Friday, May 23, 2014

May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Because I am "of a certain age" and can relate, and because I was asked to, here is some information about Osteoporosis. Consider yourself made aware.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Capturing the Spirit

I've made it no secret that I am not too fond of the new "Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice." tourism slogan that is the result of $75,000, nine months of research and interviews with 3,500 people.

Here are some examples of efforts that truly capture the essence of Nebraska.

From the brand new "Life Wide Open" campaign from Hastings, Nebraska.

From Hear Nebraska, who can always be counted on to communicate the greatness of Nebraska with passion.

From the very successful "Life is Right in Lincoln" campaign.

And finally... "Nice" from the Nebraska Tourism Commission. Pardon me while I yawn.

Trust me, Nebraska is much more than nice!

You can see the truth of that from this video, also from the Nebraska Tourism Commission (where did they go wrong?)

If you can watch that and the only word you can come up with is "nice", you should watch it again, and again, and again. Or better yet, come for a visit and we'll show you just how much more than "nice" we are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stop Nebraska Public Power From Destroying the Beauty of the Sand Hills on Hwy 83

Easter Sunday morning last month, I woke up in Stapleton, Nebraska, at 5:30 a.m. so I could get on the road going north early.

I knew I had one of the most beautiful drives in the state ahead of me. Indeed, the morning light bathed the one of Nebraska’s great secrets and treasures, the Sand Hills, in soft morning light as I drove up U.S. Highway 83.
Imagine something like this..
I had to stop about once every mile to take a picture of this unique landscape.

Just the night before one of my cousins had told me of the Nebraska Public Power District’s plan to plant giant power lines along this scenic highway. “Surely, that can’t be true,” I thought.
.... planted across the beautiful Dismal River...
... or strung along a landscape like this. Photos by Stew Magnuson
Unfortunately, it is. NPPD’s R-Project would install giant power line towers along the road. This is actually its “preferred” route. There are alternatives away from the highway.

Nebraskans, lovers of the prairie, fans of our nation’s scenic highways must unite to defeat this ill-conceived plan.

Many, sadly, don’t know what is at stake.

The proposed power line route hugs the highway so closely it is actually impossible to distinguish the two on the map NPPD provides. (Link to map here). The monsterous lines will be clearly visible from the road.

Along with scarring the natural beauty of the Sand Hills, the towers would mar one of the most beautiful river valleys in the state, the Dismal River.

I remember meeting a motorcyclist at the scenic overlook at the Dismal River in 2009.

“It’s not so dismal,” he told me.

The Dismal was named because early settlers found it so treacherous to cross. It has nothing to do with its natural beauty. In that regards, it is a total misnomer. If this plan goes forward, motorists will gaze down from the overlook and see steel towers carrying power lines.

The biker explained that he had ridden up Interstate 80 on his way to Colorado a half dozen times, but had never ventured north. He was amazed at what he had been missing.

So too will other travelers. There was once a U.S. Canada Highway 83 Association that encouraged motorists to take this Great Plains highway, and spend some of their dollars in the small towns along the way. The association is long gone, but the idea lives on. 

Other states such as Kansas are declaring some of their roads Scenic Byways, and heavily promoting them as a way to encourage motorists passing through to get off the Interstate and come see what its communities have to offer.

This is what Nebraska should be doing — not destroying the natural beauty of our prairie lands.

Highway 83 from the Kansas border south of McCook to the South Dakota north of Valentine should be declared a Scenic Byway and developed for tourism.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Nebraskans from both parties joined together to stop the Bureau of Land Reclamation from damming the Niobrara River. (Does anyone today regret fighting that fight?) A similar alliance helped steer the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline route out of the Sand Hills.

We can all come together again to defeat another bad idea.

Nebraskans, and anyone who travels this federal highway, must speak out to defeat a poorly thought out plan to string ugly power lines along one of the state’s most stunning landscapes.

Leave comments on the NPPD’s website (LINK HERE), speak out at the public hearings, write letters to lawmakers and authorities.

Stop the R-Project’s Preferred route through our beautiful Sand Hills.

Stew Magnuson is the author of The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down Us. Route 83: The Dakotas, and winner of the 2009 Nebraska nonfiction book of the year: The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder.

To join the Fans of U.S. Route 83 group on Facebook, CLICK HERE. And check out the U.S. Route 83 Travel page at  Contact Stew Magnuson at stewmag (a)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Stories - Memories of B.C. Huffman, Part 3

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

Taken from “Stuckey and Huffman Cousins” By Opal Streiff

Good and Bad Saddles

B.C.’s first saddle was a Cogshell made with no swells. He sold it to Walter Bricker, a cousin. Second, he bought a three quarter rig Cogshell. He sure didn’t like THAT thing and sold it. Third – he bought a Mueller saddle with a Tipton Tree. This one he liked so well that as the leather gave way, he had the tree recovered twice, using this saddle until he quit riding a horse. This saddle is now in the Tri-State Old Cowboys Museum at Gordon, Nebraska, where he placed it along with other regalia.

