May 2011


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).


Nebraska Wesleyan Graduation Speech,
Dec. 15, 1989

From my Progress perch I have been studying the residents of Polk and community for more than 30 years and have stumbled upon a Great Truth, which I think will lose none of its greatness when extrapolated to include all of Nebraska, the United States and the world— People can be divided into two basic groups: Talkers and Listeners. I was born a Listener. You may well wonder why I am standing here talking. I have two reasons. First— I don’t listen so good (which is how the Progress Swedish Philosopher described the behavior of a small great granddaughter, who had accompanied her to Sunday church services—“She sat so good.”) My hearing is deteriorating. Second—Listeners can be divided into writers and nonwriters. I have spend the past 30 years writing. Talkers like to hear themselves talk. Writers like to read what they write.

Why What Happens in Wisconsin Matters in Nebraska

By John Kretschmar

Protests in Madison, Wisc., during February and March over removing many collective bargaining rights from public sector employees in Wisconsin has reacquainted many Americans to what unions are, why they are necessary to protect workplace rights and how they go about accomplishing that task.

Even with that renewed acquaintance, labor unions remain controversial, and when it comes to the issue of unions, it’s hard to find any “neutrals.”

Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival: Tales and Trails

By Linda Crandall

The Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival’s roots stem from 1987 when Frank Popper, chairman of the urban studies department at Rutgers University, and his geographer wife Deborah concluded that the arid Great Plains will lose almost all of their people within the coming quarter-century. By 1990 these land-use experts had refined their theory. Using measurements that included population loss, scant population to begin with, poverty and a paucity of economic activity, they identified 109 at-risk counties in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. These counties make up about one-fourth of the Great Plains, cover 139,000 square miles and contain 413,000 people. This area, said the New Jersey professors, should become a massive ecological reserve, which they would call “Buffalo Commons.”

Book Review: "A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry" edited by Patrick Hicks

Review by Patricia H. Scudder

“A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry”
Editor: Patrick Hicks
Publisher: The Center for Western Studies

Whoever selected the title for this book of poetry has witnessed staggered lines of combines marching resolutely down fields of South Dakota wheat. Harvest, indeed, is as iconic an image for South Dakota as is Mount Rushmore. Whether there is such a thing as “South Dakota poetry,” though, is as difficult to determine as whether there is such a thing as “New Jersey poetry,” especially if you believe that the poet expresses the human condition. For me, that belief universalizes poetry rather than limiting it to a specific region, for human beings are found everywhere, even in New Jersey.

The Economic Benefits of Irrigation

 A Photographic Story of Center Pivots.” (The Groundwater Foundation)

By David Endorf

Irrigation has been part of Nebraska since at least the 1890s. The Dust Bowl days of the 1930s raised awareness of the unpredictability of Nebraska weather, especially summer rainfall, and innovators began looking for ways to bring water to their crops. More recently, as the state has faced water shortages and challenges, some citizens and policy makers have begun to question whether irrigation is still a good use of the states’ water. I believe it is: irrigation plays an important and often unrecognized role in the health of Nebraska’s rural communities, helping them to retain families, businesses, employees and schools.

Wind Energy Moves Forward in Nebraska

By Shaun Dunn

Open any local newspaper, magazine or log onto any blog and you’re likely to see a story about wind energy. You can’t get away from it, wind energy is everywhere: from the recent completion of the latest wind farm in Richardson County to the small-scale turbines the city of Lincoln is installing to power traffic signals (in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Lincoln Electric System). It seems everywhere you look, there’s wind energy being harnessed for a variety of reasons.

Planting Trees for Good

By Jack Phillips

It’s hard to kill an oak with a cannon ball. I learned this at Middleton Place Plantation when I was speaking on “The Soul of an Oak” for the Charleston Garden Festival. Middleton is a relic of colonial South Carolina and was attacked during the American Revolution; British ships sailed up the Ashley River and opened fire on plantation buildings and on the live oaks growing along the banks. Many of the buildings were destroyed. The oaks survived.

Nebraska Businesses Say Greener Byways Program Is a Success

By Matt Gersib

A state known for its vast natural beauty and abundant natural resources, Nebraska attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to experience all the state has to offer. One area an increasing number of tourism-related businesses in the state have identified as both a challenge and an opportunity is that of “being green.”

The Nebraska Environmental Trust Continues to Do Great Things

By Mark Brohman

The Nebraska Environmental Trust is getting ready to celebrate its 20th birthday next year. It has been an exciting 20 years for the trust. The Nebraska Legislature created the trust and then the citizens of Nebraska voted to establish the Nebraska Lottery with the trust receiving a portion of the proceeds. In 2004 the citizens again voted to support the trust and provide it with 44.5 percent of the Nebraska Lottery proceeds.

The Role of Conversation in Forging a Path Toward Sustainability

By Jay Leighter and Katie Torpy

In a 2007 “Sustainability Science” article entitled “Inventing the Future: Scenarios, Imagination, Mastery and Control,” Yale professor of resource policy and management Gary Brewer opens with the statement, “No one has any idea whatsoever of what human systems or decision pathways will look like 25, 50, or even 100 years from now.” To his statement I might add, “and yet we are supposed to prepare for our future.”

Making Connections: How Organic, Sustainably Produced Foods Are Reaching Our School Lunches

By Sara Gorski and Charles Francis

Organic, sustainable agriculture is an ancient concept. Historically this was the only way to grow food, well before the introduction of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and transgenic crops. New technologies have drastically changed how we produce food and also caused a shift in cultural values related to what, where and how we eat. Even a century ago we consumed largely whole, unprocessed foods, including a diversity of vegetables, fruits and grains from backyard gardens or nearby farms. People knew where their food came from, often who produced it and how crops and animals were raised. Most food was prepared and served in the home. For decades, our school lunches reflected this food culture, with children enjoying hot lunches served in schools or bringing food prepared at home.

Sonny's Corner: Remembering the Civil War

By Shirley Gilfert

This year the country is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, although perhaps “celebrating” is a poor choice of words, for it was the darkest days our country has ever experienced. It’s important that we remember what happened. We also must recognize how that war affected our country’s further development. We are a very different nation than we were then. But for that struggle, we might not be a nation at all.

Immigration in Nebraska

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