Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Neighborliness and Preparedness

Our neighbor will soon be constructing a shop. He has to get some trees out of the way first, so we enjoyed a recent afternoon helping out.
Does this look safe to you? These two have worked together on just the same type project countless times, and so far they seem to know what they're doing. Attaching a loooooong cable and chain as high up on the tree as they can reach.
As you can see, my vantage point has receded to a safer distance. First, a notch is cut on the side of the tree in the direction they hope it to fall. Then a cut at about 45 degrees is made on the opposite side, until it is cut all the way through. Pressure applied by the cable and pickup encourages it to fall in the right direction.
And when all goes right, that is exactly what happens. The tree landed about six inches from where they wanted it to go.

However, when things don't quite go right... it's time for plan b... or c...

This isn't a very good picture, but if you look closely, you can see the very taut chain and cable stretched between the tree and pickup. You can also see the large notch on the north side of the tree. You can also see our neighbor frantically pounding a wedge into the 45 degree cut he has made on the south side of the tree because his blade keeps getting pinched.

You know what that means, right? It means that the tree is leaning toward the south instead of the north as the cut grows deeper. At about this point in time, everyone helping out scrambled to move any nearby vehicles out of harms way.
There really wasn't anything to be done. With a stiff breeze blowing out of the north west and the pickup slipping on the wet ground, this tree was going to fall in exactly the opposite direction they wanted it to.

Fortunately, it went EXACTLY in the opposite direction, neither to the east or to the west. It missed the garage and barn and did no damage whatsoever. If they hadn't had witnesses, they would have told us this is what they planned to do all along.

In the end, lots of firewood for warm fires in the years to come (it's too wet to use this year), and trees out of the way for the new construction. Not a bad days work.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Stories: Sutherland Project

Interesting tidbit in the "Behind the Outlet" insert from Nebraska Public Power District in the North Platte Telegraph recently:

One of the state's oldest reservoir and canal projects is the Sutherland Project. Constructed by Platte Valley Public Power District between 1934 and 1939, the project was built as part of the New Deal program to end the Great Depression.
This home was moved multiple times and is now the home
of my sister and her family, which is a story for another post.
At the time of its construction, the 63.5-mile Sutherland Project along the Platte River was the world's second-largest excavation project, next to the Panama Canal.
This barn is now located in North Platte at the
University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center, or the "state farm."
The system provides supplemental storage water to six canals from Lexington to Kearney for irrigation, and reuses the water for hydro generation, a renewable, environmentally friendly source for electrical energy. Collectively, the project stores 84,000 acre-feet of water in the Sutherland and Lake Maloney Reservoirs.

In the 1970s and 80s, NPPD built the state-s largest fossil-fueled power plant to meet the growing energy needs of its Nebraska customers. This important resource - the Gerald Gentleman Station - is located along the Sutherland Project, which provides water for the plant's cooling. Seepage from the canals and reservoirs also provides recharge and storage in the groundwater aquifers below the project.

Very little of the water used to produce electricity at GGS comes from the aquifer or groundwater. In fact, nearly all of the water is returned to the Platte River for re-use and less than one percent of the water passing through the plant's once-through cooling system is lost through evaporation.

Today, NPPD continues to manage and maintain a series of diversion dams, lakes and canals along the Platte River. The system's riverine and lake-side properties provide wildlife habitat for a variety of fish, birds and animals, and offer recreational outlets for fishermen, boaters, campers and hunters.

The partnerships between the Nebraska Public Power District, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Sutherland Reservoir Park Board which maintains the Oregon Trail Golf Course give us great recreational assets. Besides the golf and water sports, NPPD generously gave land for an ATV course.

Friday, February 22, 2013

When it's gone, it's gone... FOREVER

A news article from North Platte's KNOP-TV caught my eye recently.

Village officials in the small community in Brule are patting themselves on the back for the planned demolition of an historic building in their downtown. They are even touting as a success a previous demolition that still remains a vacant lot in their downtown area. In light of recent developments in Sutherland, this strikes very close to home.

