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

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
While I was in grade school, Aunt Viola sensed the importance of science and encouraged my interest in the subject. She didn't have a lot of means and I never knew her to have a driver's license but she believed one could do what they set their mind to do. Today I marvel at the presents she bought for me in downtown Lincoln, probably at the Miller & Paine or Gold's department stores, and toted home on the bus. The bus stop was more than two blocks from her house, a big two-story structure she divided into apartments. Don't believe I was ever there when she didn't have a remodeling project underway. She didn't hesitate to close a doorway and open a new one. She lived in that house long enough that I saw at least one doorway closed and then reopened.
She wanted me to learn about science and saw to it that I received gifts like a microscope, chemistry set, photo processing set and a crystal radio.
As a youngster, I didn't appreciate all the gifts. I had trouble seeing anything of interest under the microscope. I was disappointed the chemistry set didn't let me make a big firecracker or aerial bomb shell, I let the photography set sit unused until I was tapped to become the Superior High School journalism department's photographer and at first the crystal radio didn't work.
I was pleased to get the radio kit and didn't waste any time putting it together but it didn't work. Couldn't receive a single thing. I retraced my work and asked for my father's assistance. We couldn't see why the set didn't work. Later kit building demonstrated how simple the crystal set was.
And then KRFS signed on. When country school dismissed for day I left the school house and found an older brother of one my classmates sitting in his old car listening to the new radio station. I was among the students who crowded around to hear the broadcast. I suspect we were as excited as our parents were when they heard their first radio broadcast.
I rushed home, found the crystal radio and tuned in KRFS. That day confirmed I had put my first radio kit together correctly, All it needed to work was a strong signal.
I haven't kept many of my toys, but I still have that crystal radio. Unlike modern toys, it doesn't need batteries to run.
I've been fascinated with electronics ever since. In 1970 this newspaper was among the first to install a phototypesetting computer. That computer is now on display in the Nuckolls County Museum. In 1983 I purchased a Kaypro computer and used it to send input commands directly into the 1970 vintage typesetter. Previously feed the commands via punched tape. Two years later, I bought the first laser printer sold by a Nebraska computer dealer west of Lincoln and this newspaper began using a Macintosh computer to set type. Other newspaper publishers came from as far away as South Dakota to see what The Express was doing.
When the internet was introduced, I asked a local telephone company manager when the company would provide internet service in Superior. His answer was "Never!" A similar question posed to the cable television provider was nearly as discouraging. I didn't like that and so I began trying to build local interest by arranging for programs at Superior High School promoting the use of the internet.
This newspaper wasn't the first in Nebraska to have a web page but it was among the first.
Since then I've wondered if our internet postings are worth the trouble and have considered abandoning the effort.
But events in recent days are making me think more positively about the effort.
Last Wednesday, Rita and I had to be away from the newspaper office and the staff member who is responsible for the Cyber Express portion of our internet offering was on vacation. Before learning we had to be out of town most of the day, Rita, with a little encouragement from me, had planned to update the Cyber Express.
In the 46 years I've worked at The Express, this was only the fifth time I've missed being at work on a Wednesday.
Many regular readers were unhappy when the Cyber Express wasn't uploaded until Friday afternoon. The first complaints were received Wednesday afternoon. Callers reported the Cyber Express was stuck on Oct. 13 and asked how to unstick their computer so they could get the Oct. 20 issue.
One person said not having the latest version of the Cyber Express online was costing her money. Without the internet version, her advertising wasn't drawing the usual number of responses.
Among the email messages received were these two which are typical of the many;
"Even though we subscribe to the paper, I always look for it first on line, I usually check on it on Wednesday evening."
"We do take the paper but it arrives about a week after it's printed. My first thing on Wednesday is to check to see if it's posted online! If it isn't, I check later in the day! Really missed it this week but checking back today it was there! Thanks for all that you do to get it out for us. It's like a letter from home." (Apache Junction, Ariz.)
Another writer indicated having seen me in Belvidere taking pictures of the Union Pacific's 844 steam locomotive and expecting to see pictures of the train posted on our website she had anxiously waited until Wednesday only to find the prior week's edition.
A video of the train posted on this newspaper's social media site has been viewed nearly 4,500 times. Before coming to work Tuesday morning, I combined several video clips into one and have a 13 minute video of the events in Belvidere playing on our website at For the benefit of local railfans, plans are to post a slide show and more video of old 844. The Union Pacific's ABC line clips northeastern Nuckolls County and serves a big elevator located in the tiny Nuckolls County town of Sedan.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Sunday was my wife's birthday. We celebrated in the way we typically do for each other's birthdays ­­ by not really celebrating at all. We enjoyed a quiet day together, doing nothing but watching movies and working on the dining room a little. It's the first room in the 1887 house that we're tackling ­­ repairing plaster, painting, removing carpeting and installing new window treatments. Sunday's task was sanding plaster that had been applied Saturday evening.
