Archive | Rural Nebraska RSS feed for this section

Trying to Beat Mother Nature in Siouxland, Winnebago, NE

16 Nov
Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Farmers throughout the Siouxland area and elsewhere worked feverishly getting their crops harvested before another blast of winter hits the area like it did a couple weeks earlier. Most soybean crops have been combined, but a number of cornfields were still standing waiting to be picked.

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc, a corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska was working hard to complete its harvest on its tribal land. As a child I can remember my father harvesting late into the evening trying to pick as much of his crop as possible before the dew sets in and adds moisture to the corn which can become costly if the crop is harvested when too wet. Although the same is true if it’s too dry. Grain elevator operators like their “porridge” just right.

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And the employees timed their harvest just right as Mother Nature delivered another early freezing rain and snow storm recently which surely would affect area farmers just trying to finish a year with debilitating tariff wars and summer storms and ill-tempered politicians who believe people’s lives are their own personal footballs to do with as they please.

As I know from watching my dad, farming is a hard job that while rewarding has sunny days and not so sunny days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snow covers an unharvested corn field near Sioux City, Iowa Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 as local weather prognosticators said Siouxland, or western Iowa, eastern Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota could expect anywhere from 2 inches up to 7 inches depending on location. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Halloween in Siouxland, Decatur, NE

31 Oct
The sun illuminates a cemetery in Decatur, NE creating silhouettes of grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It seems on Halloween cemeteries always get a bad rap. Horror movies have made them front and center for decades with scary scenarios involving them.

On a recent trip in Siouxland to Decature, NE, a setting sun creates a light play with the grave markers, illuminating the countryside around the hallowed ground. Rather than make the place spooky, it created a quiet solitude of peace. Something all souls look for when reaching that final stage while journeying to the next destination.

The sun illuminates the countryside as it begins to set behind a cemetery in Decatur, NE creating silhouettes of grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular plot of land sits on a hillside as many country cemeteries do, overlooking the community and surrounding area. Many of the markers have dates reaching back into the 19th century. A place of rest for early pioneers to the area. A place where they can rest and enjoy the area they traveled to to call home and begin a new life when the country was expanding west.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A setting sun near a cemetery in Decatur, NE silhouettes grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Little bit of Sweden in Siouxland, Oakland, NE

20 Aug

Historically populated by immigrants from Sweden who settled the area in and around Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Everyone comes from somewhere, even the people of Siouxland. The region is a bit of a European melting pot. I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the smaller communities of Nebraska but finding some interesting places and people need to do a little more exploration.

Graduating seniors photos are displayed in the downtown area of Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Each community has its own charm and history. But the community itself is quaint and only requires a short walk about to see it the downtown area and some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

A colorfully painted scene on a building in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A colorfully painted scene on a building in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As fall gets closer it will hopefully become a little cooler and more inducement to walk about on a bright sunny day. And maybe other aspects of life will become a little safer as well for those wanting to explore a bit.

A posted sign in a grassy area in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Older buildings are getting some makeovers in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun and nice to “see” what’s around the corner or up the road a bit. I do miss popping into small cafes for lunch or coffee, preferring these days to carry a thermos and snack, which doesn’t replace the sometimes homemade pies and other goodies one might find at a cafe and a chance to chat with the folk there and learn a bit more about their community.

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A boarding house in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Remembering Those Serving from Siouxland, Wakefield, NE

16 Jul

A war memorial park sits just off of the downtown area in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most small communities in the Siouxland region have a small veterans memorial park dedicated to those who served in the U.S. military during one of the many conflicts that the United States has been involved in. That is true of Wakefield, NE, where a small memorial is set up just off of the downtown area.

A War Memorial Park with names on bricks of service members and when they served in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dedicated bricks to service men and women with their names donated by families for remembrance and also in support of the park. A sign post at one end notes the various places that U.S. personnel have served.

A sign post representing many theatres of war of local residents who served at the War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Names on bricks of service members and when they served at a War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ideally many believe the world to be a better place if there were no wars or conflicts and if people worked more in getting along. But history reminds us that many individuals don’t share that sentiment. Those persons for whatever reason relish in conflict, or the need of power and dominion over others. And no matter the psychological implications or pathologies ascribed to these people, their intentions and actions still get people killed. Those who serve to protect their country from foreign folk intent on harm, a remembrance is a small, small thank you for serving.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Vietnam-era attack helicopter on display in a War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, the Umo`ho (Omaha) tribe, Macy, NE

14 Jun

A replica of an earth lodge of the Omaha Tribe at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As restrictions relax because of the coronavirus I look forward again in getting out and about in Siouxland and learning more about the area and its history. No matter where one lives, there are always little gems that pop up and present themselves to those interested in taking a moment to stop, look and listen.

