Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Henhouse Prowlers Are Back

No, this isn't a dramatic tale of murder, mayhem and chicken-stealing in one of the Seifer Farms chicken houses, but an invitation to you to attend a re-appearance of one of the Nebraska Outback Concert Series' favorite performers.
The absolutely wonderful Chicago-based Bluegrass band, the Henhouse Prowlers will return to the Nebraska Outback on Tuesday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. in our front yard, weather permitting (and the forecast sounds like it's going to be GREAT!).
If you were fortunate enough to join us in May of 2009 during their first appearance here, you know that we hosted it in the hayloft of Cox's barn. This time it's going to be more accessible to all, as it's going to be in our front yard. Just bring your lawn chairs.
If you've ever been to one of our House Concerts, or any house concert for that matter, you know that one of the special things about a setting of this kind is the up-close-and-personal access you have to the performers.
I know you'll love their music and have a great evening if you make the time to come here. Click on the e-mail link at the bottom of this blog, or on the House Concert information page tab at the top, if you want more information about our House Concert or instructions to get here. We would love to have you.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Friends on the River

Even though we didn't have time for it, and it took a lot of effort that could have been spent more productively elsewhere, we absolutely had to take some time to enjoy our first tanking trip of the season.

The guys did all of the heavy lifting, and had everything ready to go by the time I got home from work. Given all of the discussion that has to take place before a monumental event such as this, it was still nearly 7pm before we actually got on the water. The river was absolutely magnificent. Just as peaceful, serene, quiet and beautiful as we needed it to be to refresh our spirits after so many days of frenzied activity.

Despite the flooding rains of the past few days downstream, here there was barely, and in some cases not quite, enough water to float our tank. Cotton from the cottonwood trees floated upon the water in abundance. We saw lots of wildlife along the river, deer and turkey crossed at several points, heard countless song birds, saw lots of carp speeding through the water, and even met a new friend. He wasn't very hospitable, in fact was quite grumpy, but judging from his size, he is probably quite elderly, and we were disturbing his solitude, so his mood was understandable. Even given the fact that he is a turtle, he managed to move quite quickly once he had been restored to the safety of his watery world, and soon disappeared among the reeds.Our policy on our river treks is to always pick up any man-made debris that we find along the way, and it was on a foray to retrieve a plastic soda bottle that we chanced to encounter this fella. I'm just glad I saw him before he saw me. It was a leisurely couple of hours floating down the North Platte. It would be more exciting if we had enough courage to make a try at the South Platte, which is running just below flood stage, but we aren't that brave... or is it that we are too smart to try it? We may never know just which it is.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo

As a tourism professional, you can imagine that my days get pretty busy during NEBRASKAland DAYS, which is Nebraska's official state celebration, headquartered in my town-of-occupation, North Platte. There are so many events, from Woodcarving Shows, Art Shows, Sports Tournaments, Heritage Festivals, Sports Tournaments, Parades, on and on and on. I try to get to as many as I can, and take as many pictures as I can, but it's a lot to try to blog about, so I'll concentrate on the Buffalo Bill PRCA Rodeo.

North Platte's own Velvet Spurs Riding Club, a horse drill team, opens the show each night with a routine that takes lots of skill, horsemanship and practice!
Miss Rodeo Nebraska works hard each night of the rodeo. One of her jobs is to introduce the main sponsors. Here she sports the flag of Dodge Ram Trucks, one of the main sponsors of the PRCA Rodeo circuit. She is also busy during the timed events, making sure that the livestock quickly make their way to the holding pens on the opposite end of the arena so the show can go on.
Did you know that the sport of spectator rodeo began in North Platte in 1882 when Buffalo Bill Cody was asked by North Platte's town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration call the Old Glory Blowout? The world's oldest rodeo celebrated 127 years this year, and Buffalo Bill, in the person of Bruce Richman welcomes the crowd.
Michelle's highest honor each night is to escort Old Glory into the arena to open the rodeo with the singing of the National Anthem. Rodeo is quite unique in that there is hardly a dry eye in the house when she passes by. It was even more emotional Saturday night as we celebrated the homecoming of North Platte's own 1013th Transportation Company from their third tour of duty in Iraq. These men and women have been gone for nearly a year.
Behind the chutes, the tension mounts as the cowboys prepare for their rides. This young man stood in this position for a long, long time, mentally preparing himself for his upcoming performance.
Rodeo is a tough sport, and the bodies of these young cowboys, lean and hard as they might be, really take a beating. Taping up old injuries and adding a little strength to the muscle and sinew help them ride again and again.
Part of the mental preparation includes a prayer for a good performance, safety and well-being during the upcoming ride.
Bull riding is traditionally the last event of the night, but at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, they always give the crowd a little taste of the action with a few rides set at the very beginning.

