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  Summer 2009 Issue Excerpts

Here's a bit of what you'll find in the Summer 2009 issue.
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Collecting Parks

Edward and Margaret Gehrke of Lincoln didn't realize their national park photographs and travel diaries, like so many of history's primary sources, were more than personal mementoes. Today their value is obvious. The Gehrkes are featured in filmmaker Ken Burns's forthcoming documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, which premieres this fall. Jill Koelling believes modern park travelers are "recreating the experiences of all those who came before us: the early tourists who came by train and then by automobile across roads that didn't deserve the name."

By Jill Koelling


On July 2, 2001, I headed out from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with my brother; our goal was to hike the main corridor trail rim-to-rim, reaching the South Rim two days later. Why we went in July is another story. Looking back at the journal I kept during our big hike and at the photograph album I created as a reminder of our great adventure in the inner canyon, I understand my connection to all those hikers, adventurers, and tourists who traveled before me, recording their memories so they wouldn't forget either. Every time I get out the tent, pack my car, and hit the road to visit a national park, I know I'm taking the American vacation by "collecting parks." I am just repeating experiences perfected by the first American tourists to do so.

Americans have been "collecting" parks beginning with the establishment of our first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872. The national parks are part of our national identity. When we visit them, we take photographs, buy postcards and mail them to friends and family, and keep journals describing our experiences so we never forget. We are recreating the experiences of all those who came before us: the early tourists who came by train and then by automobile across roads that didn't deserve the name.

On December 28, 1915, Edward and Margaret Gehrke of Lincoln, Nebraska, saw the Grand Canyon (then a national monument) for the first time. They were heading home by train after traveling to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In her journal Margaret wrote, "A few things in this beautiful old world are too big to talk about. One can only weep before so supreme a spectical [sic] of glory and of majesty!" Their visit was short, but their newfound desire to see the national parks sparked a lifetime of travel by train and automobile.

Fourteen years passed before Ed and Maggie returned to the Grand Canyon. In the meantime they collected other national parks: Yellowstone in 1917 and again in 1921; Rocky Mountain in 1918, 1921, 1923, and 1924; Glacier in 1919; Crater Lake, Mount Lassen (now Lassen Volcanic National Park), and Mount Rainier in 1921; Gettysburg and Lafayette (now Acadia National Park) in 1922; Platt (now Chickasaw National Recreation Area) in 1923; Sullys Hill (now Sullys Hill National Game Preserve) in 1924; and Mesa Verde in 1925.

Yellowstone was the first national park I ever visited, and I'll never forget the lines of cars stacked against each other and people milling about taking photographs of bison near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. When the Gehrkes first visited in 1917, they took a train to Cody, Wyoming, and were then transported into the park to camp near the canyon:

"An attempt to describe the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is unworthy. At best we can only make comparisons, and comparisons are unfair: It is unlike the Grand Canyon of the Arizona, and it is not Niagara. It is both, and it is not. It is not so immense, but it is more intense. To me it is not grandeur but beauty. Unearthly beauty--one can only weep."

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2009 issue.


The National Game at Cody - John Curtis Jenkins


His real name was Robert Gillaspie, but when he rode into Cody the first time and hitched his cayuse in front of the "White Elephant" and sauntering in and placing his elbows on the bar, called all the boys up, he introduced himself as "Arkansaw Bob" and that was considered sufficient. In fact, to go trailing on the back track and inquiring into one's antecedents in those days would have been dangerous, for it was liable to lead to unpleasant personalities, a thing that most of the citizens tried to avoid.

Arkansaw-as he was thereafter known-was a genuine Westerner, a real cow man, one of those kind of men one would mark down as a gentleman on first sight. He was quiet and unassuming in disposition, courteous when in the presence of ladies and not of that type of cow men who pull a gun and proceed to puncture holes in everything that chances to move across the landscape. Those kind of cow men live only on the screens of the movies and in the distorted imagination of story writers who wouldn't know a real cow man from a wooden Indian.

Arkansaw Bob was a type of perfect manhood. He was somewhat tall, square shouldered, smooth shaven and rather light complected, bordering on the fair, and was pronounced by all the ladies of the community as decidedly good-looking, and a stranger looking him over for the first time would say that he was built for a purpose, and that purpose presumably, was business.

The "Diamond Bar Ranch" was in need of a foreman and Arkansaw was appointed to the position. There were two good reasons for this appointment, one was that he was square, as square as a die. His word was as good as any man's note and he was never known to deal from the bottom of the deck or draw his gun without first giving his opponent a warning look, but when Arkansaw's eyes took on the gleam of two electric headlights and his hand dropped to his holster, the boys all knew that he had something on his mind that he was about to unload.

Another reason for his appointment was that he was acquainted with a certain class of citizens whose eyesight had become so impaired by looking long and often at red-hot branding irons that they were unable to observe that the steer had previously passed through the ordeal of being branded by a different iron. He accused a couple of men of having placed their brand so close to that of the Diamond Bar that it was liable to hurt the sale of the hides.

