Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The last day of 2013

It's not very many winter days that see 50 degrees, so it is quite an occasion that on this New Year's Eve, we had a beautiful day with plentiful sunshine and not much wind.

It was too gorgeous to pass up, so I decided for a hike along the wall of Sutherland Reservoir.

 Many locals don't even know that the Wall, built around the Sutherland Reservoir when it was constructed, is as much public property as is the shoreline and camping areas.
The top of the wall is flat and smooth, and the hard packed earth makes for good walking. I think it would even make for good biking if you have anything other than the skinny road tires. NPPD uses the top to inspect the wall and reservoir, so there is a trail road, and they mow it a few times a year. It is however, for the general public, foot and bicycle traffic only - nothing motorized.

The wall is completely uninterrupted from the Oregon Trail Golf Course to the Inlet, it's removed from Highway 25 by at least a quarter of a mile, and the scenery is spectacular.

I walked from the Inlet to the boat ramp, which is about a mile and a half (the black stars on the above map), so all told I got in a three mile walk today! I'm guessing that from the Golf Course to the Inlet would be about three miles.
As I rested near the boat ramp, I saw a young family walking their dog on the beach and could hear the roar of dirt bikes coming from the ATV park just to the north. Lots of folks enjoying the beautiful weather.
If you should need to use the facilities, and can make the climb down the wall, there is a vault toilet at the boat ramp.

It is my intention to make much better use of the wall in the coming year. I'm glad I had a wonderful day to "get my feet wet" as it were and give it a try before the end of 2013.

Now for an evening at the Windy Gap with friends and we'll ring in 2014. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Stories: 8-Day Icy Ordeal Ends for Families, Linemen

Generations after the 1913 and 1949 blizzards, the first concern for Sandhill families becomes the supply of electricity, as you can see from this newspaper excerpt recounted in the McPherson County History Book. Unfortunately, the book doesn't cite the source or the writer. From the narrative, I believe it is from the Omaha World-Herald.

Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

January 1969

For the first time in eight days, power surged into isolated farm and ranch homes Wednesday night in the trackless expanse of snow and ice-covered Sandhills which had been cut off from the outside world by the return of the “Ice Age.”

Throughout the day weary crews from 11 Nebraska and Kansas power and construction companies battled through drifts, zero weather and another snowfall to help linemen of the Custer Public Power District reach 55 ranch and farm homes in northern and western McPherson County.

They were the last of seven thousand customers affected by the pole-shattering and line-snapping 50 to 55 mile-an-hour gale which ripped through the district’s 10 counties and parts of five others the night of January 21.

Between 12 and 13 hundred poles toppled, some almost disintegrating as the wind-whipped lines, covered with ice up to three inches in diameter exerted over two tons of pull on the 235-foot spans between poles.

“It was unbelievable,” said Jim Croghan of Stapleton, manager of the district’s Stapleton outpost, which covers McPherson and Logan counties and parts of Custer, Lincoln, Thomas, Hooker and Keith. “It was the worst we have ever experienced.” This week his 4,320-square mile area was a frigid, wind-whipped scene.

Except for radio communication, this tiny county seat is still cut off from the outside. The Tryon Telephone Company, serving 150 ranch customers and operated by O.E. Black and his family from a kitchen switchboard, was literally wiped out by the storm. Mr. Black said he expected long-distance operation to be resumed today or Friday.

So far in the Stapleton area there have been no reported deaths or major injuries caused by the storm and the loss of power and heat.

McPherson County Sheriff Gordon Bassett, who also publishes the Tryon Graphic, said there have been “no special emergencies, but he quickly added: “Of course, we haven’t been in contact with some back in the hills. Most of the folks have gotten to town some way and out here neighbors always look out for the other guy.”

Little Cool

Inconvenience, hardships and sub-zero cold were taken in stride by Sandhillers with typical stamina and humor.

Mr. and Mrs. Hank Hallsted and their son Kevin, rode out in their pickup to greet Bob Anderson of Broken Bow and this writer when we reached their isolated ranch 19 miles northwest of town Tuesday.
“Sure glad to see you,” said Hank. “The kids ain’t had school for eight days. Aw, we were okay. Hell, we got along before the REA ever got here. I just didn’t hanker the idea of hauling water from the tank to flush the toilet and it did get a little cool when it dropped to 20 below at nights.”

Mrs. Hallsted said the family lived in one room which was heated by a bottled gas stove and the kitchen oven.

Hanks, seeing a camera around the writer’s neck, whooped: “I’ve been waiting for one of you World-Herald fellas to come out and get a picture of our pet coyote, Charlie.” The coyote pup came running at Kevin’s call.

All might not have been as cozy as the Hallsteds. Dick Wilkerson of Broken Bow, the Custer district’s manager, said his crews were concerned about the comfort of Mrs. Helena Miller, 80, and her 60-year-old son who lived on an isolated ranch 18 miles north of Sutherland. “We sent some of our boys down by snowmobile and a truck with a portable generator. We didn’t hear back so we assume they were okay.”

Chet Hawley, McPherson County extension agent, said baby pigs suffered the most in the storm. Cattle losses were believed at a minimum.

“Hardest hit were some of our big hog operators, he said. “One fellow had to carry water to some two thousand head, and that’s a lot of hogs to carry water to.”

Some rural teachers with living quarters in their schools sat out the power outage in solitary confinement. Half the schools in the county have been out eight days because of impassable roads.

Power repair crews worked under nearly impossible conditions to make temporary repairs to get the lights back on. Lines along the roads were comparatively easy. But for a week crews have battled 14 to 16 hours a day miles out in the trackless hills on cross-country lines, using snow cats, skimobiles, bulldozers – and guts – just getting in and out. Tracks cut by bulldozers were often blown shut behind them.

Faces Red

This writer spent a day far out in the hills with a typical crew composed of foreman Bob Anderson of Broken Bow, Dale Dishman and Ken Huggins of the KBR District at Ainsworth and Andy Sydzyik and Chuck Hrebec of the Loup Valley District at Ord.