This is a beautiful building on Sutherland's main street as it stood during our recent (unsuccessful) campaign to implement a local option sales tax to be used to help rehab buildings such as this.
This is how it looked as I left town for a business trip one morning in November, 2012
And this is how the site looks today. Like a gaping lost tooth in a community smile.

Contrast that with this wonderful story of rehabilitation

Broken Bow Tiffany Theater

Continued neglect of our built heritage will result in more and more buildings that decay to the point where demolition is necessary, but it doesn't have to be that way. In the Forging Nebraska's Future 100 NExt Generation Ideas, options are proposed to help communities facing these challenges.

Some specific suggestions include: 
  •  29. Restrict property tax increases for those who are willing to rehab old buildings. 
  • 41. Skills training (trade school) should include background on historic buildings and building rehabs. Young people could easily make a lifetime career if trained in this construction area. 
  • 67. Practice “rural sourcing” by strategically moving existing and start-up companies as well as government functions to rural areas to reduce labor costs and increase employee reliability. This project aims to expand on a successful cross-sourcing model used by an existing software company. Recruit University of Nebraska Alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations. 
  • 83. Coordinate efforts for communities to ‘Rehab’-itate (vs. new construction like Habitat for Humanity) existing structures, combining historical perspectives, financial incentives, wood and metal reclamation, knowledgeable contractors and a focus on energy efficiency. This could bring new families to small communities, attract new or expanded businesses, provide gathering places, support jobs, and remove eye sores from our communities along the way.
One of the bright spots in rehabilitating the downtowns of Nebraska's towns and villages is the Main Street Program. This program provides vital tools to help communities learn the value and economics of saving their historic downtown buildings, but is in CONSTANT need of additional funding, and even faces shutting down if their funding is not provided for in the upcoming Nebraska budget. The public hearing on LB376, the Main Street funding bill, will be held Tuesday March 5, 2013 in front of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.

If you would like to see Nebraska communities stop allowing their downtowns to deteriorate beyond repair, and think it is a good idea to give them the tools they need to save their heritage, study the 100 NExt Generation Ideas document and contact the members of the Appropriations Committee before the March 5th hearing and tell them to advance the Main Street funding bill. Thanks for stopping by.

The coffee is always on, especially for political discussions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deer in the valley

In a lot of the histories I have been looking through to create my "Sunday Stories" series, it talks about the scarcity of game in the Platte River Valley. It's good to know that proper management of our wildlife by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has alleviated this problem.

This photo was taken near dusk recently just north of Sutherland off of the Birdwood road. It totaled 25 - 30 animals. It wasn't the only herd seen that evening, either. Several other herds of 5-10 animals were also spotted.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nebraska's NExt Generation Ideas

Nebraska's Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recently launched a Forging Nebraska's Future initiative that started with a grass-roots effort to garner ideas from across the state as to what needs to happen to make Nebraska a place our young people want to come home to.

They have just now released the results of that effort with the report "100 NEXT GENERATION IDEAS." I highly encourage you to click through the link and read the entire report for yourself.

There are a lot of good ideas in this report, there are some that make you go hmmmmm. There are a lot of things that some form of government must do. Not a lot of empowering the private sector to do. However, there are many ideas that affect the Nebraska Outback, especially in the realm of outdoor recreation and tourism and I'd like to outline those for you here.

57. Work with Nebraska Game and Parks to develop a large park and campground in the Sandhills that will play off of the unique attributes of the region and also offer top-notch lodging and recreational opportunities; include development of a new ATV park that will be the envy of the country. This will bring considerable new economic activity to the region.

58.Nebraska needs to develop pro­grams that will promote conser­vation of land, increase habitat, increase pheasant populations and in turn promote tourism in rural Ne­braska. I think a program geared toward taking marginal (high soil erosion potential or similar) farm land out of production and promot­ing use of the land for tourism-hunting would help in a variety of ways.

