Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Misguided Interference by Uncle Sam


America's rural lifestyle has long been under attack, whether from economic downturns, the weather, the EPA or animal rights group. Now we have to fight for our very future on another front - the Department of Labor.

Children are vital to the health of the rural economy, and our farm and ranch lifestyle is vital to raising intelligent, hard-working adults. Now proposed changes in the child labor laws is threatening our heritage.

In one of Nebraska's most rural counties, the Custer County Chief broke the story. According to the details printed there,
The changes are pointedly aimed at agriculture and would severely limit opportunities for young people on the farm or ranch, and in some cases eliminate them, until they are at least 16, or in some instances 18 years of age.

There is a partial exemption for kids working for their mom or dad. That exemption does not extend, however outside that narrow definition. Uncles, aunts, grandparents are not considered. Furthermore, if the teenager is paid then the parents are considered a business and the exemptions are no longer allowed. These rules would also most likely impact youth groups like 4-H and FFA.

Other proposed changes prohibit certain occupations involving working with or around animals including handling animals with known dangerous behaviors; assisting in animal husbandry practices that inflict pain upon animal or result in unpredictable behavior (such as branding, breeding, dehorning, vaccinating, castrating and treating sick or injured animals); poultry catching or cooping in preparation for market; working in a yard, pen or stall of an intact(non-castrated male animal or with female animals with suckling offspring or umbilical cords present; herding animals in confined spaces or on horseback, or using motorized vehicles such as trucks or all-terrain vehicles.

Several proposals are aimed specifically at tractor use.
Tractors operated by 14 and 15-year old youth must be equipped with approved Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS) and seatbelts; and that seatbelt use be mandated. This would prohibit the use of tractors of any horsepower, including small garden-tractors; whereby the training exemption will either be removed or changed to 90 hours of study.

It would prohibit the use of electronic devices, including communication devices, while operating tractors, power-driven equipment and motor vehicles and restrict use of all power-driven equipment (similar to that of non-agricultural industries). That would seem to be a very broad definition encompassing almost all equipment used on the farm.

Another proposal would restrict young people from working on elevated structures over six feet high. Most combine cabs are over six feet. There are question being asked. Are they not allowed to use ladders either? Do barn lofts fall under this ruling?

The Department of Labor seems to contrast sharply with the wishes of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who is looking for ways for more young people to get involved in farming and ranching.

Do any of these activities sound familiar to you? If you grew up on a farm or a ranch, they were all probably part of your chores or duties from the time you could toddle around the farm yard carrying a bucket.

Here's what to do:

To submit comments:

1. Log on to!submitComment;D=WHD-2011-0001-0001
2. Enter required information in section 1 including name and address
3. Type comment in section 2
4. Review your comments – the U.S. Department of Labor urges the commenter to carefully consider that their submissions are a matter of public record and will be publicly accessible on the internet
5. Submit

Comments must be submitted on or before December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Black Friday

As a matter of fact, DON'T Occupy Black Friday - stay home, enjoy your family, watch some football, eat leftovers. Avoid the madness Black Friday brings.

But, when you do go shopping, ON SATURDAY, participate in SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY! Small business is the backbone of America and the key to economic recovery. Here are some important contributions of small business according to the SBA:
Small firms:
  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.

  • Employ half of all private sector employees.

  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.

  • Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.

  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.

  • Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).

  • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.

  • Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.

  • Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
And, when you spend locally, more of your dollars stay in your community:

Here are some great ideas to spend your money this Christmas - really, it's like giving three times or more - your spending is a gift to independent, locally owned business owners, who in turn spend your dollars in the community, AND you get to give great, thoughtful gifts to your loved ones.

Everything from soup to nuts: Grow Nebraska, online or at retail stores in Kearney, Grand Island and Lincoln.
5019 2nd Avenue, #20
Kearney, NE 68847
(308) 338-3520
Monday – Saturday: 10 am - 9 pm
Sunday: 12 noon - 6 pm

Grand Island
Conestoga Mall #144
3404 W 13th Street
Grand Island, NE 68803
(308) 382-1287
Monday – Saturday: 10 am - 9 pm
Sunday: 12 noon - 6 pm

6100 O Street, Bay #228
Westfield Gateway Mall
Lincoln, NE 68505
Store hours
Monday-Saturday: 10:00am – 9:00pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Please check Westfield Gateway Web site for specific holiday hours.
November 4 - December 24
Other ideas?