They were bleary-eyed from fatigue. The constant winds and freezing temperatures had turned their faces raw red. But they never gave up. They didn’t quit until long after dark Tuesday night when Bob and Dale, working feverishly atop the final pole, completed a cut-in of power to several ranches miles west of Tryon. We’d eaten only cold sack lunches at noon.
It was the same for the 117 other men in the 11 crews scattered across the frozen hills and united only by the constant crackle of radios in their trucks. When one got stuck, Big John, the huge snowcat “hot-rodded” by Broken Bow’s Don Slingsby, roared to the rescue.

Croghan and Wilkerson masterminded the operations from a radio in the tiny McPherson County Courthouse. Outside messages were relayed from Stapleton by Croghan’s wife, Shirla.

No Break

Croghan said the crews, headquartered at Stapleton, North Platte and some ranches, have been getting about six hours of sleep a night. “They just haven’t had a break in the weather,” he said. “Monday, the temperature got up around 20 for the first time and then we couldn’t see in near-blizzard conditions. But they still worked on. “I’m telling you, after these boys muck around for 14 to 16 hours a day out in those hills they are pretty well wrung out at night."

He didn’t mention that after the crews came in, he and the rest of his foremen gather in his Stapleton home going over maps and charts until midnight, mapping out the next day’s battle. Operating Supt. Marvin Talbot of Broken Bow said, “We’ve given up keeping track of the hours worked. It is so much easier figuring by the few hours of sleep you get.”

Mentally fatigued by worry over the safety of his crews and the well-being of the rancher-farmers was Wilkerson, the youthful manager who has put his training as a battalion commander in the Nebraska National Guard to work in the repair operation.


He has a new worry. He knows the victory of his crews over incredible conditions might only be temporary. “Our big worry is that this is still not the ice season,” he said. “We usually don’t get icing until late February and March. Of necessity, our repairs had to be temporary. Speed was of prime importance and we had to take a lot of shortcuts. So now our most critical concern is what happens when the regular ice storm period begins? So far we haven’t had temperatures to melt the ice loads still on the lines that withstood the storm. How much more can they take? There is even danger in too-rapid a thaw. When ice drops, it flips the lines, causing a strumming and resulting in further breakages and outages.”

The manager said permanent repairs cannot be made until the weather breaks. Emergency repairs include putting one line on stronger poles just along the edge of the roads.


This has absolutely been the worst we’ve ever had,” he said. “I have nothing but praise for our crews. They have done a tremendous job.” He was seconded by Sheriff Bassett and ranchers here. “The power company did a damn good job. I didn’t expect to see electricity on in some places out here for another two months,” the Sheriff said.

Late Tuesday night, as Wilkerson and his foreman wearily ate a midnight supper prepared by Mrs. Croghan she announced: “Here’s a letter for you fellows.” It was a letter from the citzens of Ringgold offering heartfelt thanks.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Stories: Memories of the '49 Blizzard

Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

By Joyce Snyder

The storm started on New Year’s Day, a Saturday, with no warning that we had heard. If there was warning we failed to hear it on the radio, perhaps because we had company. In late afternoon it began to snow and made travel almost impossible by evening although I don’t remember anyone stranded.

My father, always cautious went out in the evening in the car and called all the cattle into the board corral and the hay shed. The board corral was probably over five feet high. The storm raged for three days, changing into a ground blizzard on Tuesday afternoon. Dad made periodic checks on the cattle in the corral although there was nothing that could be done for them. I remember he reported St. Elmo’s fire forming on his cap while outside. We lost only one cow to the storm and she had been pushed and had fallen into the feed rack upside down when the snow reached four feet deep.

When the wind stopped and we could get outside the cows were just walking over the top of the corral fence. Part of the hay shed roof collapsed and snow had blown in and cows and trampled it solid for over two feet deep. Cows were stranded on their knees, sandwiched between the fallen roof and the snow pack beneath them.

But where to dig first? Should it be the chickens whose house appeared to be full of snow as well as nearly covered; the tank so cattle could drink; the hay sled so they could be fed some hay or the granary so we could get to the cotton cake or fences so we could keep the cattle in? I don’t remember where we started first, only that it was a never-ending job and snow drifted every night, often completely obliterating any progress we’d made the day before. I think we shoveled out the chickens and the yard path perhaps eight times. Also the granary. We sleigh-rode off the roof of the chip house for about three and a half months. We had a little wooden runnered sled perhaps three feet long that never cut into the show as steel runners do.

On the second Monday after B-day (blizzard day) Bonnie, Jack and I rode our horses to school west of the Diamond Bar. After waiting an hour and a half for the teacher, Mary Ann Cullinan Glinn, who never arrived, we rode home again. After the third day we didn’t try again until we heard from her. Eventually we had a few more weeks of school but what with the March blizzard, Mary Ann’s eight month old baby and another on the way and an eight month term of school, well it was the longest vacation I ever had in my life and what a wonderful winter wonderland for an eleven year old! I had all the fun, not much of the worry, and there weren’t enough shovels to go around!

The snow in the barn was so deep the horses backs were touching the stringers. We were still chiseling snow out of there months later. Snow piled in such diverse places that barn windows and doors and gates I had never seen open were the only ones used.

We took pictures of everything and sent them off on the first mail four weeks later. They were lost in the crush of mail. We got an empty package back so the pictures we now have were taken six weeks later. Dad went to Flats on horseback to get our first mail and brought back a gunny-sack full. I think it had been flown up there by Clinch’s of North Platte.
It was two months before the Army bulldozers came through clearing paths for roads, cross country, lifting their blades above the wire fences and dropping them to break the wires evenly. So glad for “roads” was everyone that no one cared about the cut fences. It would be several years before four-wheel drive pickups would be available to the public.