61. Encouraging in-state tourism. Our state could offer some sort of pack­age deal that could be personal­ized to fit an individual or family’s interest. Let’s spread adventure.

74. Offer a package deal for non- Nebraska hunters to get reduced prices on hunting permits when staying at least 4 days at a Ne­braska State Park (ideally a park that offers hunting, or is close to open access hunting land).

84. Offer a military discount for hunting and fishing licenses.

86. Complete the Cowboy Trail, Amer­ica’s longest rails-to-trails project, and construct a new trail along the Platte River.

88. Preserve surface water - enter into compacts with Wyoming and Colo­rado to protect Platte River flows; dam rivers to the extent possible consistent with wildlife habitat pro­tection, recreation, and irrigation, as well as compact obligations; utilize “gray” water for irrigation and residential watering; reduce irrigation needs by utilizing better farming practices.

99. Work with the appropriate local, state and federal agencies to make 60% of Nebraska’s lake shores available for private residential development. This has been done successfully in Missouri.

The Outdoor Recreation Economy
I find these very interesting because they coincide with another report, the Outdoor Recreation Economy released by the Outdoor Industry Association.  

Given that Nebraska is 97% private land, with the state and federal government managing just 3% of our natural resources, Nebraska's development of our natural resources for outdoor recreation purposes MUST come from the private sector, which is why I would like to have seen more empowerment initiatives in the 100 NEXT GENERATION IDEAS report.

Some statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Economy Report.

- 6.1 million American jobs
-$646 billion in outdoor recreation spending each year
-$39.9 billion in federal tax revenue
- $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue

Americans spend nearly as much on snow sports ($53 billion) as they do on Internet Access ($54 billion).
Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips ($81 billion) than they do on Airplane tickets and fees ($51 billion).
More American jobs depend on trail sports (768,000) than there are lawyers (728,200) in the U.S.

In Nebraska, at least 65% of Nebraskans participate in outdoor recreation each year.
Nebraska Statistics
You'll have to go to the full report to see clear images of the screen captures I've shown here.

One of the things that could have been addressed in the Nebraska report was revamping our recreational liability laws to limit the landowner's responsibility for liability involving the "inherent risks" of outdoor recreation. There is a bill in the legislature right now that would do just that, but having it in this report might have increased its chances of passage.

What are your thoughts? What are your ideas to help Nebraska capitalize on the huge outdoor recreation economy?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hunters and Trappers in the Loup Valley

Excerpt from: One Hundred Years on the South Loup: A History of the Arnold Community from 1883 - 1983. Compiled by Nora Hall Mills

It is not known just when the first hunters and trappers came into the Arnold area, but buffalo hunters found trappers on the South Loup in 1859, and it is known others were here by the late seventies. By the middle eighties, deer, elk and prairie chicken hunting had become a big business. The Custer County Republican reported six elk and forty deer being hauled to the railroad in the month of November, 1883.

A market hunter in the early 1900's in Nebraska
Prairie chickens were taken for the eastern markets, shipped in barrels, salted. Chicken hunters were instructed to draw the birds, stuff them with salt and buffalo grass and hang them on the north side of the soddy until they had a load to haul to the railroad.

Fifty homesteaders over in Logan County signed a petition in 1900 to keep professional hunters from killing their prairie chickens and warned anyone seen with a gun and dog to beware, but even so, the wild chickens had all but disappeared by the late 1920’s, replaced by the prairie grouse and the ringnecked pheasant. Landowners south of Arnold stocked their land with the colorful pheasants and attempted to protect them from poachers.

It was 1931 before Logan County had its first week-long season on pheasants; under a “script system” farmers could receive fifty cents for each bird shot on their land.

The last buffalo reported seen in western Custer County was on the big table east of Arnold in 1879, and was said to have disappeared in the darkness. Buffalo horns were still being picked up in the hills north of town in the ‘20s and a large skull was unearthed in 1979 when a hole was dug for a light pole at the new softball diamond built that year. This find was very near where R.E. Allen’s sod house had been put up in 1880.