It takes an army of people behind the chutes to get the cowboys and the animal athletes ready for the ride, then the chute gate opens and the action begins. All they can do is watch and cheer the duo on.
It's a good thing there are a few bull rides early in the evening, as it is too dark by about 10pm when the rodeo is nearing its end and the full bull riding event takes place to get good pictures. At least I'm able to share a few with you. I very seldom get to watch a complete ride, as my eyes are usually closed by the time the eight seconds are over. The dismounts can sometimes be brutal!
Two of the most important men in the arena during the rodeo are the pick-up men, and the Beutler & Sons rodeo stock contractors have two of the best. During the bull rides, they protect the cowboys by helping the clowns distract the bull after the cowboy hits the dirt, and get the bulls safely back into the holding pens. They are also there if a ride should go wrong and the cowboy get "hung up" in the rigging. During the bareback and saddle bronc rides, they help the cowboys dismount after successful rides (in which they haven't been thrown to the ground prior to the eight-second time limit). Consider that all of this action is happening a break-neck speed!
After the cowboy is safely on the ground, it's time to remove the rigging and get the horse back in the holding pens behind the chutes.
Back in the day it was called Bulldogging. Today the preferred term is steer wrestling, and it is just that. Two cowboys guide a long-horned steer down the center of the arena at top speed, and then one cowboy dives off his horse onto the steers back to wrestle him to the ground.
The steer has size and brute strength on his side, but the cowboy has technique and momentum on his. A successful performance ends with the steer flat on his side with all four legs pointing in one direction - oh yeah, and with a cowboy that hasn't been gored by one of the sharp horns or otherwise injured in the tumble to the ground.
Other timed events include calf roping and team roping, but again these occur too late in the evening for my limited skills to get good photographs. Then there's the ladies barrel racing, which I don't have pictures of either.
One of the horse-bucking events is the bareback riding. These cowboys have nothing more than a rope around the belly of the horse to keep them in their seat.
It can be a wild ride, because the animal athlete is intent on getting the unwanted rider off of their back!
Here you can see more clearly the bareback rigging that the cowboy is supposed to be holding on to to keep his seat. This ride didn't end quite that way, as you can see the cowboy has no hold on anything!
This ride is still going well for the cowboy in question, but doesn't it look painful?
Miss Rodeo Nebraska gets help from the Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska Matisyn Humphrey in her duties during the night.
Each year NEBRASKAland DAYS hosts a select few Sailors from the USS Nebraska Submarine. During their time in North Platte, these Sailors are treated like celebrities. As this young man mentioned to the Mister, most have never been treated so good in all their lives.
It is an honor for us to have these brave and gallant young men in town for a few days, and they enjoy it as well. One young man commented on the fact that not only do they receive great treatment, but they are awed by being in the company of people who get a lump in their throat when the Stars and Stripes pass by.
From North Platte they had east to Offut Air Force Base and the Strategic Air Command for a tour.
Rodeo isn't all rodeo. There's entertainment as well. These two little guys and the big guy in the back are the stars of the evenings entertainment provided by The Texas Kid, Rodney Hayes and his two diminutive proteges, little girls ages about six! These young ladies ride these ponies like the professionals they are.
The clown specialty act is provided by Keith Isley and one of his four-legged partners. Keith is the 2009 PRCA Clown of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and the Comedy Act of the Year. Yes he entertains the crowd, but he also provides a vital function in helping to protect the cowboys during the bull riding.
His companion is beautiful and talented!
The Buffalo Bill Rodeo is quite a prestigious event. The Rodeo Committee has been inducted into the PRCA Cowboy Hall of Fame, as has long-time Rodeo announcer Hadley Barrett. It also attracts the top cowboys on the circuit as well as entertainment of the calibre of Keith Isley.
One of the highlights of the Wednesday night performance is the crowning of Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2011, Miss Becky Grimm of Harrison Nebraska. She will serve as Lady in Waiting until January 2011 at which time she will take over the title after MRN 2010 Michelle Boeshart competes in Las Vegas for Miss Rodeo America.
And there you have it, four nights of Buffalo Bill Rodeo condensed into one blog post (sorry I didn't condense it any further!)
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bumps on the Road

This is an editorial written by my sister-in-law, who is editor, publisher, reporter, typesetter, graphic designer and delivery person at the Courier Times in Sutherland, our hometown weekly newspaper. It's not available online, but please feel free to subscribe! PO Box 367, Sutherland NE 69165.