The Red Cross air-dropped food packages to quite a few people. Some families got two packages, and some, such as the Churchill family to the north of us didn’t get any. It was just as well; the Red Cross’ choice of food was dried beef packed in glass, rice in cellophane bags and potatoes. When it landed it resembled a huge casserole with grated potatoes, rice, dried beef mixed in and the whole thing garnished in slivered glass! Well, it was a great conversation piece and we weren’t destitute. We had run out of flour so Dad ground some corn which we sifted. I never did learn to like corn meal mush. Dad took a bag of corn meal to Churchill’s, too.

I remember too, our house was much warmer after the first day, when it became plastered over with snow and the window cracks all filled with snow.

In the middle of March we had another terrible blizzard and none of the first snow had melted yet. This one was so much harder on our livestock as the poor old cows had spent two and a half months slipping around on ice and not finding a dry bed. We had quite a few slinks (spontaneous abortions) and lost some cows but I’m sure no one else fared better. The lake-size puddles in April when it all began to melt was as unbelievable as the snowdrifts that had been to the peaks of buildings three or four weeks earlier. Enough puddles to satisfy the heart of any child for a lifetime, whether urging my saddle horse through them or daring my new brown boots to leak.
On about the first Sunday or sooner we were astonished to look up and see a car on the hilltop east of the house. It was Hermel and Phyllis Priest and baby daughter, Sherry. They walked down from there and spent the afternoon. Apparently the rest of the world could get around a little bit, but we couldn’t get our car out of the garage. It was sometime toward the end of March or later and after the bulldozers had gone through that we even attempted to dig for the car. I guess what finally prompted us to do so was a dance at the Soddy. We kids wanted to go so guess who dug it out. We worked on it for three days. By that time the tallest drifts had settled to a mere depth of two and a half feet and we had to dig for at least twenty feet.

A Model A car south of the house was completely covered up. There wasn’t even an outline of it showing through the drifts.

For entertainment during the storm and weeks following we played Canasta and Uncle Wiggley. Listening in on the party telephone could also consume a great deal of time. It was a coup de grace to put in the first call in the morning to your neighbor. When one person got done talking someone else would holler in and the same procedure would go on all day. It always seemed an act of Divine Kindness that through it all the infamous, undependable one wire line stayed just where man had put it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Calamus Outfitters and the Nebraska Sandhills

I've had the privilege of being a guest of the Switzers and I highly recommend a visit to their Calamus Outfitters. Not only are they sharing their Sandhills lifestyle, they are preserving their corner of the amazing Sandhills ecosystem.

The 2014 Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival will be hosted by Calamus Outfitters and the Gracie Creek Landowners on April 4-6, 2014. Be sure to check back to their website for registration information.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 17, 1941 - the North Platte Canteen

You know how rumors go in a small town... they fly around faster than the speed of today's social media. That's how it was back on December 17, 1941. The rumor spread throughout North Platte that their own Company D of the Nebraska National Guard would be coming through town on a troop train.

You can imagine the excitement as moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, children and sweethearts began collecting anything and everything they thought their loved ones might appreciate on this day so close to Christmas. When the time came, nearly the entire town was gathered at the North Platte Depot to welcome their loved ones.

The train pulled to a stop and the soldiers got out to stretch their legs, probably more than a little bemused to see the townsfolk waiting for them. Because, you see, it wasn't Nebraska's National Guard, but the Kansas National Guard who were aboard the train.

The silence stretched on, becoming uncomfortable as neither side knew quite what to do. Finally, a townsperson broke the silence. "I'm not going to take my goodies back home... let's give them to these boys." And so, though they couldn't share with their own service men, the North Platte folks shared with the boys from Kansas.

Later that week, Rae Wilson, who had been on the platform waiting to greet her brother, wrote a letter to the editor urging people to get behind the idea of opening a Canteen to serve the men and women who would be traveling across the country to make their way to the front lines of the war. North Platte took her suggestions to heart, and on Christmas Day 1941, the North Platte Canteen opened its doors. Over the next 54 months, more than six million service men and women would spend ten minutes that they never forgot in the loving presence of those men and women from North Platte.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Stories: Blizzard of 1913

The storm described in the newspaper article below is very reminiscent of the Atlas Blizzard that so recently struck South Dakota and Nebraska. Heavy rain, heavy wet snow and 50-60 mph winds combined do as much damage today as it did 100 years ago.

Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Worst Blizzard for Many Years
Storm Starts Thursday and Stops Saturday, March 14, 1913
Five Thousand Cattle Perish
In McPherson County – Storm Extends over Several States – Wind at Times was Fifty to Sixty Miles an Hour.

Last Thursday afternoon at about three o’clock it commenced to rain which soon turned to sleet and then to snow and by eight o’clock this country was experiencing one of the worst blizzards ever known in this section. It raged all night and by morning with a wind blowing at from fifty to sixty miles an hour, it was almost unsafe for anyone to venture out of doors. For this reason can be accounted the great loss of stock. The snow, which was wet and as fine as flour, penetrated the smallest cracks and filled up barns and hen houses and virtually smothered horses, cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. Houses, which were supposed to be proof against rain, were almost like sieves with the snow as nearly everyone reports that they had to shovel snow out of their homes.

Every house and store in Tryon was damaged by snow melting in the lofts and running through the ceilings and onto the goods. Mike David’s ware room was almost full of snow and so was I.C. Heldebrand’s.

No lives were lost in this section, but there were several narrow escapes. One family, who recently moved here from Oklahoma, was living in a tent. They stayed there until Friday morning when the wind whipped the tent in tatters. Their shelter gone, they started for a neighbor’s house about a mile away, which they finally reached after a hard struggle.

Nebraska was not the only state hit by the storm of last Friday as reports show loss of life in South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, all suffered from the storm. Tennessee and Georgia were hard hit by a wind and hail storm and reports say that 100 people were killed in those states.

Two railroad wrecks on the Union Pacific, one at Gothenburg and the other at Sidney was caused by the storm. Several people were killed and about thirty injured.

Aside from the loss of stock, which will probably reach $300,000, McPherson will not suffer like some of the counties in the eastern and southern states were so many lives were lost.

