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Learning History in Siouxland, Kirchner Home at the Peterson Heritage Park, Peterson

14 Sep
The home of J.A. Kirchner, an early settler in the Peterson, Iowa area see at the now Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy learning a bit more history about the Siouxland area. Most of the region was first explored and somewhat settled in the early 1800’s with more folk following during midcentury and the latter portion beginning in the 1850’s. Peterson, Iowa was first settled around 1856 with a small fort being build in 1862 because of the Dakota Indian War. One of the first people to build a frame house was J.A. Kirchner who settled in the area was a farmer. Local historian and farmer Michael Hyde gives tours of the home and history about Kirchner and other early settlers who called Clay County home. The home had many of the “modern day” conveniences for its time period and more luxurious than living in a lean-to or sod house.

Local historian Michael Hyde talks about the J.A. Kirchner home that is now a museum and its owner who was an early settler in the area. The home is in what is now the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Local historian Michael Hyde talks about the J.A. Kirchner home that is now a museum and its owner who was an early settler in the area. The home is in what is now the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it fascinating and interesting to see what modern appliances and other items were available in another century. People living in comfort that today some folk might shake their heads at and not understand. But life is what you make of it and some people fare better than others which is sad. But one can learn to appreciate what is available now as compared to 100 years or more ago and what seems like hardship now may not have been then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A comfortable bed at the time seen at the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Rope was used in place of bed springs two centerues ago for early settlers seen at the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bedroom and its furnishings seen at the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The dining room of the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A kitchen with modern appliances for the time seen at the J.A. Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Churning creme to make butter while seated at a kitchen windown seen at the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Entertainment of an earlier century found at the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Children of early settlers seen in the J.A Kirchner museum home at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers in Peterson, Iowa seen at the Peterson Heritage Park in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, April 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Affirming One’s Faith in Siouxland, Pilgrimage of the Cross, Sioux Rapids

8 Sep
Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) before the start of the day’s 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage, Thursday, July 29, 2021 leaving from Sioux Rapids, Iowa. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fr. Doug Klein, center, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) says a prayer with parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Robyn Van Venrooij and Maria Cartelan before beginning their 24-mile walk of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county at St. Josephs’s Church in Sioux Rapids, Iowa. With the newly constructed Christ the King church completed, the 5-day parish pilgrimage began in Mallard and will end in Sioux Center. Fr. Klein gathered various sacrosanct items from each church in the parish, such as the corpus from Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, seen on the cross, to be used at the newly constructed parish church. They will carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The faith landscape of Siouxland as of other places across the U.S. has been changing in the last few years. While many folk continue to say they are believers in Jesus Christ and an afterlife, the attendance to formal institutions has been dwindling, not only for the Catholic faith, but Protestants, Methodists and other established religious orders. All have had their troubles with problematic faith leaders erring in their own lives and causing pain amongst the faithful.

The Diocese of Sioux City (Iowa) has been readjusting its “deployment” of personnel or priests the last number of years as attendance has dwindled along with men willing to heed the call of God and serve as ordained priests. So the diocese has been consolidating its parishes with one community serving as a hub for an area and is closing some of the smaller, less or least attended churches within its area of coverage.

Which then makes it most remarkable that a new church has been built for the Diocese to minister to the faithful in an area that is predominantly Reformed Dutch. With the closing of some of the smaller communities places of worship the priest for Christ the King church, Fr. Doug Klein, put together a pilgrimage that started and passed through a number of the areas now covered by the new church but will lose its own house of worship. Fr. Klein gathered artifacts from the various communities and made the almost 100 mile walk to the new church along with parishioners to show the commitment to faith and the continuing idea of community in one’s faith.

Gene Bartels drives the tractor as Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) and parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Paola Rivera and Maria Cartelan leave Sioux Rapids, Iowa to begin their walk of 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Bartels drives the tractor as Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) and parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Paola Rivera and Maria Cartelan walk 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is debate about the loss of faith in the U.S. and how godless it has become. But it seems the loss of faith is more directed to those overseeing the flock and some of those individuals loss of direction for personal gain or need of power and the feeling of importance, rather than actually ministering to the needy. And any judgement that might come from any for or against the idea of faith, will ultimately be decided on that one day for what some evangelicals call the “end of days”. And for those who truly believe, the only important judgement comes from the Trinity and not a self-appointed judge among the many now living on earth.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Gene Bartels drives the tractor as Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) and parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Paola Rivera and Maria Cartelan walk 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Bartels drives the tractor as Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) and parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Paola Rivera and Maria Cartelan walk 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gene Bartels drives the tractor as Fr. Doug Klein, pastor of Christ the King church in Sioux Center, Iowa (of the Sioux City Diocese) and parish members Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Vickie Ryan, Paola Rivera and Maria Cartelan walk 24 miles of a 100 mile pilgrimage Thursday, July 29, 2021 through rural Buena Vista county. They carry the corpus from the Sacred Heart Church of Laurens, Iowa. With fewer priests available in the diocese to oversee services and duties and diminishing number of members attending the outlying parish churches, the Ministry 2025 Pastoral Plan called for creating a number of cluster parishes to serve the faithful. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Moonlight Express in Siouxland, Rural Iowa

31 Aug
A recent full moon rises over a hill top in rural Plymouth County near Le Mars, Iowa Satuday, Aug. 21 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while driving about Siouxland, one gets lucky and sees an image right before one’s eyes and you do the best to take advantage of it. While returning from a photo shoot earlier in the evening, which was held indoors, I didn’t realize there was a full moon that evening. And my surprise as I was driving home to see this huge, round ball above the distant landscape. I needed to get home to begin processing and doing post production on the work I had already photographed, but then realized stopping to photograph this scene wouldn’t significantly add more time.

