Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ord, Nebraska - the Poster Child for Entrepreneurship!

On my recent blog post about our road trip to Ord, I didn't post anything at all about Ord itself. That's because Ord deserves it's own blog post.

Of course, our "excuse" for this road trip was to make our first (but certainly not our last!) visit to the Scratchtown Brewing Company on the occasion of their Scratch-Pattys Day party. No green beer here, but plenty of GREAT beer!

Scratchtown opened in October of 2013, and is the brainchild of Jade Stunkel, award winning home brewer Mike Klimek and Caleb Pollard, who bills himself as the "chief mover of units". If I lived in Ord, I might have to challenge him for that position!

They are still considered a nano brewery, but with the variety of great beers that they produce, I foresee expansion in their future.

I often wondered about the name "Scratchtown" for a brew pub in Ord, Nebraska, but the back cover of their beer menu solves the mystery. I suppose being located "in the heart of the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway, centrally located within 30 miles of the Calamus, Sherman and Davis Creek Reservoirs and 25 miles from the North Loup, Middle Loup, Calamus and Cedar Rivers..." might be a reason for the sentiment.
And now, on to Ord. This is a beautiful community, situated in a beautiful area of Nebraska. But more than that, it is a vibrant, growing community, something that is somewhat of an anomaly in rural America. The growth, sense of pride and economic well being can, in large part, be attributed to Scratchtown's Caleb Pollard, who served as the economic development director for many years.

The courthouse square in downtown Ord is surrounded by blocks filled with going businesses, not the vacant storefronts that are seen in many small towns.

From the Ord website:
Rural role model: that’ s just one name Ord has been called in the past five years. Ord exemplifies a rural community with a vibrant future. Since 2000, the Ord area has experienced over $125 million of private and public investment in our community. Also in that time, Ord and Valley County have witnessed the creation of over 100 new businesses, 350 new jobs, a return to pre-recession unemployment levels, strong per-capita wage growth, retail growth and property valuation increases. Out here in Ord we carry a boot-strap mentality: we build a bright future for ourselves.

Living in Ord exemplifies simple, safe small town living amidst breathtaking beauty in the scenic North Loup Valley. Boring and flat? Hardly. The traffic, noise and crime of the city opens up to rolling green prairie plains, scenic river valleys, abundant wildlife and a serene pace of life unrivaled in Nebraska.

As you can imagine, outdoor activities can be found right outside of town. Whether you enjoy hunting or fishing, bird watching, photography and hiking, water sports, history... you name it, it's literally right outside of your door in Ord.

If you visit Ord, there are two Bed and Breakfasts in the area, the Byway Guest House and Rex and Deb's River Lodge. Camping (RV and tent) is available in town at Bussell Park and nearby at Anderson Island, Calamus, Davis Creek and Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Areas. You can immerse yourself in the beautiful Sandhills by traveling the Loup River Scenic Byway. If finding bargains is your passion, you might consider a visit the last full weekend in September for the annual Junk Jaunt - 300 miles of treasures, over 500 registered vendors, and Ord situated about right in the middle.

If you're looking to experience the best small town America has to offer, a visit to Ord will definitely fit the bill. If you're looking to relocate to a scenic small town, Ord definitely fits the bill. If you're looking to lift a few pints or great craft beer, Ord definitely fits the bill.

What are you waiting for? Plan your trip today.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crane Viewing

A recent sunrise heading into Hershey, Nebraska to do some crane watching - and other wildlife, too as you'll see.
 Just north of Hershey, a couple of coyotes skulking through the meadow.
 A couple of deer making a quick exit.
 And the cranes!
 Flock after flock rising into the sunrise.
 After flock!
 An abandoned rail car on a rural road between Hershey and North Platte.
 Can you imagine the day when this was still rolling down the track?
 Snow Geese are abundant during the spring migration, too.
 Very abundant!
 As are Canada Geese.
 With one lone Snow Goose seeming out of place.
 And more Sandhill Cranes!
 In flight.
 More dancing.
 Landings and takeoffs.
The spring migration is nearly past for another year. I didn't get out and about nearly as much as I would have liked. How does March get so busy? I hope, wherever you are, that you got out to enjoy the beauty around you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Road Trip through Nebraska's Heartland.

It's been a long, cold, windy winter. To say we are suffering from cabin fever would be an understatement! It's also been an extremely busy winter, with lots of travel for me, which hasn't left as much time as we would like for doing some fun travel adventures together. To remedy that, on a recent Saturday, we decided to take a road trip to Ord - of course, by the back roads. Here is a map of our route.
The back roads from Arnold to Callaway, then on to Broken Bow are filled with beautiful bluffs and scenic canyons surrounding fertile fields and pastures. This is a photo of one of the first bluffs we came to on that route.
Nebraska established a county-coding system for its passenger plates in 1922. These one- or two-digit prefixes were assigned based on the number of registered vehicles per county in that year. Custer County, though roughly the size of Lincoln County, is very rural. In 1922, the license plates for Custer County received a "4". Today the population of Custer County is 10,939, while Lincoln County ("15" by the 1922 numbering system) is 36,099, showing you the plight of our rural counties.