It did not seem to make much difference in this county whether the stock was in the barns, sheds or on the range. Some housed their stock to save them and others had to turn them out of sheds and barns and onto the range to keep them from smothering.

Up to the time of going to press the following losses have been reported in McPherson County: Chas. E. Haney 45 cattle; J.W. Newberry 75 cattle; F.W. Klump 17 cattle; Dewey Weisner 100 cattle; Chas. E. Daly 45 cattle and four horses; H.A. Walker 42 cattle; L.C. Reneau two horses; S.E. Clothier one horse and one hog; Elmer Waits two horses; Wm. Coleman 50 sheep; John Clifford six sheep; R.J. Stack three cattle and 21 hogs; C.L. Moore 32 horses; A.F. Hatch 40 cattle; Ed Myers 1000 cattle; Whitewater Ranch 1000 cattle; H. Armstrong three horses; N.L. Reuter & Co. 32 cattle; W.J. Kahoe eight cattle; Kirts Bros. 33 cattle and two horses; H.E. Pinkerton 40 cattle; Lew Davis 10 cattle; Steve Davis one cow; James Currie two horses; J. Dunkin one cow and one hog; W.H. Zenor seven cattle and two horses; Martin Carothers 19 cattle and five horses; Wm Miller three cattle and 6 hens; John Miller y7 cattle and 1 horse; B.K. Wright 8 cattle; John Palmer 400 cattle; Foster Bros. 90 cattle; O’Brien Bros. 210 cattle; John Booze 6 cattle; Chas. Chessmore 10 cattle; Harry Pinkerton 100 cattle; C.G. Jewett 350 cattle; Chas. Kramer 85 cattle; Ed Able 85 cattle; Frank Kubal 16 cattle; R. Pfeiffer 16 cattle; Maurice Trumbull 12 cattle; E. Close 7 cattle; B. Aufdengarten 125 cattle; Herman Aufdengarten 14 cattle; Yarnell Bros. 7 cattle.

There may be, and undoubtedly is, others who have suffered loss, but the above is all we have been able to hear of. It is estimated that close to 5000 head of stock perished during the storm in McPherson County alone.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Wednesday

Cows on winter cornstalks

Herefords hunkered down on a winter morning

Ice on the Sutherland Reservoir

A lonely fire ring waiting for summer to return.

Overlooking the O'Fallon's Bluff

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Stories: Polio - UPDATED

Today in America, Polio seems like ancient history. In the account below, contained in the McPherson County history book, the most recent entry is 1954, as the Salk vaccine became available in 1955. Sadly, for the rest of the world, Polio remains a present threat.

Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Over the years McPherson County has had several people who have contracted the dreaded disease of infantile paralysis or poliomyelitis. Polio, in short, is an acute infectious disease, usually of children, caused by a virus inflammation of the gray matter of the spinal cord, often resulting in muscular paralysis.

We find there were two cases of polio in 1939. Robert Dancer, son of Ray Dancer, contracted the disease in November and Myrtle Nicholson, a little later. It affected Myrtle’s leg. Myrtle wears a brace yet today. Myrtle married Leo Miller.

On January 18, 1940, Cleo Neal entered the North Platte hospital with polio. Archie and Cleo Neal had just become parents of a son, Keith, on December 29, 1939. Cleo’s left arm was left paralyzed.

In September 1942, Ray Fowler was struck with polio, he was left little use of his legs and hips.

In October 1942, Mary Lou Tupper was struck with the dreaded disease. She was a high school student, so school was closed.

On August 7, 1947, Annabel Thompson was rushed to a North Platte hospital with polio. A wheel chair has been her close companion in the years since.

In 1954, the dread scare came again when three area people contracted the disease.

Ronnie Taylor, age four, small son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Taylor, a high school teacher, became ill. Ronnie wore braces for a long time but eventually played sports in high school.

Robert Moore, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herschel Moore, was rushed to North Platte and on to Grand Island, to be in an iron lung. Bobby just lived five days. He was 17 and a Junior in high school and had been in football practice for two weeks.

Reva Cotton, age four, daughter of Bob and Jack Cotton was also stricken. The following account was written by her father, Bob.

Reva Cotton
Bob and Jack Cotton owned and were operating the Cotton CafĂ© in Tryon, on August 25, 1954 when their little daughter, Reva Rae, contracted polio, at age four. The doctors in North Platte suspected polio but neither they nor the hospitals were equipped to treat polio patients. They had her admitted to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Omaha. Bill Adams of Adams and Swanson Funeral Chapel took her and her parents to Omaha by ambulance.

Reva’s condition was critical when they reached Children’s Hospital and she was immediately placed in the iron lung where she stayed for six weeks. By that time the critical stage was over and the muscle damage had been done. She couldn’t walk or help herself in any way. They started therapy treatments which they continued for six months. At that time she was in a body brace and on crutches. They said they had done all they could for her so she was dismissed. Her parents continued to give her therapy at home and in North Platte for the next four years.
In 1958, Shriner Taft Haddy of Tryon sponsored Reva into the Shriners Hospital at Minneapolis, Minnesota for treatment. Her parents took her there on March 11, 1958 for the preliminary examination. They said they could help her and she was admitted as a patient and was an in and out patient at their hospital for the next six years.

They performed a number of surgical operations on her legs and back during that time, besides various therapy treatments. They also continued her schooling while she was there. Her longest continuous stay in Shriners Hospital was when they fused ten vertebra in her back in one operation. She was there six months that time and came home in a body cast from below her hips up to her chin.
The treatment she received at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Omaha saved her life, and the surgery and treatments at Shriners’ Hospital helped her tremendously to function at near normal capacity since. The Shriners have access to the services of the best doctors and surgeons available to any one. Their hospital in Minneapolis was as modern and well-staffed and managed as a hospital could be. The most beautiful part of it was that it was open to any color, race or creed regardless of ability to pay.