Elk antlers at a homesteader's soddy photographed by Solomon Butcher
The elk herds disappeared soon after the homesteaders came – only the antlers remained; Solomon Butcher’s pictures of early Custer County sod houses show piles of these antlers on many roofs. The deer, too, soon vanished, and not until after 1928, when the Halsey National Forest stocked twenty sections with deer, were any seen near Arnold; it was ’33 when Tom Faherty saw a buck and two does in his pasture northeast of town.

Antelope disappeared as the country settled up and were seldom seen again until 1961, when the Nebraska Game Commission released sixty of the animals on the Lyle Geiser ranch northeast of Arnold. Later that year, sixty wild turkeys were added to the game population, released in the same vicinity.

The last mention of a golden eagle appeared in a 1911 paper, when Alvah Hurst shot one on Dr. Robinson’s farm a few miles up the river from Arnold. The bird was described as a fine specimen, when a wing span of six feet four inches. Hurst gave it to the doctor, who had it mounted.

Wildcats were not uncommon in the early days. One of the largest was killed on the east table in 1902 by John Wheling, said to have weighed thirty-six pounds and stand as high as a wolf. Judge Sullivan, of Broken Bow, bought that animal, had it mounted and displayed it in his office.

Left alone, coyotes controlled their own population and did not become a problem until after eradication measures were taken. Wolf (or coyote) hunts organized in the early 1900s netted few, if any, but good prices for pelts encouraged hunters, and a party with ninety-five dogs camped in Mills Valley in 1912, but had little success.

Results of an early coyote hunt
A Custer County Chief item in 1920 read: “T.J. Rhoades and Otis Pickett, both from Arnold, were in Broken Bow with twenty wolf hides, the result of a month-long hunt. All were taken with dogs in Arnold and Hayes township. They own five dogs of the Greyhound and English Wolfhound breeds.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Stories: The Fattig Family: Life on the Homestead

Part Three

By Josie M. Fattig

During those early years while we were paying for the farm, the budget, in general, was as follows: Aside from eggs, cream and butter for the table, the egg money was used to buy groceries and the cream checks supplied gasoline and upkeep for the Model T Ford. The income from the farming operation went as payments on the place.
Farmers selling cream at Nath Miller's cream station in Boone County, Arkansas
We had our own meat and potatoes, and vegetables from the garden. And we did considerable canning of vegetables for winter use.

One year the potato crop failed, but the beans that had been planted made a bountiful crop. So we ate beans twice a day all winter instead of potatoes. Every evening after supper Mother measured out two No. 3 cans of beans, one each for Lottie and me to look over. Then they were put to soak for cooking the next day – one can for dinner and one for supper. I got so tired of beans that for a long while afterward I could scarcely look a bean in the face. However, eventually I recovered my taste for beans and have been fond of them ever since.

Collecting cow chips for fuel
One year Father planted a cabbage patch and it surprised him with a bumper crop. When the cabbages were harvest he piled them in a large stack. The price of cabbage that year was one cent a pound, and he had to sell it out for that price to get rid of it.

Using corn cobs for fuel
We found an important fuel supply in the pasture, in the form of cow chips. Another was corn cobs from the pig pen. Cow chips were gathered by the men by the wagon load, hauled in and unloaded in a big stack. Between times when chips were needed, Mother sent Lottie and me out to the pasture area closest to the house with a wash tub to carry them in, between us, by the tub load. One not-so-pleasant aspect of using this type of fuel was that it kept one quite busy carrying out the ashes. It was also Lottie’s and my job to bring in the cob supply, by the bushel basketful.

In those days roads often angled across farms instead of following section lines. Our place was on the main road between Tryon and Stapleton, and the road ran by our house.

