Tag Archives: history

Visiting a refuge in Siouxland, the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

15 Aug

On a nice cool fall day the outside benches are an ideal place to sit and enjoy the quiet at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summertime in Siouxland is not always the best time to visit the DeSoto National Wildlife refuge. The migration of waterfowl and other birds has not yet begun and so they may not be a lot to see while visiting on a humid summer day. But maybe that’s the point and a person can spend more time checking out other displays at the welcome center and learning more about the area and the nature it contains. While there this summer I heard a few smaller birds sitting in trees and saw some turtles resting on logs in the water, but pickings were slim and the day much too hot and humid to spend much time enjoying the refuge’s trails.

A viewing gallery inside the Welcome Center at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge allows visitors to look for and observe waterfowl during a visit, situated along the Missouri River and near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

What looks like a momma or pappa turtle and a younger one bask on a log at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Informational displays help explain life along the Missouri River and wetlands that existed in the area around the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Checking out the displays inside the welcome center was something I had not completely finished on an earlier a visit a year or two ago. Then I was more interested in seeing the migrating birds and trying to photograph them from inside and outside the center. But some of the displays, while brief, give nice details about the history of the area and what life was like previously besides having a nice quiet moment, as they were no others there at the time and thinking about the upcoming migration of birds once again completing their life cycle on a yearly basis.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Display signs showing various raptors help visitors identify what they may see along the water from inside a viewing gallery inside the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Native plants greet visitors entering the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Welcome Center near Missouri Valley, Iowa, Friday, August 2, 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©)

Seeing History in Siouxland, Gerald R Ford Birthsite and Gardens, Omaha, NE

30 Jun

The history of the 38th U.S. President is told in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of the 38th U.S. President is told in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While trying to research something else about the Omaha, NE area I came across the Gerald R. Ford Birthplace and Gardens site online. Something I didn’t even know existed in this area, having associated the 38th president with being from Michigan. Once again, those little details of history that are never really known unless encountered in one manner or another.

The history of the 38th U.S. President is told in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are a number of informational postings along with images and objects to give visitors a little historical background. One of which is that Pres. Ford’s mother divorced her first husband, his father, and moved to the Michigan area where she eventually remarried and he garnered the name of his second father who adopted him and which as they say is now history.

The history of the 38th U.S. President is told in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Situated in a residential area where the garden looks out onto is the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The garden is quite nice, although it looked like a hail storm may have passed by at one point prior to my visit because the plants looked poorly with a number of them having shredded leaves. In another area of Omaha plant life looked fine. The area like much of Siouxland has gotten much rain so that wasn’t an issue.

Recent plants look damaged from a hail storm in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club visit the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club check out the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Again, it’s always fun to explore new areas just to see what is there and maybe learn something new. But another visit another year when the plants are in better health might be another trip.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A list of presidents names is seen in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of the 38th U.S. president is told in part in the garden area of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, NE Thursday, June 6, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Small Town, Pisgah

12 Jun

A main street running through downtown Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am endlessly fascinated when visiting small towns in Siouxland. And am always surprised at what one might find in them, as well as the folk one meets. Walking around, taking my time, something students of mine for my Photo Safari classes know all too well, in good and inclement weather. Recently while in Pisgah the class met a couple who runs a bed and breakfast there. I had no idea.

A 104 year old former hotel is now the Loess Hills Bed and Breadfast located in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

They also have access to a small museum with local history. Class photos of people who graduated from the area in the 1930’s, although there are no longer any schools in the small community. The sleepy little town is a starting point for exploring the Loess Hills in western Iowa where hiking and meandering roads allow one to explore the countryside and surrounding area.

A photograph of 1932 graduates from the Pisgah High School that no longer exists hangs in a small museum, formerly a barbershop, in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A photograph of 1938 graduates from the Pisgah High School that no longer exists hangs in a small museum, formerly a barbershop, in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

David Chlupacek, left, shows visitors inside of a former barbershop and now museum that sits across from a 104 year old hotel, now the Loess Hills Bed and Breakfast he and his wife run in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s these meetings and a chance to learn about the a local area I always find fascinating, even with newly transplanted residents such as David Chlupacek and his wife, who have lived there maybe 10-12 years. Getting a sense of what was once a vibrant small town now a bit more quiet and circumspect about its future.