Purchases 1909

The records show that B.C. bought a Top Buggy. He had a team and harness. Ira used it more than B.C. did. Then Frank and Edmund got to driving around the country so the ranch just bought it along with the team and harness.

The ranch bought a cook stove, meat grinder, lard press and a big black kettle all for $32.12. They bough three O.K. Windmills for $100.00. In 1910 they paid Howard Pinkerton $20.50 for butter which they had gotten from him during the spring, summer and winter up to February.

March 6, 1914 the ranch bought a new South Bend Cook Stove from Derryberry and Forbes in North Platte for $62.00. They used it in the sod house at Lamunyon Flats until B.C. got his home built in 1917 when he bought it from the ranch, using it until 1940.

From Ledger

(Kept by Ed Huffman beginning 1909)

Bird C. Huffman was working for $30 a month and with this he bought during 1909, a slicker for $3.00, overalls $1.25, Odd Fellow dues $1.00, Montgomery Ward bill $11.21, Hyers for boots $7.59, watch from Montgomery Ward $9.60, and a team that he bought from the company. In 1910 he paid $10.20 for his calf coat, rope $.60, boots $8.09 and some corn for his team. During haying he drew for the work of his team as well as wages.

“Mill Camp”

The Huffmans leased Mill Camp from Russell Fowles in February 1907 and held the lease for six years. He lived in North Platte and in 1911 he offered to sell the land to them for $25,000. Ed and Ira’s went to Broken Bow to see about buying the land and instead came home with around $4,000 worth of horses. Bird and Ira E. were plum disgusted that they used the amount of the down payment for horses. They could see the value of Mill Camp to their operations, but of course they were just kids and their ideas didn’t carry much weight with the elders.

The company bought mules costing within a range of $70 to $140 each. Some were shipped to Iowa and sold. On February 18, 1913 they sold two carloads of horses, mules and colts which netted them $3782.50, the place of sale was farm, Knoxville, Iowa (60 head).

Fleas and More Fleas

At Baldy Valley, Edmund built sod house, barn, chicken house and a cooling house with a double wall all around. The fleas were so thick the kids would roll up their pan legs, walk into the barn and a few minutes our legs would be black with fleas. They would kill them by the hundreds but there were millions left.

B.C. said the fleas were even in the grass miles from people or livestock. After the water table raised over most of the Sandhills and lakes were formed, the fleas seemed to just disappear.

Telephone Lines

In May, 1907, Huffmans built a line between the Swan Lake place and Lamunyon Flats Ranch. Several of the people living along the sixteen mile distance wanted to hook on the line as the years wen tby. Harry Pinkerton was one of the first to do so.

In 1910, the Kinkaid Line from Sutherland to the Foster place was built. A switch was put in at Fosters. This connected the Huffman line and the branch that went to Eclipse at the Tucker Ranch, to Sutherland. The next year, 1911, the people north and west of Eclipse Post Office wanted the line extended to them and go on north to Hecla. So a goodly amount of material was figured, ordered and shipped in to Helca. Getting this material hauled and the line built took a lot of labor. Shares were sold in the line then an additional assessment was made to complete the project.

Weather Signs

My father, Edmund, always watched the wind on March 18, 19 and 20th and on September 18, 19 and 20th to see what the next six months weather would be. Father said the dry year of 1890, he watched the March days. In the morning the wind would be in the south and would stay there until the middle of the afternoon and there would be some clouds come up in the northwest looking like we were going to get some rain. Then the wind would shift into the west and the clouds would be alo gone. All three days it did this and the same pattern all of the summer, in a southerly direction.

Another sign to watch is – Wherever the wind is on the first day of January, that’s were it will prevail the next 40 days, and won’t be out of that direction over 24 hours at one time. This has proved out this winter (1964). I watched it to see.

John Streiff told me about a fog sign that an elderly friend in Elm Creek had told him. Whenever there is a fog, in 103 days you will have moisture. I kept track of that last winter (1962-63) and run that thing over this summer and I marked it out when we were to have these rains and it hit almost on the dot. Sometimes it would be a day ahead and sometimes a day behind that we would have rain. This was the first time I had ever particularly checked on it to see.

If it rains in February, it will be a dry summer.

END – March 12, 1964
B.C. Huffman speaking on tape

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday Stories - Memories of B.C. Huffman, Part 2

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

Taken from “Stuckey and Huffman Cousins” By Opal Streiff

Store at Brown Lake

When Edmund and Willie Huffman came through the Sandhills in 1887, there was a store on the southeast corner of Brown Lake. The man who owned it was later found to be a payroll robber. He thought he was way out where no one would find him. The Logan County Sheriff and another man came up nosing around and the storekeeper shot some holes in the top of their buggy and they left; the storekeeper left soon afterward.