There were also two other cases of polio in McPherson County in 1954, Robert Moore and Ronald Taylor. The sad part of all this was that the Salk vaccine was perfected and available the following year 1955 and the end of polio was here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miss Rodeo Nebraska for Miss Rodeo America!

The Miss Rodeo America Pageant is really ramping up in Las Vegas, and we can help out our Nebraska representative, Miss Rodeo Nebraska Samantha Chytka by voting for her in the People's Choice Award contest.


Samantha Chytka is from Broken Bow, Nebraska and is a graduate of Hastings College with Academic Distinction with a Human Services Administration Major and a Psychology Minor. She plans to obtain a Masters in Counseling and would like to operate an Animal Assisted Therapy Facility where she would work with troubled or disadvantaged youth.

Samantha’s favorite hobby is competing in rodeos. Her freshman year of High School she became competitive in goat tying, pole bending, barrel racing and occasionally attempted breakaway roping. She also enjoys watching rodeos, especially steer wrestling as she has learned a lot from helping her little brother practice.

“I want to become Miss Rodeo America to share rodeo and help others grow through this great sport. I know what it feels like to pull a trailer 13 hours one way to a rodeo for one shot to make it to the next go or to load up and head home. I know what it feels like to get up every morning at 6 a.m. to train a horse and go to a rodeo and finally make that buckle winning run. Rodeo is about picking yourself back up and doing it again and again because you love it. Rodeo is a mental game and a lot of rodeo applies to life. Rodeo teaches and helps you grow as an individual. Rodeo is a Great Life... Pass it on!!”
Samantha has been a wonderful representative of Nebraska, Nebraska Rodeo and NEBRASKAland DAYS and the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. We can show our support for her by simply going to the Miss Rodeo America facebook page, finding the People's Choice album and clicking "like" on Samantha's photo!

She's been representin', now it's our turn! Go vote!

P.S. The deadline is December 8 - VOTE NOW!

Thoughts on Social Media

Social media has become my life. I blog, (Personal and business); Facebook (Personal plus 11 business pages); Twitter (Personal plus 4 business accounts); Pinterest (Personal and business); YouTube (Personal and business); Instagram (Personal and business); Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor... the list goes on, waaaaay too long!

I recently got put in charge of a local event which involves a lot of organizing, phone calls and meetings. I found that I spend so much time in front of some type of electronic device posting online that it's become difficult to relate face-to-face with people!

Those of us who "do" social media need to periodically come back to reality and actually talk to people!

My sister-in-law, editor and publisher of the Courier-Times, our hometown newspaper recently posted a column that hit close to home:

I believe the rapid expansion of social media can be partially attributed to the hunger many have for inspiration. That's why we find so many poems, funny stories and videos, Bible verses and quotes, and photos of kittens and puppies and the like on Facebook.

We seem to have a hunger for things that point us in a positive direction and make us feel better while going about our day.

Sometimes social media spirals down, and what would have been an opportunity to receive nourishing hope turns into the "burned toast" of anger, rage, malicious put-downs and ugly declarations.

I submit to you today, that social media cannot be a healthy substitute for real, person-to-person interaction. There is more to be learned and gained from everyday living in and around other people.

I would compare the isolation of constant social media to living on a diet of cake and ice cream,and never eating the meat and vegetables of real life.

Social media is a tool... a good tool. Yet, if that's the only tool in our toolbox, we're going to find ourselves in need very quickly. In the real world, we need one another... in person... face-to-face... shoulder-to-shoulder.

There's an old Bible proverb that says "Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." (Prov 27:17).

Hungry for inspiration? Try being the friend you'd like to have and spending real time with those you love.
Words of wisdom to keep in mind.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Stories: Timeline 1950 - 1990

Excerpts from Sutherland Centennial, 1891-1991.

May 1950 – Census results show population of Sutherland at 875.
February 2, 1950 – Local residents, Will Winter, received the Carnegie Hero citation for his part in saving two lives in a hunting accident at Lake McConaughy in November of 1948.
June 20, 1957John G. Townsend was named “Father of the Year” by the Nebraska Cow Belles.
September 25, 1958 – The First Security Bank was robbed at gunpoint by two men. The employees and one customer were locked in the vault until released by a local resident. The culprits were later caught in the Sandhills.
November 13, 1958 – Construction has started on the new sewer system in Sutherland.
May 1960 – Census figures show the current population of Sutherland at 870.
October, 1961 – Several graves were discovered on the George Crosby farm southwest of Sutherland. It was believed they were the remains of a pioneer family named Allen who had once lived at this location.
June 24, 1965A record flood of the South Platte River inundated the Sutherland area. A large amount of crops were ruined.
May, 1970 – Population of Sutherland is shown to be 840.
July 16, 1970 – An open house has been set for the opening of the new low-rent housing project named Sandy Acres.
January 25, 1972 – Construction has started on a new Fire Hall for the city.
June 1, 1973 – The Sutherland Swimming Pool is opened for the first time.
October 18, 1975 – Six members of the Henry Kellie family are found slain in their home. Charles Simants is later arrested and convicted of the crime. The conviction is overturned and he is found not guilty by reason of insanity in a later trial. He is confined in a state mental institution.
March 9, 1978 – The Sutherland School is evacuated following a bomb threat. No bomb is discovered.
May 1980 – Population from census figures show 1238 residents.
August 12, 1982 – Scope Cable Television is granted a franchise to install cable TV in Sutherland.
April 14, 1988 – The swimming pool and baseball diamond park area is named the Mainard Coker Memorial Park in memory of long time businessman and resident Mainard Coker.
May 1990 – Census figures show the population of Sutherland at 1032.
May 2000 – Census figures show the population of Sutherland at 1129.
May 2010 – Census figures show the population of Sutherland at 1286.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

Before you read any further, click on this link to an Omaha World Herald story concerning needed changes in Nebraska's liquor laws regarding craft breweries. I won't quote the whole story here, but after you've read it, click back here and get my take on it. Then join in with your point of view in the comment section.

