January 2008


Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).


March 28, 1974
“Sundry Comment and a Protesting Letter”
There is much to ridicule about a lifestyle based on affluence. Trading stamps is one item. We suspect future historians will view the idea of trading stamps with skepticism and hilarity. They may even wonder about advertising. A future world of people, who will long have been conditioned to doing with less, may also read about life in the 20th century and wonder at our greed: “They had so much. Why couldn’t some of it have been saved?”

Formulating polices for future water use on the Great Plains

By Ann Bleed West of the 100th meridian, which bifurcates Nebraska, the availability of water determines the quality of life. In the last century Nebraska has been blessed with having enough water to meet our demands. Our challenge was that the water was not always in the right place at the right time. Precipitation and stream flows were highly variable, and although there was often ample rain and stream flow in the spring, in July and August when the water was needed to grow crops, water supplies were often lacking. With cooperation and ingenuity we built diversion dams and canals to deliver water to the right place and constructed reservoirs to store spring flood flows for later summer use.

Imagine a World

By Amory B. Lovins

Let me tell you a story. In the early 1950s, the Dayak people in Borneo had malaria. The World Health Organization had a solution: spray DDT. They did; mosquitoes died; malaria declined; so far, so good. But there were side effects. House roofs started falling down on people’s heads, because the DDT also killed tiny parasitic wasps that had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. The colonial government gave people sheet-metal roofs, but the noise of the tropical rain on the tin roofs kept people awake. Meanwhile, the DDT-poisoned bugs were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The DDT built up in the food chain and killed the cats. Without the cats, the rats flourished and multiplied. Soon the World Health Organization was threatened with potential outbreaks of typhus and plague, and had to call in RAF Singapore to conduct Operation Cat Drop - parachuting a great many live cats into Borneo.

The great possibilities of Cuba for Nebraska

By Byron Barksdale

The theme of the Cuba Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City was “The Great Possibilities of Cuba.” As we enter 2008, perhaps a Nebraska theme for Cuba should be: “The Great Possibilities of Cuba for Nebraska,” if a feasible implementation can occur to allow additional sectors, both public and private among Nebraskans, to more openly access trade representatives in Cuba; not only for agricultural sales of which Governor Heineman has conscientiously pursued for several years but also sales of medical products and services… all of which are allowed under current U.S. laws.


'Chamber Music': A Prelude

By Charles Henry Bethea Mention “chamber music” in any gathering and the responses will range from loving sighs to a race for the exit. No musical category evokes such a range of reactions except maybe opera. Chamber music is classical music for a small group of performers played and sung in a “chamber” - like a living room, billiard room, parlor or any smaller space. Music has been written for two to 10 musicians in varied combinations, including, more recently, the jazz combo.

Artist V.... Vaughn paints the 'Last Year on the Farm'

By Jeffery Sparks “There are some who can live without wild things,” said naturalist Aldo Leopold, “and some who cannot. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.” Texas artist, V.... Vaughan, knows all about this sort of progress. Suburban sprawl reached the edges of her family’s 200-acre, multi-generational farm last year. Then, construction began on new roads and a toll road adjacent to the property. Vaughan’s farm (the place she has painted for the past 30 years) is vanishing into extinction.

Water, Cather, courts and drought: UNL Olson Seminars to present a variety of topics

By Linda Ratcliffe Ann Bleed will open the spring Paul A. Olson Seminars in Great Plains Studies series at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a presentation on water policies, “Formulating Policies for Future Water Use on the Great Plains,” 3:30 p.m., Jan. 23 at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q Street, Hewit Place, Lincoln, Neb.

Sonny's Corner

By Larry Williams My mother was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., and lived in an area called Whitehaven. She attended an all-black school that was about 2.5 miles from her house. The closest school, Whitehaven High, was less than a mile away, but as the names suggests, it was a school for whites and as a black girl she could not attend. Although blacks and whites lived relatively close to each other in this part of Memphis, there were schools, churches, movie theaters, restaurants and all kinds of places throughout the area that were strictly for whites. That was just how things were in this part of the South, but despite this, my mother looks upon her years in this community with generally fond memories.

In praise of cultural diversity

By Mara D. Giles This summer I had the opportunity to return to my native New Mexico. I got to spend some glorious days in Albuquerque and parts north. While visiting, I extolled the virtues of New Mexico, its people, its communities, and its marvelous diversity to whoever would listen. There were many who did. They in turn spoke to me about what they perceived to be the considerable amount of cultural conflict in the state and were interested in hearing my perspective on it, both as someone who no longer lives in New Mexico and as a cultural anthropologist.

Colony Collapse Disorder

By Marion Ellis During 2006 a U.S. National Research Council panel led by entomologist May Berenbaum warned of a looming pollination crisis if honey bees and other pollinators continued to decline in number.[1] In 1940 there were five million colonies managed by U.S. beekeepers and an abundant population of wild honey bees. In 2006 there were 2.5 million colonies managed by beekeepers and very few wild honey bees. Reasons for the decline in honey bee numbers include shifts in farming practices, changes in land use patterns, extensive use of herbicides and insecticides, low honey prices due to global trade in honey and introduced diseases and parasites. Among the diseases and parasites, the varroa mite has been the most devastating, eliminating most wild colonies and challenging the management skills of beekeepers.

ANDRILL: Antarctic geological drilling for climate history

ANDRILL drilling rig in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, covered by a protective shroud to keep the drill rig and drillers warm. (Photo by Simon Nielsen)
By David Harwood and Richard Levy Concerns for our warming planet are now receiving considerable attention in the U.S. media, attention that is relevant and well deserved. Many policy-makers are finally addressing global climate change issues, which have taken center stage as we head into the coming presidential election. The scientific community continues to engage in international collaboration to bring accurate projections of warmer-than-present future scenarios into these discussions. Receipt of Nobel Prizes by Al Gore for An Inconvenient Truth and by scientific members of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) indicates the importance and international recognition of climate-change issues. As these issues are discussed in the public forum, we note that the following questions are commonly asked: What does future climate warming mean for us? Aren’t these changes part of natural cycles in climate change? Hasn’t Earth been warmer in the past?

Starting a Nebraska Land Trust: A History of Prairie Plains Resouce Institute

By Bill Whitney I can remember as a youngster growing up in Aurora, Neb., in the 1960s trying to imagine what Hamilton County looked like to native Americans or early settlers. I could not imagine well, because key elements about eastern Nebraska natural history were missing in my education. There were few tallgrass prairies to look at - even if I knew what I was looking for - and there were few people around who knew enough about such things to help me understand. I was not informed by the prevailing culture that the Plains region was unique, beautiful or interesting in its own right. It was basically just farmland, which was in many respects a great thing, but not seen as that special - just normal. In fact, many of us in the central states have inherited an inferiority complex about the region, particularly about its flatness, lack of trees and monotony. I had the impression that there were much better places to live, and that I would want to escape.

Immigration in Nebraska

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