Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Most Monday nights I work on newspaper related task, especially since the post office's early dispatch cut the time available to prepare the newspaper from three days to two.
This week was an exception. I snuck away for about an hour to do some much needed work in the garden. Looking at this week's schedule, Monday was the only opportunity. Tuesday night we now print the papers that once were printed on Wednesday so I knew I would never see the garden on Tuesday. Wednesday I expect company to arrive from Missouri. They will stay until Friday morning so Wednesday and Thursday were out. Friday evening I have to deliver Leader sections and hope to take pictures at Nelson. Saturday will be filled with covering Independence Day celebrations.
About 8 p.m I made a quick trip to a garden plot where I spaded, planted and mulched until dark. Apparently I never looked up.
As the sun set I returned home, took a shower and checked for email messages before returning to the office to finish some work I wanted out of the way before morning.
While reading those messages I learned smoke from wildfires in Canada was impacting this area.
Katelyn Duffy was the first to alert me to the smoke. She had posted on an internet picture site I like to monitor smoke hanging in the Republican River valley near Guide Rock. Soon I was seeing pictures of gorgeous sunsets and spectacular moons.
It is hard to believe I was outside and didn't take time to observe the evening's beauty.
As co-workers reported for work Tuesday morning, they were talking about how beautiful Monday evening was.
Probably good for the garden I didn't look up. Had I done so, I probably would have gone for a camera and the 12 plants I set out would have died without an opportunity to produce food for the editor's winter larder.
For those that may have missed seeing the effects of the smoke, I have shared some pictures on the newspaper's Facebook page.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

There hasn't been much going on with the Highway 136 construction project east of Red Cloud. My understanding is they are resurfacing from the edge of Red Cloud's brick-streeted business district (one block east of Highway 281) to six miles east of town. They did the remaining four miles to the Guide Rock corner last year.
There is a lot of heavy equipment sitting around, some in use, but a lot just sitting around. That usually indicates they are ramping up to begin working on a project in earnest. Several weeks ago, we began to see flaggers, but they weren't stopping vehicles and orchestrating one lane of traffic at a time; they were apparently there just to remind us to watch for the work going on near the highway and for the presence of a lot of trucks moving dirt.
Last week, the work area was completely devoid of activity, except for several teams of high-dollar engineers installing silt fence wherever higher-dollar engineers had drawn it on a blueprint. But other than that, like I said, not a lot going on. This week, I got the impression that's about to change.
Why? I saw the first delivery of porta-potties arrive at several work areas. In all my years of sitting in an idling vehicle while my trips were impeded by road construction, I learned that when the portable toilets arrive, the big crew is about to arrive as well. I don't imagine it takes a road crew foreman long to learn the portable toilets need to be delivered a half-day before all the workers get there, not a half-day after.
Also known as port-o-lets, tidy johns and porta johns (and porta-loos in the U.K.), they can be seen everywhere from the presidential inauguration venue to the Grand Canyon. In fact, the largest gathering of porta potties in history was on inauguration day in 2009, with more than 5,000 porta potties on hand.
The history of porta-potties began in the 1940s in the shipyards of Long Beach, Calif. Workers were losing valuable time because they had to walk all the way back to the docks to use the bathrooms. They decided to build temporary bathrooms on the ships, making their work go faster and the workers a little happier. The first units were wooden cabanas with small holding tanks underneath.
In the 1950s and 60s, event organizers and construction workers realized the benefits of portable bathrooms. A number of companies took this idea and built their own versions. The earliest were made from wood and metal; huge, heavy and smelly, but far superior to no bathroom at all.
In 1970s, fiberglass portable restrooms began replacing metal and wooden ones. Fiberglass was lighter and easier to clean. By the 1980s, plastic began replacing fiberglass as the preferred building material. Plastic is the lightest material and the easiest to construct and clean among other materials. Polyurethane is the most common plastic material used to build today's portable restrooms.
