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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©)

A Sunday Afternoon in Siouxland, rural Plymouth County

9 May
A local makes haste down a gravel road in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are days I enjoy driving out into the countryside in Siouxland and just wandering backroads. There may not be anything special about a destination or photographically appealing as the sun in high overhead and the light reflecting the time of year. As spring moves toward summer one must continually awake earlier in the day, and go to bed later in the evening to catch “the beautiful light”. Much photographic sensors, my wake time dynamic range is only so large and I enjoy my sleep.

But it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t find subjects or situations that piques one’s interest. A person might need to look a little harder and parse what could be of interest. Even if only in a documentary sort of way.

A cat eyes a visitor from afar in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Spotting something of more interest a cat leaps off its window ledge perch to explore in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And so I wander country roads looking for those moments. Sometimes starting earlier in the day and sometimes on the spur of the moment. Wondering what I might find, listening to music and with luck driving in warmer weather so I can open my car windows and enjoy the day. No expectations, no need for something spectacular, just a day to wander, contemplate and enjoy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A gravel road disappears around a bend and beyond some tree limbs in rural Plymouth County Sunday, April 18, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)

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©)

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

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©)

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©)

Winter Weather at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center, Washta

24 Mar
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Out driving around Siouxland one cold February day I stopped at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center which is now a museum of sorts giving a nod to America’s and Iowa’s agricultural roots located in rural Cherokee County.

I had never stopped there during winter, and this winter has been different with recent bone chilling temperatures and more snow, or so it seems so late in the season. And what I found is a far cry to the festivals I have attended there in the past during the month of August.

A visitor walks through the basement of the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921that contains an assortment of historical farming equipment collected over the years seen at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A gentleman uses his smart tablet to film a demonstration of corn shelling at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking at one scene with the windmill and barn and cabin made me pause, its reminiscent look of what the plains in the late 1850’s might have looked like during a tough winter then, located in the middle of nowhere that someone might have homesteaded, beginning a new life and working the land.

The museum/former school is full of historical memorabilia and antique farming equipment that was much more labor intensive by today’s standards. Technology may have improved people’s lives in a lot ways, but Mother Nature still calls the shots somedays with weather being something that was probably fierce when the state was first settled and still is today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An “old timer” feeds corn into the auger of a shelling machine at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A room in the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921 is set up like a General Store that existed in many small communities in Iowa is see at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Unusual in Siouxland, Eagles at Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

18 Mar
Two eagles sit on ice eating fish in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This passing year and the beginning of this year has seen some unusual events in Siouxland, as they have in other parts of the nation as well. One of those happenings is the migrating birds passing through the area. Listening to folk who follow such explain because of recent weather patterns the birds that normally pass through the Siouxland area, generally one species following another, are occurring within the same time frame. And in some places, in greater abundance than previously seen.

It’s been reported that between 100-150 bald eagles visited Snyder Bend Park for a few days and some are still there, prompting curiosity for some visitors and local birders to get out and take a look. In addition to the eagles other waterfowl are also passing through during their spring migration.

Local birders visit Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021 looking for various bird species passing through on their yearly migration. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Canada geese fly through a wetland area of Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ring-billed gulls stop on their migratory journey at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the most fascinating part of visiting the park were the amount of eagles that stopped and hung out. When visiting the first time I saw an email of a friend reporting what other birders in the area had seen. The water in the oxbow area of the park was mostly still frozen, and the bald eagles were feasting on dead fish caught in the ice or floating as the ice melted. A few days of warmer than usual temperatures led to more ice melting and more dead fish floating to the shoreline. Last year the Siouxland area received less than normal rainfall which led to lower water levels in many bodies of water, and for some, it then became difficult to sustain the fish or aquatic life normally there, which made it easier pickings for the traveling eagles on their journey north.

A number of bald eagles sit on ice eating fish at an iinlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple of ring-billed gulls walk among eaten fish bodies as they look for food while nearby a number of bald eagles are also on the ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Dead fish line the bank of the oxbow at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a year of lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus getting outdoors to enjoy nature is appealing to a lot of people. Fresh air, despite the sometimes colder than normal temperatures, is always rewarding in and of itself. But add to that the chance to see a enormous migration of birds because of the unusual temperature fluctuations this year has just made it more rewarding.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A hiker makes his way across the oxbow to get a closer look at eagles on that side of the water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of bald eagles roost in a tree across the oxbow pond at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two bald eagles feast on dead fish as a couple of ring-billed gulls fly in either direction to steer clear of them at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A redwing blackbird calls out from its perch on a grass stem at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of eagles sit on ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A crow calls out while sitting on the ice where dead fish can be found at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese fly over the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Pelicans fly to another part of the oxbow inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese come in for a landing at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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