Custer County's former prosperity is seen by numerous abandoned homes.
And barns.
However - there is new construction, as can be seen in the wind turbines below. There is a large wind farm just north of Broken Bow. I know they are extremely controversial, but I don't mind them.
I think they add a stark beauty to the landscape. Maybe I would feel differently if was my view of my beloved Sandhills that was being covered with them.
I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new, and you see it a lot throughout the whole wind farm project.
Past Sargent, Nebraska, on the road to Ord is a beautiful rural church.
Another juxtaposition of the old and the new. Old barns nestled in among state-of-the-art grain storage bins.
South and east of Ord (still in Valley County) is the tiny community of Arcadia. When the congregation of their Congregational Church dwindled to almost nothing, the congregation voted to donate it to the community. It is now known as "The Gathering Place". How appropriate for a church building.
Further on the road, back into Custer County sits the community of Westerville, which is the oldest settlement in Custer County.
There's not much left in Westerville, except the opportunity for some great pictures.
Just east of Broken Bow, on our return trip, we found another sign of the times. We noticed it first by the smell. Though it was far away, it was quite unmistakable. This is a hog confinement operation, with the wind turbines of the wind farm in the background.
Three hundred miles and six hours later, we were back at home, with a greater appreciation of Nebraska's diverse scenery. We hope to make the trip again when we can do it more leisurely and it's a little greener.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Improvements to the Sutherland Oregon Trails Golf Course

Courtesy of the The Courier-Times, serving the communities of Sutherland, Hershey and Paxton. The article appeared in the February 27, 2014 print edition.
sutherland golf
A gazebo, trees and several other improvements are on tap for the driving range at the Sutherland Oregon Trails Golf Course, which now serves as the home course for the school golf teams at Hershey, Sutherland and Paxton.

Barb Baldridge of the Junior Golf Association attended the Hershey Lions Club meeting February 25th to receive a check in the amount of $2000 and also to give a report on all the new improvements at the Sutherland Oregon Trails Golf Course. The Lions Club raised the funds at their Super Bowl Party.

Baldridge's popular Hershey-Sutherland Junior Golf Association has had participation from 64 and 42 kids, respectively in the past two years, and growth at the golf course will facilitate an even greater level of participation in the future.

Plans this year include the building of a Gazebo/Storage area, with work to be completed by Mr. Vallier and the Sutherland Industrial Arts Class. Building supplies are coming fromKildare Lumber Company in Sutherland. Klaasmeyer Concrete of Hershey will provide a 10 ft x 24 ft concrete foundation at $4.00 per square foot.

Other plans include the addition of 10 bag caddies/stands from Frels Iron Works, two on-course water dispensers to be built as an Eagle Scout project by Jacob Louder of Hershey, yardage markers on the driving range, wagon wheel tee boxes, and the addition of 26 5-ft Norway Spruce trees being sponsored at $75.00 each.

Baldridge said that if people or businesses want to sponsor a tree, this would be a good place for that kind of project. Tree sponsors so far include Pencils & Prayers Preschool, Midwest Renewable Energy, the Longhorn Bar, Hershey Public Schools - 5 trees, Sutherland Public Schools - 5 trees, Paxton Public Schools - 5 trees, Ozzies General Store, and more being added.

An April 25th ribbon cutting ceremony is being planned.

Baldridge also acknowledged contributions from Roric Paulman and Troy Gavin for the heavy equipment and dirt moving in preparing the area for irrigation, from Chris Klaasmeyer for the leveling, from Reed Kuroki, Jordan Maassen, Art, Susan, Luke and Serena Martinez, as well as Jeff Baldridge for helping set sprinkler heads, and Steve Derr who did prep work before seeding.

This is how things get accomplished in a small town! The entire community (or in this case, three communities) coming together to improve the quality of life for everyone!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Newspaper Clippings

From a 1943 issue of the North Platte Telegraph that my mom found while cleaning her house.

U.P. Employees Give $116.73 to Canteen

The Union Pacific Employees of the roundhouse, shop, store and car departments donated $116.73 to the Canteen today. The Women's Salvage workers, of Valentine, sent a check for $25. Mrs. F.A. Ekstrom also donated cash and $1.65 was collected from the Canteen jar.

The Free Mission Church of Gothenburg, the North Platte Presbyterian women and the Hall Helpers club are furnishing the food and serving today.

Forty women are with the Gothenburg group and, in addition to $42.00 cash, they contributed 11 pounds of butter, 23 cakes, 14 pounds of coffee, nine chickens, 78 dozen cookies, 28 dozen rosettes, seven quarts of cream, 30 dozen cupcakes, three loaves of coffee bread, fruit, 39 dozen doughnuts, 20 dozen eggs, 250 magazines, five quarts of mayonnaise, seven quarts of pickles, five dozen rolls, nine dozen kringlers, three loaves of homemade rye bread, three sheet cakes and a towel.

The Hall Helpers Club donated 20 dozen doughnuts, sheet cakes, cookies, pickles, birthday cakes and magazines. Eight women are serving.