Stapleton was at the end of a spur railroad line that extended that far from Kearney. So the Tryon-Stapleton road was a busy one, used for hauling supplies by freight wagon from Stapleton to Tryon and the surrounding area. In inter, after a prolonged spell of bad weather and roads, wagon trains went by headed for Stapleton and fresh supplies.

At times someone coming in from the east would be snowbound by the time they reached our place, and we would put them up until they could go on.

I recall one such instance when a young Negro family by the name of Tolliver, who lived farther west in the county, got snowed in and stayed overnight with us. They had some small children, the youngest being a baby several months old. We children thought it quite a treat to have them with us, and especially the baby, who was a real cutie.

One time Joe and Dr. Harriet McGraw became snowbound at our place and to stay a few days before they could go on home to Tryon. They made themselves right at home, and we enjoyed having them with us.
As they were leaving, Dr. McGraw gave Mother a five-dollar bill and said, “Use this to buy a new bedspread for the room we used.” Mother added enough more to it to buy a nice spread for each of the three bedrooms.

We got our mail on a Star Route that came up from North Platte by our place and on to Ringgold and Tryon, and then back to North Platte. I recall one time when Roy Parkhurst, brother of Mrs. Fred Popham, was carrying the mail that he got snowbound at our place and had to stay overnight.

An example of an early sod school in Nebraska
We girls completed our elementary schooling at what was called Cottonwood Grove School, District 16, in McPherson County. The schoolhouse was a little soddy, with two windows on each side and the door in one end, located on the north side of our place not from our house. There was a grove of cottonwood trees between, hence the name of the school.

One quarter section of the Brooks homestead was a tree claim, thus the grove of cottonwood trees which he planted. A community Sunday School was held in the schoolhouse. In later years the soddy was replaced by a new frame building, which was placed on the section line on the east side of our place, making it accessible via a section line road.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Get Ready Sutherland!

It might not look like a lot is happening to get ready for the 2013 centennial of the Lincoln Highway (Highway 30), but a lot has been going on behind the scenes, and as the days start to warm up all of my Sutherland family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, even complete strangers will be asked to pitch in with one project or another.

Lois Buchholz's tiny service station.
First off, I want to congratulate Lois Buchholz and Charlie Funk for the amazing privately-funded transformations they have made on their buildings along Sutherland's main street and Highway 30. The work they have done has made a lot of difference in our little town.
One of Charlie Funk's buildings on First Street all spruced up.
After getting a new roof last summer, not much has happened with the little filling station on the west edge of town. Lon Wisdom and the industrial arts department at the Sutherland Public Schools are hard at work refurbishing the old Frontier Oil sign and a vintage gas pump.

Awaiting a refurbished sign and a mural
A local artist should have a rendering available in the VERY near future for a mural to be painted on the front of the blue building next to the service station, the former walk-in cooler for Saxtons. I haven't heard yet if there's going to be jobs for "novice" painters on this project, but if there is, rest assured I will put out the word.

As far as the service station itself goes, at any time the boards protecting the windows can be pulled out and the window sashes removed for stripping, sand blasting and reglazing. The frames will need to be hand-stripped (sand blasting could cause MAJOR damage to the building), then they can be replaced.

The wood trim needs to be measured, new boards cut, painted and replaced. A sample needs to be taken of the crown molding so it can be recreated and replaced. The stucco needs to be patched, then painted. The color scheme is going to be stucco - white; trim - red; window frames - black. Samantha at the Village Clerks office is researching what a period-looking door would look like so it can be replaced.

Other projects include recreating historic billboards that can be found along the Lincoln Highway. This first one is in Franklin Grove, Illinois. We kind of blindsided Vicki at the Growth Committee meeting Wednesday night, but we hope to be able to paint it on the wood fence at Ozzies. The mileage would be replaced with Frisco 1373/New York 1538, Ogallala 31, North Platte 21.

