Matador, Texas is a town on borrowed time. If you're not from there or one of the few similarly sinking small towns scattered across the Great Plains region, you would almost definitely not know that it exists. Its population has fallen from 740 to just 607 in 10 years according to a 2010 census. Of course, it wasn't always that way. A true Texas round-up of links to celebrate the Matador that was and still is before it is gone. [more inside]
The Nonpareil of Council Bluffs has a new editor who says uncomplimentary and fairly humorous things about the 'new woman' — which show him to be an 'old man.’Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1862-1935) was an incredibly prolific journalist, novelist, playwright, poet, and short story writer during a time of great American change. Dr. Susanne George Bloomfield of the University of Nebraska (supported by the The Plains Humanities Alliance) has gathered a wide sampling of her work in this digital archive, adding context and historical reference to the original works. [more inside]
I think it is high time that MeFites meet Michael Forsberg, a Lincoln, Nebraska based Conservation Photographer who works primarily in the Great Plains of North America, once one of the greatest grassland ecosystems on Earth. (His bio.) His goal has been to try to capture the wild spirit that still survives in these wide-open spaces and put a face to the often overlooked native creatures and landscapes found there. His hope is that the images can build appreciation and go to work to inspire conservation efforts on the land far into the future. Here is a great 48 minute presentation that Michael gave at the California Academy of Sciences after completing his most recent book simply entitled "Great Plains". In the video he unselfishly shares not just his photographic images but also his equipment and techniques. [more inside]
The American Great Plains rival the Serengeti, according to National Geographic, but unlike in apparently more progressive Africa, the USA never protected the plains on a large scale. Now private interests under the The American Prairie Foundation are buying up land in Montana hoping to create a multi-million acre preserve that would be the largest privately funded conservation land venture on the planet, bigger than Yellowstone National Park, that one day may see the return of great migrating herds of bison, pronghorn antelope, deer and elk. Not all Montana ranchers are happy with the new Serengeti neighbor.
"The Cheyenne River Reservation located in the State of South Dakota, homeland of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is currently facing an emergency situation due to an ice storm that crippled the electrical and water infrastructure. Though the ice storm has passed, the water and power system remains challenged and several Reservation communities have been without power for over ten (10) days. Moreover, a bitterly cold weather system is expected to come in by Sunday evening." [more inside]
Faded Dreams, Emptied in Emmons County and Memories in McIntosh County. Three flickr photo sets of (mostly) abandoned, crumbling farms, businesses and homes in rural North Dakota. [previously] [via]
The Willa Cather Archive is an incredible resource provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including biographies, letters, photos, and even full (often annotated) text of much of her writing, including scholarly editions of two of her greatest (and most famous) works, My Antonia and O Pioneers. About the archive.
"The Emptied Prairie," a National Geographic article on North Dakota's ghost towns and the decline of the Great Plains. Typically amazing National Geographic photos here. Reminds me of a similar series that ran in the New York Times several years ago, which included this fascinating article by Timothy Egan.
The Nebraska Sandhills [wiki] make up the largest vegetated sand dune in the Western Hemisphere-- almost 20,000 square miles of rolling dunes covered with prairie grass. The region is sparsely populated-- dotted with tiny towns, and contains the only man-made National Forest in the US and one of the best golf courses in the world. All told, the area's pretty damn photogenic. Just ask NASA.
"Jim has speculated in past writings as to what creature might be named the official animal of the Great Plains. Here’s a more palatable question: what food might we designate most representative of life on the plains? I nominate the bierock, or as I sometimes call it, the German-Russian answer to the burrito. The bierock is a piece of sweet dough wrapped around a filling of cabbage, onions and beef (or whatever else you want to stuff into it) and baked. The bierock is a characteristic food of Germans from Russia on the southern plains from Texas to Kansas. Germans from Russia in the states from Nebraska north consume the same item, but they call it a runsa." Text excerpted from Plains Folk. II: Romance of the Landscape.
Nebraska's small towns. Some of the smaller ones actually have a lot going on. Some of the (slightly) larger ones, maybe not so much. But no matter how small they are, they do all have bars. Even the two smallest.
Lie Down for America, by Thomas Frank. "'How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?' she asked. How could so many people get it so wrong?"
Adopt A Bison. There are several handsome candidates for adoption at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. Elsewhere, the 51 tribes of the InterTribal Bison Cooperative seek to restore the tatanka to their lands and way of life. And in North Dakota, the falling human population is creating more room for the bison to return to. Perhaps the time is right to restore the Great Plains.