The response by Hobert Rupe, director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission is wrong on many, many levels. It just goes to show what happens when bureaucrats forget they are there to represent the interests of the citizens not to protect their little fiefdom or act as toadies to big business.
So far as he can tell, Nebraska's craft beer industry is doing just fine. “I was a little bit incredulous that there was a problem when you have 20 breweries and 14 more opening,” he said.
So, rather than listening to the people who know - those who have struggled through the maze of unfriendly regulations, he comes up with a quote like “It's worked since 1936.” Mr. Rupe might I ask - anything different in today's economy since 1936? Any modernizations in technology that might make it easier to regulate the taxation of breweries since 1936?

State governments across America are beginning to understand the economic impact of small, local craft brewers. Their own organization, the Council of State Governments wrote in an article entitled "The Macroeconomics of Microbreweries - Craft Beer Makers May be Small, but They Boost Jobs, State Revenues"
Craft brewers provided almost 104,000 jobs and created $8.7 billion in retail sales across the country in 2011. According to state brewing associations, craft brewing contributed $3 billion in total economic impact in California in 2011. In Texas, it generated almost $76 million in sales and $16 million in state and local tax revenue.
In order to capitalize on the trend, states are streamlining regulations and smoothing the way for craft brewers to come online. Why?
“Craft is what I like to call delightfully inefficient,” Havig said. “There’s a lot of tiny producers, all have really inefficient brewing processes. With those delightfully inefficient processes, we require a lot of people, a lot of time and lot of materials and we produce really interesting $5 bottles of beer. … These are good, solid, family-wage jobs.”
What could be better for rural Nebraska? Lots of tiny producers, each employing just the right number of locals, using locally produced raw materials, providing "good, solid, family-wage jobs."

At the Nebraska Travel Conference recently concluded in Norfolk, we learned that the Nebraska Passport Program had around 20,000 participants in 2013. And what was the most popular tour? Tap Into It, which featured eight of those 20 breweries that were currently online in 2013. When those visitors traveled to those small rural towns scattered throughout Nebraska, do you think the only thing they did was stop and have a beer? While I have no way of backing up my claim, I'll bet many also ate, maybe filled their car up with gas, visited other attractions, purchased some locally made goods, maybe even spent the night. All which contributed serious economic activity into local economies.

So just what are craft brewers asking for that has the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission up in arms? For starters, how about a reduction in the excise taxes on beer? Though Mr. Rupe claims that Nebraska's 31 cent a gallon excise tax is "about middle of the pack" nationwide is pretty close to the truth - we rank 21st according to the tax foundation, our surrounding states are at the other end of the spectrum: Colorado, 46th with .08 cents; Iowa, 31st with .19 cents; Kansas, 32nd with .18 cents; Missouri, 49th with .06 cents; Wyoming, 50th with .02 cents. With Governor Heinemann's current push to reform Nebraska's tax structure, with the understanding that lower taxation actually brings an increase in revenue, it's high time we applied this theory to craft brewers.

What else are they asking? The ability to distribute their own product, just like grape growers do when they turn their raw materials into wine. That's the issue that Rupe pointed out has been working since 1936. And guess who is lobbying hard for the status quo?
Joe Kohout of the Associated Beverage Distributors of Nebraska said that the current system is “an effective way” to collect taxes and a way to encourage diversity, since distributors offer a wide variety of products.
Requiring craft brewers to try to pry open the door of a beverage distributor which by nature favors quantity over quality, "encourages diversity?" Really?

Though it wasn't covered in the article, I'll tell you another change that needs to be made to Nebraska's liquor laws. Develop a "native" liquor license for Bed and Breakfasts and small local restaurants. Very inexpensive as compared to the full liquor license, even a wine and beer license, and it only allows the on or off sale of Nebraska produced wines and beers. Visitors are looking for authentic local experiences, which is why they choose a Bed and Breakfast and a small hometown cafe as opposed to a chain restaurant. Economically these folks operate on a tight margin. It's just not feasible for them to pay hundreds of dollars for a full liquor license, when in reality they probably won't even sell that dollar amount of alcohol. In addition to only including Nebraska produced wine and beer, it could also be tied to gross revenue of the establishment, maybe on a sliding scale. There are a lot of ways that it could be done, and it would benefit not only the individual business, but the local community and the wine and beer producers across the state.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Stories: Timeline 1920 - 1949

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891-1991.

