June 2014


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).

The War that Did Not End All Wars

National World War I Memorial Museum Entrance, Kansas City, Missouri. (Charvex)

By Mark Gudgel

In the small, isolated hamlet of the Great Plains where, if I did not grow up, at least I spent my boyhood, a place where the nearby cattle significantly outnumber the people still today and little but the changing of the seasons occurs to mark the passage of time, there was seldom anything grand or calamitous that might serve to strike awe into a youngster like myself. My friends and I would swim in the public pool or take laps around the town on our ten-speeds in the summertime, casually fish the creeks and ponds year-round, and in winter sled the mighty bluffs adorned in all varietals of yucca and cacti, but by and large there was nothing daunting, nothing sensational, and little to make any real impression upon me in my youth; aside from the occasional death in the family or vacation to California, mine was in many ways a forgettable childhood. One great exception was the omnipresence of an immense granite monument sitting just outside the courthouse, utterly massive to an undersized boy, and with a warrior atop it. The soldier, forest green from head to toe, not unlike my plastic army men, sported knee-high boots, held a rifle in one hand, and had the other raised bravely as a fist, charging forward with a curious, saucer-like helmet on his head and a gallant, stoic expression forever worn upon his face. At least, that’s how my seven-year-old self remembers him, the soldier of my youth, the only soldier I can recall ever having met until I left for university. Thus, as a child, I was introduced and reintroduced unceremoniously to the Great War whenever I stopped my bike in front of his monument to marvel. He made me want to be a soldier myself, though I knew better even then to think I was made of the stuff of warriors. This soldier was impressive, and sometimes I would even try to invent for him a story in my mind, but I knew nothing of war, even less about his war; it was difficult for a little boy growing up in a tiny town in Nebraska to imagine how something that happened so long ago and so far away could matter very much to me.

The year 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, the First World War, or whatever else we might like to call it. As human beings, we celebrate anniversaries, often for no other reason than that they have predictably and yet again arrived. Birthdays are a great example of this, wedding anniversaries another. We delight in the inevitable, or at least the predictable; oh, but how we love a celebration! And what better to celebrate, what more important to remember, than the eve of the event that would forever, irreparably alter our world—before fading bleakly into the annals of history, damned to obscurity by the black-and-white photography of the time, the death of those who lived it, and the subsequent emergence of still sexier villains, greater crimes, and the notoriously and increasingly finite attention span of the American populace. Indeed, it would seem that the event that shaped the last hundred years has been relegated to that of a supporting role in many texts and minds alike. However, as the centenary fast approaches, even we the people may pause to consider, perhaps for a final time, the war that did not end all wars.

Prairie Plate: A Sustainable Restaurant

By Sara Sawatski

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the doors of Prairie Plate Restaurant, Waverly’s new farm-to-table restaurant, was the way the light inhabited the room, drawing you to the lake view that lay just beyond the windows.

Renee Cornett, head chef and owner of Prairie Plate, greets me at the door and begins to dive into the history of the land. She and her husband, Jerry Cornett, run Lakehouse Farm, a certified organic farm situated roughly fifty yards from the front door of the restaurant. After they started their farm in 2011, they began renovations on the house down by the lake for the restaurant that would eventually open its doors on April 2, 2014.


Unpublished Journal
April 11, 1992

Yesterday the afternoon temperature peaked at eighty degrees, and every person I met on Main Street appeared happy. Even I had to search diligently to find a growly complaint. Today I am happily complaining. The wind is out of the cold Canada north, and temperature is forty degrees; sky is cloudy, and the outlook drear. There will be things that go “clunk” in the night before April 12 dawns. I feel that in my bones. I discovered there is truth in the sayings of the elderly that they can feel a change in the weather. It is caused by atmospheric pressure.

Help for Family Members of People with Addiction

By Kelly Madigan

For the last few days, I have been remotely keeping vigil with a family as their son is being cared for in an intensive care unit in Minnesota. Watching from afar, my heart goes out to them over and over again each day. The details are not clear to me, but what has been shared is that he came home after a night of excessive drinking and was later found unresponsive. His mom, a medical professional, did CPR until the paramedics arrived. I could have been that kid, and those parents might have been mine, sitting at the bedside, talking to neurologists, making tough choices.

Thinking Like a Watershed An Ecosystem Approach to Preserving the Platte River

By Brian “Fox” Ellis

Please, I invite you to contemplate an entangled stream bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, there are birds singing on the bushes, a multitude of insects flitting about, worms crawling through the damp earth, and this river cuts through layers of fossil plants and ancient sea beds… reflect with me on these elaborately constructed forms, all have been produced by the laws of nature acting around us… There is a grandeur in this view of life, Power breathed into a few forms or maybe just one, and while this planet has gone on cycling according to the fixed laws of gravity, From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are still being evolved. —Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

There is grandeur and power in this view of life, this rich and tangible sense of connection, this awareness that the natural world in all of its diversity is brimmingly filled with beauty.

So, borrowing a prompt from Darwin, I invite you to imagine a maze of rivers, a map of North America with its rich tapestry of ecosystems still intact.

If you could draw a 310-mile line anywhere in North America with the goal of connecting as many ecosystems as possible, where would you draw that line?

Tree Advice from a Tangled Bank

By Jack Phillips

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing in the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.” —Charles Darwin

Many blessings come to a professional tree hugger. My work has taken me to cities in the Prairie Provinces where I was quite taken by the native flora. The Canadian prairie might appear harsh and colorless in the minds of many, but I found the region to be rich in gorgeous native plants—including a diversity of trees and shrubs. The length of days and seasons, as well as the floristic influence of the boreal forest just to the north, give the shortgrass prairie a distinctively Canadian character. But the landscape felt familiar to a Nebraskan.

Walking in the Footsteps of Loren Eiseley: Scientific Discoveries in Western Nebraska

By Brandon Nelson

Loren Eiseley contributed to the scientific discoveries in western Nebraska like no other. From the years he spent digging for traces of the past in the Panhandle’s unforgiving expanses to the graceful recounting of his findings through the use of his inimitable writing and poetry styles, the Lincoln, Nebraska-born bone hunter and naturalist helped to place western Nebraska on the paleontological map.

Wildflowers Celebrated Statewide in Early June

By Karma Larson

For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to see a pasqueflower is a right as inalienable as free speech. — Aldo Leopold

Wildflowers are an important part of any region’s identity. Nebraska Wildflower Week celebrates this “sense of place” through wildflower-related events and activities the first week in June, when many of Nebraska’s prairies and gardens are at their prime.

Sonny's Corner: A Fire in Our Bones: Speaking for Justice in the Lincoln Diocese

By Rachel Pokora

But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in: Indeed I cannot.
—Jeremiah 20: 9

I became a feminist when I was ten years old. I was in fifth grade at St. Jude Catholic School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and one of the parish priests gave a presentation persuading the boys to become altar servers. He was more successful than intended; after he spoke, I wanted to be a server. I asked my teacher why girls couldn’t be altar servers, and she said, “Monsignor Brophy would never allow it.” I was ten, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew that wasn’t a real reason.

When I went home that day, I told my parents what happened, and my dad said, “Why don’t you start a petition? We could bring it to the bishop.” I remember liking that idea, although ten-year-old me never followed through.

Immigration in Nebraska

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