My wife, Olwen, and I think that there is a faint possibility that we have met some of you, the readers of Prairie Fire, in Polk, Neb., with Norris on our only visit together to meet the man himself. Appropriately it was July 4. I had visited Norris before at least once and would come and stay with him a number of times.
Samuel Gompers was the first elected president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Gompers was not a social reformer. He believed in limiting the goals of organized labor to helping workers get their fair share of the profits their work created. He much preferred lobbying both major political parties for favorable legislation than actively supporting candidates for office. Gompers was against the AFL endorsing any political party because he didn’t want the labor movement to be beholden to that outside influence.
July 20, 2012: The first day of Ramadan: I am out for an early morning walk. It happens to be Friday, which is Muslim holy day, and there is always less activity on Friday than other days. However, today is different. None of the usual coffee shops or newspaper/ cosmetic/tobacco shops are open. Everything is closed. Ramadan is the most holy season for Muslims and a good day to begin this discussion of religious practices in Algeria.
To describe to an outsider the religious practices of any area of the world is not a simple task. Ancient tribes practiced rituals concerning light, darkness, weather, harvest, marriage, birth, death, etc. Many of these practices were carried over, at least in part, to more formalized religions. To describe Algeria and the Maghreb or northern Africa today as predominantly Muslim is true; however, there are sociological layers upon layers that lead to contemporary practices. Many centuries of recorded civilizations existed before the Islamic conversion of the Maghreb by Damascene Muslims, who arrived around 670 CE. The most prominent ancient tribe of the Maghreb and still a proud and largely anti-Arab force today is the Berbers. Their presence predates but is later interrelated with the Numidian kingdom beginning around 200 BCE, therefore also predating the circa 150 CE arrival of the Romans. The Visgoths, Vandals and Byzantines also had a presence in the area and centuries before that, the Phoenicians.
There has been some presence
Anniversaries may be arbitrary. Memory is not, and I want to mark 25 years last August since novelist Warren Fine (1943–1987) died, and 40 years since the publication of his last book and third adult novel, “Their Family.” Of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), O’Rourkes and the Zoo Bar, Warren is recalled by a generation of Lincoln writers, readers, artists and music lovers. He was my friend and my teacher, and maybe he died too young.
Warren was born in Arkansas and grew up in extreme western Kansas—in the bleak heart of “In Cold Blood” country. He was born while his father was in Europe, serving in World War II. Raised by the women of his family, Warren was not at all sure about the stranger who came home from the war to sleep in his mother’s bed. At some point Fine senior was town cop, and Warren once told me of some childhood standoff with his father, who pulled abreast of Warren in the black and white as he walked furiously away. “Get in the car,” his father said. “What will you do if I don’t?” Warren asked him. “Shoot me?”
“Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television”
Author: Ron Hull
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
They say you can’t tell a book, or a person, by the cover.
“Backstage” by Ron Hull, with Hull on the front cover in an interviewer’s chair, is subtitled “Stories from My Life in Public Television.” This perhaps pedantic premise might lead the casual book surveyor to think that he or she is due for a nostalgic, regional, ego-driven celebrity hunt. There are some of those elements, smartly presented. But do not be myopic. Prepare to be surprised by the book’s scope and feeling, far-ranging geography and perspective.
“What the Hoops Junkie Saw: Poems, Stories, and Reflections on the Passing Scene”
Author: John Walker
Publisher: Prairie Dog Books
John Walker is a familiar name to Midwestern folk music aficionados; he has been playing clubs, coffeehouses and house concerts on the folk circuit up, down and across the Great Plains for decades now, and represented Nebraska in a celebration of regional music at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Walker usually performs as “Doctor John Walker,” and unlike, say, Dr. John the Night-Tripper or Professor Longhair, he can document his credentials. He holds a Ph.D. from Brown University and taught philosophy at Nebraska Wesleyan University for 33 years. (Full disclosure: for 13 of those years, I was one of his humanities division colleagues and his occasional sideman, on bass.)
As an avid bird-watcher I am often up before the sun to go out scouting the prairies and forests, rivers and wetlands, to see and hear what birds might be about. This first poem is one of my favorites to recite aloud. Go ahead and read it aloud. It was written one morning while listening to a meadowlark’s infectious exuberance for life. The second poem literally dawned on me as the day went from dark night to bright light. I was camping with a friend who was off meditating while I wrote it. When I shared the first draft, he said that this poem embodies the global awareness he has sought in meditation for 30 years. The Galesburg Community Chorale chose this text and then commissioned a composer for a new song. Imagine 84 voices singing the Sun’s Symphony in multipart harmony and refrain!
Nearly 90 percent of the world’s economy is fueled every year by digging up and burning about 4 cubic miles of the rotted remains of primeval swamp goo. With extraordinary skill, the world’s most powerful industries have turned that oil, gas and coal into affordable and convenient fuels and electricity that have created wealth, helped build modern civilization and enriched the lives of billions.
Yet today the rising costs and risks of these fossil fuels are undercutting the security and prosperity they have enabled. Each day the United States spends about $2 billion buying oil and loses another $4 billion indirectly to the macroeconomic costs of oil dependence, the microeconomic costs of oil price volatility and the cost of keeping military forces ready for intervention in the Persian Gulf.
Wildfires touched nearly every corner of Nebraska this summer. This is the story of how the Fairfield Creek blaze affected The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Summer is always a busy time for young visitors at the Niobrara Valley Preserve, and July 20 was no exception. There’s a lot for a kid to see at this 56,000-acre preserve (commonly called “the NVP”). More than 600 plants species and 85 butterfly species have been documented there, along with 268 species of birds. Bison herds—reintroduced to the preserve in 1985—fascinate young visitors as they roam thousands of acres of pasture.
Spring Creek Prairie shimmers like a newly woven copper-colored blanket in the brilliant sunlight of late October. Covering more than 800 acres of glacially sculpted land in southeastern Nebraska and located less than 20 miles southwest of Lincoln, its high hills represent the western limits of the last great glacier reaching this far south. Spring Creek’s hilly ground is intermixed with rich soil materials carried in from the north and blown in from the west, but its undulating surface and rock-strewn substrate have protected it from the plowing and cropping that were the fate of nearly all of eastern Nebraska’s fertile lands.
I think most citizens of our great nation are aware that we are facing some very difficult challenges—the soundness of Social Security and Medicare, our inability to balance our budget and the growing deficit that results from this failure, as well as a multitude of lesser problems. I submit that only a few probably agree with me that those problems are relatively minor in comparison to what I perceive as our greatest challenge. I believe the challenges I first mention are the result of the bigger problem, which the elected officials of this nation, from both parties (or three or four parties, depending on your point of view) refuse to address. This is partially because the citizens too often forget, as do the officials, that the founders of our great nation recognized that they did not want a governing entity like the one from which they had tried so hard to get away. That is, a monarchy or similar form of government that gives the full authority for governing to one individual or a small group of like-minded individuals, who then use their authority for their own selfish purposes. That is why, after long and often heated discussion, our Founding Fathers chose democracy, a form of government that utilizes the best ideas of all the people and groups to address problems with solutions that, while not pleasing any one group of individuals, allows the government and the nation to move forward in addressing issues. This very often requires compromise on the part of everyone, but it also allows for adjustments in the future if the compromise solutions are found to be lacking.