March 2014

Notice:

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).

‘Agrippina’: An Operatic Tale of Cunning, Deceit and the Lust for Control

Web Exclusive - Available only at Prairie Fire.

By Ron Azoulay

“Agrippina” begins with stillness. Someone is in a very large bed, wrapped in a sheet. The room is tranquil, everything is in order and the marble floor radiates coolness, heat and Italy. The baroque music begins, and slowly the moment breaks when you realize that there is more than one person in the bed.

The next two hours are a lusciously seductive tale of cunning, deceit and sexual power. The opera reminds the viewer that reckless ambitions, the lust for control and the inevitable loss of innocence are, and have always been, recipes for gripping tales.

Book Review: "The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning" by Julene Bair

Review by Carolyn Johnsen

Title: “The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning”
Author: Julene Bair
Publisher: Viking

In “Ogallala Road,” Julene Bair asks herself if “The Kansas farm girl who, with all her worldly experience, had never quite left home” could love anyone from Kansas. The answer to that question and her affection for water form the foundation of the book.

The Allure of Cranes

Sandhill cranes near the Platte River. (Paul A. Johnsgard)

By Paul A. Johnsgard

As a child growing up in a tiny North Dakota village, there were few ways to escape the confines of that whistle-stop hamlet. One was to walk the railroad track that went north toward Fargo, where I was born, and south toward places that were completely unknown to me. Walking these tracks allowed me to find wildflowers growing among the prairie grasses along the railroad right-of-way and see birds like red-winged blackbirds, as well as then-unidentifiable and still unidentified sparrows lurking in the tall ragweeds growing along the tracks.

Another escape consisted of watching the wavering formations of migrating white geese that every April flew over our house in countless numbers, headed for destinations that were far beyond my ken, both geographically and ecologically. Eventually I learned the birds were snow geese, headed for the tundras of the high Canadian arctic. However, nearly three decades would pass before I was able first to set foot on that tundra and could wander ecstatically about a colony of nesting snow geese that stretched widely along the high-tide line of the vast Hudson Bay lowlands.

Drought in the Great Plains: Symposium Examines Drought in the Great Plains Landscape and Culture

By Donald Wilhite and Mike Hayes

Drought in the summer of 2012 filled newspapers across the country with maps splashed with yellows, oranges and deep reds indicative of parched lands and cracked earth. Drought had hit the country hard—temperatures soared, crops wilted, water use restricted. Then it happened again the next year.

Though drought may wreak havoc on our lives, it is actually a recurring pattern and defining feature of the North American Great Plains, the wider U.S. and the Canadian Prairie Provinces. So much so, that early maps referred to this region as the Great American Desert. The drought of the 1890s and, in particular, the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s greatly influenced the settlement and cultural history of the region. The Dust Bowl years significantly impacted the physical landscape, and its memory seems forever etched in the minds of Americans. More contemporary droughts repeatedly remind us of our continuing vulnerability to this natural hazard as drought conditions often affect large portions of the region, extending from the southern reaches of Texas and New Mexico to the Prairie Provinces of western Canada.

Harlan County's Pelican Watch: A Case of Economic Development through Birding

By Dave Titterington

When one thinks about bird-watching in Nebraska, what comes to mind is the ever-alluring pilgrimage by tens of thousands of people to witness the migration of the sandhill cranes through the Platte River Valley. Unprecedented in its scope is the hundreds of thousands of cranes congregating on a 65-mile stretch of the river, attracting visitors from across the country and around the world.

Founded by Gardeners: The Place of Plants in the Vision of America's Founding Fathers

By Jim Locklear

They have been called the Founding Fathers—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison. They were leaders of the American Revolution, statesman, diplomats, big thinkers; signers of the Declaration of Independence; framers of the Constitution; each would become president of the United States of America.

And they were gardeners.

Birding in and around Peru, Neb.: Fields, Water, Hills and Woods, Part One

By Bill Clemente

On the way to Peru State College the other morning—-where I have worked as an English professor for the past 21 years—I encountered on my dirt road drive though the bottom lands north of Peru impressive flocks of both tree sparrows and then horned larks. Preserving energy on these harsh February winter mornings, the birds lingered on the roads until just before my car reached them before they exploded into the air and swirled until my intrusion passed. The many meadow larks behave in a similar manner.

What Makes Mormon Island So Special? Time-lapse Photo Study of Sandhill Cranes Has New Answers

By Greg Wright and Jeff Oates

During spring, when hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes are concentrated along the Platte River, most people typically observe the cranes in agricultural fields or in flight between fields and the open river channel, where the birds rest in safety at night. Importantly, the cranes are also using native grasslands along the Platte River, which today are among the rarest of habitats in Nebraska, preserved in places like Mormon Island in south-central Nebraska. This rare expanse of continuous tallgrass prairie is home to the largest parcel of wet meadow habitat on the Platte River. Rich in diversity and abundant in wildlife, Mormon Island is a reminder of habitat lost—and a living monument to one of region’s great conservation success stories.

Immigration in Nebraska

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