Sunday, June 26, 2011

Telling Nebraska's Story - Smartphone Apps

I recently read a study that showed that the Internet is accessed more now from Smartphones that it is from computers. Pretty interesting challenge for those of us who use the Internet to market our tourist attractions and events. I have long been jealous of my friends in Oklahoma since I learned that someone had created an app for them that showed their upcoming events. Now, thanks to Behr Apps, Nebraska has an app of our own!

Nebraska Events
A quick and convenient way to find events in the state of Nebraska. The main screen allows for a quick view of upcoming events and multiple ways to search for the event you are looking for:

- Name
- Date Range
- City
- Distance
- Type of Event
- Favorites

View information, history, and photos of the event. Also view a schedule for the event with the ability to add reminders for individual activities or the entire event. Reminders can use your phones notification bar or calendars. Mark favorites for quick access when searching for events.

Display interactive map and driving directions to the event.
Phone and Email shortcuts for your phone.

Links to additional information from Websites, Facebook, and Twitter.

Doesn't that sound just perfect?

I discovered the app when I was sent an email by Chris from Behr Apps. I didn't find any more information about the developer, but his email stated he is a Nebraska native and wanted to do something to help his home state (I don't know why I'm assuming Chris is a he, he could just as well be a she). Anyway, THANKS CHRIS!

You can get more information on the app by visiting the Android Marketplace website:, or you can search the Marketplace for "Nebraska Events" from your smartphone and install it there.

If you are hosting an event, you can choose to add your event, at which time you'll be prompted to send an email to the developer. It looks like the original event listings are taken from the Nebraska Tourism website, which makes it doubly important to get your events listed there too!
Please share this information with everyone in your network so we can get this app onto as many phones as possible!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day to all the "Edgars" Out There

The title might be sort of an inside joke, but since Discovery keeps pounding it into our heads that there's 74 million Deadliest Catch fans out there, at least a few of you might get it.

Edgar Hansen is the Engineer/Deck Boss on the F/V Northwestern, one of the fab four of the fleet as seen on the Deadliest Catch. He truly is one of the handiest guys to have around. As Mike Rowe mentioned in the premiere episode of After The Catch, Edgar, and the other guys like him on the show - and there are many, though none as amazing as Edgar himself - are the reason people watch the show.

Resourceful, dedicated, a jack-of-all-trades MacGuyver sort of guy, he always know what to do and when to do it.

I have been fortunate enough to have two "Edgars" in my life. The first is my father. Born to a ranching family in the Sandhills of Nebraska, fifty miles from the nearest repair shops, or really help of any kind, Dad could do anything. Doctor cattle, fix machinery, raise crops, build stuff, fix fence, keep a roof over our heads - although mom will be the first to tell you that household repairs and maintenance always lagged a little behind the other responsibilities.

When I was in Junior High, we moved to town - the town of Sutherland, population around 1,000, so my brother and I could attend High School. Back in the early 1970's, construction was just beginning on the Gerald Gentleman power station south of Sutherland. Dad took advantage of the opportunity and began working on the construction crews. For several years, he worked 7-12's, which is to say he worked twelve hour days seven days a week, plus continued to farm.

He would be up in the 4:00 hour each day milking a half-dozen or so cows (by hand, no milking machines on our farm), then would go to work from 6:00am to 6:00pm. Since summer days in Nebraska are long, not getting dark until 10:00pm or so, when he got home he would get on a tractor and do whatever farming needed to be done. Before dark he would again milk the cows , fall into bed and start again the next morning.

He was the very last construction worker to be laid off at the completion of the power plant. As one job would finish, his bosses would just shift him on to the remaining jobs because he was such a valuable employee. He had the opportunity to go to work for Nebraska Public Power District, operators of the power plant, as many of the other construction workers did, but he opted to go back to the "easy" life of farming.

