Tag Archives: rural america

Getting Lost in Siouxland, rural Monona County

18 Aug

Maybe because I grew up on a small farm in Illinois that I enjoy driving about the countryside in Siouxland. And in the southern portion of this area of Iowa the country gravel roads meander through the state designation of the Loess Hills.

A couple farms nestled into a valley in the Loess Hills in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have gotten smarter these days driving about in that I now carry county platt maps and an Iowa county road atlas so when I end up somewhere with no idea what direction I am headed, I can get a sense of where I am lost in Siouxland. While driving about I listen to some various jazz artists and just enjoy the visuals I come upon often times not seeing another soul for the many hours of driving time I spend wandering these roadways.

A car meanders along a gravel county highway in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But I find myself transported to another plane of thought without worrying about current events or other issues that most face if not day to day at least a portion of our lives during the week. It’s a time I let my mind wander and savor the moment and the here and now and sometimes wonder what this area of Iowa must have looked like when early settlers arrived while this state and others west were still prairie grasslands before becoming the agricultural hub of production it is now.

A maintained graveyard of early settlers and forebears in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing snippets of land not farmed, especially in the Loess Hills area where some farms and farmland is nestled in amongst the still prevalent hills and green space that exists today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland History in Harrison County, Welcome Center Missouri Valley

12 Aug

A few weeks back as I was getting out exploring some new areas to me in Siouxland, I finally visited the Harrison County Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley. The Welcome Center and its museum originally started as a personal project of a Preston Niles who moved there and started an orchard and then a store and finally a small museum as it was situated on the Lincoln Highway, Route 30, that travelled across the country from east to west. The Welcome Center and its small village and museum has so many items and pieces of history that it’s easy to spend a couple of hours reading about all the items.

The Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Situated outside is a long wooden culvert that was used during the WWII era when metal was in short supply for drainage for communities. Talking with a docent she informed me that when more recent work began around the museum area, the culvert was discovered. And rather than throwing it into the landfill, added it to the other historical items, such as a Bible from the Civil War era, that is from the local area surrounding Missouri Valley.

A Bible from the Civil War era on display at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docents at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum explained that during WWII with a short supply of metal because of the war, wooden culverts were used for drainage in the area near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During a massive flood of the Missouri River during 2011 the docent told me some structures were lost and items from those individual displays were put together in a newer building that is more flood resistant than the former wooden structures, although not as historic in nature. And on a hot day, as this particular day, visitors can also try out some cider that is made there. Evidently part of the original owner Niles had an orchard and beside selling its fruit, also made non-alcoholic beverages from the fruit.

The Welcome Center and museum area is certainly a nice place to spend half a day acquainting oneself with local history and understanding some more of Iowa’s development in Siouxland.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding Design in Siouxland, Rural Iowa

22 Jul

As I drive about Siouxland I always try to find something interesting to me to photograph. Sometimes it is places, things, people, events. And sometimes it is something simpler.

When one walks into an area, a town, or a place in the community I look at everything. And as I have gotten older I try not to miss much. But still, sometimes once away from a place “things” that I see become more clear. And that happened the other day as I was looking at images to put up on this blog, along with some more recent photos, I saw the lines, angles and shapes.

And I find that selectively photographing parts of items I see can have an appeal in and of itself as well as photographing the entire object. In some ways, it is almost a cat and mouse game with oneself. What did I overlook or see, but did not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Summer Time Fairs in Siouxland, Sioux Center

14 Jul

With the middle of summer approaching and the temperatures heading north, it is county fair time in Siouxland. The Sioux County Youth Fair is underway this week with other area fairs beginning as well. The fairs generally run a week with a large emphasis on the 4-H kids and their livestock or smaller animal exhibits as well as crafts and other skills learned.

Young 4-H’ers show their animal projects competing for blue ribbons and best of show at the Sioux County Youth Fair at the fairgrounds in Sioux Center, Iowa, Wednesday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As a youngster who grew up on a farm, my brothers and I participated in 4-H projects. Those times have changed as there are now fewer small farms and in some respects less “farm kids” who participate. 4-H shifted its perspective a number of years ago and began to seek “city kids” more actively to participate. It is a good organization much like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts teaching youth to follow through on projects and participating in character building activities.

