June 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).

Prairie Fire's Take-along Guide for the Nebraska Passport

By Shannon Peterson

Sometimes people ask me, “What is there to do in Nebraska?”

They ask with a hint of sarcasm in their voice as if to imply there couldn’t possibly be anything to do here. Even people who live here—we’re a humble, modest group—often dismiss what Nebraska has to offer. We have a hard time believing in ourselves.

But Nebraska is amazing and diverse.


Unpublished Journal
March 7, 1992

Two weeks ago I received a note from Marty Strange, co-director of Center for Rural Affairs, asking that I send a copy of the correspondence I had had with the agronomy department professors at the University of Nebraska, which I had published in 1972, to Robert L. Zimdahl, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. I did and yesterday received a letter plus a published essay on weed science titled “A Plea for Thought.” The letter stated he had read the exchange of correspondence, which dwelt on what was happening to the fertility and life-supporting quality of the soil in a field that had been planted to corn for the plus-twenty years I had watched. Twenty years later it is still being planted to corn and yields up to 200 bushels per acre. Is this monoculture harming the life-supporting environment of the soil? Worms, grubs, ants and various insects use the soil for a living environment throughout their life cycles or, as many insects do, need the soil for a stage in their development into a flying insect. Gophers, badgers, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, burrowing owls, moles, etc., live in the ground. The soil is their home base.

American Corn

By Sally Jane Herrin, Ph.D.

Over the past couple decades, a gradual smear campaign has developed regarding one of the oldest and most generous friends and benefactors to the human race. I am positively staggered. I grew up crouching under a flimsy grade school desk for nuclear attack drills, sirens barking off the wall like dogs of war, so I frankly in my lifetime expect the worst.

Dancers on the Plains

By Ronnie O’Brien and Dawna Ourada

Why have Native American tribes and over 10,000 spectators been coming to the Great Platte River Road Archway in Kearney for the Dancers of the Plains event in June for the last three years?

Dancers of the Plains has broken many powwow rules. So much so that each year the event has been difficult to explain to each newly invited and honored tribe. It is the uniqueness of this event that makes it the Father’s Day weekend destination for many Nebraskans.

What is a Powwow?

By Carol Rempp

In the broadest terms a powwow is a gathering to celebrate. Powwows originated with the Plains Indians. The exact origins are unclear; however, there is evidence that powwows began as simple celebrations among warriors returning to camp to give thanks for their good fortune of returning alive. The word powwow comes from an Algonquin term that was used to describe a gathering of medicine men and spiritual leaders. As has happened with most Native words, it was both misunderstood and misspoken by the Europeans who used the term to describe the entire gathering of people. However, as more tribes began to understand English, they accepted this definition.

Book Review: "Wetland Birds of the Central Plains: South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas" by Paul A. Johnsgard

Review by Jon Farrar

“Wetland Birds of the Central Plains: South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas”
Author: Paul A. Johnsgard
Publisher: Zea E-Books

I was fortunate enough to have had Paul Johnsgard as an instructor for three courses at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. That was a long time ago, the late 1960s. Oddly enough, even though I had grown up only five miles from prairie chicken booming grounds, and only 40 miles from where sandhill cranes paused on the Platte River each spring, I first saw displaying grouse and sandhill cranes on field trips in Johnsgard’s ornithology class. I have most of his books but have passed on several, only because I was not particularly interested in birds such as “Trogons and Quetzals of the World.”

Book Review: “Free God Now!: How to Liberate Yourself from Old Time Religion & Just Maybe Save the World” by Clay Farris Naff

Review by Mary Jane Humphrey

“Free God Now!: How to Liberate Yourself from Old Time Religion & Just Maybe Save the World”
Author: Clay Farris Naff
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Clay Farris Naff, a Lincoln, Neb.-based science writer, has taken on a biggie in his recently released e-book, “Free God Now,” available through Amazon.com and slated for an eventual hard-print edition. Naff, who writes for “Scientific American,” “Earth,” and “The Humanist,” among other publications, is out to do nothing less than rescue humanity. Subtitled “How to Liberate Yourself From Old Time Religion & Just Maybe Save the World,” Naff’s book focuses on the nexus between science and religion, though his attention in this book clearly tilts toward religion. His premise is simply that “old time religion” has got to go—or our world will go up in flames.

The Breathtakingly Bad Novels that Changed America: The Legacy of Ayn Rand, Part One

By P. Scott Stanfield

I have two propositions to advance tonight. The first is that the novels of Ayn Rand are, as novels, breathtakingly bad; the second is that those novels have contributed significantly, and injuriously, to the tone of our civic and political culture.

Passing the Torch: Fire Training Exchange Draws Participants from across the U.S. and around the World

By Jill Wells

Jeremy Bailey just can’t stay away from Nebraska.

For the third consecutive year Bailey, who works for The Nature Conservancy as its fire training and networks coordinator, left his home in Salt Lake City to spend a long, smoky month in the Cornhusker State. His mission: demonstrating safe preparation, planning and execution of successful controlled burns through fire training exchanges.

It's Crane Season - in Wyoming

Female sandhill crane with egg in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, May 31, 2011. (Paul A. Johnsgard) 

By Paul A. Johnsgard

Considering that Nebraska and Wyoming are adjoining states, it is surprising that the two states’ sandhill crane populations are so very different. Over 90 percent of the 500,000-plus sandhills seen annually in Nebraska are migrants of two smaller races (lesser and Canadian) that are present only when they are heading to or coming from breeding areas that may be located up to nearly 4,000 miles away. In Wyoming these small sandhill cranes (weighing about 6–8 pounds) occur only in the eastern parts of the state, where they migrate through the eastern plains during spring and fall, and are sufficiently abundant in the fall to be considered as legally hunted game birds.

Tree Planting & Forestation in Nebraska: A Continuing Success

By John Ragsdale

2012 marks the 140th anniversary of the creation of Arbor Day.

Established by J. Sterling Morton—one-time and well-known Nebraska journalist and secretary of agriculture in President Grover Cleveland’s administration—with the goal of encouraging the planting and conservation of trees, Arbor Day enjoyed immediate success. Over one million seedlings were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day, April 1, 1872.

Immigration in Nebraska

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