September 2013


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).

Labor Day

By John Kretzschmar

Labor Day traditionally signals the end of summer, the beginning of school and the start of the political season. This Labor Day, Nebraskan families will unite in backyards and public parks across the nation to enjoy one another’s company. That is as it should be, but there is something important missing.

Too few of us know the holiday’s history. New York City first celebrated Labor Day in 1882, a time when our nation’s industrial production was overtaking agriculture as the driver of the American economy. By the first federal celebration of Labor Day in 1894, 30 states were already celebrating this holiday. Put in its proper context, Labor Day is a celebration of the many contributions organized labor has made to expanding democracy, humanizing the employer/employee relationship and improving our national standard of living. After all, Labor Day is the nation’s only holiday dedicated to everyday wage earners: the people who built this great nation and who make it run each and every day.

Culinary Tourism in Nebraska

By Angela White

Culinary tourism is an emerging niche that combines agriculture, specialty food and tourism. It focuses specifically on the search for, and enjoyment of, unique and exciting food and drink while travelling. Yet it’s not just for tourists. From global travelers to locals, culinary experiences play a major role in helping us share and learn more about our surroundings.

Experiencing culture through food is the heart of culinary tourism, and communities throughout the country are discovering and rediscovering their heritage with the focus on food and drink. A great example of this is the Wilber Czech Festival in Wilber, Neb. The 52-year-old summer festival celebrates Nebraska’s rich Czech heritage with parades, music, cultural dancing, historical demonstrations and, of course, food. The festival offers many opportunities to enjoy authentic Czech cooking, including polish sausage dinners served with dumplings, sauerkraut, rye bread, wood-fired pork, jaternice, liver dumpling soup and kolaches. The festival attracts approximately 20,000 visitors over three days.

The Nebraska Lottery: How a $30,000 Campaign Leveraged a Half-Billion Dollar Payout

By Randy Moody

I recently saw a news item that said since 1993 more than $489 million has been raised from the Nebraska Lottery for education programs, the Environmental Trust Fund and some other beneficiary groups, including the State Fair. This story served as a reminder that it’s been 20 years since I managed the campaign for the ballot measure, Constitutional Amendment 1A, to authorize the State of Nebraska to create and operate the lottery.

On Nov. 3, 1992, Nebraskans approved the constitutional amendment by a 62 to 38 percent majority. A total of 440,973 Nebraskans voted for the amendment, and 267,928 voted against it. The amendment received a majority of the votes in 84 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Friends of Education and the Environment, the name of the campaign committee supporting the lottery amendment, raised and spent a mere $30,080 for the successful effort.

This despite the fact that the lottery was opposed by spokespeople for most mainline Protestant denominations, some Jewish rabbis, two former governors and just about every daily newspaper in the state.


Unpublished Journal
Aug. 4-8, 1992

Sunshine touched cobwebs under the front of the Progress office desk. I suspect sunshine could find cobwebs in all the nooks and crannies (what my sister, the late Lorna Dunlap, described as “crooks and nannies”) of this print shop, if it could reach them. Lorna was referring to cockroaches in her New Orleans home, which, accompanied by termites and mosquitoes, bedevil living south of the Mason-Dixon line. North of it too, I should add, although not in the quantities available for distribution in New Orleans. I remember cleaning out the Dunlap one-car concrete garage, scooping and sweeping the dirt into a pile and watching the pile’s surface squirm with insect life. The pile bubbled.

"White Boy" in a Hispanic Man's World

“Chupacabra Gothic,” 2007. (Judithe Hernandez/; the artist holds the copyright)

By Levi McPhillips

For the first 19 years of my life I spent my childhood living in a familiar culture. I played a lot of football and basketball, went to parochial schools and spent my weekends working on my family’s farm. For no particular reason at all, I had very little exposure to people of other cultures, and I grew up not knowing any people who spoke other languages.

My summer job, however, would change all of that.

As I completed my second year of college, I explored many different avenues to continue my higher education during my summer break. Summer classes, study abroad and other work opportunities I had pursued were all cancelled for various reasons. The only open door remaining was an internship on a dairy farm. I knew I would be working with a few immigrants, but I had no idea it would be a complete cultural immersion.

Made in America: Seven Reasons to Support the VAT

By Sally J. Herrin

Why doesn’t somebody open a chain of big-box stores where all the products are 100 percent made in the USA? Think about it. What if you could vote with your dollars for the economic well-being of U.S. producers—American manufacturers and American workers, as well as American farmers and ranchers? Growing numbers of people today are finding ways to support local and regional agricultural production through their food-buying choices. Surely this model could extend to TVs, T-shirts and toys?

Think of it! A big-box store chain selling Made in the USA (MUSA) products exclusively. We’d shop there, and we bet you would too. It would be like going to Wal-Mart in Heaven, without all those ugly, unintended consequences like Asian sweatshops, worldwide environmental degradation and the loss of millions and millions of good jobs for U.S. workers.

