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Driving in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

17 Jan
An afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes I am grateful that I can get out the house and just take a drive in Siouxland during this pandemic. For folk living in a city, that becomes a bit more problematic. It doesn’t take too many minutes or miles to find oneself on a backroad, taking in the sights and just enjoying some peace or in my case, a little jazz.

The moon is seen during an afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I don’t always expect to find anything exciting to photograph while on these excursions. Sometimes I don’t even take any photos. Just like to let the mind wander on its own as I am doing, mulling ideas and thoughts and just enjoying a slow, quiet drive in a place I feel at home in.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Eagles and some Sunshine in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend Refuge

11 Jan
An eagle watches a field below it at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge Monday, January 4, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a few occasions I have had the pleasure and delight of coming across eagles in Siouxland. Although I haven’t been lucky enough to find them diving for food or fending off another eagle while in flight, I have enjoyed seeing them in the wild.

An eagle’s feathers are ruffled by a stiff breeze at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A pair of eagles have a nest in a tree top across the Missouri River from a bird blind in the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge that straddles western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. I’s fun to watch them sitting tin the tree or soaring the surrounding air space.

An eagle returns to its nest with a bundle of small sticks in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On my last visit the pair seemed to be doing a home makeover, bringing sticks and twigs and performing a little remodeling, maybe changing the look of the nursery. From a bird blind one can watch them and other water fowl who stopped at this juncture of open water on the river. One can watch and see the “new year” progressing and hopefully sometime in the spring get lucky and see a new head bobbing above the nest line.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two eagles tend to their nest in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Day and Night in Siouxland, Decature, NE

30 Dec
A bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska seen from Decatur, Ne, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When out photographing in Siouxland sometimes I am pleasantly surprised with results of images made, and other times wished I had done something differently. While out photographing with a friend from the local camera club we spent a little time watching the sun set near a bridge at Decatur, NE that connects with Iowa of which he wanted to do a sunset photograph. His attempts I believe were more productive than mine.

While I was happy with my daytime shot , I felt the night time shot came up a bit short, but it was a nice evening. Fair weather, warm and for a day in October in Siouxland, I am not complaining.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska seen from Decatur, Ne, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pondering History in Siouxland, Grant Cemetery, rural Monona County

20 Dec
A number of the buried listed are soldiers who fought during the Civil War both in the infantry and in the cavalry located in the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about a bit recently in Siouxland I came across a sign for a Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County. Signage I have previously passed by but never stopped. This time I did.

A gravel road leading to Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like walking around older, remote cemeteries. Maybe not remote to the residents living in the area, but for someone who lives in a town miles away this last resting place is tucked away on a hilltop and a refuge from the hustling and bustling of modern day life.

Located on a hillside the surrounding farmland must have looked much different when settlers first arrived in this part of western Iowa seen from Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The entrance off of a gravel road to the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Grant Cemetery is now home to 24 veterans of the Civil War, and one from the Spanish American War. There are also veterans of the WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam war. The listing of the Civil War veterans include infantry and cavalry soldiers. It was quiet, with just a few birds making noise at this cemetery amongst the fields in the area. I can’t really imagine what the area might have looked like to early settlers who arrived when the land was still prairie.

A gravesite of an Iowa volunteer cavalry soldier who most likely fought during the Civil War and is buried at Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A headstone of a soldier who served during WWI buried at the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Early settler buried at the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A peaceful place to pass the time until Revelations reckoning. There were a number of animal prints in the fresh snow and evidence of deer, rabbit and what looked like large cat paw prints, possibly a bobcat. Places like this cemetery make me curious about these settlers’ lives, where they came from to start here again. And maybe after arriving and getting started in a new life being called away to fight a war against fellow Americans.

What appears to be a cluster of possible family members all buried close to one another near the base of a tree in the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The sun sets on an overcast day seen from Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like so many folk who have passed, people’s stories are lost to time, maybe even to descendants as that kind of history seems missing in today’s modern world, compared to other cultures. It’s still a place to bury loved ones but a remote place with forgotten souls who arrived in a new to make a new life that is now centuries old. Until someone stops by, walks about a bit and ponders what life must have been like for someone looking for a new place to live.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Early settlers are buried in the Grant Cemetery in rural Monona County, Iowa Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall Color in Siouxland, Rural Harrison County

16 Dec
The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As winter inches closer with the shortest day of the year making it official, I will still be lamenting the passing of fall as I do every year. On a nice, crisp fall day, fall colors seem to come alive and appear more vibrant,and a “warmish” sun makes the day more enjoyable in Siouxland, without those driving wind gusts that can easily drop the temperature 10-15 degrees.