History of the Omaha Tribe can be found at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An informational plaque informs visitors about the Omaha Tribe at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a highway I generally don’t drive  because of its out of the way location was this time one of those gems. A scenic overview rest area overlooking the Missiouri River between the states of Nebraska and Iowa also contained information about the history of the Omaha Tribe that has been in the Siouxland area for decades.

A replica of an Omaha Tribe earth lodge at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A plaque contains information about the Omaha Tribe found at a scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning history about places and people like the Omaha Tribe is so much different than when I was in elementary school simply because one can find more accurate, and less white-washed information concerning indigenous people than what was presented in the history books used when I was a child. The Old West and settling of these territories told from a perspective of Hollywood and a less than honest history by the government  of the U.S. at the time.

From a website of warpaths to peace pipes a timeline of the Omaha tribe:

  • 1541: Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer is the first European to encounter the Omaha

  • 1700: The first European reference to the Omaha tribe was made by Pierre-Charles Le Sueur

  • 1718: The French map maker Guillaume Delisle named the tribe as “The Maha, a wandering nation”, along the northern stretch of the Missouri River

  • 1801: A devastating smallpox epidemic decimates the Omaha people

  • 1802: The number of Omaha had declined to just 300 people due to sickness and warfare

  • 1803: The Louisiana Purchase

  • 1804: Jean Pierre Chouteau was appointed as the US Indian agent

  • 1804: Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 – 1806)

  • 1813: Manuel Lisa (1772 -1820) established Ft. Lisa, the most important trading post on the Missouri River, controlling trade with the Pawnee, Missouria, Otoe, and other neighbouring Indians from 1813 to 1822

  • 1831: The Treaty of Prairie du Chien in which the Omaha ceded their lands in Iowa to the United States

  • 1832: The artist George Catlin visits the Omaha tribe

  • 1836: They joined with other tribes in more treaties with the U.S. Government

  • 1837: Second great Smallpox epidemic kills many Native American Indians

  • 1837: The Council Bluff’s Agency supervised the tribe from 1837 – 1856

  • 1840’s: Series of bloody conflicts with the Sioux

  • 1854: The treaty of March 16, 1854 ceded all their lands west of the Missouri River and south of a line running due west

  • 1856: The Omaha Agency supervised the tribe from 1856 – 1876

  • 1865: On March 6, 1865, the Omaha sold part of their reservation to the United States

  • 1870’s: The buffalos had been deliberately slaughtered by the whites to the point of extinction so ending the lifestyle of the Great Plains Native Indians

  • 1876: Nebraska Agencies supervised the tribe from 1876 – 1880

  • 1887-1934: General Allotment Act (1887) began land allotment of Native Indian territory

But one needs to stop and take the time to learn about the history, as well as enjoying the natural beauty of an area while going about one’s life. So many twists and turns and speed bumps to sometimes getting to a destination. Life is all of that.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informational plaque about the Omaha Tribe at a scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A look at the Missouri River separating Iowa and Nebraska seen from a scenic overlook near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Passing Through a Small Town in Siouxland, Louisville NE

19 Dec

Main street downtown Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Although driving about Siouxland and similar places some folk might believe all small towns are the same, but one comes to know they are not. The offerings in such places might not be as extensive as larger communities, but places like Louisville, Nebraska has its own small town charm and a place residents enjoy calling home. Visiting in winter is a little different than when I come across places any other time of year. Depending on the weather and how much the wind is blowing, I might not linger much while walking about.

The remnants of a mural seen on a business wall in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Cornhusker Country Music Theatre where musicians get together and jam seen downtown in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And different times of the year probably has more activity happening on the weekend than what I saw while passing through recently. One downtown place that stuck out is the Cornhusker Country Music Theatre, a venue where folk get together and play music (guess if you haven’t the style) and entertain themselves, friends and any guests that happen by. A trip back at some point during warmer weather is probably necessary.

There were hourly trains passing through the community so it’s safe to assume it has been and continues to be a railway hub of some description, most with railcars pulling coal and other items in bulk. A grain elevator sits just down from the downtown area, and like so many small communities I visit it becomes apparent that agriculture is a major employer of some sort with farms and other industry related businesses in the area.

Trains pass through hourly in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A grain elevator has steam rising from its stacks seen in the distance from downtown Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was interesting to find a shop espousing medicinal usage of marijuana along a side street and also the ubiquitous barbershop that actually looks like one and not just a more modern version of a stylist salon.

