August 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).

Applied Hope

By Amory B. Lovins

The early bioneer Bill McLarney was stirring a vat of algae in his Costa Rica research center when a brassy North American lady strode in. What, she demanded, was he doing stirring a vat of green goo when what the world really needs is love? “There’s theoretical love,” Bill replied, “and then there’s applied love”—and kept on stirring.

Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.

Brownville, Neb.: Travel Matters

By Kimberly Downing Robinson

I am a summer visitor in Brownville, Neb., so I feel it my duty to share with you what I did not expect to find when I arrived here a month ago: driving off I-29 onto US 136 and into the village proper is an American version of Lark Rise to Candleford, that being my first impression of Brownville’s pristine homes, lawns and gardens. Home to the River Inn Resort, the Village Theatre and the Robert W. Furnas House Museum, as well as many other impressive aesthetic and historic venues for lodging, the performing arts and historical interpretations of the American frontier and the U.S. railroad system, Brownville’s history aligns well with that of my permanent residence in Fort Smith, Ark. A recent visit to the Methodist Church, built in 1857, affirms not only spirituality but also architectural simplicity. Learning that Willa Cather had ties to Brownville after traveling here in 1894 to research and write a piece in honor of its 40th anniversary further cements my interest in this area for its literary connections. I could go on, but, honestly, the list of associations is quite extensive. I am simply amazed that this small community has a cultural center rivaling that of much larger towns, so I write today to share my first impressions of this beautiful area and to encourage you to visit.

The Attractiveness of a Liberal Arts Degree

By Alex Ringgenberg

One brisk morning last winter on my way to class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I parallel parked behind a car that sported an encouraging bumper sticker. It read, “The more you know, the less you need.” Being an English major, this quote had the same effect a warm cup of coffee might. It warmed me up and comforted me. I know that my educational path is the right one for me. An English degree requires almost no knowledge of computers, and it definitely doesn’t require business knowledge. Consequently, I am forced to field the question, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” A fair and valid question, no doubt, but one I am tired of dealing with. I walk from lecture to lecture prepared to defend the department I am enrolled in. This article aims to be an extension of that defense with the hope that if people know what kinds of skills a liberal arts degree cultivates, then maybe they won’t feel the need to ask, “What are you going to do with an English degree?”


Unpublished Journal
March 31, 1992

In defense of “Slower Is Better” I have been critical of the speed at which we live. We have developed a need to hurry, hurry, hurry. In connection with bird-watching I have written (and stayed within the speed limit) that at 55 mph we don’t see the bird in the bush nor the hawk soaring high in the sky. I thought of that when reading Ian Frazier’s piece about the Great Plains in “Nebraska Humanities,” a periodical of the Nebraska Humanities Council. At 500 to 600 mph and 30,000 feet up, he missed much more than the bird in the bush.

Arthritis: How Far Have We Come?

By Melvin Churchill, M.D.

Arthritis, for many individuals, remains a mysterious diagnosis that belongs to a few unfortunate individuals. The diagnosis of a rheumatic disease or some form of arthritis is actually quite common. One out of three households has a member with significant disability, based on the diagnosis of arthritis. In fact, 46 million people have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and it’s estimated, by the year 2030, 67 million or 25 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from conditions known as arthritis. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability, and costs in the United States are estimated to be more than $130 billion dollars annually. In actuality, one out of every five adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis is a reality. An estimated 300,000 children have arthritis in this country.

Kresge Selects Omaha for Prestigious Award

By Kara Henner Eastman

In 2011 Detroit’s Kresge Foundation invited the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance (OHKA) to apply for a grant under their Advancing Safe and Healthy Homes Initiative along with 35 other groups from around the nation. On July 1, 2012, OHKA was selected as one of six grantees to receive the award of $750,000. The grant will fund the alliance’s work around creating green, lead-safe and healthy homes for children and families in Omaha, Neb. The Kresge Foundation is a $3 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations. Their new Advancing Safe and Healthy Housing Initiative is intended to make homes safe and healthy by addressing asthma triggers, such as dust or pests, lead poisoning hazards, like deteriorating lead-based paint in older homes and safety issues from a lack of carbon monoxide hazards to radon.

The Federal Crop Insurance Program

By Brad Redlin

The farming sector has changed drastically since the first Farm Bills of the 1930s, when about a quarter of all Americans lived on a farm. Today, only 2 percent reside on farms. The American farm in the first half of the 20th century was a relatively small and diversified operation. For instance, a single farm could easily have raised cattle, hogs, chickens and sheep, producing beef, pork, dairy, wool, eggs and poultry. These products, combined with the grain, fruit and vegetable growing capabilities of a farm, made many farms self-sufficient operations.

Robert Lougheed Agrarian Retrospective: Making a Legacy

By Amanda Mobley Guenther

Robert E. Lougheed (1910–1982) from Ontario, Canada, is one of the greatest painters to have devoted his life to art of the landscape, animals and people of North America. A highly skilled and prolific artist, Lougheed was the recipient of numerous national awards. His work spans the genres of commercial illustration, wildlife, western and agrarian art. Traditionally historians have sought to classify Lougheed as either a wildlife artist or a western artist.

Jimmie Walker and Paula Poundstone Anchor Norfolk Fifth Great American Comedy Festival

By Kandra Hahn

The Viaero Great American Comedy Festival laid claim to Norfolk for a fifth time June 13–17 this year. The remarkable event, built around the childhood home of Johnny Carson, has legs, and they don’t wobble.

Jimmie “J.J.” Walker was there at the Saturday night finale to claim the Johnny Carson Legend of Comedy award, slinging eyewitness insights into the brutal backstage world of big-time TV comedy. After a smooth set of stand-up comedy in front of the crowd of more than 1,000 at the Johnny Carson Theatre, Walker sat down with festival Executive Producer and David Letterman warm-up guy Eddie Brill of New York to preview some of what might be revealed with the release of Walker’s memoir “Dyn-O-Mite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times.”

Managing Mountain Lions in Nebraska

Two mountain lion cubs play with an elk hide while their mother watches. (Thomas D. Mangelsen) 

By Michael Wunder

Over the past two decades, mountain lions have slowly regained footing in Nebraska. In fact, in a survey of 14 Midwestern states, Nebraska’s 67 documented sightings of mountain lions between 1990 and 2008 have made the state the leader of the pack. After having been hunted and driven from the state in the early 20th century, the majestic, elegant cats have gradually been coming back to roost since 1991. The key word there is gradual.

Sonny's Corner: Health Care

By Tyler Williams

Heaven forbid you get something stuck in your rectum. Let’s overlook the how, what and reasoning behind (sorry) your ailment and think about what happens when you walk gingerly into your physician’s office and receive treatment/ medication/post-traumatic event counseling, etc. Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but the reimbursement your physician will receive for rectifying (again, sorry) your situation will most likely differ based on the health insurance you have. We’re not talking about the variance you as a patient will pay based on plan, coinsurance, deductible or premiums; we’re talking about the money the physician gets.

Back to the Island

By Mark M. Peyton

Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home. You can’t go back to a place and find that it has, over time, remained the same. You change, and the people there change. We were hoping that would not be the case as we landed in Nueva Gerona.

Nueva Gerona is on the Isla de la Juventud or, in English, The Island of Youth. The island wasn’t always called that. Over the course of history this small Caribbean island has had a number of colorful names.

Immigration in Nebraska

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