After a false start... or two... or more... (we won't say how many), I found and married my "Edgar". As a matter of fact, I kind of like to think that Edgar is the Northwestern's Mr. Nebraska Outback rather than the other way around.

The Mister has worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for thirty-plus years. He's now a foreman, but continues to hold membership in the electricians union as well. He's the favorite "dad for a day" among our children's friends. In fact, he usually packs a fully loaded tool box when we go to visit the kids because either they or their friends will have a honey-do list, from roofing to plumbing that needs done.

Right now his project is remodeling a bathroom. He's doing an amazing job, but that still doesn't stop me from complaining about how long it's taking (it's on the downhill slide right now, with just a few fixture installations to go). You've all seen him tackle the restoration of my grandparent's historic homesteading cabin. Every year he cuts, splits and stacks enough firewood to get us through the winter. Last year he re-roofed the house and most of the outbuildings. He does all of the wiring, plumbing and any construction or repairs that need to be done (isn't home ownership wonderful?). He does all of the regular maintenance on all of our vehicles, plus any repairs that need to be done. The list could go on and on and on.

Plus, he is my constant traveling companion, whether I'm dragging him to a consumer travel show where all the rail fans are just in awe that he actually gets to work on locomotives, or we're off to Seattle to CatchCon, or he's the designated driver to escort a group of us ladies to see Mason Douglas in concert, he does it with a resigned grin on his face.

He's also the consummate House Concert host. It wouldn't happen without him as the road crew... moving furniture, setting out the chairs, and making the artists and guests feel at home. Then there's the Couch Surfers he helps me open our home to, getting to know new friends from all walks of life, sharing his love for Nebraska as he tours them through the beautiful Sandhills.

My father has been gone for nearly twenty years now, and it seems I miss him more and more each day. I know I didn't appreciate him nearly enough when I had him around.

The Mister is the love of my life, someone I though I never would find. You know all those sweet sappy cards on the racks? That's how I feel about him. So Happy Father's Day to him, and to all of the other great dads who are the Edgars of the world. And you know what? Happy Father's Day to all those dads too who don't know a spark plug from a wine bottle cork. It takes all kinds!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring in the Outback - Seasons Views 4

It seems all I am accomplishing on my new "Through the Seasons" posts is apologizing for being late in posting! I did take pictures in May, but didn't get them posted, so here is the entire set.

Below is the view off of the Sarben bridge at about 4pm on Saturday afternoon June 11. As you can see, the poor sign I was using as an anchor for the photos is no longer there. The river is running high, but not as high as we've been told it would be by now, nor as high as we fear it may be later.

Not surprisingly, we aren't planning any tanking trips this summer, though a few friends have bravely kayaked the waters and report that it's real fun. Officials aren't recommending it! Below is the same view at about 2pm on May 22.
6:00pm on April 21.
The same location on March 12, 2011 at about 2:30 in the afternoon.
I'm not satisfied with the pictures from the Sutherland Reservoir, so I'm not going to take any more photos from there. Below is the view from Haugland Hill on June 11 at about 4:00pm.
May 22, approximately 2pm.
April 21 about 5:00pm.
Same view from back on March 12.

The seasons are slipping by in the Outback... too fast, as always!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Video Blog Post - Life in the Outback

I forgot to mention it... Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Monday, June 13, 2011

True Stories

I did something last week that I seldom do, and I don't recommend doing, and I especially don't recommend single women doing it. But sometimes... it just feels right and I think you've got to go with those feelings.

Last Tuesday I was running early for work - something of a novelty for me as I'm usually LATE - I always find the need to do just those last few little things around the house that makes me run behind. Anyway, there I was cruising down Highway 30 patting myself on the back because I was going to get in work early.

Just east of Hershey, I passed a hitchhiker... He was hitchhiking, but exhaustedly so. He was sitting by the side of the road propped up on his enormous backpack, legs outstretched, feebly holding his thumb in the air. He looked so forlorn, I just had to stop.

