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Revisiting History in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

14 Jun
Earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From time to time while driving about Siouxland I like to revisit places, even if it’s off-peak for any activity that might be going on. The Heritage Village in Sioux Center is one such place. A small replica village that celebrates the history of the early settlers and the agricultural aspect of the Midwest. The place has a different look during different seasons, even without the activity of its fall festival celebration.

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers traveled very light, or as light as they could if going west by wagon and any other means of transportation. Some of the early plains settlers lived in sod houses. The wall thick with cutouts for windows, the small abodes kept folk cool in the heat of summer and warm in winter. But with very little room to move about, it’s safe to assume most activity, weather dependent, took place outdoors. And in those days I am sure there was no lack of work to survive and hopefully to also enjoy themselves in simple pleasures, like a nice day with sunshine, light breeze and a decent temperature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cruising in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

19 May
A muskrat nibbles on a snack at Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are a few places in Siouxland one can go to and watch nature. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is just a few minutes north by vehicle and most days affords one an opportunity to watch and photograph nature unfolding, with creatures cruising the park. There are a few blinds set up along one of the small lakes found there that water fowl, shore birds and other creatures frequent.

A muskrat tries to slip away after being seen by a visitor at Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A friend who is a avid birder generally arrives pre sunrise to see as many species and identify them for a local club. I admire his determination to get out early and enjoy the sunrise and day’s activities beginning. I on the other hand need some caffeine to get my day started a wee bit after sunrise.

And then there are those creatures who value their privacy, and when spotted by the occasional visitor leave before one has a chance to see what they are doing. Evidently shy by nature, and probably with good reason, fleeting glimpses are all one sometimes gets before realizing what it was that one saw.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A muskrat makes its way to to the other side of Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Siouxland Day at the Zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

17 May
A young giraffe eating a morning snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I want to get out and about in Siouxland and yet not certain where I should go, I go long. Taking a drive down to Omaha and then visiting the zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo has quite an extensive array of animals in its keeping and is laid out fairly nicely, both for the visitors and the animals themselves. I find it fascinating, yet sad, to see these creatures in captivity. Although I know many are born other places as well as locally, and returning them to “the wild” is not feasible. It is an opportunity to watch them though, and folk who come to visit and see them.

Taking a pause in a morning snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Parents and children abound during a public school spring break at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Because of the drive I never arrive too early, as that would require seeing the sunrise on the drive down. And I would miss my second cup of coffee. Going midweek I find the crowds are a bit less, unless of course one happens to go during a public school break. But one does what one can. Not all creatures at the zoo are confined. Some drop by to snack while others preen a bit. It’s a fun place to stroll, relax and observe.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Even local sparrows look for snacks at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple take a selfie in front of a large elephant statue at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 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©)

Quiet Time in Siouxland, Adams Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

11 Apr
A couple of Canada geese find a “dry” spot to sun themselves at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday, March 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when visiting places in Siouxland it’s just nice to stop, sit and watch and listen. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is one such place. Even though it is “late in the season” for migratory waterfowl and the chance to see a number of birds, there were still some “locals” hanging out in a water hole at the preserve, taking in the morning and enjoying the day.

I always try to remember that maybe there is a lesson in that.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two American coots paddle about at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday, March 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Canada goose stands on “dry” ground at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday, March 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Canada goose makes its way swimming around Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday, March 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depicting History in Siouxland, Courage Park in Omaha, NE

7 Apr
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. According to a website by First National Bank, “Installed in 2005 and 2009, Sculptors Blair Buswell of Highland, Utah, and Ed Fraughton of South Jordan, Utah, created Pioneer Courage with four pioneer families and their covered wagons departing westward from Omaha.” (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While visiting in Omaha, NE just south of Siouxland I came across a park I had not seen before. Friends and I were exploring parts of the city we had not previously walked about and so it was a pleasant surprise to find this homage paid to those settlers that set out for the “new frontier” and a life apart from what they had known. Because this sculpture garden was created a few years ago it does not take into account current perceptions of events as “white immigrants” flooded the western plains obtained through the Louisiana Purchase and after the exploratory visit by Lewis and Clark’s expedition to map the newly obtained land.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the westward expansion opened up new territories to current United States residents and immigrants, it also began a long history of a not so good relationship with Native American residents who had inhabited the land for many generations and millennia. Whether or not another downtown park will address that issue for future generations is for current and future residents of the Omaha community to address. The park though is a nice break within all of the cement buildings that surround this island oasis which probably looks more inviting for lunch time breaks during spring, summer and fall lunch times for surrounding employees working in the area.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A passerby checks out statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still, for a photo expedition exploring a community it was a nice find on a rather pleasant early spring day. I always enjoy history, and realize that most times the history presented comes from a single source with possibly a single point of view. The park shows the fortitude and gumption of those early settlers who went west to find a new life and beginning for themselves, much like today’s modern immigrants and residents who can more easily, at times, travel the many miles to find a new life. Each era has its own obstacles and problems, which sadly never seems to have an easy solution. And it seems that those searching for a better life for themselves and their families, away from starvation (Irish), persecution (Quakers) and other life strifes such as war ( any number of countries) the desires, needs and wants have not changed, only perspective and “characters” of those now in need. Travel today is almost instantaneous when compared to that of a couple centuries ago. And these days there seems to be more NIMBY’s than those willing to offer a hand. I sometimes muse what might have happened and how my own and others futures looked much different had Native Americans then rebuffed the Quakers and other European settlers and conquerors who first set foot on this land. Rather than sharing a first Thanksgiving, there might not have been any history written about those lost souls who traveled the sea to seek a better life. No word ever returning to those distant shores. The strife, famine and others ills of centuries past have never ceased, nor likely seem to, and until as it’s said, the root of those evils or calamities are addressed, people will leave their homeland in search of a better life somewhere else where they think it might be safe. But the chance of those underlying problems being addressed seem of little concern to those making important decisions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Statues in Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021 depict settlers moving westward during the westward expansion in the 1800’s after the Louisiana Purchase. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)

Taking a Hike in Siouxland, Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve, Council Bluffs

1 Apr
Climbing a steep hill to enjoy the view at the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes enjoying areas in Siouxland requires a little exertion, especially when walking uphill to take in the views. On a coolish January day with 20mph wind gusts, the going gets tough and the intrepid just want to find a warm coffee shop and enjoy the brew.

The Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve offers nice views of the surrounding area is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Steep hills were overcome to enjoy the view of neighboring Omaha, NE seen from the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve encompasses 35 acres, and a trail runs along a ridge and in warmer, less windy conditions it might be a nice half day hike to enjoy.

Early spring and again fall might have been a better time to explore this area, but sometimes one does what one can at the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A trail runs along the ridge where one can stop to enjoy the view from the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A ridge trail at the top of the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve gives one good views of the surrounding area seen from Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lining Up in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

30 Mar
Light and shade at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am looking for the return of sunshine in Siouxland, lasting more than a day or so, as spring gets closer and temperatures rise to the 40’s and 50’s. The sunshine makes it ever so easy to create B&W images of shapes, angles and lines. Plus it makes it ever so nice to look out one’s window, even on colder days, and imagine the warm sunshine. Patience, the virtue that takes practice to acquire.

I find it fun to photograph geometric patterns, getting lost in the design or lack there of, and leaving it to one’s imagination what is seen. The possibilities are endless as are subjects. And roaming the Siouxland area once again is an anticipated delight.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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