February 19, 1920 – Forty new residence houses were built in Sutherland during 1919.
April 1, 1920 – A notice about speeding and a reminder that the speed limit is 12 m.p.h. and 6 m.p.h. on corners and crossings.
May 1920 – Census reports the Sutherland population is 651.
August 21, 1922 – The Platte River Roundup-Pioneer Days exhibition was held August 21-24 in Sutherland. Forty Indians and Deadwood Stage. Season tickets were $2.50, Single Admission $1.00, children half price plus the war tax.
December 1, 1922 – The Community Christmas Tree is set up in front of the Sutherland School.
April 9, 1925 – The Village Board offered a reward of $50.00 for the arrest and conviction of bootleggers.
September 29, 1927 – Fall Festival held in Sutherland. Pulling contests for teams, free picture at theater, prizes for four kinds of corn, beet topping contest, sports for boys and girls, free coffee and cookies, and a free dance.
February 25, 1928 – The Village announces it will install street lights on Front Street. It is estimated it will require 24 Electrollers with 1 large bulb each.
May 17, 1928 – The Village Board refuses an application by Mr. Dick Wilson to put in a pool hall. Public sentiment has always been against this in Sutherland.
June 28, 1928 – The Village Board passes an ordinance establishing the first curb and gutter district. Work started on the new curb in September from the NW corner of Lincoln County Lumber Yard to the SE corner of A.W. Hoatson and Son’s Garage. Then both sides of Walnut St. from 1st to Uhligs Station and from 1st Street on the east side of Locust to the Pastime Theatre and East on 2nd to Walnut.
May 1930 – Census reports show the Sutherland population at 753.
June 13, 1931 – Sutherland has a good band consisting of 25 members. The Sutherland Business Men will sponsor the band concerts every Saturday at 8pm during the summer.
December 1, 1932U.S. Highway 30 will be rerouted so as to pass through Sutherland on Front Street. Work did not begin until late 1933.
September 20, 1933 – Many Sutherland residents went to North Platte the 20th, 21st and 22nd to view a large whale being exhibited in a specially constructed railroad car.
August 23, 1934 – Work officially started on the Sutherland Reservoir.
August 23, 1934 – Sutherland is struck by a tornado that causes considerable damage throughout the town.
August 6, 1936 – Beldora Cochran is selected as Miss Sutherland, 1936.
November 26, 1936 – Ten turkeys will be thrown away each Saturday for the next 3 Saturdays. They will be thrown from the roof of a Sutherland building in the business district. If you are fast, you may catch one. Or if you are tall. Free for the catching.
May 27, 1937 – A lease will be drawn up for a new ball park. Six acres of Farmers Union Co-Op south of the depot and the tracks to develop a field for sports.
July 22, 1937 – Ed Kuenle started working on the City Park Lily Pool. (He was the landscape artist who was in charge of the Sutherland Park for many years.
January 12, 1939 – W.P.A. workers digging clay for road work in Sutherland unearth three skeletons on the Ernest Dringman farm. They were buried in a sitting position and it is estimated they have beenthere from 10 to 50 years. It was established that they were not white, and brass rings were around their arms, buckeye beads all through the dirt placing their race as Indian, gypsy or Mexican. A 10” butcher knife, locket, bits of cloth and leather were also found.
August 17, 1939 – A bounty on Mexican sand burrs is being paid. Children can
collect a penny a pound for any they bring in.
October 12, 1939 – Marshall P.J. Hartman notes that there is a problem with boys shooting out street lights.
May 1940 – Census shows population of Sutherland at 955.
January 8, 1941 – Sutherland has the lowest water rate in the state. 7,000 gallons for $1.00 and each additional 1,000 gallons is 5 cents.
December 11, 1941 – There have been squirrel attacks on three persons in the last few days. Mrs. L.E. Sherwood, Mrs. R.C. Jainicke, and Bob Brownell were the victims. Kenneth White and Eldon Gordon have been authorized by the board of health to shoot the squirrels inside the city limits.
April 30, 1942 – Sutherland escaped damage from a major hailstorm that dropped stones eight and nine inches in diameter on the Weaver place on Sarben road. In august another storm dropped hail ten inches in diameter in the O’Fallons area.
July 16, 1942 – The white fence made of boiler tube around the city park is being removed by the Union Pacific section gang. It will be shipped to Cheyenne where it is to beutilized in the nation’s war effort.
December 14, 1942 – Air Raid sirens sound for the first blackout drill of the war.
November 7, 1944 – Sutherland voters reject a proposal to reinstate prohibition in Nebraska.
September 13, 1945 – The Nebraska Department of Roads promises to build a highway to Wallace.
December 29, 1948 – A huge snowstorm began that blocked all major roads, stranded trains, people and livestock for weeks. This became the “Blizzard of 49” as it did not stop snowing until the spring.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The road to recovery

Last Wednesday, I took what I hope will be the last step in my recovery from that unfortunate "accident" in July of 2012 that resulted in a crushed heel.

You might remember... after a wonderful day of tanking on the North Platte River, I celebrated in a way I had done hundreds of times before, by jumping off of the river bridge into the water. Unfortunately, the water channel had changed and I hit a shallow sand bar rather than the deep hole I was aiming for.

It was two weeks before I could even have surgery, then another twelve weeks no-weight bearing, then several more months in a boot and in physical therapy learning how to walk again.

This past July at my one-year check up, I was told that I had progressed as far as I could expect. The pain, stiffness, swelling and the ability to predict storms was going to remain where it was. My only hope of further recovery would be to have the hardware removed.

So after clearing my schedule for a couple of weeks, last Wednesday, I underwent the surgery to take out eight pins and a titanium plate.
It doesn't look like much, but I am very happy to have it all out.

Right now I am in the very uncomfortable stage of recovery. In pain, using a cane and a walking boot. It's been a long year and a half, and I hope to quickly move beyond this stage and get back to walking and hiking with less pain.

Here's looking toward a more productive coming year!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Stories: Timeline 1899 - 1919

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891-1991.