A recent full moon rises over a hill top in rural Plymouth County near Le Mars, Iowa Satuday, Aug. 21 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many photographers plan their ventures out for certain events like a full moon. Deciding ahead of time where they should be to also incorporate some sort of foreground into the image for perspective and interest. Me, I do whatever I can to make an image interesting, most times coming upon something like a full moon by happenstance, not really planning ahead or even realizing that there is lunar activity in play. After seeing the moonrise and then thinking about stopping, the next thing that happens is a song that always pops into my head for me to hum as I contemplate the moon. Or maybe, for a certain generation, thinking about Ralph Kramden’s comment to his wife, Alice, when he feels displeasure about something, but ultimately knows she is right. And lastly, I tried a little experimentation with white balance adjustments, but ultimately went with what I started as it looked most real and natural. And just glad I didn’t hear the CCR song playing and the rest of my trip home was uneventful.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A recent full moon rises over a hill top in rural Plymouth County near Le Mars, Iowa Satuday, Aug. 21 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Fireworks Fail in Siouxland, Sac City

21 Aug
An experiment in creating an image with the Olympus camera system in downtown Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I think I have seen it written that photography, like a lot of mediums, is part science and part art. One has more strict parameters the other more nuance in achieving results. And the author John Steinbeck put it succinctly, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

So it did one evening in Siouxland as I and a friend set out to photograph fireworks in Sac City at the Sac County fair’s last night. The weather was not extremely hot with a light breeze. We arrived early and scouted the fairground where the fireworks would be set off and then found a rise just outside of the downtown area that might provide a nice foreground with the fireworks exploding overhead.

Downtown Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An attempt in photographing fireworks on the last night of the Sac County fair in Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An attempt in photographing fireworks on the last night of the Sac County fair in Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But sometimes one’s plans just don’t work out. The fairgrounds seem to sit in a bit of a valley and area behind it and downtown is on a bit of a rise. So when the fireworks began, one could hear the booms and see some white drifting up, but no light from the explosions. After waiting 1.5 hours for this moment, I realized from our position we weren’t going to see the fireworks. So picking up camera and tripod and hustling a couple of blocks I was able to capture some of the night sky explosions and also understand the camera program I was trying for the first time. But I didn’t really capture or photograph any of what I thought might be a dynamic image.

As has been said, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Sigh. Next year?

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An attempt in photographing fireworks on the last night of the Sac County fair in Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An attempt in photographing fireworks on the last night of the Sac County fair in Sac City, Iowa Saturday, July 31, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Nature in Siouxland, Luton Wildlife Management Area

13 Aug
A dickcissel sings perched on a bush at the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

After this past year with having to take precautions and social distance, etc., I learned a new appreciation for wildlife in the Siouxland area. And recently while again enjoying being able to visit places, zoos, museums and such, I like revisiting some of the local nature preserves and management areas I recently became aware of and have visited in the past.

I recently learned of one such place through a friend who is an avid birder and he posted a location and some photos from an outing he attended as people were doing some research about bird species in the area. The Luton Wildlife Management area is only a short distance from where I live and of course, is in the country, surrounded by farm fields. And even though it’s been a very dry year in Siouxland and elsewhere in Iowa I was not totally disappointed when I went out to find this place.

The Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit is home to a few species of birds and is situated near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American goldfinch sits atop a bush at the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit is surrounded by farmland near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When out walking at these nature preserves I am just happy to see wildlife. Being able to photograph them to me is just a bonus. And if the images turn out to be nice, well, it was a good day. And maybe the next visit will be even better.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Various shore birds congregate at a pond at the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit is home to a few species of birds and is situated near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two mourning doves blend into a leafless bush at the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A gravel road leads to the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Plants bloom at the Luton Wildlife Management Area North Unit near Luton, Iowa Sunday, August 1, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving in Rural Siouxland, Rural Monona County

14 Jul
A turkey vulture flies above a valley floor of the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have not spent as much time in recent months driving in rural Siouxland as I would have liked. Work and the weather didn’t make such a drive very scenic. The spring remained brown and visually unappealing for a long time. But now with recent rains everything has begun greening up although a moderate/severe drought warning is still in effect for parts of Siouxland and elsewhere in Iowa. Low rain fall and not much snow during winter makes farming this year a bit tenuous.

Gravel roads and green scenery await any traveler driving around the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A gravel road becons a traveler driving around the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But driving the backroads in Siouxland is always nice. It’s quiet, there is no need to speed as time somewhat suspends itself as you wind around the Loess Hills scenic byway roads, enjoying the landscape and area for what is there. Nothing more, nothing less. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Quiet, peaceful, a bit of solitude and maybe a day of contemplation.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spring flowers seen while driving around the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Not all access points are gravel roads seen in the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Green hills await visitors while driving around the Loess Hills region in rural Monona County Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)
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