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Making Friends in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

5 May
A horse looks toward a visitor in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021, possible hoping for a little snack. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always look forward to meeting new “folk” when driving about Siouxland. One particular day I felt bad that I didn’t pack a carrot lunch with me to snack on as a couple of locals would surely have enjoyed me sharing that I met while driving some backroads.

It was a nice day and they seemed to be enjoying themselves on a hillside on a pleasant, finally, spring day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two horses eye a visitor in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ah the Little Birdies, Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa

3 May
A great blue heron looks for a landing spot in a marshy area at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while driving about Siouxland I will “duck” into an area I am familiar with never really knowing what I might find. The Lewis and Clark State Park is a nice place to eat a sack lunch which I did recently. And then driving into the park proper saw a little show with some American Coots and a great blue heron.

Nature always surprises sometimes, and being quiet, patient and observant, one might even get lucky.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A great blue heron lands in a grassy marsh area at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American coot squawks while it and its brethren eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A flock of American coots fan out and eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A flock of American coots fan out and eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American coots float in the lake at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

1 May
Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I am cruising about Siouxland without any objective in mind, I just enjoy the light that I come across. To me it seems early spring and then again fall, when the sun is slowly changing its position relative to the earth, I find the play of light in the mornings and again afternoons just a bit different. Strong light without being overly harsh as it will become as seasons move toward summer. Light play and shadows created are intriguing, at least to me. Shapes, designs, patterns, repetitions and such can be endlessly fascinating.

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The images themselves can be somewhat like cotton candy, in that they look nice, kind of cool, sometimes, but like the cotton candy, without any meaningful nutrition or value, other than how it looks. But sometimes, that is enough.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

29 Apr
An immature Red Tailed Hawk navigates a landing on a high perch in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While cruising about Siouxland on a weekend with somewhat warmer temps and winds, I noticed I wasn’t alone in just enjoying a day in the country. Animals seem to do that as well sometimes. I noticed a young Red Tailed hawk riding some thermals over a gravel road in rural Plymouth County. Soaring, diving, soaring again and occasionally coming to a rest.

An immature Red Tailed hawk flies by a possible high perch in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An immature Red Tailed Hawk takes in its surroundings from a high perch in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a break and watching for its next snack possibly or watching the ever so casual visitor drive by underneath its high perch. Some days should just be enjoyed for the moment, warmer weather, sunshine and a lazy day feeling. However, for this young bird and others I somehow think most days are not lazy. But it was fun watching it seemingly enjoy its time in the air.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An immature Red Tailed hawk enjoys some thermal winds in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating Art in Siouxland, Le Mars Art Center

17 Apr
Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun to go to a local arts center and enjoy the work of people from the area who share their talent with the community which gives friends and other arts supporters a chance to celebrate them, their talent and to let folk know that art is alive and well locally.

The Le Mars Art Center recently had an opening for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller, both of whom are watercolorists or painters. Both have been “practicing” their talent for decades and presented some very nice work for others to see with an exhibit running to May.

Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With a redesigned look to the gallery area inside the art center it gives artists a space for their work to “breathe” and allow visitors and patrons a chance to stop and enjoy the work on display, as much as any larger city art gallery or museum. Each place does what it can in the area that is located, and the folk in Le Mars work hard to present quality work and display it.

And everyone needs a break once in a while to just enjoy a scene and step away from the “white noise” and enjoy beauty for what it is and what is might mean to them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Friends and others gather at a reception at the Le Mars Arts Center for artists Jane Schultz and Judy Zoeller in Le Mars, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Numbered in Siouxland, Ireton

15 Apr
Mailboxes in a row in downtown Ireton, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

51027, the zip code for Ireton, IA. In a city, even a small city, this cluster of mailboxes would be replaced with a different type of mailbox cluster with individual key locks making it convenient for the postal service to deliver mail to one location, saving time in some residential areas. Here in the downtown area these mailboxes do the same.

The community was platted in 1882 with a post office operating there since that same date. Current census data has roughly 600 plus living in Ireton. When seeing these mailboxes a song from the 60’s by The Marvelletes came to mind.

Simple song lyrics spell out an unrequited love without any kind of resolution according to the lyrics.

“[Intro]
(Wait) Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman
(Wait) Wa-a-a-ait, Mr. Postman

[Chorus]
Please Mr. Postman, look and see (Whoa yeah)
Is there a letter in your bag for me?
(Please Mr. Po-o-ostman)
‘Cause it’s been a mighty long time (Whoa, yeah)
Since I heard from this boyfriend of mine>”

Maybe a young girl, from a small Iowa town, left behind, forgotten? The scenarios are endless. As is time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Feeling the Jailhouse Blues in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

13 Apr
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The thought of sitting in jail at any time, in Siouxland or anywhere is not very appealing. And probably isn’t to most people. Considering what jail conditions were like in earlier centuries here in the U.S. and elsewhere, most were not very accommodating. I would guess mostly by design. The merits of one being in jail I will leave for others to discuss at length.

