The Polk Progress was a Nebraska treasure that ceased publication in late 1989 after 82 years as a weekly newspaper. From 1955 until its last issue, the editor and publisher was the late Norris Alfred. In its last few months, the Progress had 900 subscribers in 45 states. Alfred was a remarkable Nebraskan with an uncanny eye for connecting the present with the future. Prairie Fire has collaborated with the Alfred family, the University of Nebraska School of Journalism and the Nebraska State Historical Society to locate and archive many of Norris's writings. We are capitalizing on our good fortune to present many of the Norris Alfred writings to our readership. We believe that his observations are as fresh and relevant to today's world as they were when originally written.
June 17, 1993
What bothers me most these days is how easily I tire. I can remember when it took strenuous effort over a period of days, not hours, before I had to recharge my batteries. Now 10 hours in bed, reading and sleeping are needed. I think new batteries would help, but I’m forced to wait until the heroic technologists have developed a no-fail battery for the electric car. It’s a matter of priorities. A non-noxious car is more important.
June 15 and 16 were dry days. The 16th was hot and windy, the correct conditions for drying wet fields, and farmers were in them catching up on fieldwork. Yesterday’s wind was a gale out of the south and even caused June 15th’s mud to blow as dust. Hooray! How wonderful to see blowing dust after days of mud and fields drowned in lakes.
While looking for a cuckoo, about 5 p.m., June 14, I saw Wayne Tyler and a young man on a tractor just finishing installing a culvert across the Platte River Birding Road, which would house irrigation pipe from a pump on the other side of the road to a field he wanted to irrigate, when the time came.
During 25 years of birding, I had been watching that field. It had been pasture during my first years of watching the field. Next, it was plowed and planted to corn for 10 or more years. Last fall I noticed an odd-looking piece of equipment that had nothing to do with planting, cultivating and harvesting corn. It was some sort of drag, pulled behind a tractor, for leveling the field surface.
When I encountered Wayne June 14, he explained what he was doing—replanting the field to grass. He had bought improved strains of native grasses: bluestem, switch grass, sandlove, etc., and seeded them in the leveled field. He figured the field would be ready for pasturing in four to five years.
This field was next to the river. The field next to his had always been maintained as pasture. He was restoring his bit. I think he had decided it was a mistake to have made it a row-crop field.
June 18, 1993
“Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day” is the muttered and mumbled childhood limerick about the weather that is on the adult and child mind during this wet month of June 1993 in, around and beyond Polk, Neb. I watched a teenager walking, head down, with his hands in his pockets, oblivious of the downpour soaking his shirt and jeans. Certainly the baseball cap on his head wasn’t shedding the rain.
Obviously he was deep in thought or deep in love. That’s an emotion that goes hand in hand into the depths with mental motivation. He appeared young enough it could be his first love and may be his only love if he doesn’t take care of himself.
The Washington Spectator for June 15, 1993, quotes Edmund Burke, who stated in 1774: “To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.” That quote was part of the comment on the budget deficit and national debt and the difficulty President Bill Clinton is having with the necessity to raise taxes and make spending cuts. It will be done, but he risks being a one-term president in the process.
While taxing pleasingly is as impossible as loving wisely, the need to tax wisely is as possible as to love pleasingly. First is the need to tax and eliminate annual budge deficits. Until that happens the national debt will continue increasing. If the United States likes being a supernation, it will need to put its fiscal house in a surplus order. Borrowing and spending is not the path to fiscal responsibility and superness, except super bankruptcy.
A lack of fiscal responsibility has been the legacy of Republican Reagan and Bush administrations during the past 12 years. I well recall Ronald Reagan’s first presidential campaign and how he claimed Jimmy Carter wasn’t fit to be president. Carter’s last annual budget projected a $50 billion deficit. Horrors!
Reagan hounded and worried that Carter $50 billion deficit into an election win by promising to wipe out that deficit during his first year in the White House. Everyone knows what happened. President Reagan lacked political guts to raise taxes or cut spending. Instead, he did the opposite—increased spending and cut taxes. The nation was launched on a permanent borrow-and-spend policy.
The annual budget deficits increased. President Bush’s last budget deficit was $322 billion for this fiscal year, October 1992 to October 1993. The result has been a national debt from around $1 trillion in 1980 to $4 trillion in 1992. Reagan was a popular president. Anyone can be a popular president—even a Democrat—by lowering taxes and increasing spending. Democrats prefer to tax and spend, which is fiscally responsible. Borrow and spend isn’t.