It is a very timely bit of wisdom, as many of us face devastating floods, killer tornadoes, the overwhelming oil spill and personal tragedies.

Retired Methodist Bishop Ernest A. Fitzgerald is quoted as having said, "The real winners are not those at the top, but those who have come the farthest over the toughest roads."

I love living in the country. I enjoy waking up early in the morning to what sounds like a chorus of a thousand frogs singing after a heavy spring rain. I love the early morning twitter of birds as they sing their praises of the new day. I love having to stop for a delicate little hen pheasant and soft fuzzy chicks as they cross the road or to behold the magnificence of an elk herd like the one I saw crossing over the road on the railroad trestle last week. It is truly a blessed life that we enjoy in this little part of the world, yet it is not without it's bumps in the road.

Last week's heavy rains were a reminder for me that it doesn't take much to cause some major bumps in our roads and that our lives are just about as susceptible to circumstance as those roads.

Most of you reading this don't live on unpaved country roads that regularly challenge even the most experienced country driver, but perhaps you have experienced some bumps on the road of life.

While my road may be bogged down with eight or nine inches of mud at times, maybe your road has been bogged down with illness, financial disaster, or trouble in your personal relationships.

While I may be traveling along and suddenly come upon a large washed out hole in the road and have to carefully navigate around it, perhaps you have had some 'washed out' hazards on your road of life.

Yet, once in a while, the road seems without blemish, pleasant, smooth, and a pleasure to drive. It is those moments that are almost surprising, both on country roads and also on the road of life.

I submit to you that a life devoid of the challenges of a few 'bumps in the road' is indeed a boring one. It is the bumps in the road that teach us the greatest lessons and cause us to build strengths of mind and soul. It is the hazards in the road that teach us how to be both cautious and courageous. It is the deep mud in the road that teaches us how to navigate carefully and apply extra effort when the times are tough.

It has been my experience that usually the toughest roads to drive also have the most beautiful scenery, and so it is with life. A live that is truly rewarding is a life lived well in spite of the bumps in the road.

Who among us doesn't admire the person who has faced great personal challenges and refused to stop and feel sorry for themselves. Conversely, there is little to admire about the person who was 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth' and has accomplished very little with their vast resources.

At a recent graduation ceremony, I heard one young man after another speak of their greatest school memory as a football game in which they defeated the existing state champion team. All that hard work in practice - even on the days when they didn't feel like it, even when they thought they could go no further, even when they had done it wrong over and over and had to keep trying so they could learn how to get it right - had paid off in a win they would never forget.

Perhaps your life feels like a lot of hard work and practice right now. Perhaps you've done it wrong more than you've done it right. Perhaps your road is bumpier than normal. Perhaps you imagine that your prayers stop at the ceiling. Remember Bishop Fitzgerald's words, "The real winners are... those who have come the farthest over the toughest roads." Remember that victory is only found in the challenge, and remember to enjoy the ride.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope your road is smooth and dry as you enjoy coffee this morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sarben to Keystone Road

After anywhere from six inches to a foot of rain in the past week depending on the area, we have been advised not to travel on any country roads in western Lincoln County until the roads department has a chance to make sure that they're safe. No sense in going out and making matters worse.