One such jail was the former Squirrel Cage located in Council Bluffs. Formerly the Pottawatamie County jail from 1885 to 1969. It was a circular setup where jailers stood in the center on one of the three floors and the jail cells rotated about allowing access to those inmates needed for trial or other purposes.

The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner and a common area for them as well in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heavy bars and uncomfortable bunks. Jails are not hotels or motels. Even the cheaper of the latter have normally better accommodations. But the design of this one of 18 ever built was for the benefit of the jailer who oversaw the prisoners spending time there.

According the the Historical Society’s website:

“The design and size of the Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail make it a one-of-a-kind structure.  It was one of 18 revolving (“squirrel cage”, “human rotary”, or “lazy Susan”) jails built.  It is the only three-story one ever built.   Built at a cost of about $30,000,  our unique jail has three floors of revolving pie-shaped cells inside a cage.  The front part of the building had offices for the jailer, kitchen, trustee cells, and quarters for women.

The design was the invention of William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both of Indianapolis, Indiana.  A patent issued to them on July 12, 1881, declared, “The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer.”  It was to provide “maximum security with minimum jailer attention.”  As one deputy put it, “If a jailer could count … and he had a trusty he could trust … he could control the jail”.

The cell section remains much as it did in 1969 when it was closed by the county.  The signatures and dates of many of its’ infamous prisoners remain scratched in the cell walls. It remains a well restored snapshot of an interesting era of our society.Today, only 3 revolving jails remain:  a one-story structure in Gallatin, Missouri; a two-story jail in Crawfordsville, Indiana; and the unique three-story jail here.”

The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look down from a cell at a common area for prisoners within the jail quarters for prisoners at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A common area for prisoners in the background, left and jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The jail was not built for the comfort of those spending any time. There was even an area for juvenile offenders whose living area was only slightly improved in that the jailer’s quarters and his wife were only a few foot steps away. That said, even the the jailer’s quarters within the building were not impressive for him or his wife. Reminiscent of what was seen in the movie about the book by Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood” where the prisoners were in jail cells near the jailer’s quarters.

But life for those incarcerated was not to be pleasant as they were held for future trial or sentencing depending on that jurisdiction’s dictates.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail quarters for juvenile offenders at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. In the background is an entrance into the living area for the jailer on duty. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Names carved into a picnic table in the common area for prisoners at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Prisoner log books and other information kept on file at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Various notes of history are posted about the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The doorway into the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The entrance into the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A barbershop and infirm area for prisoners in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bedroom in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A living room area in the living quarters for the jailer and ihs family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A small organ in the living room area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The kitchen area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Another view of the kitchen area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring Brings a new Journey in Siouxland, and Elsewhere

9 Apr
A doorway in Sioux City, Iowa , Saturday, March 27, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Beginning a new journey sometimes means simply opening a doorway and stepping through. The journey can take place anywhere for anyone, even in Siouxland. There are many places to visit in the area, and even revisit. Changes occur, and this last year seems a lost year in some ways, the hope of getting out to explore again is palpable. But walking through that doorway also engenders inherent risks. It’s always the unknown that is hard to accept.

Going forward as hope appears on the horizon due to the vaccine availability, one wonders if all will take advantage.

It will be nice to once again explore Siouxland and visit museums and other places that have been closed. But there trepidation in meeting people who don’t believe in science as well as their indifference to others. Some say ignorance is bliss, but one could disagree in this case.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Quiet Day in Siouxland Outdoors, Hitchcock Nature Center

5 Apr
A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There were a few days during the winter months in Siouxland that were nice enough, that is warmer, to get out and enjoy the sunshine and not freeze any extremities or other body parts off and still enjoy the day. Hitchcock Nature Center is always one such place to visit, even if it’s not an ideal time of year.

A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The park as expected was still brown tones and no leaves on the trees, but the sparseness and sunlight helped create possible images. Still, during what seemed like a forever, never ending winter in January with February still to come, it was nice to be able to spend some time outdoors, enjoying what nature there was making one look forward to spring in the hopefully not to distant future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The boardwalk can be seen from the center’s watch tower on a cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes Caution is Good when Making Friends in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

3 Apr
A crow and an eagle look in the same direction while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When the larger than normal, apparently, bald eagle population passed through Siouxland recently on their migratory trip, some other birds seemed intent on meeting them. It was fascinating to watch, but gave me a little trepidation as all were vying for “eats” on the ice covered oxbow at Snyder Bend Park.

A crow squawks at an eagle while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching a crow squawk at the larger bird of prey gave me an uneasy feeling. Bashful this one particular bird was not. And all ended well, as each decided to move on. But while watching, I wondered what was going to happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A crow takes off under an eagle while looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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