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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
After completing the printing of this week's Leader section, Rita and I had the privilege of delivering bundles of the printed copies to Geneva where they were to make connections and go to other printing plants for insertion into the newspapers published at Hebron, Sutton and Geneva. By the time this newspaper is delivered, subscribers of four other newspapers should also be getting their copies of the Leader. For some issues, time schedules or weather conditions dictate we drive the Leader straight to Geneva and return directly. This week, was different. We had time to mosey about in Clay Center. We took several pictures there that will probably appear in future issues of the Leader. Earlier we did the same thing in Hebron. With summer winding down, we are building a picture file to be used during the winter when it isn't so much fun to wander through the towns and countryside. We truly had fun Friday night. Our explorations led to opportunities to visit with local residents about the history of their communities. As we had not eaten supper before leaving Superior, our first stop in Geneva was at the supermarket where we planned to buy fruit for a snack. As Rita was paying for her purchases, a former Superior resident entered the store. For the next two hours the three of us stood outside the grocery store catching up. When we were back in Superior we found an email message from the friend we visited with in front of the grocery store.
Saturday morning I was able to slip away from the office and have the honor of representing this newspaper at the Pa Hur Celebration at Guide Rock.
At the celebration, a Guide Rock resident asked where Rita was. I commented somebody had to work and explained she had stayed in Superior to do just that. To which the person I was speaking to asked, "Aren't you working?"
In a sense I was but generally I don't consider covering events like Pa Hur Day to be work. I most always enjoy talking with the people, taking pictures and remembering past visits to the community.
I enjoyed seeing Guide Rock's spirit of cooperation and community pride. Particularly enjoyable were the youngsters playing in the park. The well behaved youngsters were playing with little adult supervision and getting along well.
For example, when I was watching the youngsters riding the merry-go-round, I was remembering the fun I had on a similar merry-go-round at Pleasant Valley School when I became aware of a sobbing youngster. My first thought was someone had been hurt. I watched as the merry-go-round slowed to a stop. The sobbing little girl was all smiles as the older youngsters made room for her on the merry-go-round.
When it was time for the noon meal, many of the youngsters protested the call. I heard them tell their parents, "I'm not hungry, I want to keep playing."
While a water slide was one of the planned activities, the youngsters were making their own.
When I was a youngster, we used waxed paper bread sacks to slick up the slipper slides. Since plastic replaced the waxed paper sacks, I have wondered what today's youngsters use to slick up a slide. This week I learned on a warm afternoon in Guide Rock they dump water on the slides. It may be a bit messy, but it was effective.
And I was impressed that Guide Rock has maintained an old fashioned pump. To fill their buckets, the youngsters had to pump the water. That provided lots of exercise and reduced the volume of water used. No one went off letting the water run and the system doesn't have to be drained for the winter season. More parks should have such an old-fashioned pump.
One little guy I guessed to about seven years old told me, "This pump is old, it was here before I was born." At first I laughed when thinking about his definition of old but then decided it is similar to mine. For my perspective an old automobile is one made before 1940. Earlier in the day I was disappointed when the Guide Rock parade didn't include old cars. I didn't snap a single picture of the "new cars from the 50s and 60s" but I heard younger people standing near me comment on the "beautiful cars" -apparently they were born after the cars were manufactured.
Later in the afternoon, Octavius Duffy, one of the youngsters playing in the park said the improvised water slide would have been better had they had a steam powered Archimedian screw pump. After being asked to explain what an Archimedian screw pump was, the youngster went into a lengthy description of how the pump invented in 200 B.C. worked. The pumps were often powered by a windmill or human labor but the young engineer explained how one could be powered by a steam engine.
After returning to Superior, I went to the internet hoping to learn more about an Archimedian Screw. To my surprise the design of the Archimedian Screw is similar to the grain auger I used 40 years ago to move mud from a car wash pit into a waiting trailer. Wish I had then known about the Archimedian Screw. If I had, when asked how I removed the mud, I would have said, "I use a modified Archimedian Screw." I believe that term sounds more sophisticated than did my answer of "I use a 4-inch grain auger."