Sights (Sites) Worth Saving: Conversations Worth Having

This article is part of Prairie Fire’s ongoing discussion of wind energy. We have published over eight articles either directly related to wind energy or examining wind energy in the larger context of “green” or “clean” energy since 2008.

By Richard Sutton

Excitedly, Daniel Lopez anticipates his class field trip to Homestead National Monument of America. His fourth-grade class at Crete Elementary School has been studying Nebraska history especially the Homestead Act, and now it’s time to leave the classroom and see a real place associated with those events. Only recently arrived in Nebraska, Daniel’s family moved from Mexico to be with their father, who works at a nearby food plant. Along the highway on the bus ride Daniel settles into his seat, tries to ignore his squirming seatmate, and imagines what the pioneers saw arriving here to settle the land. It is such a different one than he remembers of Chihuahua. At Homestead National Monument, his whole class fidgets expectantly as they noisily stream off the bus and head toward Homestead’s Heritage Center. Some of the class stays inside to look at the displays, but Daniel and a small group with their class para-professional head out the patio door and make a beeline for the log cabin sitting just a short distance away, punctuating the end of a hedgerow.

Wh-o-o-a! He pauses, taken back; from behind the cabin, actually looming over it, rise spinning wind turbines.

Developing Regional Food Systems in Nebraska

By Stephanie Kennedy, Jon Bailey, Kathie Starkweather and Charles Francis

Nebraskans spend $4.4 billion on food each year. Yet only 10 percent stays in our state. These are surprising statistics, given that agriculture is the foundation of our economy.

Shouldn’t we expect most of the food we purchase to come from our state? The truth is, buying from the local grocery store or eating out doesn’t mean we’re consuming products grown in our region or state. How do we keep more of our food dollars in our own state and local economy?

How I Learned Ecology by Walking Like a Camel

By Jack Phillips

Henry David Thoreau is rightly revered for his writings on “wildness.” He is celebrated by contemporary environmentalists, who somewhat erroneously claim him as their exclusive prophet, confusing “wildness” with “wilderness.” In fact, his famous devotion to walking, expounded in his book by the same name, led him through farm country around Concord that had been thoroughly altered by human activity and was not a wilderness by any stretch. Farmers and urban park planners could claim him as their prophet as well. But as I am fond of reminding anyone who will listen, it is not wilderness, but wildness, that needs to be discovered.

Balancing Landscapes, a Voice for Earth and All: 'Prairie Schooner' Hosts Barry Lopez-featured Reading

By Jason Hertz

The ability to integrate environmental and humanitarian concerns in a compelling narrative is a rare talent, and the acclaimed nature writer Barry Lopez is one of the few who possess such skill. His fiction and nonfiction writings integrate interior and exterior landscapes by testing our ideas and ways of being, finding a way to connect them with the world we inhabit.

For Lopez, these connections take the form of story. The model Lopez offers in his essay “Landscape and Narrative” comes from the Brooks Range of Alaska. Sitting among a group of men in a remote village, he listened to their hunting stories, especially the ones involving wolverines. One tale in particular related how one of the scrappy “skunk bears” impressed a pursuing hunter, bowling the guy off his snowmobile and then giving him an uncanny look. The unhurt but thoroughly dislodged hunter just watched in amazement as the wolverine walked away. Talking from years of experience, these northerners were able to evoke something transcendent about their contact with the wild. As a writer, Lopez brings us there.

Sonny's Corner: Debating the Death Penalty - Again, Part Four: Epilogue

By Fran Kaye

Senators vote 26-23 to abolish death penalty
Governor promises veto

Oh, wait. We never saw that headline. Twenty-one senators voted against cloture, so LB 543, 2013’s bill to abolish the death penalty, never came to a vote. It used to be that filibusters were for bills that the governor supported, so there was no veto backstop for opponents. This time the filibusterers already knew, from an early test vote, that the veto would hold. The bill had no chance of becoming law, so perhaps it was just the evidence that the Nebraska legislature was ready to abolish the death penalty that the filibusterers sought to suppress. Headlines like the hopeful one above would give momentum to the nationwide revulsion against state-ordered killing. Sen. Ernie Chambers himself called for the cloture vote, the first time he’d ever made such a call in his long career. There had been 11 hours of vigorous debate, though both sides acknowledged that they did not expect to change each other’s opinion. Abolitionists recapitulated the arguments that had been made at the judicial committee hearing—that the death penalty does not deter; that it will result in the execution of innocent persons; that the swifter it is, the more room for error; that executions are not needed to immobilize dangerous persons; that the death penalty is both racially biased and capricious and arbitrary; that its complexity and cost overtax both the judicial and the penal systems; and that evolving standards of decency all over the world are inexorably moving toward its abolition. Furthermore, as they pointed out, given Nebraska’s lethal injection protocol and its inability to acquire legal quantities of the drug sodium thiopental, no execution could be carried out in Nebraska in the foreseeable future. Why have a law that can never be executed?

Immigration in Nebraska

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