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Seeing Lands West Siouxland, Bushnell, NE

10 Jun

Earlier this spring I helped a friend move to western Nebraska far removed from Siouxland. She is excited to start a new chapter in her life and to return to a landscape more to her liking, as well as a dryer climate. While there I stopped into the small community of Bushnell, NE. Like some towns in Siouxland which sit at the western most border of Iowa, Bushnell sits at the western most border of Nebraska. The Wyoming border is only 8 miles away. Because of time constraints on my part, I wasn’t able to explore the region very much, but enjoyed it immensely for its change from what I see daily in Iowa. It reminds a lot of areas in west Texas when I lived there as well as New Mexico.

The community of Bushnell is a small place, like many in Siouxland. There are few residents and the town provides a place to reside which the locals enjoy. Far removed from larger communities, but near enough by car to larger places like Cheyenne or Scottsbluff to “get out of Dodge” for a day to shop or enjoy a change of pace.

The early morning light during my walk around was hard and directional. ‘Tis the season with summer here but like west Texas it illuminates the landscape and its occupants well. Like a lot of small Siouxland communities a few small businesses anchor the downtown area and a multitude of trains regularly pass by. It was a nice visit and maybe down the road I can explore more of the surrounding area without any time constraints.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating Christmas near Siouxland, Plattsmouth, NE

9 Dec


A lot of Christmas festivities are beginning. Small communities and organizations seem to celebrate the season early, but am guessing they are trying to avoid bad weather and no one showing up, because of bad weather. I have never been to Plattsmouth, NE previous to this year and upon an earlier visit, saw an advertisement about a Christmas on Main, a Victorian celebration of the season with some people dressing the part. This celebration also happens to fall on Small Business Saturday so it’s a nice event with many of the area downtown stores open later than what seems “normal” and giving a push to people to begin to get happy with the Christmas season fast approaching. In one store, a woman in period dress greeted visitors with a chalk board reminder behind her.

Counting down the days to Christmas, a woman greets visitors to a store during the Victorian Christmas on Main, Saturday Nov. 26, 2016, in Plattmouth, INE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Counting down the days to Christmas, a woman greets visitors to a store during the Victorian Christmas on Main, Saturday Nov. 26, 2016, in Plattmouth, INE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many stores offered hot chocolate and cider along with too numerous cookies to taste or describe. There was also a petting zoo, Christmas lights everywhere, a street band and carolers and then the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree with more carolers and a number of others joining in. The event was a nice throw back to years past, which may not be true for the community of Plattsmouth, but for me it is a reminder of why small towns have their own charm.

It makes for a nice start of the Christmas holiday season to see so many people getting “into the spirit” and enjoying themselves for one night and being a community.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Visiting small towns near Siouxland, Plattsmouth, NE

3 Dec

I always enjoy finding new places, and it is even better when they contain a lot of charm, enough so that you don’t mind visiting again, sooner than later. One such place I visited was after driving a friend to Omaha, NE for a check up at a clinic and she wanted to check out the small town of Plattsmouth south of Omaha. Very quaint, with homes built in the late 1880’s and a few brick streets. The downtown area nestled into its own valley while the hillsides around it are filled with the town’s residents’ homes. It was still a nice fall day with sunshine and no snow, walking around the area and finding a place for lunch was a reward in itself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland County Fairs, South Sioux City, NE

11 Aug

Many local county fairs have come and gone in the Siouxland region, although there are still some that haven’t opened yet. I recently went to the Dakota-Thurston Counties fair in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

It was different from what I remembered having attended it maybe 4-5 years ago. This year there was no midway or rides. Very few vendor booths other than a couple food booths. The 4-H exhibits, animal and items is what the fair was mostly comprised of. And I believe historically, county fairs was chance for country folk to show off their livestock and grown items, although I could be mistaken. And 4-H is an organization that many country kids and now town kids join and learn from by having to be responsible for seeing a project through from inception to the end, which generally incorporates showing their endeavor at the local county fair.

I enjoyed myself, and am reminded of my past days being involved in 4-H projects.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland’s agricultural roots, Vermillion, SD

7 Jan

This week there is a 3-day agricultural event at the University of South Dakota’s DakotaDome in Vermillion, South Dakota, The Dakota Farm Show. The show packs in a few hundred exhibitors featuring all sorts of ag-related businesses and equipment, both large and small that farmers and ag producers in the Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota areas can attend and learn what is new and might be helpful in their production.

Like any event, I find it a fascinating place to people watch. Nothing slick, high brow or over the top, such your down to earth kind of folk who do the hard work that feeds this country and others.

One group of guys I met all live within 30 miles of one another in Nebraska and were hanging out and having a good time at the show as they wandered the aisles of stuff.

Dakota Farm Show


Most all farmers and others in ag production wear caps. My dad as a farmer always wore a cap, and sometimes was admonished by my mom to take it off at the dinner table. But given the recent cold temps, a couple of the guys were possibly showing off.

Dakota Farm Show Dakota Farm Show

The DakotaDome at USD is an arena where the school’s sports, football, volleyball, basketball, track, etc., are played. It is large, and there were booths set up everywhere imaginable for those attending to see what is currently available. In talking to one ag support business I told him that my dad would never let me drive the tractor doing certain things like plowing or planting because I could not drive a straight line. The straighter the lines the more crop seeds that can be squeezed into the area to produce more crops and the potential to make more money. This gentleman told me that now there are systems that can even run at night with satellite imagery overlayed onto a farmer’s field so once the computer program is started the farmer never touches the tractor wheel and is guided through the field by the satellite image and the computer program.

When I was leaving I briefly talked to another vendor and said in passing it was a nicer day, not as cold or below zero for the moment. He responded that being able to stay inside is what made it a nicer day, which gave me pause to reflect that there are very few days that farmers and other people involved in the day-to-day ag business actually stay inside. And with the current brutal polar vortex that has descended on the Siouxland area, I only wished these guys had a five-day event rather than just three.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Siouxland’s Irish history, O’Connor House, Ponca, NE

9 Nov

This weekend and a previous weekend was the annual open house in Siouxland for the O’Connor House, a preserved piece of history in Dakota County, Nebraska. Catherine and Cornelius O’Connor, the original homesteaders, both arrived in America as children from Ireland after the great famine there. The two moved to the area and settled near St. John’s City, an Irish settlement, now known as Jackson, Nebraska. The residence, completed in 1875 by Capt. Cornelius O’Connor, was restored and is run by the Dakota County, Nebraska, Historical Society. Visitors can tour the O’Connor House two weekends in early November as the holiday season kicks off. The house is decorated for Christmas by various people from around the area.  Another blog entry by an ancestor of Capt. O’Connor who visited relatives in the area talks about her trip to visit the homestead that is listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Santa in Siouxland, Rural Nebraska

20 Dec

During the “winter months” which could be from November to April, depending on the temperature,  I find it nice to get out of the house and into the country for a drive especially when the temperature is north of 15 degrees. To me temperature is important if you plan to photograph something and don’t want to lose your fingers or nose from the cold. And some days with wind gusts up to 20 miles and hour on the “prairie”, it’s just bone chilling.

I took a drive into Nebraska, checking out a small town for a possible story idea I want to pursue. On the drive I detoured down a gravel road and found a fun site, Santa in a barn. Maybe he was just scouting for a place to take a power nap during his busy night next week, but it’s not always in the city where one can find fun decorations.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Rural Nebraska

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