Posts Tagged high plains

These boots are made for fencing

bent boot

Years ago I read a book called Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise?: An Imponderables Book (Imponderables Books). One of the questions was, “Why do ranchers cover their fence posts with boots?”

I’ve seen this practice many times and have read three general reasons. The first makes the most sense. If someone was lost, the boots would show that someone lived nearby. The lost person could follow the boots to a dwelling. Some cover fence posts with boots to protect posts from weather. Some say it’s just tradition.

I like tradition. Long may it live!

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I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day

sunshine on the gate

Sometime ago, I found this antique harrow wheel (or at least that’s what I think it is). I knew I wanted it for yard art, but didn’t know quite how to use it. I thought of making a sunflower out of it.

Welded sunflower

I’d seen several before, but I don’t know how to weld. Paying someone else to make something for me didn’t seem fun at all.

Metal sun on a fence

Finally, I envisioned what it should be — a Sun. We had a gate in the garden that had come from the farmstead where Hubby grew up. It was supposed to provide a place for vining plants to climb, although that didn’t work so well last year.

metal sun wired to gate

I brought bright yellow spray paint for metal and painted it shortly before we put it away for winter. When we got it out of storage this spring, I wired it to the gate, using 100-lb. picture hanging wire. The winds around here require as much strength as I can get.
Today’s weather is overcast with occasional light rain or drizzle. When I came home from work, I saw that bright Sun in our yard. I enjoy a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day!

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Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge

I’ve seen references to Big Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, Paxton, Neb., and I’d seen their I-80 sign many times. Every time I passed their Interstate 80 sign, I’d think, “Someday I’m going to that restaurant.” I’d always been curious what the place was like, so persuaded Hubby to stop. Now I know.

I don’t have a picture of the I-80 sign because we were heading home from North Platte on Highway 30. Steakhouse is about a block south of Highway 30.

Food was standard meat-and-potatoes restaurant food. The animals make it famous. The variety of them is simply jaw-dropping. Ole bagged all but one of the Big Five, rhinoceros the lone exception. Rhino’s absence is hardly noticeable because so many other animals are represented.

Look for the baboon at my video’s end. He was our favorite.

For more on Ole’s, see the first part of this video:

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In the haze

hazy wheat field

harvest dust

I enjoy taking wheat harvest photos. Every year brings something different. This year, Chelli invited me to shoot harvest action. Conditions were ideal for some unique shots. The sun was setting and the air was filled with dust, making for some wonderful effects.

The High Plains are known for ferocious winds, but often those winds disappear completely about harvest time. Such was the case July 16. The air was absolutely still and nothing dissipated the dust haze. Looking at the scene was eerie.

I made sure to stay away from unharvested wheat. With such poor visibility, I feared that a combine or grain cart would suddenly appear out of the haze, a scenario I wished to avoid.

Haze in the draw

As I walked into the field, the dust cloud grew thicker, especially when the terrain dipped into a depression.

Dust in the air

I was amazed at how beautiful the dust cloud was. Who knew? Beauty is sometimes found in odd places.

Note: I had some issues on my web site when I sent up my last post. Because of them, the pictures failed to upload. If you subscribe (thank you, thank you!), the email version lacked the pictures. Problems are all fixed now and the pictures are where they belong. If you want to see the post as I intended it to be, please go here.

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I’m baaaaaaack!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, your not-so-faithful blogger has shown up again. I went to work for the Census April 23, while I was still in school. Between sub days and enumerating, May was very busy. I was sent to Dodge City in June, then came home to work on the Ultimate Guide to Northwest Kansas for the Northwest Kansas Travel Council. (A link on the right side of that page enables you to request one. An online version should be available, but I don’t have that information yet.)

I worked frantically on that publication until the Census called me back July 8, finishing as much as I could before my work time would be in snatches. Between the Census and Ultimate Guide, I have had almost no time to do anything. Every project I had in mind for this summer has been postponed until who knows when.

Donna and I went to Denver Monday and Tuesday to pick up the Ultimate Guide. I’ve been designing the publication since 2001 and Publication Printers was the most pleasant printer we have worked with. The turnaround was phenomenal, as were the quality and service. Their color work was terrific.

I finished the latest Census operation Thursday, but I could still be called back to work. When I went through training for the first operation, we were told we’d absolutely be finished July 31. I must have done something right because it’s nearly September. I wish I could have told you Census stories, as I have plenty. But I am bound by confidentiality laws. Better to be safe and silent than risk sharing too much information!

Downtown Denver and the Front Range

When we went to Denver, Donna got a great rate for us at the Grand Hyatt in Denver. What a lovely place! My room was on the 22nd floor and we went to the Grand Club, which I believe was on the 29th floor, the highest floor I’ve been on since leaving New York City in January.

tourist on Top of the Rock

I couldn’t help making the comparison between standing on Top of the Rock, 70 stories up.

daytime traffic in Downtown Denver

Traffic is a lot closer from 26 floors up than it is from 70.