Progressive Nebraskans looking for an alternative medicinal option located in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A barbershop closed on the weekend in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One never really knows any community unless you spend a little time becoming acquainted and it’s hard depending on one’s travel plans to be able to do so. The road in and out can beckon both ways to visitors and residents alike and time and circumstance dictate which it may be on any given day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A crossroad leading out of town from Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

History Comes Alive in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

19 Nov

Visitors head into Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park for July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This summer I spent part of a day reliving history at a Nebraska Historical Park in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson, which according to one living history participant and re-enactor, was the largest fort in the U.S. during its days of use on what was then the frontier.

I find attending such places and events informative and fun. As well as fascinating because of the people who help make history come alive for us regular folk who get the chance to understand a bit more about those folk who came before us. While those volunteering their time to portray actors can’t provide all the answers, they can help people appreciate what history says about a place and possibly give us direction where to find more information about a place’s history.

Visitors assemble for a program about the creation of the United States and a firing demonstration of muskets and canon as each state’s name is read and when it entered the Union during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes the people who portray historical characters are themselves rascals who give a nice dimensional look to an era we can only read about now.

 

Blacksmith Tom speaks with visitors during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Two “regimental officers” talk about life at the fort in early frontier days during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors check out the Trading Post cabin outside of the Fort during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visiting a Small Siouxland Community, Bancroft, NE

26 Sep

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I get out and about I like visiting small towns in Siouxland. Getting a chance to stop and walk about and see what is there. Although the times I visit may not be ideal in that if it’s a weekend, there may not be much activity. And generally speaking, in small towns these days activity is limited unless there is a community-wide event occurring.

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site is located in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Then there is the matter of taste. I like finding what I consider interesting subjects to photograph which does not reflect the nature or character of some places I visit. But visually it appeals to me whether it’s a doorway with peeling paint, brick structures built in the mid to late 1800’s or some other quirky attribute that is what I gravitate to photograph.

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And I have found visiting a number of these smaller communities these days they all generally have grain elevators anchoring one end of the downtown. A tribute to the agricultural industry that is important to so many Siouxland communities in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. And sadly businesses that may have thrived for a period of time but run their course.

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But exploring the area one lives in is an interesting pursuit I believe and knowing and understanding a bit more about one’s community is not a bad thing. Plus so many times one meets people that makes it all worthwhile and helps in appreciating what one finds.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Poetry and Literature in Siouxland of John G. Neihardt, Bancroft, NE

2 Sep

Poetry is one form of literature I never really embraced and have read sporadically. Even in college where I was probably more exposed to poetry through courses there, it was something that never gave me pause and made me take a second look. But that doesn’t mean it’s something that doesn’t resonate with many of folk and I had forgotten about an early 20th century writer who lived in Siouxland that is renowned for his poetry and early ventures at bridging divides with local Native Americans.

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The John G. Neihardt Center is located in Bancroft, NE and celebrates the author’s life and life’s work he did through literature and his friendships with local Native Americans. The Center’s website states:”

But Neihardt himself pointed to a “fever dream” he had at this age, in which he saw himself floating through space and felt the presence of a “spirit brother,” as the event that determined his life work as a poet and inspired the content of that work.

Neihardt graduated from Wayne Normal College at 16 and taught country school for a short time. He’d been writing poetry since age 12 and, upon moving to Bancroft in 1900, turned to that vocation, working also as an owner-editor of the Bancroft Blade, and as a clerk for a trader on the Omaha Reservation.

His acquaintance with the Omaha and Winnebago Indians led him to an interest in the Sioux, their customs and traditions. He traveled the plains and lived the land first hand.”

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Neihardt wrote books and poetry reflecting his knowledge of his Native friends and a kindred spirit they shared and time spent together. Impressing early Nebraskan state officials and legislators that Neihardt became the state’s poet laureate at one point, in 1921. As mentioned at a number of online sites for people interested in exploring his life and writings more thoroughly, Neihardt authored the book “Black Elk Speaks,”  interviews he did with the Lakota chief Black Elk in which the chief shared his knowledge of oral history and the cultures of Native Americans.

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These little gems of places tucked away in Siouxland still amaze me and I keep hoping to find more of them as I continue to wander about. While I may never truly appreciate the genre of poetry, I can appreciate the dedication Neihardt gave to his life’s works in helping foster a better understanding between two cultures.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Pathways of understanding and turmoil in a prayer garden site at the John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 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©)

%d bloggers like this: