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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©)

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©)

Enjoying Perspective in Siouxland, Little Sioux

8 Jun

Sometimes it truly is in the eye of the beholder when a person sees something it is very important in how they see something. Perspective gives an individual an “informed” viewpoint, no matter the subject. In photography I believe that is also true. And how one sees subjects to photograph juxtaposed to other elements included in the frame and can interest, or distract.

A ready field for a later in town harvest seen during a Spring Photo Safari outing in Little Sioux , Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found it interesting to find a field “in town” ready for planting. I need to go back to see if it is just a large garden, or a corn or soybean crop. Sunflowers would be a fun crop as well and add interest to a small community. Then again, some scenes only occur at certain points in the year as nature takes its course and winter progresses into spring, into summer and then fall. And in that it is up to the one seeing and recording what those scenes might be and of what interest they may hold to other viewers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spring blooms during a Spring Photo Safari outing in Little Sioux , Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Preparation Canyon State Park

6 Jun

Spring emerges after an Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources burn off recently seen during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Time spent outdoors is always time spent well I believe, barring the fact that it isn’t a blizzard or a -20 degrees temperature with 40 mph wind gusts. And there are many nice places in Siouxland to spend some outdoor time, like Preparation Canyon State Park situated in the Loess Hills area of western Iowa which runs from Sioux City down past Council Bluffs. The Dept. of Natural Resources gives this history of the park, “The 344 acre the park encompasses what was once the town of Preparation. In 1853, Charles B. Thompson broke from the Mormon wagon train to Utah after receiving a message from the “Spirit.” The Mormon leader and elder led 50 to 60 Mormon families to Kanesville, now Council Bluffs. Upon much searching, Thompson and a few select men chose the area called “Monona,” an Indian name meaning “Peaceful Valley.” Here they organized the town of Preparation, complete with houses and schools and started Monona County’s first newspaper which Thompson owned and operated.”

On a recent class outing for my Spring Photo Safari class through a Lifelong Learning program at Western Iowa Tech Community College we spent some time at the overlook, as the actual park with camping sites is down the road maybe 2-3 miles. And not far from here also is a cemetery of early pioneers as well as more recent local residents interred in a bucolic setting with the wind creating a concert of sound along with chirping birds.

A quiet spring day during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was only a week or two earlier that the DNR had done a controlled burn in early spring which I believe is a yearly occurrence. The area had rebounded and spring green was gradually coming to life giving the area a fresh face for another outdoor season, well, an outdoor season that doesn’t include trudging through snow.

A ridge line trail taken during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Spring emerges after an early burn off by Iowa’s Dept. of Natural Resources seen during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a nice trail that leads out from the overlook into the adjoining area that is not overly difficult and gets one into the pastoral setting, giving a visitor a chance to explore and see what is over the next hill and dale without going to far off the beaten path and after some exertion, a chance to return to the overlook, rest, and then continue the journey through the Loess Hills and the chance to find other places to explore and ponder what it must have been like for the early settlers in the later 1850’s as some made their way west and others settled into the area to begin life anew.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Hiking a trail for a better photo perspective during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Pausing to enjoy a nice day outside during a Spring Photo Safari outing at Preparation Canyon State Park near Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Learning more about the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Pisgah

27 May

 

The Loess Hills State Forest Visitors center gives people a background about the Loess Hills is found in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Part of Siouxland is comprised of the Loess Hills which begins just south of Sioux City and runs down into Missouri. A Loess Hills State Forest Visitors Center is located in the small community of Pisgah and gives a great background about the surrounding area and information about the Loess Hills.

A scale model of Preparation Canyon State Park is found in the Loess Hills State Forest Visitors center in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors can learn more about the Loess Hills at the Loess Hills Sate Forest Visitors Center in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Within the state park there is a camp ground and an overlook not that far away. And trails can lead visitors through the area to enjoy the outdoors and experience a phenomenon that is only found in Iowa and a part of China. Plus getting the chance to enjoy the outdoors on a nice day by yourself or with friends and communing with nature, which is something we all should probably embrace.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Loess Hills State Forest Visitors Center gives a background about the Loess Hills is found in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding Bit and Pieces of History in Siouxland, Little Sioux

3 May

A placard next to Murray Hall tells some of the history of Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A former jail cell now sits alongside a placard with some of the history of Little Sioux City, Iowa Tueday, April 9, 2019, sitting next to Murray Hall. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s surprising sometimes the little bits and pieces of historical knowledge one can find when visiting places in Siouxland. Little Sioux is a small community in southern Siouxland. But a couple of the buildings sport dates harkening back a couple of centuries, and it’s possible the community was settled in the mid to late 1800’s

A brick house which looks like it could date from the late 1800’s sits empty in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

What looks like a former general store or meeting place now houses a small museum about the area in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside of what looks like a former general store or meeting place now houses a small museum about the area in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Except for history buffs and those living in the immediate area, it’s sad to me that so much history is being lost everyday because it really has no currency for most people. And today it seems some folk are trying to “rewrite” history because they didn’t like the outcome in the first place an in a few hundred years, who will really know what the truth is. But those who are interested it’s around us in many shapes and forms and only takes a little looking to find it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A former barbershop for sale with a building date of 1891 sits looking for a new occupant in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Another former business in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An abandoned house in Little Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

 

 

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