Give some locally brewed craft beers. You can find all of the Nebraska Brewers on the Nebraska Beer Blog.

Nebraska Wine - check out the Nebraska Wine and Grape Growers or your local retailers for selections.

Nebraska Music - you can find a lot of great artists at Hear Nebraska, check them out then buy their music directly from their websites, at Amazon or iTunes.

Make a REAL difference with your Christmas shopping this year! Buy local.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on (purchased from our local grocery store, Maline's Super Foods in Sutherland, Nebraska.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

There's no place like Nebraska

If you're a sports fan at all, you've probably already heard the story of Nebraska coach Ron Brown leading both Penn State and the Huskers in an on-field prayer before Saturday's game.

I was traveling en route from Memphis to Sutherland on game day, so I only heard reports from The Mister about it. According to him, prior to the teams running on to the field, fans from both teams were loudly cheering their teams on. The teams enter the stadium and make their way to the center of the field, no one, including the reporters in the press box knew what was going on. Slowly everyone began to take notice, the stadium growing quieter and quieter until coach Brown's voice could clearly be heard to the sidelines and up into the first few rows of the stadium. The crowd then begins to clap slowly, gaining momentum at the end of the prayer.

There has been a lot of discussion about the happenings at Penn State, and I agree with many who have voiced the opinion that the victims are being overlooked. The focus has been on the football program, coach Paterno, and how what happened affects THEM - let's focus on how what happened affects the young men who have to live with this abuse for the rest of their lives.

The Nebraska athletes, coaches, musicians, cheerleaders, fans and everyone else who made their way to Pennsylvania on Saturday represented our state in a way that can make every Nebraskan proud.

The University of Nebraska Daily Nebraskan posted a series of letters from Penn State fans attesting to how our representatives behaved:
"... you helped the healing process for so many Penn State fans who had absolutely nothing to do with this scandal. I'll always be a Nittany Lion, but from this day forward, I'm also a huge Husker fan. Thank you..."

"... (Saturday) was a beginning step toward redemption. Thanks...."

"... Your support — both implicit and explicit, intentional and incidental — made a world of difference for our entire community this weekend and will continue to allow us to pick ourselves up, to renew our commitments to the values and ideals we seek to uphold and to remember the victims and prevent future tragedies from ever taking place..."

"...Today you came back to Penn State and, in possibly the finest display of sportsmanship I have ever seen, joined in solidarity with us in our moment of excruciating pain..."

The letters go on and on. I encourage you to go read them. Appreciate how these fellow Nebraskans represented our state, and reflect on how you can become a better person in all aspects of your life.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Walking in Memphis

My travels this week have taken me to Tunica, MS to learn about using Social Media to promote our destination. While it's one of the most incredible conferences I've attended - great speakers, great workshops and great new colleagues that are new friends, one of the greatest things about attending a conference like this is getting to explore the area.

You all know of my love for music, and there is no better place for music than the Mississippi Delta. We had the good fortune to have dinner Wednesday night at the Hollywood, made famous in the Mark Cohn song "Walking in Memphis."

For those of you who know me "IRL" (I told you I'm learning a lot at this social media conference - that stands for "in real life"), my name is Muriel, and while I don't play the piano, being named Muriel means I don't get my name in a lot of songs, so I was happy to have the chance to visit this historic location.

Walking in Memphis has been covered by Lonestar and Cher (although she changes the lyrics to "Gabriel").

I really recommend a trip down here for the great people, music and history, although I don't necessarily recommend our accommodations - the Harrah's casino. Nice enough, but kind of in the middle of no where, so without a car it's a challenge to explore.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Home Free by Mason Douglas

I’m a soldier, that’s what I am
Maybe you don’t agree with me or just don’t understand
But just like you I’ve got a home and family
And I leave it all behind when you call on me.