Adam was hitchhiking from California to visit relatives in Wisconsin. He hadn't done too badly until reaching Nebraska. He had been dropped off the previous evening in Ogallala, nearly fifty miles to the west. The trucker who dropped him off told him encouragingly "Just stay on Highway 30. Everyone here is so nice, you'll get rides from town to town to town." Famous last words that never materialized. Adam ended up walking nearly all the way to North Platte, and he was exhausted and discouraged.

He told me he was giving up. He was going to call a friend in Colorado to pick him up, or get on a bus and go back home. He asked my opinion and I told him that he was nearly 2/3rds of the way there, that he should keep going. He was skeptical to say the least.

I dropped him off at the homeless shelter in North Platte where he would have a safe comfortable place to get some sleep. I tried to figure out a way to help him further on down the road, but couldn't come up with anything. I thought I had done all I could for him.

Tuesday evening, we were hosting Couch Surfers. Three itinerant musicians on a cross-country trip. I confessed to picking up the hitchhiker, telling the story around the dinner table. After being duly chastized for my foolishness (At least two of us around the table had seen him and hadn't stopped), I continued my tale with the fact that he was traveling to Wisconsin. Our guests looked at each other, then back at me, "We're traveling to Wisconsin."

Long story short, I called the homeless shelter. The poor young man had already bought a bus ticket back to California, but after considering for awhile, called back to say he was going to take the three generous Couch Surfing artists up on their offer.

I have yet to hear back with the results of tne encounter. Hopefully it went well for all concerned. I'll update if I do hear.

So just remember... not everyone who is hitchhiking is an axe-murduring rapist. There are fine upstanding young people (many of whom we have hosted as Couch Surfers) who are just living an alternative lifestyle. Be generous when you can.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Deep Thoughts

My sister-in-law is an amazing writer, which is probably to be expected as the writer-editor-publisher of the Courier-Times, our local newspaper serving three small communities in west central Nebraska. But in her weekly column, she goes far beyond the chicken-dinner news and local happenings typical of small town newspapers. She writes about the important stuff.

I might tell you about how great Nebraska is, and what our latest adventures are, or about my love for Deadliest Catch or Mason Douglas... but she is going to put into words the deep thoughts about happenings in the world today, our small town and gently reminds people what's right and important.

So here is a guest post by the writer-editor-publisher of the Courier-Times, serving the communities of Sutherland, Hershey and Paxton:

"There's Still Time"

William Shakespeare said, "My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy."

If you've seen any news lately, you've no doubt heard about the huge fire in Arizona that is more than twice the size of Chicago and driven by 60 mph winds. It has created a haze over several states, including Nebraska.

You've no doubt heard of the flooding situation in the North Platte River, and soon to come, the South Platte River. You've probably heard about the flooding Missouri River and the flooding Mississippi River... and perhaps the serious drought in the southeastern U.S.

Add to that the many tornadoes that have already devastated communities in the south and midwest as the tornado season has barely begun.

You may have heard about the horrible e-coli problem in Germany and how they had to throw away so much food... all while trying to learn about this illusive new strain before it pops up again.

You may have heard about the devaluation of the dollar, because they are printing more... that the Chinese (China is our major creditor) are now dumping most of their American treasury investments.

In the middle of all these negative news items... in the middle of what seems to be more chaos than comfort, there is still time to be grateful and enjoy the blessings you have been given right here at home.

Look around you, right now. You are living in one of the best places on earth, in my estimation. You have opportunities to experience things that are far beyond anything our great-grandparents could have imagined. But our great-grandparents had a wisdom that still applies throughout all generations. Here are a few things I learned from my grandparents:

  • Don't let that money burn a hole in your pocket. Save back for hard times.

  • Pretty is as pretty does. Beauty may be skin deep, but ugliness goes all the way to the bone.

  • Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.

  • True humility and grace are priceless commodities.

