what I can tell you about the Atchafalaya Swamp from my brief visit.  The rest you’ll just have to learn for yourself.  

More tomorrow on a few more interesting (to me at least) things about my visit. 

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Thursday Special from One Foot In The Grave

I like to think about growing up so I’'m going to talk about the toys we played with.  I like to hear how you spent your time having fun.

Almost ever Sunday in my life time at home we had a house full of relatives and friends. So we had lot of stuff to entertain our company, and our family.  We had a permanent horseshoe court west of our house.  Attached to the chicken house were swings and a bar,

Before my time they had a regulation base ball diamond east of the garden and over the hill.  We usually had at least two horses to ride and all the saddles and bridles were kept in the barn.  The back porch held the croquet to be put up whenever, also a big cupboard where we kept all the hunting guns. The shot put was in the tool shed, bike and stilts were by or in back porch.  

Barrel in yard and lot of game to play with a barrel. In the winter we had clamp on ice skate for lot of people. And sleds. Tricycle in the yard.

The wind charger was always good for story to talk about with  the city folks who visited.  My brothers built a guillotine to chop off chickens heads .  We sold that place and moved 7 miles west  At the auction we sold all the horse drawn equipment but one plow for the garden and the manure spreader. 


At the new home we had a 4 car garage but only owned one car so we kept the tractors, and farm machinery in with the car. It was the back stop for all our baseball games. We moved the shot put (which were really cannon balls), had a wooden bowling ball, horse shoes, bike. In the front yard had a hammock and on east side swing set. The croquet set was kept on the back porch. Ice skates were in the garage.   In the winter we played lot of card, checkers, and Chinese checkers.  Mom and sister Margaret played piano and we all sang.  During track season at both homes Dad would dig a pit for us to practice broad (long) jump.


I wonder what I forgot.  I hope some one will tell me.  Our family wasn'’t much for sitting around. We didn'’t have fishing stuff because we always went to Uncle Dave and he had all the fishing stuff  and a dam where we could fish and catch Bull heads.  So much fun. He lived in a canyon by the Niobrara river and we could walk to Prairie Falls.  All his cow had bells so they could find them.


A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.   He who hesitates is probably right.


Joke:  Three people were going to the guillotine. The first was a lawyer, who was led to the platform, blindfolded, and he had his head put on the block. The executioner pull the lanyard, but nothing happened. The blade didn'’t come down. To avoid a messy lawsuit, the authorities allowed the lawyer to go free.

The next man to the guillotine was a priest. They put his head on the block but nothing happened. They thought it must have been divine intervention, so they let the priest go.

The third man to the guillotine was an engineer . He waived his right to a blindfold, so they led him to the guillotine and put his head on the block. As he lay there, he said, Hey wait I see your problem.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Traveling to Lafayette Louisiana

So what is a post about Lafayette Louisiana doing in a blog about Nebraska?  Well, the simple fact is that I'm here (in Lafayette) right now.

If it has been awhile since you've flown out of North Platte to Denver, be sure to check out the beautiful North Platte poster at the Great Lakes Airlines gate.  We have our good friend the late Don Craig to thank for getting this poster on their wall, in partnership with the North Platte Regional Airport, Great Lakes Airlines and the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There isn't a direct flight from North Platte to Lafayette, so the route was North Platte-Denver, Denver-Dallas/Fort Worth, Dallas/Fort Worth-Denver.  Not bad.

I am here in Lafayette representing Lincoln County at the Heritage Clubs International Peer Group Conference.  Heritage Clubs is an organization of bank travel directors.  Bank travel groups are one of the largest group tour markets in the country, and Heritage represents mostly midwestern bank travel groups, so they are a great market for us.  I'll be spending the week convincing the club directors that they should visit the North Platte area.

And... one of the best marketing tools is networking at social events.  I know, it's a tough job but someone has to do it!

The first night of the conference was spent at Vermilionville, which is a "living history museum whose purpose is to preserve and interpret authentic elements of folklife and cultures of the Attakapas area between 1765 and 1890."