The government payroll men stopped for dinner at a ranch east of Lexington, on their way to a Fort further west. While they were eating, a ranch hand saddled up the best horse, took the money and left.

Ox Team Run Away

The men were at Swan Lake building the sod house. Mrs. Huffman and the children were tot ake lunch to them. Edna Windhurst, later Mrs. Harry Pinkerton, was visiting them and went along. They tried to drive the ox team with only the yoke and a rope, but they ran away and returned to the barn. So they put the harness on the oxen and started out again.

Edna tied her horse on the back of the hayrack and rode with the family. Her horse wouldn’t lead fast enough so Edna jumped off the hayrack, which startled the oxen into a run. Mrs. Huffman jumped off with Marion in her arms, caught her chin on the rack and skinned it badly. Mabel jumped too, but Ira and Bird stayed with the team which circled the valley and headed for the barn which stopped them, one in the door and one out.

Violin Music

Bird loved to hear the violin music. He made his first violin out of a cigar box and screen wire for strings. It was not too successful, but for a small boy he would try to play the tunes he had learned, listening at dances. He longed for a real one until the fall of 1904 when his parents and Marion and Mabel went to North Platte to get an order of goods bought from a peddler who had gone through during the summer. The Buffalo Bill Show was in town and they wanted to see it. They paid a dollar fifty cents for a small violin and brought it home to Bird. He sent away for lessons and later bought a three quarter size real violin.


In 1907 Bird took a notion to take pictures. He sent to the Montgomery Ward catalog for a camera and developing outfit. At that time you developed the film and lay the negatives in the sun to make the prints. He has had a 35MM camera and two polaroids since.

Dipping Vats

In 1904 Huffmans built a plunge type dipping vat but it wasted too much dip as the cattle splashed into it. In 1907 they moved the corrals and built a new vat, waist high above the ground, built a cage to hold two cows, with a trip floor. After it was loaded, it rolled on wheels over the dip and the floor was tripped. While the two cows soaked, the cage was reloaded. The cows walked up a ramp out of the dip. In 1935 they built one out of cement.


Dipping cattle for lice and scabies was hard hot work. On June 8, 1909, the Ranch settled the dipping job with neighbors. The cost was prorated per head to each man. Charley Daly dipped 76 head; Bert Snyder 165; Trego and Schick 500; Placer Tucker 525; Huffman Bros. 1850. It cost about 12 ½ cents.

Cattle dipping supplies: Sulphur $47.5o at Omaha; part for heating furnace $3.60; Tobacco dip $180; 4900 pounds coal $17.60; hauling coal $17.50; freight on sulphur $11.20; hauling dip and sulphur $15.75; lumber and cement, Sutherland $43.75 and hauling $12.60; extra cement and hauling tank $2.80; rope for hauling dipping car $4.25; pulleys 35 cents and Gum boots $8.00.

After it was all done and figured up Ed thought it cost the ranch about $27.00 to dip their own cattle besides the six family members’ work. They dipped again in April 1910.

New names on the pay roll in 1910 were: Dana Lombard, Charles Palmer, Archie Stoddard feeding cattle at baldy, C.A. Wills, Nellie Cash, Will Lovall, Charley Wilk, Glenn Lovall, Mrs. Gvoer cooking, Fred Gibson cutting Ridlen land, Clyde Lovall, Charles Harris, W.J. Quinn (Will), John Echoff, Ed Pierce, Steve Clifford, Jim Guffey, B.C. Huffman, Ira E., Marion and Wife, Will Grover were old hands. Rob and Edith Chambers helped hay that summer too, they were from Knoxville, Iowa. Fred Stoddard put up the Baldy hay.

Pranks and Fun

The people on the ranch made lots of their own fun. These young folks were only normal, pulling pranks on the others just to see them jump and holler. Mabel and Sadie were cooking for the dipping crew. Ira and Tom Quinn had their bed rolls on the living room floor, sleeping. They slipped in and put a bottle in the foot of the girls’ bed. The girls went in to bed and pretty soon Sadie says, “Gee, Mabel, your foot is cold”. Mabel answered, “You’re not touching my foot”. About that time Sadie flew out of bed, out the door with Mabel right after, across those boys on the living room floor and stepped right in their stomachs.

Another time B.C. thought he would be funny and crawled under the girls’ bed. They came in and when they got into bed, the bed sagged down until he couldn’t move out. So he began to push up, trying to get some room and Mable yelled, “Oh, My God, there’s spooks in here,” and out they went.

The boys always said the girls were “Scaredy Cats,” but that’s only their opinion; they had good cause from the stories.