Also, companies have formulated chemicals to aid in biodegrading human waste and making the restrooms smell better. Companies that provide porta potties to job sites and events typically deliver portable restrooms to the site, maintain the cleanliness of the toilets and then remove them after the event.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Having grown up on a farm, I remember when the only Christmas tree we had in our home was a native cedar, taken from a county road right-of-way or a pasture. A tree of just the right height and width was selected to fit in the corner of our living room. I loved the smell of the freshly cut cedar tree, which was placed in a bucket of sand, awaiting my sister's and my decorating touch. Today, native cedar trees have taken on a whole new meaning for me.
Several cooler mornings last week, my husband and I took on the job of cutting native cedar trees from a pasture. This is not an easy job, but it needs to be done in order to keep the cedars from taking over the pastures. I had the clippers for cutting off the smallest cedars, which were hard to see in the lush and tall pasture grass. My husband had the job of operating the chain saw, taking down the larger cedars. Two years ago, all the cedar trees in this pasture were eliminated, but somehow more appeared since then and it was the right time to get them before they grew larger.
There is equipment to take care of this work faster and save labor, but so far we choose to do it manually. Walking the pastures is not an easy task as there are hillsides, draws, holes and brush to get through. There seems to be no end to the little cedar trees. One is clipped; another is spotted.
Native cedars are not all bad; farmers and ranchers have mixed feelings about them. If planted just right for a wind break, they provide protection for livestock and farmsteads from the cold north winds. These wind breaks help keep snow from blowing into livestock pens and onto driveways and road. Windbreak cedars are watered in the early years and the ground around the trees carefully mowed to keep the weeds in check. Yet, these same cedars are a menace in grasslands.
Native cedars have their place as old-fashioned Christmas trees or in a windbreak, but not in our pastures. Keep those clippers and saw blades sharp. Timber !

Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

During football season each year, there are many people who fill the role of armchair quarterback. An armchair quarterback is "a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertise or involvement." Nowadays it is not strictly football to which such an occupation is devoted. There are numerous people who freely share non-expert advice and opinions on any number of topics from relationships to parenting to home repair and improvement to politics, religion and so on.
As the Independence Day holiday approaches, a better name for my armchair quarterback activities would be, "Harbinger Hooper," described as a short, tightly wound, educated but self-made shark expert experiencing a bad case of personal deja vu or my personal interpretation of Richard Dreyfuss' character from the movie, "JAWS," Matt Hooper.
While most armchair quarterback activity is harmless, there are times when non-expert advice and opinions on matters one is not directly involved in can be unwelcome and hurtful. There are times when it is prudent to tend one's own grass before telling others how to grow theirs. My present armchair quarterback activity is not intended to be funny or harmful.
However, I am frustrated at what I see as quite clear in light of recent events along the North Carolina coast. And to quote Dreyfuss' character, Matt Hooper, "I think I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the "
Here are a few of my "non" qualifications for offering opinion or advice related to sharks.
As most of you may know I live in Nebraska and it is not near the ocean, but I once lived near the Cook Inlet at Tyonek, Alaska. I am also not an oceanographer and I do not have a degree in marine biology but I am in my senior year of college coursework for the completion of a degree in sociology, which has nothing to do with sharks ­­ at least not the known animal species of shark. I am not a shark expert and have no formal skills or education related to the study of sharks. But I've read a book or two, and I have seen the movie, "JAWS," more times than most people have changed their underwear in a lifetime.
Our home in Superior is 1,710 miles following an almost straight path to Eureka, Calif., on the coast of the Pacific Ocean to the west. An almost straight line in the opposite direction to the east, from Superior to Asbury Park, N.J., is 1,396 miles which sits along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Asbury Park is 57.2 miles north of Beach Haven, N.J., and 5.3 miles north of Spring Lake, N.J. Asbury Park is also 22.4 miles south of Matawan, near Keyport, N.J.