The second one is an historic billboard that could be found at Big Springs, Nebraska. The arrow and wording would remain the same, but the map at the bottom would be replaced with one that reflects our local area. Jim Bliss of Sutherland Sportsmens Cove has graciously given permission for this one to be painted on the wooden fence at his place of business.

I've been told that 50 degrees is about the lower threshold for a paint job, but I'm hoping these billboards can be done in stages as 50* days come along - power washing; priming; white paint; graphics. Anyone with expertise in any of these areas is welcome to pitch in! We'll be playing a lot of "Tom Sawyer" this spring, getting people to help out with painting projects.

Who knows, if we get really industrious, there might even be a "pole painting" project in the works.

As I'm sure most of you know, the 2013 Cattlemens Ball is going to be hosted at Sutherland's Hanging H Ranch just west of town on June 7 and 8. The goal is to have ALL of these projects completed by that time. That time frame will coincide nicely with the official Auto Tour of the Lincoln Highway which should come through Sutherland on June 28.

If you have a club or organization who would like to help with one of these projects, feel free to message Nebraska Outback on Facebook, or, if the temperature warms up to past 50 degrees, take a drive along the highway. You just might see someone working on a project and you can pitch in.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Stories: The Fattig Family: Settled Near Ringgold

Part Two

By Josie M. Fattig

Some men and boys of the area were engaged in their weekly Saturday afternoon baseball game. One of the men, Robert Christianson, came over and talked to us, giving us information and answers to our inquiries.
Present Day Ringgold, Nebraska
We had been given permission by Charles Chapman, an acquaintance in Franklin County, to stop at a place he owned a few miles east of Ringgold until we could get settled. So we drove on over there and camped for a time.

The Bill and Tom Jones families lived a little beyond there. The next day after our arrival the Bill Jones family came by on their way to Sunday School. Having learned of our being there, they brought us some ripe tomatoes from their garden. What a treat that was. How wonderful those tomatoes tasted – the only garden produce we had had all summer.

Father soon got in touch with Manford Harrison, who had control of what was known as the Dolph place, a mile or so east of Ringgold. On this place was a vacant sod house. The house consisted of three rooms, all in a row; but the walls of the first one were in such bad condition that the room was not liveable. Mr. Harrison kindly allowed us to move into this house for the winter. The damaged room served as an entrance to the house; and there also, we kept our chickens.

The middle room was our kitchen and living room. And the other was bedroom for the seven of us – a bed crowded into each of the three corners of the room. By this time Harvey was pursuing his own interests, after having helped us get moved. In the fourth corner of the roomw as piled the extra furniture.

Mother did the best she could to provide us younger ones with some Christmas that winter. Apparently considering Lottie and me as having graduated form the doll stage, she gave us each a book, from the “Little Prudy” series. Mine was “Little Prudy’s Sister Susie” and Lottie’s was “Little Prudy’s Cousin Grace” since Lottie’s middle name happened to be Grace.
The Little Prudy's book series
For Alma, who would be three the next month, she had made and dressed a large rag doll. Alma named the doll Susie for the character by that name in my book. She immediately fell in love with Susie and carried her around everywhere.

By the next spring we had learned that the Brooks place, a couple of miles east and a little south of Ringgold, was for rent. This was the original homestead of G.M. Brooks, and consisted of a half section. Father rented the place for a year, and we made the move to it in a March snowstorm.

At the end of the year, Father made a deal, through John Main acting as intermediary, to purchase the place. The Brookses had left previously, moving to Washington State.

Prior to this, Father had bought the lease on a half section of school land whose northwest corner joined the southeast corner of the Brooks place, making the farm now consist of a full section.

At last our parents had found a location where they could get their roots down. By dint of hard work, good management, and frugal living, and with the aid of Dewey and Glenn, who were still at home, things took a turn for the better. Payments on the farm were completed ahead of schedule, a Model T Ford was purchased – one of the first in the neighborhood – a new frame house replaced the sod house, and a new barn was built. Thus they had a quite comfortable home and living in their declining years.