However, BEFORE that order came out, we took a break from the first of the NEBRASKAland DAYS events to do a quick road trip. Since we didn't have time for anything major, we decided to skirt the Platte River valley on the Sarben to Keystone road. As you can see, this is definitely open range country.
The Sandhill bluffs break down into the Platte River valley in beautiful canyons. Nebraskas large cities may be in the east, but none of them have a skyline to match the one in this picture.
Needless to say, this sign isn't an understatement!
Further on, a few horses graze in the lush grass of the valley, with the Union Pacific branch line tracks in the background. This line goes up to the coal country of Wyoming and sees many trains each day.
Our final destination on this journey is the small town of Keystone. It is picturesque and quaint, but even here in the quiet outback of Nebraska, modern technology is readily available as seen by the sign advertising high speed Internet beneath the historic Standard Oil sign.
Main Street in Keystone. There's a post office, bank, library and telephone exchange, but I didn't see any place to purchase anything.
Here is Keystones claim to fame. The little church, dedicated in 1916 that serves both Protestant and Catholic congregations. The Catholic altar is at one end and the Protestant altar at the other. The pews have moveable backs so the worshippers can face either direction. I believe it is the only one of its kind in existence.
Unfortunately, but probably necessary, the church doesn't put out the welcome mat for visitors. Even more unfortunate, there wasn't any sign indicating who to call to arrange for a glance inside, or if the church was ever open to visitors. I might suggest a visit to the Keith County Convention and Visitors Bureau website for more information.
As we left the valley, we were reminded that even with the abundance (should I say over abundance?) of rain we have received recently, Nebraska is always in need of water.
Thanks for stopping by for this brief trip through some beautiful Nebraska country. The coffee is always on for visitors.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Job Well Done

As soon as the weather got nice enough this spring (which took an unusually long time this year), the Mister and I tackled a project that we have been talking about ever since we bought our home from his mom about five years ago. We decided finally to put that patio in the north west corner by the house and, well... the patio. Because I guess you can never have too many patios! Besides, the first one is full of the hot tub, pool table, pinball machine and fountain, because I guess you can never have too much stuff either.

Naturally, the bulk of the work fell on the Misters shoulders. He first had to rip off all the sod, then scrape away the dirt to the proper depth, without cutting any of the power lines that run not too far below the surface. Then he had to move a sprinkler line, and finally it was time to get the sand delivered. After he spread that around, it was my turn to become involved. What I like about this corner of the house is that when the weather just barely starts to turn nice, say about 40 degrees, even with a little bit of wind, in the afternoon after work, this part of the yard is going to be at about 70 degrees with the afternoon sun shining full on.

These 2x2 pavers were scavenged from our neighbor, a mobile home park. When the Mister and I were growing up in the 1970's, the park was home to close to a hundred families, who had all moved to town to work on the construction of the Gerald Gentleman Power Station for the Nebraska Public Power District. After construction was complete, most moved on to the next construction job. A few were hired by NPPD, but naturally, by that time, were prosperous and settled enough to afford a stick-built house. Now just so you don't get the wrong idea, just because there aren't any pictures of ME hoisting these hunks of concrete around, rest assured that the #3 Son pictured here helping the Mister only helped lay about a quarter of these stones. So just imagine that is me on his end of the work!

These concrete pavers, first constructed for the sidewalks of the mobile home park, range in thickness from about two inches to about four inches, with the weight increasingly accordingly! I thought the job was going to kill me.
We wheel the pavers over to the site one by one, then use straps to lift it off the cart.
After that it is gently lowered into place, hopefully to somewhat align with the previously laid stone and be somewhat level.
As is typical with any home improvement project, there are plenty of people volunteering to help, although you will observe that help in some cases simply means standing around with a beer in your hand making unhelpful comments. However, the #4 Son did manage to lend a hand for a few courses of pavers.
And so here it is, the finished project. Complete with an umbrella to keep out the harshest sun and a firepit for those cool evenings. A few flowers and a planting of grass along the edge mark the end of the work. Now it is just time to sit back and enjoy, of which I do a lot, including this evening, posting this blog, listening to the birds and the breeze in the trees. I'm also watching the clouds roll in, which according to the weather man portends a night of wild and dangerous storms that I'm not looking forward to!
I can't say the patio has done much for my productivity though. I would much rather come home from work, grab a beer and sit out here all night instead of do things like laundry, dishes, housework, you know, the mundane parts of life that will be waiting for me no matter how long I spend out here!
Another job well done after we got home from vacation and had a few days left before the grind of work began again is installing snow guard on our new metal roof.
After the roof got destroyed, yet again, in a hail storm last summer, we decided to replace the shingles with metal. We had enough snow this winter to show us that we needed the snow guard to hold it in place until it melted, so it didn't slide into the gutters and rip them off. To me they look kind of odd, but I suppose they are necessary.
Today is the last quiet before the craziness of NEBRASKAland DAYS kicks off tomorrow with an ice cream social out at the Lincoln County Historical Museum's Heritage Festival. I'll be out and about for the next two weeks welcoming visitors to North Platte, and wishing for great weather. Hopefully I'll get the chance to post a few pictures from the event as well.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on. Or maybe you prefer a cold beer - you'll find that in the fridge.