Those who exhibit animals have to keep substantial records of the care given as well as demonstrate knowledge about that particular animal breed. It can be time consuming but one learns so much from doing. I like to see the kids exhibits and watch them show their animals, which brings back memories of my own participation. Some of which I can laugh about today, but then, not so much. And it’s nice to see the continuation of 4-H and the kids enjoyment in participating.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the Lake in Siouxland, Arnolds Park

12 Jul

Recently I took a drive up to West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park and spent the day walking about enjoying a cooler day. Temps were in the 60’s with a pretty good gusts coming off the lake.

Choppy waters in West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy cooler days than hotter ones personally, although some younger people bemoaned the fact they couldn’t soak up any sun, of which there was little that day. The water on the lake was also pretty choppy which figured into my plans for taking a tour on the Queen II, an excursion boat that spends about 1.5 hours on the lake giving the riders a bit of history. And the Queen in one of its iterations has been providing this service for decades.

The Queen II dock side in Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I stopped by the office to buy a ticket and heard a couple employees talking about the choppy water and the possibility the ship may not go out. I took that as more probability than not, so found myself a coffee shop for a cup and a snack. And while enjoying myself with a book I had brought along, The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, I heard the Queen’s whistle blow and knew I had miscalculated. But, with an entertaining read, coffee and a scone I sacrificed. I later found a small art gallery, Summerwind Gallery, and had a nice chat with the proprietor, Roberta, who also paints and explained she is currently working with pastel as her medium of choice.

So I felt my day was still spent well. Not too hot, a bit of a walk, and some really nice artwork to check out. Some days go as planned and some days one makes up as the day progresses. Both types of days are good and I hope to enjoy a few more of them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating the 4th of July in Siouxland, Logan

10 Jul

This 4th of July I visited the community of Logan, Iowa.

This year the residents will be celebrating the 150th anniversary or sesquicentennial of their community which was incorporated in July of 1867. For a small town a number of people arrived early for spots along the parade route. I have photographed a number of July 4 parades having worked for various newspapers for over 25 years. I have always been struck by the fact that a number of people feel compelled to “dress up” to celebrate the 4th of July.

I always found it curious. Americans turn out for parades, in small towns or large. We are proud of our heritage and the sacrifices made to achieve the success of the nation we live in.

The Stars and Stripes leads the 4th of July parade during the celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I attended college in the 1970’s, and the Vietnam War or Police Action was winding down but still emotions were running high concerning America’s involvement and depending on which side of the fence one was seated on, viewpoints differed about what occurred. A particular story I remember hearing is that people were upset with others literally wrapping themselves in the flag, sitting on it, burning it and other acts many felt were seditious. People were serious about respecting the flag and giving it its due honor. Fly it high and proudly. That was it.

Now however, it’s okay for the patriotic consumerism. Olympic athletes wrap themselves in the flag, people sit on it if it happens to be a piece of clothing. It seems it is as patriotic to make a buck from the symbol of the American flag as it is to just run it up a flag pole and enjoy it there.

Young parade goers dressed in patriotic outfits at the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A couple prepare to leave after the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A woman in patriotic dress watches chilldren collect candy during the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is not for me to judge others about anything. Some may even misconstrue my stated observations here. It just seems that people are more comfortable about wearing their patriotism on their sleeve as it were than just celebrating its significance in a more revered manner. One finds flags large and small displayed in a variety of places which doesn’t necessarily disparage their reverence for our nation’s symbol.

Maybe this is the 21st century way of honoring our nation, but maybe I am old school and not quite so convinced that simply flying the flag high and paying it that respect is enough.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Making Decisions while photographing Siouxland, Woodbury County

8 Jul

Many times while out photographing a scene whether in the country or a small community, I sometimes struggle with how I want to frame the image I see and if I want to shoot it “full frame” or use the square crop that my Fuji mirrorless cameras allow me. For some subjects the square crop just works better in my opinion. Many times I feel strongly enough that I only shoot the scene one way or another. But other times I may shoot it both ways. I try to cut down on the number of images I have to edit but some days when I am indecisive, I spend more time in front of the computer rather than out in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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