As the youngsters began to play with water balloons, Reagan and Josie Rust, slid up beside me and Reagan said, "We have our jeans on, we don't want to get to wet."
After observing the filled water balloons they were carrying, I advised, "You are inviting trouble by carrying filled water balloons. Don't be surprised when you get wet."
Reagan replied, "We are going to stand close to you for protection. You have a camera, no one will throw at you."
Not long after that I experienced the refreshing feel of a water balloon bursting near my feet and splashing onto my pant legs. Reagan and Josie ran off for more balloons and were soon soaked as was Lori Smith, one of the adult supervisors of the water balloon game. I don't expect Reagan and Josie were unhappy about getting wet and I know Lori wasn't complaining. When I noted she had taken a direct hit she commented, "It was refreshing but I had better not leave my phone in my pocket." And I watched her run in search of a dry place for the phone.
Saturday afternoon the Pa-Hur committee planned to let the youngsters play on a commercially manufactured slip and slide. The commercial product popped and went flat before it was ever used.
Octavius found two patches in the slide's box and with confidence said, "I can fix it. But it is a water slide. That means it is wet and the patches must be affixed to a dry slide. If I had an extension cord and a hair dryer, I could use the generator that has been brought to the park for tonight's dance to dry the slide. But there is no need to do that. I just need a used tarp that someone no longer needs to cover their roof. With such a tarp I could make a Redneck water slide. Just spread the tarp out on the grass, mix liquid soap and water, have some kids slosh the mixture around on the tarp and we would have a slide."
Give that youngster another 20 years and he may change the world.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

It's move-in week for both daughters at their respective colleges. Kateri returns for her sophomore year at Peru State College; Molly begins her freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Kateri I believe will be living in the same dorm complex as last year, four girls to each two-bedroom suite. No kitchen, but she has a full meal plan at the splendid cafeteria. At UNO, Molly will share a four-bedroom suite with three other girls. Private bedrooms all around, two bathrooms and a full kitchen. She has opted to buy groceries and not have a meal plan this semester to see how it goes. If you are familiar with UNO, you know none of the dorms are very old, because not too many years ago, they had no dorms at all and were known strictly as a "suitcase" or "commuter" college. Now they have dorms at their main campus (Dodge Street), and also their new south campus, the former location of Ak-Sar-Ben, about 10 minutes south of the main campus.
Unlike my dorm at Peru State College (before I lived in the fraternity house) ­­ Delzell Hall, affectionately called "the zoo." Among the oldest buildings on the oldest college campus this side of the Missouri River. In two years, I managed to live on three of the four floors. I couldn't ever get a room in the basement; I believe the basement rooms were highly coveted for their proximity to the vending machines and laundry room, and the ease in which girls could be snuck in or out after midnight lock-down.
Both girls have a great support network. Kathy and I have several good friends from college living in nearby Auburn for Kateri, if she needs anything more quickly than we can get there. And Molly has more aunts, uncles and cousins than you can shake a stick at in Omaha, and even her Grandpa Bob lives in virtually the same part of town as UNO.
By the time you read this, we will be in the process of moving Molly in at UNO. We will drop her off the day before her 18th birthday. I know this because one day last week, Kathy came up to me in the dining room, told me that very thing and began to wail. On Sunday, we take Kateri back to Peru.
Then we will have only each other. We haven't had that for a long time. I hope she still likes me.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

It is encouraging to see new things happening in rural towns in this area. New ideas, new projects and forward thinking call for positive action from volunteers who are willing to help physically. Sometimes, volunteers even have to dig into their own pockets to make it happen. It is a sign these community are moving forward and are not ready to give up. They want to see their communities survive and thrive.