The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cruising back country roads and having the time to stop and enjoy the sights is a ritual I enjoy every year. I am happy I have more time these days to enjoy that ritual even though winter puts a hold on driving some back roads. Never pays to get stuck in the country during the winter. But time will pass and that opportunity I hope will avail itself again next year to maybe some new places and revisit others to see what they look like then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Drive through rural Siouxland, Harrison County

30 Nov
Sometimes vehicle sunroofs can be beneficial when bird spotting like in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was nice to get out on a recent weekend to drive about rural Iowa in Siouxland without extreme cold or snowy conditions on the backroads and Loess Hills byways. I enjoy driving through the scenic areas skirting the footballs of what is known as the Loess Hills in Iowa that stretches down into the southwest portion of Iowa.

A gravel road traversing the byways in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular stretch of road and the general direction I was headed kept me driving through hilly areas most of which are wooded and will be necessary to check out come next fall. Coming across various rural scenes and sightings was rewarding and fun. I never drive very fast on the backroads allowing drivers with more “pressing matters” the opportunity to go around me as I look for subjects of interest to point my camera at.

Although at first hard to see, two deer find a lunch time meal in a newly harvested corn field in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A rural scene in Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the pace of being in the country really isn’t all that less frenetic as city dwellers, it does give one a chance to pause, look around, enjoy the beauty of the countryside if that appeals to a person. Some folk may find that really, really boring, but for others it is that slice of heaven. Time flies by fast enough until one realizes it has, and wonders how that happened. So slow drives on a weekend may not stop time or even slow it down, but I can personally can make an effort to enjoy it for what it is for myself and forgot about other crazy stuff happening in the world around me for a little while.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spotting an eagle sitting in a tree over a gravel road in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Angles, Lines and Fall Color in Siouxland, Linn Grove

20 Nov
An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around Siouxland like many places presents opportunities to photograph a variety of subjects. And those depend on the taste of a photographer. My background as a newspaper photographer for a few small dailies gave me the opportunity to cover a wide variety of subjects.

From vehicle accidents, house fires, wildfires, storms, blizzards, county fairs, high school and college sports, politics and first baby of the year, I enjoyed the variety. And these days while not needing to cover such events anymore, I like driving around the backroads aimlessly wandering and looking for subjects that I find interesting. Living mostly in agricultural areas while working for newspapers reinforced my desire to look around this broad swath of land called Siouxland. And finding little gems, to my eye, is the reward for the time spent.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching Seasonal Changes in Siouxland, rural Monona County, Iowa

18 Nov
Two weathered out buildings of a former homestead along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I encourage photography students to revisit places they have previously photographed because there will always be changes. Different time of day, time of year, weather, it all plays a part in an image one wants to create.

And it’s fun to witness the change, plus being out in the country away from all the white noise and just cruising a back road listening to music. I also ask students what is a better way to spend a day, that out photographing. Of course I am biased, but still.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, rural Iowa

12 Nov
The sun sets behind a hill at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy watching light when I am out photographing in Siouxland and elsewhere. I should get out more this fall as recently a couple of nice sunsets materialized late afternoon within the last few days. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

But I enjoy watching how light interacts with its surroundings. And at times it is challenging to capture what I see and make it understood by a viewer.

Insects fly about in late afternoon sun at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And when doing this one hopes that the subject one is photographing isn’t going to bite the photographer. I found shooting the insects above that I needed to get into the shade out of the late afternoon sun for them to leave me alone. The too must sense fall’s waning warm days and cooler temperatures coming.

The subjects will still be there and creating interesting opportunities to photograph them. It just depends on whether or not I want to bundle up to do it. Time will tell.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An afternoon sun creates strong shadows while visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Forgotten Small Towns in Siouxland, Arcola, rural Monona County

10 Nov
Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History is a funny thing. Some things are never forgotten, and then others are never remembered but for sign posts. In Siouxland apparently as well as other places in Iowa there are a number of early towns of which little is known.

Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A hillside near where Arcola was situated, an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The only reference I could find doing a little searching online is that once a post office was in a township where Arcola was located from 1861-1187. The town came in to existence prior to the start of the Civil War and lasted for a short bit after the war between the states.

The countryside around the posted sign is hilly, part of the Loess Hills region in western Iowa and only happenstance while driving by allowed me to even catch sight of the sign. Now the area is wooded, with some surrounding farmland and a winding road that drifts off like a trail may have in those days when the state was in its infancy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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