Fifth Avenue traffic at rush hour

The stream of vehicles down Fifth Avenue was a constant parade of congestion. No wonder the guide book said “DON’T DRIVE IN MANHATTAN!”

Yes, Denver has its traffic nightmares. I’ve parked on I-70 before. But the guide books don’t tell you not to drive in the Mile High City.

Hubby’s cousin married a man from Long Island, N.Y. When they lived in Denver, his mother visited them. When she saw the Denver skyline, she said, “What a cute little city!”

Cute little city?

Depends what your comparison is. has three pages — 77 buildings — of Denver skyscrapers. Republic Plaza is the tallest at 56 floors.

According to Skyscraper Page, New York City has 770 buildings — 31 pages — that qualify as skyscrapers. The tallest is the Empire State Building at 102 floors. One World Trade Center is supposed to be 105 floors. SkyscraperPage lists 43 NYC buildings taller than Republic Plaza.

By NYC standards, yes, Denver is a cute little city, but I like it. Denver is comfortable. New York City is overwhelming. Fun, yes, but still overwhelming.

Even so, I’d jump at any chance to return to NYC. I like fresh air, but Times Square is good, too.

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Tilting at windmills

Aermotor windmill

Aermotor windmill

Windmills are some of my favorite things to photograph. They have such lovely sculptural forms. And nothing says “Great Plains” more than a windmill. Settlement out here west of the 100th meridian would have been nearly impossible without windmills that tapped into the Ogallala Aquifer. Our rainfall is far too undependable without the life-giving aquifer. The homestead where this windmill stands was totally overgrown with weeds and the house was falling down. But the windmill still is cranking away. Aermotor obviously built durable machinery.

Bladeless windmill

Bladeless windmill

Not all windmills have held up under our harsh weather as well as that Aermotor has. This one has lost all its blades, so is useless for anything except an interesting image.

broken windmill

This one is even worse off. I’m not sure how it got so torn up. Perhaps the wind ripped off the blades. Several of them were strewn around the ground below the windmill. Nothing was left of this homestead except foundations, so the windmill is doing better than the rest of the place.

Grounded windmill

Grounded windmill

No windmill tower was visible anywhere near this windmill wheel that was embedded vertically in the ground. The rest of the homestead was in similar condition, with only foundations and boards remaining of various farm structures.

Windmills are not just creatures of the past. They live on in wind turbines and in a Malawian boy’s dream to bring power to his family.

Here are the windmills on my photo gallery site:

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mammatus clouds

mammatus clouds

The sky is one of the High Plains’ best features. It’s a huge canvas on which many dramatic scenes are painted. Last night, I parked just south of the Interstate and watched the sky change from these mammatus clouds to a lightning storm.

I may walk on the wild side at times to get a photograph, but turning into a lighting rod isn’t my idea of a good time. I remained in the car while the lightning played in the sky. Watching the transformation and the subsequent light show made for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

Mammatus clouds are often feared as a producer of severe thunderstorms, but that is untrue. They may not be associated with a storm cloud, but their presence may indicate such activity. Cumulonimbus clouds combined with mammatus clouds are a signal of wind shear. Pilots, beware.

These clouds are little pouches of ice crystals. The larger the crystals inside them, the longer lived the cloud formations are. Larger crystals require more time to melt. When they melt, the mammatus clouds disappear.

Does that make Mamma Tus an ice queen?

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Stand by the power

two turbines

two turbines

Wise resource management is close to my heart. Waste is bad. Using what we have is good.

What we have in abundance is wind.

turbines behind the fence

turbines behind the fence

Jetmore is using that often-annoying resource into power as the first Kansas municipality to have their own towers. About 12 percent of the town’s power needs should be met by these two turbines. The town cashed in underperforming CDs to buy them and they are expected to pay for themselves in seven years.

turbines with van behind them

turbines with van behind them

That’s pretty good for an item cost of $250,000, not including the cost of connecting the turbines to the grid.

Good job, Jetmore!


Wheat fields, lagoons and mud

green wheat head

green wheat head

Wheat harvest is nearing on the High Plains. By now, this green head is probably nearly ready for cutting. We are expecting a possible Friday date for a combine ride when Marilyn gets her wheat cut. Wendy has never ridden a combine before and I haven’t ridden one for probably 10 years. We are excited. A lovely little shower fell last night, which probably pushed back harvest a bit, but that remains to be seen.

lagoon in wheat field

river runs through it

This rainy summer has filled a lot of low spots in various farmers’s fields. I hope the wheat he’s lost to this lagoon is well compensated from the wheat yield he’ll gain from the rainfall that caused it.

Chocolate curls in the mud

Chocolate curls in the mud

Lighted chocolate curls in the mud.

Lighted chocolate curls in the mud.

I don’t usually look at mud, but I was intrigued by these curled-up mud flats in the road next to the lagoon. The texture in the top one fascinated me. I loved how the light played on the curls in the bottom one. Beauty is everywhere, if only we look.

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