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Seeing Country in Siouxland, rural Clay County

11 Aug

A meadow situated along a country road in rural Clay County, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently on my way to an event to photograph I passed through some Siouxland countryside in rural Clay County. It had been a while since I was able to just drive about on backroads in this region, many of which I have not driven reminding me that I need to do more of that. Bucolic scenes, meadows, corn and soybean fields, grazing animals and dust with heat. While a fan of most of the former part of that string of words, that latter can be overcome with water and a vehicle’s AC system. It’s just nice to get out, enjoy a little peace and solitude and be, without any expectations.

Thinking of the words to a Simon and Garfunkel song: “Slow down, you move too fast, You got to make the morning last, Just kicking down the cobblestones, Looking for fun and feeling groovy.” My fun is taking pictures and listening to some jazz as I drive about the backroads. Just enjoying without a destination, as long as I can find my way back to a main road and then home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A country road winds through rural scenes in Clay County, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Round hay bales dot a rural scene in Clay County, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Big Wheels Keep on Turning in Siouxland, Big Boy Engine passes through Woodbine

9 Aug

Onlookers gather at a crossing outside of Woodbine, Iowa as the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, heads back west on its rail system Friday, August 2, 2019. The engine stopped in the community for onlookers for roughly 45 minutes as it continues its journey home to Cheyenne, WY after leaving Illinois July 8. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of Union Pacific Railroad’s heritage engines passed through western Iowa recently for a return trip home. Two weeks earlier this behemoth of steam locomotives, Engine 4014, otherwise known as Big Boy, made a trip from Wyoming to Illinois, and then some side excursions.

Big Boy is one of a few heavy duty articulated steam locomotives created during WWII to move freight and other necessities across the country and especially over the mountain ranges because most able bodied men were fighting overseas. The massive locomotive got a nice reception in Woodbine, Iowa recently as it was returning to Wyoming where it’s excursion journey began early this summer.

Onlookers and train enthusiasts gather for a close up view in Woodbine, Iowa of the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, heads back west on its rail system Friday, August 2, 2019. The engine stopped for onlookers for roughly 45 minutes as it continues its journey home to Cheyenne, WY after leaving Illinois July 8. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Onlookers and train enthusiasts get a close up view and take photographs in Woodbine, Iowa of the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, as it heads back west on its rail system Friday, August 2, 2019. The engine stopped for onlookers for roughly 45 minutes as it continues its journey home to Cheyenne, WY after leaving Illinois July 8. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Big Boy took two years for a complete restoration and is one of a few restored steam engines now part of a Union Pacific Heritage locomotive fleet. Articulated steam locomotives have two sets of drivers or complete engine units with eight wheel sets total. The front set of driving wheels, referred to as the front engine, can move independently from the locomotive’s permanently attached boiler and rear engine. This allows the locomotive to better negotiate curves.

Young onlookers cover their ears as the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, heads back west on its rail system passing through Woodbine, Iowa Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, heads back west on its rail system passing through Woodbine, Iowa Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a wonderful museum in Council Bluffs that is all things Union Pacific Railroad, no ties though to the company. It backgrounds the building of the rail system filling in a lot of minute details about the journey west and what life was like traveling by rail. Today with automobiles and planes, trains are not looked upon as favorably as it still takes longer than flying. But seeing such a large engine up close was a bit surreal. Can’t imagine what it was like for those who traveled by rail accompanying the engine as it passed through the countryside. And it was surprising and pleasing to see that many folk are still enthralled by trains themselves and that way of travel. Depending on one’s point of view, progress is in the eye of the beholder.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Current and retired Union Pacific employees photograph from a hillside the steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, as it heads back west on its rail system passing through Woodbine, Iowa Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Steam rises from the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, as it heads back west on its rail system passing through Woodbine, Iowa Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Onlookers and train enthusiasts gather in Woodbine, Iowa to get a close up view of the Union Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 4014, Big Boy, as it heads back west on its rail system Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summertime in Siouxland, Nature in rural Nebraska

7 Aug

Summertime can be a cornucopia of critters, both large and mostly small. Insects blossom during this time of warmer temperatures and humid days. But what can a person do? When driving about in Siouxland I do stop my car and get out and take a look around. Sometimes a closer look, which makes it all the better when one is pleasantly surprised in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A butterfly lands on a thistle in a field at Winnebago, NE August 3, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A butterfly finds a landing spot in a field at Winnebago, NE August 3, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer Means Siouxland Fair Time, Le Mars

5 Aug

Quilting samples and one fair-themed quilt showing at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A mother takes photos of her daughters at a cutout at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Growing up on a farm in Illinois now makes me a little wistful when I visit county fairs in Siouxland. I tend to go a little earlier than then and spend time watching 4-H and FFA kids exhibiting their animals and realize the amount of work they have put into such projects. One needed to care for an animal as well as log information about it’s feeding and care. A daunting task for 8-14 years old kids. Now there is even more competition for their time than when I was a child.

4-H competitors trying “guiding” their charges during a competition at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

It’s not all glamour for the Pork Queen as she hands out ribbons at the conclusion of a 4-H showing competition during the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But that part of the fair still generates interest among those who participate and their families and friends. Competition and winning and losing is all part of the “building character” schtick that comes with participating. And rarely do I stay later when the fair’s rides begin and those other activities come to life. Especially when it’s hot. I tend to bail. Find a food stand or someplace in the shade and a tad cooler. But walking around the animals barns one can find all sorts of interesting scenes. Those members intent on preparing their animal or following the latest development elsewhere.