  • You can't out-give God. If you are a person who is generous, then you will experience more generosity in your life. If you are a person who is more gracious, then you will have more grace in your life. If you are a person who looks out for the needs of others, then when you need help, it will be there.

  • Hard times come and go. If you look at history, you will see that there are both times of hardship and plenty.

It would have been easy in the midst of all the negative news stories to forget just how blessed we are.

Each time I have to stop on the road for wild turkeys, for a hen pheasant and her tiny chicks, for a deer or an elk, I am reminded of the beauty around me.

Each time I drive through town and see the lovely flowers, and smell the freshly-mown grass, or hear the melody of a bird in a tree, I am reminded of the beauty around me. Each time I watch baby calves buck and run in th pasture, or contented cows wading in grass to their bellies, I am reminded of the blessings all around me.

I do not wish to diminish the pain of the disaster when it hits, but rather retain a balanced view of the world as it stands. No matter what bad thing is happening, there is still time to laugh, to love, and to enjoy the blessings that are ever present in our lives.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Memories from One Foot In The Grave

My friend who prefers to be known as "One Foot in the Grave" is so faithful in sending her notes through every week. I thought the memories she shared with us this week would be fun for everyone to read:

Some of my memories I hope they remind you of some good memories.

If you bought a card table in the late 40’s and 50’s each corner had and ashtray.

Do you remember match box holder which hung high on the wall by the kitchen Stove. What kind of matches did your Mom use?

Were you ever allowed to call in your Mom’s grocery order. In town they delivered every day. Some time after 1949 you could walk around the grocery store and pick out what you wanted. Before that you gave a clerk what you wanted and they put up your order. You didn’t have to decide what brand for soda , yeast , and other items. The store only had one brand. My Mom had two lists - one list was stuff she had to have . The other was things she like if the eggs sold for enough money. Our groceries were put into our egg crate to take home.

When I was growing up a normal breakfast was eggs, bacon or sausage, pancakes, fried potatoes. In the 4th grade I wanted a Lone Rangers code ring and to get that ring you had to send in box top from Kick’s cereal. I don’t remember how many boxes I had to eat to get that ring. I really didn’t like the cereal but I didn’t tell Mom and I ate enough to get the ring. My Mom made hot syrup for pancakes, but I liked gravy on my pancakes.

We had a waffle iron that sat on the cook stove and had to be turned over to cook the waffle. We could only made one at a time so it was always a surprise to have Waffles. If we wanted toast Mom had to bake it in the oven. You toasted one side, turn the bread over and toasted other side. Not sure when we got a toaster like we use today.

Memorial Day was this week. I would have so like to been back to Kewanee cemetery. Aunt Mable would say a prayer. All little kids got a flag to place on a soldier’s grave. We lined up sang a song and went into the grave yard and put our flag on a soldiers grave. Then we go to the basket of wild flowers we pick on the way to Kewanee and placed them on the family graves. It felt so right. It was a day of respect for those who go before us.

Hoping this brings back a good memory for you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Anxious Anticipation

Major preparations are well on their way to being completed in North Platte in preparation for the expected flooding coming our way. Word has it that the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District has delayed releasing water from Lake McConaughy until people are more prepared for it.

Below, a sign on the barricaded front door of Buffalo Bill Cody's mansion lets visitors know the attraction is closed for the foreseeable future. We're told that this "event" is predicted to continue for 45 days. Well into our summer tourist season, and enough to fry nerves as attraction directors, business people and residents "hurry up and wait" to prepare for the water.