Instead of a birthday cake, she made our favorite lemon bars, which we ate with a dollop of chocolate ice cream. I had made a meatloaf for dinner on Saturday, so Kathy made potatoes and gravy and we fashioned the leftovers into hot meatloaf sandwiches.
One of the girls called Saturday night to wish her a happy birthday; the other called Sunday morning. When the day was almost over, she posted on Facebook that her birthday had been nearly perfect, so I guess nothing was seriously lacking.
This weekend, we have little planned except working on the house, but the following weekend is the Outlaw Film Festival in St. Joe. Last year, in addition to the film festival, we took in two of the town's many museums ­­ the Pony Express Museum and the Jesse James Home. I think we have our festival schedule worked out so we can visit two more museums this year ­­ the Patee House Museum and the Glore Psychiatric Museum. The latter is one we wanted to visit last year, but we ran out of time. Not only is it listed as one of the nation's most interesting "niche" museums, it is also listed as one of Missouri's "most haunted" locations.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Being a farm daughter, wife and mother has influenced my cooking and baking methods through the years. Our mother loved to do outdoor duties on the farm, so she depended on her three girls to learn and carry out the kitchen duties. Don't get me wrong; mother was a good cook, but it was not her favorite thing to do. Her cooking and baking recipes were simply to throw in a little of this and a lot of that into the mixing bowl, but her results were always good. Her family could always count on her Sunday, after church meals, that would include most of what her family loved to eat. Years later, seeking family recipes and checking out her recipe drawer, we learned the drawer was not very full. Her recipes were all in her head.
Most of what I learned in the line of cooking and baking was from home economics class in high school and from other good cooks I knew, including my grandmothers and aunts. My home economics teacher, Mrs. Hafner, was a great teacher and I learned a lot from her. I must say, though, most of my culinary success came from "trial and error."
My mother-in-law was a good farm and family cook as she had seven children to feed, along with a couple of hired men during the summer months. She was like Mom, a throw-together cook and baker, but what she made was always delicious. I enjoyed helping her in the kitchen and it was really something when the children and crew came together to eat around the huge dinner table.
As a newlywed, my cooking skills were often tested. I remember when I proudly served my first homemade biscuits. I noticed my husband had a little trouble biting and chewing them. In fact, we both began to laugh as we tried to somehow eat them. Finally, my husband playfully threw a biscuit against the wall. It actually bounced! I knew it was a flop and we would joke about it years later.
Being a farm wife, you have to learn that a larger than normal meal needs to be prepared because you never knew when an extra guest or two may show up. The extra guest could be a neighbor stopping by to aid in loading cattle, or the mechanic called out to work on a truck and happened to be there during the noon hour. A farm wife learns that meals probably won't be served on schedule during the busy farming months. A trip into town to have a tire fixed may cause a delay in the meal or trying to finish the field work in a certain field may cause a meal to be reheated. Thankfully, microwaves were invented. A farm wife cook has to be flexable with the meals. A phone call may cause the meal to be transported to the field, or maybe even be put in storage until tomorrow. There is no need to get upset about it because that's just the way it is on the farm.
Having two boys also increased the meal planning and prep work. Their appetite increased as they grew. What once only included food prepared for two adults and two small boys tripled as they reached their teen years. I enjoyed cooking for my three guys. During the spring and summer months when the boys would help their father with the farm work, the meals were either a "take and go" or served in shifts. Leftovers worked well and so the recipes were increased once again.
Now because our children left home years ago and I am down to fixing meals for two, this farm wife finds it hard to adjust. I end up still making meals large enough to serve four or five, but thankfully my husband never complains about having left overs. I look at my full pan of chili soup, or mac and cheese and wonder why I fixed enough for a "threshing crew," as the old saying goes. It's hard to break old habits.
Farm wife cooks of long ago devoted a good part of the day to cooking and baking. No fancy recipes were served and most meals included the basics; meat, homemade bread and butter, potatoes and a garden grown vegetable. Those cooks did not have the food network to pick up on the latest recipes and quick tips. They had everything handy on the farm in order to prepare the meals. They had chickens that laid the eggs and the chickens could be butchered on the spot. They had a milk cow that furnished milk, cream, and with a little manual labor could provide the butter. Hogs and beef from the farm provided tasty meats. Gardens provided the vegetables. The farm cooks of years ago whipped up their meals, went out and rang the dinner bell and had everything on the table waiting for the farmers to arrive. Farm wife cooks of today have it easier than those in years past.
Still, farm meals are a time for the family to gather together. Eating together and sharing in the conversation is important. It is a time to find out each other's thoughts on how the tractor worked that day or how the cattle checked out when the pastures were visited that morning. If the farm wife has to make a trip into town for more groceries, maybe more equipment parts are needed and so she needs to make another stop.
Being a farm wife cook will earn no cooking awards, but just hearing a son and husband compliment the meal is reward enough. Happy cooking!