The significance of those three locations along the New Jersey coast is that in 1916, hot summer temperatures and the polio epidemic were the conditions under which Americans in the northeastern United States were encouraged to leave the hot cities for vacation, rest and convalescence at seaside resorts along the New Jersey coast as Americans indulged the newest pastime of swimming in the ocean. It was in the midst of these conditions that five shark attacks occurred between July 1 and July 12. Four of the attacks were fatal. Three of the attacks occurred in the unlikely waterway of Matawan Creek, 15 miles from the ocean.
Novelist Peter Benchley was inspired to write the book, "JAWS," not in relation to the 1916 attacks along the New Jersey coast, but rather in relation to a news story of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pound great white shark near Long Island in 1964. Peter Benchley's novel was the basis for director Steven Spielberg's movie by the same name, which was released into movie theaters on June 20, 1975. Despite no association, the book and movie "JAWS, minus the dramatics, bear an eerie resemblance to the shark attacks of 1916.
Eerier still is that 621 miles south of Asbury Park, N.J., and 1,416 miles from my residence in Superior, at Ocean Isle, N.C., on June 11 of this year, was the place and time of a shark attack resulting in minor injuries for a 13-year old girl, and the first of currently seven shark attacks along the North Carolina coast. On June 14, two shark attacks occurred, two miles and 20 minutes apart, in which a 12-year old girl and 16-year old boy lost parts of their arms. On June 24, at Surf City, N.C., an eight-year old boy suffered minor leg and foot injuries from a shark attack. On June 26, a 50-year old man was reportedly bitten three times by a shark at Avon, N.C., and on the same day at Hunting Island, N.C., a man was bitten on his foot while attempting to help others out of the water after another shark had been spotted. The most recent shark attack occurred on Saturday during which an 18-year old boy was reported to be critically injured while swimming in the Outer Banks, N.C.
Observation of various online news reports regarding the North Carolina shark attacks shows emphasis on the "rarity" of shark attacks in comparison to such incidents as dog attacks or lightning strikes. And one news article stated, "Experts say the increased attacks we're seeing aren't uncommon this time of year, because more people are in the water."
And this is where I begin yelling at the screen of my computer. In the United States, not including Hawaii, 1,104 shark attacks were recorded, 35 of which were fatal, between the years, 1580 and 2014. Shark researcher George Burgess reportedly predicted the incidence of shark attacks to reach record number this decade. Sure, shark attacks are rare, especially if you do not go into the ocean where shark attacks can occur in only waist deep water. But it doesn't take an oceanographer to figure out the North Carolina shark attacks might constitute a cluster related to a variety of unknown factors, which include increased human activity in the ocean waters, and a little more than "extra caution" might be a good idea. The likely culprit species involved in the North Carolina shark attacks, bull sharks, are not like pesky backyard mosquitoes to be swatted away, or inconvenient but often temporary blooms of toxic lake algae to be waited out.
To explain from the viewpoint of fictional shark expert, Matt Hooper, "What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, eran eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks and that's all."
If we consider dangerous land animals in North America, reports that, "Bison are agile and fast, capable of speeding across the land at speeds of 30 mph. Bison weigh up to 2,000 pounds. And in one 19-year period from 1980 to 1999, Bison injured more people than bears in Yellowstone National Park, charging a total of 79 people. And in 1983, a bison killed a visitor to Yellowstone."
Raise your hand if you would like to do your sun tanning this summer by plunking a lounge chair in the middle of a field of bison. If a group of children were playing softball at a community ball field, but your group also wanted to use the field, would you kick the other group out midgame or go find another field?
The ocean is not our playground. The ocean is home to an important variety of non-human residents, including sharks. The only thing a human is to a shark, regardless of age, race or gender, is food. And sharks are as important to our world as we are, perhaps more so. So let's respect, protect and use what good sense we might have left when it comes to our visitation and intrusion upon nature.