This is a common sight anywhere north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks in North Platte. Homes and businesses surrounded by berms. Of course, in the coffee shops, coffee'ers are takin g a break from solving all of the worlds problems and turning their attention locally. Opinions from the second guessers range from "if they knew this was going to happen, they should have been letting more water out all along" - First of all, "they" were. The water has been high all winter. Second of all. If the snow had suddenly stopped in the Rockies mid-winter, there wouldn't have been enough water reserved for summer irrigation. We are dealing with the weather, you know - to "The city should have been maintaining those levees all along - Maybe... but how many would have been second-guessing all along saying "why are they spending that money? The river's never going to rise..." I think it's pretty safe to say everyone is getting worried, and nerves may be just a little on edge. Hundreds of volunteers showed to help the staff of the Buffalo Bill Ranch build the berms to protect these historical buildings, and the director there, as well as the curator of the Lincoln County Historical Museum have both expressed, many times, their appreciation for all of the willing hands. All across town, the "beep beep beep" of heavey equipment reversing is competing with the chirp of the birds as work continues on levees, which we really hope won't be needed. There's still a high level of denial that what they're telling us is really going to happen. It never has before, so surely we can't be facing a devastating flood now. Unfortunately, though I'm focusing on the images locally, North Platte isn't an isolated community in the state facing the prospect of floods. The Platte River valley from Scottsbluff to the Missouri River is going to be affected, and the Missouri river from Crofton all the way down to Rulo is threatening communities there. Here's hoping that they're in a frenzy of preparedness just like North Platte, that wise decisions are made and everyone pitches in... and that it all works out and saves their communities. In the mean time, life goes on. We're working on the first performance of our new summer music series here in North Platte, NRoute Entertainment Summer Music Series at the Fort Cody Trading Post, NEBRASKAland DAYS officials are spending sleepless nights as they try to predict whether or not the Wild West Arena is going to be under water for the celebration...

Such is life in North Platte right now. Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Prospect of Rising Water

I have a confession to make. Even with all of the news of disasters filling the 24-hour news cycle - today the tornados in Springfield, recently Joplin, Tuscaloosa, the flooding along the Mississippi, in South Dakota, earlier the tsunamis, earthquakes... I am able to block out the tragedy and heartbreak and pretty much go on with my life.

Now, on so much of a smaller scale that it really doesn't even register in the grand scheme of "disasters", my community is facing the challenge of rising waters. The North Platte river is expected to inundate the north part of North Platte, with worst-case-scenario 2-3 feet of water. I will never watch the weather channel the same again.

Two of North Platte's most beloved historical attractions lie right in the path of the rising water, the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park and the Lincoln County Historical Museum. Though I felt a twinge of guilt in focusing on tourist attractions rather than people's homes, being a tourism official, I answered the call for volunteers to help in protecting these two lovely sites.

I thought I had an inkling of the hard-work that went into barricading neighborhoods from rising flood waters. After all, I'm a farm-girl, used to hard work. Yesterday, the realization hit that I'm an aging farm girl, no longer able to toss around 40-50 lb weights for hours.

Thank goodness for younger, stronger volunteers, like those above from the North Platte Fire Department. If the Ranch and Museum had to rely on volunteers like me for their protection, they would be doomed. At the Ranch, even our own personification of Buffalo Bill, Bruce Richman was pitching in to protect the Showman's home.A lot of the Outback clan was represented. The Mister and my sister were there for most of the day, and my brother dropped the job he was working on (when he came to a convenient stopping place) to operate a bobcat in the construction of a berm. Later, my nephew, his dad and a friend came over to fill sand bags. This is the sandbag wall we were working on. When completed, it will be three deep and as high as the top rail on the fence. Though the work is backbreaking, I truly hope it isn't needed at all! And yes, I'm not just blowing smoke when I say that even I rolled up my sleeves, donned gloves and went to work. Filling sand bags and laying them in place is hard, hot, dirty work, but the more hands involved, even pitiful hands like mine, the easier the job becomes on everyone. We even had a young couple who were just driving by stop and lend a hand. They said they saw the work and had about a half an hour to spend to they pitched right in.

The Emergency Manager is telling us that this could be a 30-45 day event, not a flash flood and it's over. Protecting these assets is a marathon, not a sprint, so there's plenty of time to put in a few hours here and there to get the job done. Hopefully, the major protection will be completed by Saturday, in plenty of time to await the water.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.