And I will fight for what is right
For my country for my stars and my stripes
And I’ll stand tall till the day I die
If I fall I’ll have my brothers by my side

And I may come back home to a big parade or to my name carved in stone
But either way don’t shed a tear for me
Either way I’m coming home and I’m coming home free.

Well it’s an uphill battle all the time
But it’s what I do for you to sleep safely through the night
And I’ll be on my way home when the gun smoke clears
When we all live to love another day
It’s all downhill from there

And I will fight for what is right
For my country for my stars and my stripes
And I’ll stand tall until the day I die
If I fall I’ll have my brothers by my side

And I may come back home to a big parade or to myt name carved in stone
But either way don’t shed a tear for me
Either way I’m coming home and I’m coming free.
Yeah I may come back home to a big parade or to my name carved in stone
But either way don’t shed a tear for me
Yeah, either way I’m coming home and I’m coming home free.

Thank you and Happy Veterans Day to all of our Veterans

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Soddy

Late last summer, we embarked on an epic road trip that took us on asphalt, gravel and sand roads from Sutherland to Valentine. Only a few miles were spent on highways.

This is the first video from that trip. Unfortunately it has taken a long time to begin editing, but I hope to be adding more in the weeks ahead.

Growing up in rural McPherson County, talk often turned to the dances held at the "Soddy". Unfortunately, no mental images remain for me of the community center. This visit has spurred a desire to share more of the history of the early days of the Sandhills, and I have my McPherson County history book by my side today. I'll be sharing a few homesteader stories in the future.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not enough time in the day, days in the week

Fortunately I've got more than a week worth of comp time hours built up as a result of spending waaaaay too much tim on the job. It helps that I love my work, but spending some time away helps rejuvenate the soul and make me more productive. On a rare Friday when both The Mister and I are off work together, naturally, we take a drive.

We start along the canal that supplies cooling water to the Sutherland Reservoir and the Gerald Gentleman power station operated by NPPD. One of our area's largest employers, we've grown used to the industrial view of the power plant as a backdrop to some of our prettiest views.
From there, a few jogs in the route around the Sutherland Reservoir and we're on State Farm Road south of Hershey. Here we found the Trinity Cemetery. The historic church that once graced this site has found a new home at the Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Many of the gravestones are weathered almost beyond readability, and we didn't have pencils and paper with us, so could only guess at some of the inscriptions. Reflecting our area's German heritage, many were written in that language.

In the Kossbau (Kosbau) plot, one can read a familiar story in the stone. Early immigrant families coming through Ellis Island found themselves passing through different lines to enter the U.S. Uninterested, overworked customs officials didn't take the time to learn the correct spelling of the foreign names. Whatever they wrote down became official.
So here, as in many historic cemeteries containing the graves of our immigrant ancestors, you find family members with names spelled differently.
Further to the east, we reach our true destination, the scenic Box Elder Canyon south of North Platte. We've waited too long for the fall colors to be at their peak, but it is still well worth the drive.
Turkeys thrive in these heavily wooded canyons. This is only one group of the half dozen or so large flocks we encountered. Looking in the background, you can see the cedar trees that the ranchers have to constantly battle as they encroach on grazing lands.
Headed back north, on either Effenbeck or Cottonwood Canyon Road, we find the marker commemorating the Larsen homestead. Seems like there are probably Norwegian (or would that be Swedish? I think Norwegian.) descendants in the region as well.
Less than ten miles south of the flat expanse of the Platte River Valley, these wooded canyons offer a hint of the diversity of Nebraska topography.
As always, we finish the day wishing we had more time to explore. One day, we'll get acquainted with the area landowners and get off road on foot or horseback to do some more exploring.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Scam "Survey" for XL Pipeline

Yesterday morning, The Mister answered the telephone to hear about a "survey" being conducted concerning the TransCanada XL Pipeline that is scheduled to be routed through the Nebraska Sandhills.

After listening silently for a long time - during which the caller was touting all of the benefits of the pipeline, The Mister was asked if he would stay on the line while he was connected with Senator Tom Hansen's (Our state legislative representative) office so he could voice his support for the pipeline.

The Mister then asked the caller if it would be all right if he voiced his opposition for the pipeline when he was connected. After clarifying what he said to her several times (she was kind of dense... and seemed surprised that anyone would oppose the pipeline), the line went dead.

