May 2012


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).


Unpublished Journal
Mar. 6, 1992

The grass is turning green. The change began with the exceptionally warm weather since the first of March. Leaf buds are showing on the trees amidst dire predictions of more freezing temperatures in the immediate future. Yesterday and today have been wet (rain wet), not snow.

While I visited Earl and Adelé Byleen yesterday, he reported his next-door neighbor had planted radishes the day before.

Nebraska Passports Lead to Great Adventures

By Shannon Peterson

The Nebraska Passport is back and better than ever. The 2102 program includes new stops, fun tours and exciting prizes.

This year’s Passport has expanded to feature 80 attractions on 10 themed tours: culinary, culture, family fun, festivals, golf, GROW Nebraska, parks, unique accommodations, water adventure and wineries. So no matter what travelers are interested in doing on their vacations, they’ll find something appealing in the Passport.

Got Drugs?, Part Two: Unwanted Consumer Medications and Environmental Contamination

By Elizabeth Esseks and Cindy Kreifels

In streams, groundwater and rivers across the United States, scientists are finding detectable concentrations of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. These pharmaceuticals have entered the environment when medication residues pass out of the body and into sewer lines, when externally applied drugs are washed down the drain or when unused or expired medications are flushed or put in the trash.

Lincoln's Legacies

By Maxine B. Moul

True to his roots as a frontier farm boy, on May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to create the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over the next two months—in the midst of the Civil War—he signed additional legislation that expanded and transformed American farming, including the Homestead Act and the establishment of the land-grant agricultural university system under the Morrill Act.

Looking for Another Willa Cather

Willa Cather, Jan. 22, 1936, LC-USZ62-42538 (B&W film copy negative). (Carl Van Vechten Collection/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division) 

By Robert Thacker

In the years following Willa Cather’s death in April 1947, some of her friends and admirers remarked on the meaning and significance of her first book, “April Twilights,” a slim volume of poems that had been published in early 1903 by Richard G. Badger in Boston. Although Badger was clearly a vanity press, as were many better-known publishers then when it came to slim volumes of poems, the firm had also published Edward Arlington Robinson’s first book, and Cather’s, though largely ignored once her fiction had made her reputation, managed a review in the New York Times. Looking back at her friend’s early career from about 1950, the playwright and poet Zöe Akins saw Cather’s beginnings as poet as crucial to the distinctive, clear prose she later produced in her fiction. In 1950, too, Cather’s first biographer, the distinguished Canadian critic E. K. Brown, was in correspondence with Cather’s lifetime friend from university days in Lincoln, Dorothy Canfield Fisher. While weighing the significance of the early poetry, Fisher argued that Cather was throughout her life possessed of a poet’s sensibility, one that is felt throughout her fiction. In 1962 scholar Bernice Slote from the University of Nebraska published “Willa Cather and Her First Book” in her edition of that first book, “April Twilights” (1903), and that essay remains the key study of Cather the poet (revised edition, Nebraska, 1968).

Chau-tauq-WHAT?: Bringing a Late 19th- to Early 20th-Century Cultural Phenomenon into Modern Times

By Christopher Sommerich

Before the Internet, before television, before radio, before any electronic media or I.T. revolution, Americans flocked together to interact—in person!—and listen to speakers on a variety of issues of public interest in what was known as chautauqua (pronounced “shuh-TAWK-wuh”).

Book Review: “The Short American Century: A Postmortem,” edited by Andrew Bacevich

Review by Francis Moul

“The Short American Century: A Postmortem”
Editor: Andrew Bacevich
Publisher: Havard University Press

Most Americans would agree that the 20th Century was an American triumph, the “American Century” where we won two world wars, beat a depression and led the world economically, politically and socially. Well, as in Porgy and Bess: “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Henry Luce, publisher of “Life” magazine, defined the century’s past and promise in a pivotal essay, printed in the magazine on Feb. 17, 1941. This was a time when Great Britain was alone in resisting the Nazi Germany war machine, and Luce wrote that it was time to answer the call of history with a “complete opportunity of leadership” worldwide by aiding Britain.

A new world was coming, “one world, fundamentally indivisible,” and the United States, “the inheritors of all the great principles of Western civilization,” was uniquely positioned to determine the character of that world, Luce noted. American might become “the Good Samaritan of the entire world.”

A Work in Progress: The Association of Nebraska Art Clubs

By Suzanne Smith Arney

Julie Lemons, Pat Lontor and Steve Head, to name just three, represent artists who work in different styles and media. Some are full-time career artists, and others juggle a “day job,” family, classes, service and other organizational affiliations. They live in large and small communities across Nebraska. What they share is a passion for art and membership in the Association of Nebraska Art Clubs (ANAC).

Achieving Sustainable Food Security with Less Water: The Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska

From left, Kebede Ayele, country director for International Development Enterprises in Ethiopia, and Soumen Biswas, executive director of Professional Assistance for Development Action in India, talk with Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, during the keynote dialogue of the 2011 global Water for Food Conference in Lincoln, Neb. (DWFI) 

By Roberto Lenton

Agriculture and the water needed to grow crops have always been of critical concern to Nebraskans, but more recently water and food security have surged to the forefront of issues discussed internationally. A current example is Tom Friedman’s column “The Other Arab Spring” in the April 7 issue of the New York Times. Friedman cites the serious droughts and severe crop failures in Syria from 2006 to 2011 and suggests that the resulting tensions over land, water and food were key drivers of social unrest in the region. This situation is not atypical among the world’s most water-scarce countries, many of which are also experiencing significant population growth. More people will need more food and water, and a changing climate brings additional risks. Countries must find ways to provide food security for their growing populations while at the same time ensuring that scarce water resources are conserved, so that they can be used for other critical purposes.

Camp Life with the Skinner Crew, 1935

The Skinner camp, circa 1935. (Photographer unknown) 

By Barbara J. Skinner Lamb

One summer evening my cousin Howard Williamson, my parents, Morris and Marie Skinner, and I sat in lawn chairs on the front patio of my parents’ home and talked about camp life in the 1930s. Howard and my parents talked, and I wrote down most all the stories and history they told me.

In 1935 the crew that hunted for fossils and worked with my father were all in their mid-20s; my father was in his 30s. He was a paleontologist working for The American Museum Of Natural History in New York City. We lived in New York City part of a year and in Ainsworth and the Sandhills the remainder of a year. The study and search for fossil life was paradise for my dad all of his life.

Sonny's Corner: The Right to Contraception Began in Nebraska

By Randall Moody

As controversy continues to swirl around insurance coverage of contraceptive services in the federal health care law championed by President Obama, it’s probably little recognized that the actual legal right to contraception is rooted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case that arose in Nebraska.

Immigration in Nebraska

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