Photographs and other items are found in a small museum, formerly a barbershop, in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

David Chlupacek, right, talks with a visitor standing in front of a former barbershop and now museum in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

A sometimes pass through point for an Iowa tradition of bike riding, RAGBRAI, where small communities grow into overnight metropolises. But not the day we visited. But because of the visitors headed to the Loess Hills State Park the town retains one decent eatery and a place to relax and enjoy small town America with lunch and a short rest before pursuing other places to visit.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Old Home Fill-er Up and “Keep on Truckin” Cafe was made famous in a song by C.W. McCall is located in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Photographs hang in a small museum, formerly a barbershop, in Pisgah, Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Light and Shadow in Siouxland, Yankton, SD

10 Jun

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy a good light and shadow display no matter how fleeting or seemingly impossible it might appear to be. The interplay and ying and yang of the two opposites can create interesting images and on especially sunny days, the possibilities are endless.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Mead Cultural Education Center is undergoing a restoration before competing exhibits of the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The exterior of the Mead Cultural Education Center is graced with many columns that adorned architecture of the period. It formerly was a mental institution for women and now houses area historical content and the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History Around Siouxland, the Squirrel Cage Jail, Council Bluffs

31 May

The former jail for Pottawatamie County and now a museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Unique history tidbits can be found in Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are always bits of oddities of sorts in history. And probably more that will become history as today fades into yesterday. But in Siouxland one such interesting footnote is a former jail in Council Bluffs. The Squirrel Cage Jail. It is found in a small museum in the downtown area and it was only one of 18 ever built and only three now remain, all museums. I have never timed my excursion to that community allowing me an opportunity to take a look inside, but I feel I need to. The jail cells revolved and allowed the insertion and extraction of prisoners from one point of entry and the cells revolved like using a “lazy Susan” situated on a kitchen table.

A horse statue recalling law enforcement history sits near the old county jail in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The downtown area is an interesting site to visit and also contains a nice park downtown and is a pleasant walk with various restaurants tucked away. The community in its early days also had its own Hay Market used by local farmers and ranchers. Not far from the downtown area and the jail museum is the Dodge House, a museum of one General Grenville M. Dodge who served the Union Army during the Civil War and later became a builder of railroad lines heading West.

A walkway leading to General Dodge’ House museum near the downtown area in Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is situated in a historic district that still retains brick stone streets and many flowering trees along the boulevards. a very pleasant walk on a spring day or any day unless the temps are soaring into the 90’s with 80% humidity. But then that is just an excuse to find an ice cream shop and cool off and enjoy the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Trees are blossoming during a spring day in a historic district near downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring the Past in Siouxland, Mead Cultural Education Center, Yankton, SD

21 May

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring history in Siouxland can be a fun exercise and the chance to learn about the region and see something I have not encountered previously. Recently I visited the Mead Cultural Education Center with some photography students from a Lifelong Learning class. It’s a grand old building and previously as an asylum for women who were considered insane and whose families did not want them living at home.

A grand marble staircase greets visitors as they enter the Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, which now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Mead Cultural Education Center was a former women’s mental institution and will now house the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts after a renovation under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Yankton County Historical Society is housed in the facility and plans over a period of time will include a number of historical exhibits about the area including the Dakota Territorial Museum that was located in another area of Yankton.

Currently an exhibit of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is up and running with a fairly extensive look at that group’s trip through the local area.

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, showcases the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, showcases the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in a unique way and also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Some displays with area history is set up on the ground floor of he Mead Cultural Education Center, a former women’s mental institution and will house the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Some displays with area history is set up on the ground floor of he Mead Cultural Education Center, a former women’s mental institution and will house the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But while the class was there the group got a look in yet unfinished areas where future exhibits will be showcased and other offices housing various local organizations will be located as well as seeing some stored historical items waiting for space to be displayed.

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, gets animated as she gives some background during a short tour. The center also now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, standing in background, gives a historical account and describes the restoration of the building during a short tour. The center also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, not seen, gives background context and describes the current restoration project underway during a short tour. The center also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Records and other historical artifacts are stored in rooms as the Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women undergoes a restoration under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Once completed the Education Center will give a nice look into the history of the area and Yankton’s role in the history of the Dakota Territories. Yankton was the first territorial government seat when the Territories were settled but then later lost out to Pierre. It will be easy to spend a few hours learning about the past and in a space that has found new purpose for the future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

 

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