Men sometimes become rash in an unguarded moment, these two men did and called Arkansaw a liar, which was the most suicidal thing two men could do, and the Coroner's jury brought in a verdict that, "The deceased came to their death from over-exercising with a branding-iron and a too reckless use of the English language," which closed the incident, except that when the Diamond Bar made a shipment of cattle to South Omaha that fall these steers were included in the shipment and Arkansaw accompanied them.

Bennett Irwin was a Texan, he not only looked it but he admitted it to himself, and when he drifted into Cody the boys looked him over and decided to accept him into full membership without the formality of the "Highland Fling," which was their custom with "Tender-feet."

Bennett was rather stocky built, a solid, well formed man who had passed something like forty summers, and when he walked he put his feet down on the ground like he intended to get somewhere. There was an air of precision and decision about him that impressed one with the thought that he was not the product of Chance, but rather the result of a combination of circumstances and experiences that tend to burn the "yellow" out of a man and make of him the real article.

Like Arkansaw Bob, he was square, his word was as good as gold and when he talked it was in that quiet, positive way that compelled respect and credence for his remarks and every puncher on the ranch would make affidavit to the truthfulness of what he said, and that was the reason for his appointment to the position of foreman of the Spade ranch.

Bennett stood high in the estimation of the community, not only that he was so lucky, so lucky in fact that old Dame Luck seemed to always hover over his banner where ever planted, and Arkansaw claimed that he could call for four cards and pick up four aces when every other man around the table stayed on threes or better. Bennett always attributed his good luck to science but Arkansaw said if the element of bull luck was eliminated there would be nothing to it.

The entire story, plus John Carter's introduction and afterword, appears in the Summer 2009 issue.



"Striving for Equal Rights for All": Woman Suffrage in Nebraska 1855-1882 - Kristin Mapel Bloomberg


The morning of November 7, 1882, was far from an ordinary morning in Nebraska. It was Election Day, and a special one at that. Nebraska was poised to become the first state in the Union to recognize women's right to full suffrage and equal citizenship with men. It was a moment nearly thirty years in the making and a result both of Nebraska's history of progressivism and of a serendipitous convergence of people and politics. Women's rights advocates hoped to transform national politics by changing their state constitution, but they were to be disappointed.

Three times prior to the twentieth century, Nebraska women stood on the threshold of full citizenship, and three times their efforts were denied. Like any social movement, the nearly century-long struggle for woman's rights was made up of local failures and achievements, both of which helped propel the national movement forward. And while Nebraska's early suffrage initiatives failed, they were key historical moments that shaped the trajectory of the national women's rights movement that ultimately led to a strategy to amend the United States Constitution. In other words, after striking out in Nebraska three times in thirty years, many woman suffrage advocates decided that state legislative change--even in progressive states--was better left behind in favor of national legislative change.

The first push for woman suffrage began in 1856 during Nebraska's territorial days. Writing in the 1880s, Clara Bewick Colby of Beatrice observed, "It is remarkable . . . that, thirty years ago, when the discussion of woman's status was still new in Massachusetts and New York, and only seven years after the first woman-suffrage convention ever held, here--half way across a continent, in a country almost unheard of, and with but scant communication with the older parts of the Republic--this instinctive justice should have crystallized into legislative action." That legislative action was spearheaded by Amelia Jenks Bloomer of Council Bluffs, Iowa, in a speech given to the Nebraska territorial legislature at Omaha in 1856, less than a decade after the landmark Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention of 1848. Bloomer, formerly of New York State, founder of the woman's rights journal the Lily and popularizer of the "Bloomer costume," found herself in this remarkable position as a result of an earlier visit to the eight-month-old city of Omaha on July 4, 1855, when she spoke on the subject of woman's rights. Her lecture aroused curiosity among Nebraska's political leaders and as a result, twenty-five members of the Nebraska territorial legislature extended a formal invitation for Bloomer to address their assembly. Her persuasive speech influenced lawmakers to consider a woman suffrage bill in both houses; however, by virtue of being placed on the agenda for the last day of the session, the bill died for lack of vote. Had it been approved, Nebraska would have been the first territory or state in the United States to give women the right of equal franchise.

The spirit of progressivism that marked Nebraska's early consideration of liberal legislation continued in 1867 when it joined the Union as the thirty-seventh state in March, and in June ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. Woman suffrage was not part of that state constitution; however, Nebraska's affirmation of universal male suffrage and its earlier consideration of female suffrage attracted the interest of eastern suffrage activists who had decided to abandon the strategy of linking woman suffrage and Negro suffrage after failing to do so in Kansas-after all, they believed, the question of suffrage for black men was now decided in Nebraska.

As a result, woman suffrage advocates could focus solely on arguing for women's enfranchisement under the Fourteenth Amendment. On November 15, 1867, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and George Francis Train arrived in Omaha to speak on the question as they worked their way back east following the Kansas defeat. Their efforts bore some fruit, for according to Colby, "The early legislation of Nebraska was favorable to woman, and much ahead of that passed in the same period by most of the older States." For example, Nebraska granted school suffrage for women in 1869, and at almost every legislative session of the next few years, the question of woman suffrage was introduced.

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2009 issue.


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