Some natives return from their homes far away and look at their hometown areas in a negative light, saying it sure doesn't look like it used to. No, it may not. Rural communities are lacking in population. Once, farmers and their families resided on every 80 acres, now it's every 200 to 500 acres, or more. Lack of population means lack of businesses and public gathering places. Lack of population can mean lack of attendance in churches, causing some to close. Those who choose to remain in our rural communities need positive ideas to keep their towns alive and not keep looking back to what it once was. The past will never come back, except in our minds, museums and local historical societies. We need to think about what will work at the present time. Maybe it's cleaning up a neglected lot or adding a coat of paint to an empty main street building. We shouldn't wait until someone else does these things or comes up with ideas. The time is now! As Uncle Sam once said, "We need you!"
Recently, some positive thinkers and volunteers have been busy adding improvements to their communities. They rolled up their sleeves and stepped forward to make certain projects a reality. There are local garden club members and other volunteers who plant flowers in pots and flower beds in public areas; volunteers who plan and carry out local events that bring business and people back into the community; those who work hard at filling out paper after paper applying for grants to make a project come true; those who spray and pull weeds between the grooves of the town's sidewalks and abandoned lots; those who mow abandoned lawns; those who when they saw a project started they carried it through. Positive volunteers working together is what it takes.
Recent projects in the works or that have been completed are bringing new businesses into towns, such as in Mankato where a new Dollar General store is being constructed, a new apartment building is now open and a few years ago the business called Possibilities came into being, along with the reopening of Sweden Creme. In Jewell there is now a grocery store that has added an eating area to benefit the community. In Esbon the community came together to construct a community center in what was once the fire hall. A few years ago they built a new fire station.
In my hometown of Burr Oak, a few years ago, volunteers and the city council decided a new community center was needed, so a former school shop building was transformed into the building where community events are now held. Last year, the Burr Oak Community Library board faced a hard decision on where to relocate the library. First, existing buildings were checked out, but the goals were set high, and with volunteers who planned and carried out the project, a new large library is now in place that will provide ample room for the community's needs.
Sometimes progress may cause an older structure to be removed, and even though the structure once served the community well, it has become an eye sore. Such as the case in Burr Oak when the new library building was being constructed, just a few yards away was an abandoned building that had once been used as a senior center and community center. Years before that is was the Burr Oak School's lunch room building. Even further back, the building was constructed during the 1930s, the Dirty Thirties, as a VCCC barrack.
The long, wooden structure once was positioned in a draw on the southwest edge of Burr Oak, an area that later became Burr Oak's park, but the park was later moved to its present location. It was in this area on the southwest edge of town, the Burr Oak VCCC camp was established in September 1934. It remained in use until Nov. 30, 1936, providing much needed jobs for veterans who could not find work. A paying job was found there, carrying out conservation projects along White Rock Creek, which was near the camp. When the camp was disbanded, the barrack building was moved next to the limestone school house. The school attendance had grown and the high school building was then on the west side of town, so the high school students would walk to this lunch room building to join the other students from the limestone schoolhouse at lunch time.
As is often said, if the walls of this building could talk. When the newer and larger school building was constructed on the town's main street, the lunch building continued to be used by the grade school children, but when the limestone schoolhouse was closed and students were moved to the grade school addition at the junior-senior high school, the building was no longer needed by the school district.
More recently, the city council decided the old lunch room building was a safety hazard as it had been abandoned for several years. It wasn't until the new library building was built close by that volunteers once again came together, along with the city's help, and it was finally torn down. For some it was hard to see this old building gone, but it certainly made an improvement to the appearance of the lot where the library building is. It also removed a safety hazard.
Progress is sometimes hard to accept for some when an old, well-known building is being torn down, making way for something better for the community, but it is much better than seeing the old structure falling down because of neglect. If the abandoned building can be revived and used again, it is wonderful! If someone with a view for improvement is willing to step up and do the work, but that doesn't often happen.
Rural residents are trying to keep their towns and businesses moving forward, but it takes those positive volunteers to make it happen.