January 1899 – Sutherland was suffering from a measles epidemic that resulted in the deaths of several children.
July 4, 1899 – W.C. Blackmore held a fireworks disply to celebrate the fourth.
March 22, 1900 – A petition is being circulated to change the name of this precinct from O’Fallons to Sutherland. “Such a change would be convenient, but it would lose some of the historic features of the old name.”
May 1900 – Census reports Sutherland population at 406.
October 4, 1900 – Many citizens of Sutherland and Wallace went to North Platte to hear Teddy Roosevelt speak.
November 20, 1900 – Sutherland was visited by a traveling “mindreader”.
December 4, 1902 – An article appeared in the paper on “coal rustlers”, these persons were stealing coal due to a shortage that was occurring due to heavy snow.
December 18, 1902 – A shortage of coal was temporarily broken with the arrival of a forty ton carload. Coal was loaded on wagons and distributed to 65 families.
July 9, 1903 – An automobile passed through Sutherland en route to the east. The people fled to their houses and no casualties were reported.
September 3, 1903 – A brass band is being organized in town. Instruments are ordered. There is talk of building a “pest house” where they can practice.
April 12, 1905 – The Village of Sutherland is Incorporated and this act allows the organization of the Village and the appointment of a Board of Trustees.
April 27, 1905 – The new Village Board prints the first two ordinances of the Village. #1 defines the boundaries of the Village of Sutherland and #2 provides for regular meetings of the Board and for maintaining and caring for records and ordinances.
May 11, 1905 – Nearly the entire population turned out at the depot to watch the train bearing President Theodore Roosevelt pass through. The President waved to the crowd from the rear platform as the train passed through.
May 14, 1908 – A small cyclone passed through Sutherland. It caused damage west of the Sutherland House. The damage was primarily to houses.
September 2, 1909 – A major fire occurred in downtown Sutherland.
May 1910 – Census reports the Sutherland population at 978.
July 28, 1910 – Headlines announced the worst heat wave in years. Temperatures were 110* locally.
September 22, 1910 – A bunch of gypsies invaded Sutherland and started to pester citizens in the usual gypsy manner. Marshall Gentry bumped into the outfit and finally got it to move onward.
April 27, 1911 – The “South Side Tigers” will have a ball game on ground leased from J.L. Case. There will be a grandstand erected and the diamond put in good shape. The team received new uniforms that were brown with local businesses advertised on the back in white. The ball field was also fenced and named Veach Park.
July 11, 1912 – A major fire occurred early Sunday morning that was discovered by an arriving train crew. About a third of the businesses were lost and the State Bank and Burklunds brick building were the only ones left east of Walnut Street.
July 11, 1912 – Governor C.H. Aldrich visited Sutherland.
August 1, 1912 – Plans began to build a water system between buildings for fire protection.
September 19, 1912 – The village posted signs setting the speed limit within the city at 8 m.p.h.
November 14, 1912 – Another major fire destroys the frame buildings west of Walnut Street.
June 11, 1914 – A Sutherland Chautauqua was held from June 11th to June 20th.
November 26, 1914 – Vernon Connett was murdered by Ray Roberts near Sutherland.
April 22, 1915 – The paper discusses the towns’ reputation as “The prettiest small town in western Nebraska along the Union Pacific.”
October 21, 1915 – The South River Bridge will cost $35,000.
July 25, 1918 – The Village announced that the Sutherland Light Plant will run from 1:00pm to 11:00pm. This was amended in September to power being furnished during the forenoon on Mondays and Tuesdays pending a vote of the patrons on which half days they would rather use the electricity for washing and ironing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ah Huntsville!

Ah, Huntsville. How you surprised and delighted!

I am ashamed for being disappointed that you won the bid to host #SoMeT13US. You were wonderful hosts, and the story of how you energized the entire city, state and region in the voting process is inspiring.
Let me start from the center and work outward. Huntsville's downtown and courthouse square are wonderful. You're going to be seeing and hearing more about this area in the years to come. There are far too many vacant store fronts, and lots of construction on the streets - these will be short-lived I'm sure and this area is going to be a vibrant arts and entertainment district very, very soon. My one complaint, and I know that no one in Huntsville now is responsible for it, but could you possibly have chosen an uglier design for your courthouse? What an eyesore! What were they thinking back in the 70's, anyway?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Harrison Brothers hardware store - in operation for 116 years! Of course, now it's a gift shop operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation, but they have preserved the look and feel and even the products of the old-time hardware store. They have a wonderful selection of locally produced goods and art, and best of all, they ship! I'm anxiously awaiting the pickled okra, asparagus and various sauces that I purchased.
All of downtown, and in fact, the whole community, is filled with historic markers. It is wonderful to know what happened on that particular spot, in that particular house. What a great way to tell the story of the community. And the historic neighborhoods! Twickenham, Old Town and Five Points - oh my - the earliest home I can remember seeing dates from 1814, coming up on 200 years. There is street after street of these historic homes, all marked with the dates and sometimes the names, and even a guidebook containing listings of the most historic.

They offer tours, too. How about the Huntsville Ghost Walk? Spies, lies and alibis? Civil War Bones? Mischief and Mayhem? All of these sound like great ways to experience Huntsville history.

Just to the north of the downtown is the historic Huntsville Depot, which changed hands numerous times in the Civil War. I had probably the best living-history tour I've ever had through this Depot.
The southern gentleman who guided us was wonderful. You'll want to take the guided tour when you have the chance to visit - and don't miss the civil-war era graffiti on the third floor. Nearby is the North Alabama Railroad Museum, which I didn't have time to see.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Lumberyard - an authentic 1895 lumber yard now converted to an event and wedding venue. We had a wonderful off-site party... no, no, not party... networking event there Thursday night.
East of downtown is the Maple Hill Cemetery - the Civil War Bones tour mentioned above guides you through this cemetery. It is beautiful. There is a self-guided tour available at the cemetery office and they host an annual walk during October. Two things on my list of things to see that I didn't get to were the Weeden House and Alabama Constitution Village. I guess it's a reason to go back!
Further out and up a beautiful drive around a mountain to the east is the Burritt Home on the Mountain. Dr. William Burritt donated 157 acres on the top of the mountain the community of Huntsville upon his death. The beautiful house he built overlooks breathtaking scenery down into the valley. And now for a unique Nebraska connection... the house is constructed of straw bales!
Wide window ledge is a tell-tale sign of straw-bale construction.
This is the second time on my adventures that I have encountered this most Nebraska of construction methods. The first was at the Prime Desert Woodland in Lancaster, CA. For those of you who don't know - the art of constructing homes of straw bales covered with stucco and plaster was pioneered in Nebraska around 1900.
A section of the straw left peeking through.
The historic village that they've created includes homes moved to the site from the surrounding area. They tell the story of the earliest inhabitants and their hard work in creating a life for themselves and their families.

A living history re-enactor at the History Village
The people who operate the Burritt Home on the Mountain have been ingenious in creating sustainability for the historic village - they have included an event center with an amazing view of the valley, which I am sure must be in much demand, and an education center so they can host workshops and trainings. Couple that with the delightful gift shop, and you've got a model of sustainability.
And now on to the showcase of Huntsville, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Before I went there, I was decidedly unimpressed with the thought of visiting, but the sight of the massive Saturn 3 Rocket quickly changed that. I admit I was overawed with the exhibits, the experience at the Space Camp, the rocket launch and their gift shop. It is definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Huntsville.

Our short time in Huntsville has only scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in the area, so I guess I'll have to plan a return trip!