Magazines were given by Walter Carland, William Vollmer, Mrs. Chandler Wilson, Dalton community, John Varpahl and Mrs. Charles Leth.

The Congregational Ladies Aid of Springview gave birthday cakes and the American Legion, Alice L. Dirks gave cookies. Mary Durand of Ogallala donated cigarets and Mrs. J.B. Redfield gave cigarets and magazines. Books were given by Eleanor Wheeler and the Trinity Lutheran Church, of Hershey contributed 20 New Testaments.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Highline Icons

The communities along Highway 23, the "Highline" are beautiful, ethnic German, Dutch, Scandinavian communities. Below is the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Eustis.

Nearly as important as houses of worship are water towers supplying the communities with drinking water.

A Catholic church in Farnam. It seems to me like maybe this church had a steeple at one time. It just looks a little stunted.

Farnam has a water tower that is different from the norm.

In Moorefield, it has been a long time since this church saw a worship service.

While in slightly better shape than the church, the Moorefield Legion Hall looks as if it is in desperate need of some TLC.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Stories: Grandma Van and the Runaway Horse

From the memoir of Nellie Thurman VanArsdall, 1888 - 1993

In about 1908, my husband, Ray Alexander VanArsdall and I were a young couple with a one-year old son, Vance, living on a farm about three miles from the home of my mother and my youngest brother.

One bitterly cold day, with deep snow on the ground, I decided to go to spend the day with my mother and brother, as we were moving soon to another part of the state, and I wouldn’t get to see them often. So my husband hitched a gentle spotted mare to the buggy and I drove without incident to my mother’s home.

Later in the day, my husband decided to take a team of horses to a blacksmith shop in the nearby town of St. Edward, to get them shoes, as he knew that when the deep snow melted, the roads would be rough and hard on the horses’ feet. Since the spotted mare which I had driven over to my mother’s Was one of the team he wished to get shod, and the other a spotted stallion, he drove the stallion and a bay gelding over. He left the bay gelding for me to drive home, and took the spotted mare along with the stallion to be shod.

This bay gelding had always been as gentle and trustworthy as the spotted mare. When the time came for me to go home, my brother hitched the gelding to the buggy and I started out. The gelding almost immediately started to shake his head angrily and snort and lunge for a short distances, but I managed to keep him under control. At first I thought that he was just cold and was feeling exuberant, or to use a horsey expression – feeling his oats.

But he became more and more obstreperous and I was becoming terrified, not so much for myself, but for my baby, and began to look for a deep snow drift into which to toss him. About this time I overtook a group of neighbor men in a wagon, who were driving around the countryside shooting rabbits for pass time. Upon seeing how badly my horse was behaving, one of the men suggested that I, with my baby, get into the wagons with the other men and they would take me to a  nearby farmhouse, and I could wait there for my husband to come by.

I did this, and this neighbor took my horse and buggy and drove several miles around the neighborhood, trying to make this horse more tractable, but he didn’t succeed, and at times the horse almost got the best of him. So the man finally gave up and left the horse at the neighbor’s place where I had stopped.

When my husband came along, he tied the horse securely behind his wagon and we led him home. A few days after this incident, the weather having moderated, and most of the snow having melted, my husband decided to turn this gelding and the spotted stallion out in a small pasture adjoining the barn, so that they might get some exercise. They had always been stable mates (meaning they were tied side by side in a double stall) and had run in this pasture together.

But as soon as they were freed from their halters, they rushed at each other with ears lying flat and bit and struck each other viciously while standing on their hind legs, then whirled and kicked each other with their back legs. And they made the most horrible sounds – shrieks, snorts and a deep bawling sound. They were really fighting – each with the desire and intention to kill the other. We had never seen anything like it. It was several minutes before my husband could get them separated, and not in time to prevent several injuries in the way of cuts and bruises from hooves and hide torn by vicious bites.

This was a calamity for us, as good horses were selling at that time for as much of $500, but at that time, must be sound and without blemishes. After this we could never stable them in the same stall, or turn them out to pasture together.

We debated at length about what caused this sudden bitter animosity between these horses, and we came to the conclusion that it was just a plain case of jealousy – the object of their rivalry being the spotted mare, which led us to the question – is it possible for jealousy to happen in the animal kingdom?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Highline Elevators

I had the good fortune of being able to take the back roads from Elwood to North Platte last week. We had purchased a quarter of beef and I picked it up from the locker plant in Elwood on my way home from Kearney delivering a Social Media workshop to the Nebraska Concrete and Aggregates Association. It was a beautiful winter afternoon, with the sun nearly right to get some good photos. Below is the grain elevator in Eustis, Nebraska.

Below is the grain elevator in Farnam.

Highway 23, which joins all of these communities, is known as the "Highline". According to this historical marker just outside of Moorefield, it was originally the Burlington Highline which followed the divide between the Platte and Republican rivers, connecting the communities of Holdrege, Nebraska to Sterling, Colorado.

The last elevator before I rejoined Highway 83 north to North Platte was in Maywood.