She hung up on him!

He tried recalling the number, but it constantly rang busy - guess they were on the phone a lot trying to dupe other Nebraska voters. We looked up the area code from the caller I.D. and found that the call originated in New York City.

We immediately called Senator Hansen's office in outrage of the tactics, plus to make sure he heard loud and clear our opposition to the pipeline. We were greeted with an obviously politically-trained receptionist who politely heard our complaints, then assured us that they had no idea who was making these calls.


We are to believe that?

I don't think so.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Lincoln Highway Drive

It was with the best intentions that I drove out of my driveway... the intentions to drive down one of the beautiful canyon roads in southeastern Lincoln County Nebraska. Box Elder Canyon Road, Cottonwood Canyon Road, Brady-Moorefield Road - any one would be an adventure in itself.

However, just having returned from the Nebraska Travel Conference and the Lincoln Highway Scenic and Historic Byway annual meeting, my thoughts turned to the byway and so I decided to follow the pre-1917 alignment through Lincoln County. As you can see from the map below (which is the closest approximation I can make to the route on Google Maps), it's not necessarily a straight-forward proposition!
Armed with Gregory Franzwa's excellent book "The Lincoln Highway: Nebraska", I took Highway 83 south out of North Platte and turned east on State Farm Road.

The first stop was the historic bridge that crosses the NPPD canal near the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Fish Hatchery. According to the Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey for Lincoln County, this art-deco bridge was built in 1935, so wouldn't have been in place during the time Lincoln Highway travelers were using this route - but it is still interesting.
Despite the "closed" sign, Feather River Vineyards is very much open - on certain days of the week. As Nebraska's largest vineyard, it is a wonderful local asset, and the tasting room makes a great visit.
Around another bend or two in the road and in the distance you can see Sioux Lookout. Named for the assumption that the highest point along the Platte River Valley in this area would be used by Native Americans to spy approaching wagon trains, the hill was once the home of an iconic statue. The statue has been placed on the courthouse square in North Platte as it was nearly destroyed by vandalism while atop the hill. The deep ruts that can be seen are the results of thousands of visitor and subsequent erosion by wind and water.
In 2001, the Pony Express Association marked the locations of all of the stations along the route. Here is the Cottonwood Springs marker.
And the reverse, showing the justification for choosing the location and a little history.
Our rural cemeteries are history lessons in themselves, and there are many along this route. The first one, traveling west to east is the Plainview Cemetery.
Of course, Fort McPherson National Cemetery is a must-see. Fort McPherson was an important post along the westward migration trails, and when other frontier forts were decommissioned, their burials were moved here. It contains many historic graves, as well as being Nebraska's only National Cemetery with current burials.
A little further on is an historic statue commemorating the eastern boundary of the Fort reserve.
A forlorn historic marker of the Pony Express. I believe these types of markers were placed in the 1930's. There are many throughout Nebraska that are much better preserved.
From this close-up, the outline of the Pony Express rider is barely visible.
While I'm not big on trespassing, the signs along the main road pointing to "Conroy's Grave" seemed like an invitation not to be missed.
Down a dirt track (that might be impassable after rains) is the final resting spot (and I assume place of death) of A. Conroy, killed by Indians in September 1868 while cutting hay.
Further on, the Gaslin Cemetery dates from 1896. I didn't stop today, but wandering around historic cemeteries can be very thought-provoking.
In the middle of seemingly nowhere, a rural church stands proud. Who would have thought the Banner United Methodist Church would be active in social media? But there it was - on Facebook!
Just south of the church, again on a dirt track is the Peckham Cemetery. By this time in my journey, the day had warmed, so I did visit awhile. The earliest grave I could find dated from 1886. Interestingly, many of the names on the gravestones correlated with the names on the mailboxes along the road.
My trek ended on Highway 47 south of Gothenburg. This wooded lane is an actual remnant of the original pre-1917 Lincoln Highway and can be seen meandering off to the east from the Highway just south of the river bridge.
It was a beautiful drive, and except for the side trips, all on very well maintained paved roads. Well worth the trip!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.