The buildings in Vermilionville were collected from throughout the Lafayette area and have been reassembled on the site of the village.
Living history interpreters are on hand in many of the homes, barns, shops and business buildings to reenact the early settlers.
Music and dancing is a huge part of the local Cajun culture, and a local dance "crew" entertained us.  This particular crew boasts about 150 members, who meet several times a  week to dance.  They aren't always in costume, but since Mardi Gras wasn't too long in the past, they showed off some of their costumes.
And the Cajun music!  Peggy Matt from the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau did a great job lining up entertainment for us.  The band was called the Bayou Boys, but when I did a google search to try to give you a link, I came up with a lot of Bayou Boys, so I'm not sure which one they are.  I believe the name of the accordion player is Damon Wade.  I met his wife and baby boy during the performance.
Cajun music can be joyful and melancholic, reflecting the rich Acadian, Creole and Native American heritage of the area.

So thanks for stopping by.  Once again, the coffee will be served in the hotel lobby.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Family Farm

In today's world, most family farms and ranches are highly specialized, raising a single crop or livestock.  Cattle, pigs, corn, wheat, soybeans, etc.  Not too many family farms are the farms of yesteryear, doing a little of this and a little of that, being basically self-sufficient.  Raising all of the meat, vegetables, milk, eggs, flour, etc. for the table.

My family's farm, Seifer Farms is a little different.

There's the usual dogs...
and of course, what family farm would be complete without the odd Watusi or two... or four.
I wish I could tell you why my family has Watusi's... but I don't know.  But they're quite impressive, don't you think?

But, if you remember the story from an earlier post regarding my dad's pet black bear, you know he would be proud.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee's always on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seifer Farms Pasture Poultry

My family's farm is Seifer Farms Pastured Poultry.  Their first batch of baby chicks arrived last Thursday.  These cute little balls of fluff are destined for the dinner table, and will be full grown and ready to butcher in about eight weeks.

My father passed away in 1993.  My mom wanted to become more involved with the farm, but wasn't really in to driving a tractor or working cattle.  What she could do is raise chickens.  We started that first year raising, butchering and direct marketing about 200 birds, just to get the hang of it.  

The farm production increased gradually, finally topping off at about 12,000 birds each year.  The babies arrive as day-old chicks from the hatchery through the U.S. mail.  The postmaster is always anxious to have us pick up the chicks as soon as they arrive, as a thousand baby chicks can make quite a racket.

They are kept in a brooder house for about three weeks, then moved out to the pasture, where they live free-range until they're about eight weeks old when it's time to butcher.

The freshly-butchered chickens are delivered directly to customers, sometimes on a delivery route, sometimes on the farm, and sometimes at a Farmer's market.

In the past I've always been pretty involved in all aspects of the business, but for the past several years, my job has been to drive a delivery route once a month during the summer.  My kids, and those of my brother and sister's have all had a hand in the business growing up.

Now it is my youngest niece's turn, and she enjoys it, at least when the chicks are this age:

So, as the marketing slogan goes:  If you're hankerin' after fried chicken just like grandma used to make, you've got to start with chicken just like grandma used to raise.

You can contact the farm at seiferfarms@gpcom.net if you're interested in ordering chickens.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on (early, now that chicken chores have started)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It may not be completely traditional, but what is a St. Patrick's day without corned beef and cabbage, parsnips and carrots, ham, potatoes and Irish Soda bread?
It was a full house today at North Platte's Espresso Shoppe for their annual St. Patrick's Day meal.
The gang at the Espresso Shoppe, plus a lot of extra hands served up hundreds of the delicious meal.

Now for St. Patrick's Day night - stay away from the green beer and don't drink too much Guinness.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee's always on.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Weekend Another Show

This weekend was the Big Mac Sports Show hosted by our friends in Ogallala.
The North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau booth had help this weekend, which was greatly appreciated.  The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center filled the booth on Saturday, and the Honky Tonk BBQ Festival filled in on Sunday morning.
All of the usual suspects were there, the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Valentine Visitor's Bureau, Cornhusker Fishing Camp, Glidden's Canoe Rentals, Western Nebraska, a couple of byways, and a few others that I know I'm missing.
So, while other people were slaving away at the booth, I took a leisurely drive around Lake McConaughy.  It got to be around 70 degrees on Sunday, so I enjoyed myself, and appreciated anyone who took the time to come to the show instead of going to the lake themselves.

From the morning glory looking north across the dam:
From the south end of the dam, looking west past Spillway Bay:
Looking into Spillway Bay:
The boat ramp at Martin Bay:
Looking west past Martin bay.  It ALMOST has water in it:
From the south end of the dam looking east across Lake Ogallala.
Looking north east from the south end of the dam across Lake Ogallala.
The water interpretive center on the highway south of the dam.
All in all, it was a great day.

Thanks for stopping by.  The coffee is always on.