A young 4-H member tries to brush her steers while also keeping up on social media during the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A steer gets a soap bath before competing during 4-H competition at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But most members of these organizations take their competition to heart. I never really cared if I got a blue, red or white ribbon. It was being there and seeing friends or neighbor kids one probably wouldn’t see for another month until school started. And of course taking in the Midway where the carnival barkers try to entice one to spend a little money or ride the ferris wheel and other rides. So I can only smile when I see someone enjoying them self and think back to my time spent of the fair, participating in 4-H for 9-10 years until I aged out and left for college. And for these young members hopefully this will be a time they too can look back on and cherish or at least fondly remember the better times as they grow and become interested in other activities which may entice them away from these organizations.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Young 4-H members wait to show their chicken projects at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A chicken rests contently in the arms of its owner as she waits to compete at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Photography exhibit at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning Local History in Siouxland, Decatur, NE

22 Jul

One can find a lot of local history at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It never amazes me that little gems can be found in places with a little bit of luck and curiosity. While out driving about in Siouxland one day I ventured over the Missiouri River into Nebraska and the community of Decatur. It prides itself being the second oldest settlement in the state, dating back to 1854, and incorporated in 1856. Information found says a little over 400 people live there. The nice part, besides being located next to the Missouri River is the community’s museum.

Jane Judt, upper right and Norma Williams , center right, greet visitors and tell them about the local history located at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. This month was about local sports history. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of the museum docents, Jane Judt, explained that theme of presentations is always changing every few months, so the information provided doesn’t get stale and which I would believe encourage locals to stop by and see what historical facts are being shared. When I visited the theme was sports with a variety of memorabilia displayed.

Jane Judt talks about the history of the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An upstairs room decorated as a classroom at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the small museum also contains nuggets of information about the early settlement days and the people who relocated to this area as folk migrated to the west looking for a fresh start and an opportunity to improve their lives. Tales told over and over again in many small communities’ museums that are found throughout the U.S. It’s the story of immigrants and people looking for a better life, a tale that reflects  many who settled in the Siouxland region.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A lot of local history can be found at the Decatur Museum in Decatur, NE Saturday, June 8, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A View from the Top in Siouxland, Mulberry Bend Overlook

20 Jun

A view of the Missouri River separating Nebraska (this side) and South Dakota and the Newcastle (NE) and Vermillion (SD) Missouri River Bridge at the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019. (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

I came across a roadway leaving Vermillion, SD that crosses into Nebraska in Siouxland recently that I wasn’t familiar with but was pleasantly surprised. The bridge crossing brings one to the Mulberry Bend Overlook that sits on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River and looks out over the river and back into South Dakota. It was easy to spend an hour looking over the landscape and hiking a couple of accessible trails that were short but nice.

Information tablets and a rest area at the top of Mulberry Bend Overlook above the Missiouri River near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

 

A family makes it way along a trail above the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

It’s these kinds of excursions that I enjoy coming across when out and about in the area. Something unexpected, although not for locals probably. It will be a great site to revisit during different times of the year as well as the scenery will change with seasons.

A trail leads down below the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019, and a different view of the Newcastle (NE) and Vermillion (SD) Missouri River Bridge. (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

 

A bench and an information tablet in a rest area off of a trail below the Mulberry Bend Overlook overlooking the Missouri River near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

The bridge was only recently constructed within the last decade or so but makes it so much nicer to travel back and forth between the two states without driving miles away to cross over the Missiouri in Yankton, SD. But some history lessons are also included for those so inclined.

The Newcastle (NE) and Vermillion (SD) Missouri River Bridge at the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

 

An information tablet along with others gives background information about the area at a rest point at Mulberry Bend Overlook above the Missiouri River near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

The views and really pleasant and spending time just looking and enjoying and hearing nature without a lot of other “white noise”, at least there were only a few other individuals there when I visited the site.

Possibly another little adventure to add to one of my Photo Safari classes I teach at a local community college, thinking those who attend that particular class will enjoy the views as much as I.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view from a trail above the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

 

A look at the Missouri River from a trail below the Mulberry Bend Overlook near Newcastle, NE Friday May 24, 2019 (PHOTO BY JERRY L MENNENGA©)

Paying Respect in Siouxland, Omaha Valley Cemetery, Ponca, NE

19 May

The Omaha Valley Cemetery sits atop a couple hillsides off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I drive about the Siouxland region I like to visit cemeteries that I come across. I find that for these rural and small town graveyards some of the earliest occupants were laid to rest in the mid to late 1800’s. Pioneers the majority of them traveling months to reach a new place and start a new life. Most likely by wagon train as the railroad system for the young country had not yet united the east and west.

The dearly departed of the Omaha Valley Cemetery have nice vistas as the cemetery sits atop a couple of hillsides off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Early settlers are buried in the Omaha Valley Cemetery which sits off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Without delving into area archives or doing an online search, I will never know the story about any of these early settlers, or even their descendants. I just like to pay my respect for the chances they took in settling what at that time was still wilderness to a point and creating a life with their blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes life.

The Omaha Valley Cemetery off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Occupying a couple of hilltops the Omaha Valley Cemetery sits off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some of the rural cemeteries reside on a hill, giving the occupants and their visitors a chance to view the countryside around them. What the photographs cannot tell visitors to my blog is the sound of the leaves rustling as the wind blows, scents arriving and leaving, birds chirping and just enjoying the day. A place to stop, ponder and reflect and say a little prayer for the departed and for friends and relatives still toiling on this earth. Just taking a moment to be still, listen to the sounds of silence and enjoy before jumping back into life and the race most of us must run.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Early burials can be found in the Omaha Valley Cemetery off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sitting on a couple of hilltops the Omaha Valley Cemetery is off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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