Wahoo, Nebraska

Wahoo is a city with a population of about 4500 people and was the first stop I made after leaving Omaha (it’s located about 40 miles west of Omaha). I wanted to check out the Historical Park I read about. As it turned out it was well worth visiting. It’s a small affair with only a handful of buildings, but clearly a labor of love of those maintaining it.

Joe Bowers Memorial Historical Park, Wahoo, NE

Joe Bowers Memorial Historical park, Wahoo, NE

Burlington Route Caboose, Joe Bowers memorial Historical park, Wahoo, NE

Wahoo Burlington Depot, Wahoo, NE

Wahoo, NE

This torpedo in front of the Saunders County Court House is a memorial to the WW II submarine Wahoo.

WW II Submarine Wahoo memorial, Wahoo, NE

For more photos from Wahoo, check my Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorimerblack/

Mt. Pisgah Cemetery State Preserve, Iowa

Mt. Pisgah Cemetery State Preserve near Thayer in Union County, Iowa.

Mt. Pisgah was a way-station for Mormons on the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Il to Salt Lake City, UT from 1846 to 1952. At times up to 2000 people lived here, and around 300 to 800 people perished and were buried here. The headstones are gone by now, but this monument, which was erected in 1888, still stands. After the Mormons left, the site was briefly called Petersville (after the farmer that bought the land).

Chief Pied Riche from the Pottawattamie Indians (who were driven from their homelands in what is now Michigan), visited and told them ‘We must help one another, and the great spirit will help us both. Because one suffers and does not deserve it is no reason he shall suffer always. We may live to see it right yet. If we do not our children will.’  Sadly he was mistaken.

Nowadays it’s totally peaceful, secluded and only a 4-mile dirt road leads to it. On the day I discovered Mt. Pisgah (which was totally by chance), there was nothing to be heard apart from the crickets making their usual loud racket and a few birds, although there’s a farm immediately adjacent to it. It was wonderful and a great place to relax and let your mind wander far back in time.

Mt. Pisgah cemetary

Mt. Pisgah Cemetary, Iowa

Mt. Pisgah, IowaReconstructed log cabin

Log cabin at Mt. Pisgah State Preserve

The view from Mt. Pisgah. I wonder how that view must have looked like during the time Mt. Pisgah existed with regards to the vegetation, and when there were no farm buildings and gravel roads to be seen.

View from Mt. Pisgah

Brainard, NE

Brainard is a small town approx. 20 miles west of Wahoo and about 60 miles west of Omaha. I have made it a habit of getting off the highway or Interstate and visiting little towns/villages on my travels. Brainard is very much a typical Midwest small town. I like towns like this a lot.

Brainard, NE

Brainard, NE

Brainard, NE

Brainard, NE

Brainard, NE

Brainard, NE

Bone Creek Museum Of Agrarian Arts

Bone Creek Museum Of Agrarian Art

Bone Creek Museum Of Agrarian Art

The Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art was established back in 2008 in Regionalist painter Dale Nichols’ hometown David City, Nebraska. It’s fair to say that David City isn’t one of the US’s best established tourist destinations, but driving there you get a very good idea what must have inspired both Dale Nichols and the people who founded The Bone Creek museum.

I first became aware of the museum after purchasing the book published by Bone Creek called Dale Nichols Transcending Regionalism on a visit to the Cedar Rapids Museum Of Art back in March. I hadn’t been aware of Dale Nichols work either until I browsed the CRMA museum shop, but was immediately drawn to his work by the front cover of a winter scene with one of his trademark red barns (see the cover shot below). I plan to write a review of the book for this blog in the future, but at this stage I just want to say that I quickly became intrigued by his beautiful work and his interesting life story, and the book is a very fine piece of work by itself which I am happy to call my own.

Dale Nichols Transcending Regionalism front cover

Consequently, it didn’t take long for me when planning my next trip, to decide that I would be making a stop in David City and visit the museum. I was greeted very warmly by the woman at reception and her companion who was, luckily for me, very knowledgable about all things Dale Nichols and even went so far as to go down into the basement and get three of his paintings that weren’t actually hanging in the gallery. They only had one other of his works hanging there, but it was fantastic to see a few of them at last after studying the book repeatedly.

At the time I went  (September 2013) they were showing two very interesting exhibitions, one called Inspirations From The Black Hills showing works by artists that live in this region of South Dakota, most of the work on show was very good too. Also extremely exciting were various works in the show concurrently running called Highlights From The First Five Years. The most memorable work in that exhibition for me was one by Missouri artist John Roush depicting a country road bathed in sunshine in winter with deep snow on the road and the surrounding fields, I immediately fell in love with the painting. He mainly paints with pastel and had an exhibition at Bone Creek back in 2009/2010, I will definitely by checking out his work more thoroughly in the near future.

It’s a small, but apparently very active museum, lovingly refurbished and deserves to get all the support it can, it’s definitely what the art scene in a small-ish town needs. Their web address is www.bonecreek.org , but better still, head out there yourself any pay them a visit. Besides, naturally, the only proper way to experience a piece of art is the first hand experience, the brush strokes, the contours of the paint are simply impossible to reproduce in a book or on a poster. The address is 575 E Street, David City, NE 68632. David City lies about 65 miles west of Omaha, and as I wrote at the beginning, the countryside on the drive there is beautiful.

The following photo shows the studio built by Dale’s brother Floyd, also an accomplished artist and craftsman. I know little of him as he never got the sort of attention his brother had, but apparently he mainly worked with sculptures. However, the Bone Creek Museum had one of his paintings hanging in their gallery which was very good indeed. I can’t really say how the studio is used nowadays.

Nichols Art Studio

To finish this post, here are a few photos I took in and around David City on my visit.

Thorpe Opera House

David City

David City, NE

Barn outside David City, NE

The official Back Road Bound Anthem Dan Bern – Merle, Hank and Johnny

I herewith declare ‘Merle, Hank and Jonny’ to be the new official anthem of my blog Back Road Bound – it’s a fantastic song and I can relate to the lyrics quite a bit, although the circumstances in my case were a bit different, no Midwest dirt in my youth (but there was dirt, believe me) and I am not living in California either.

Anyway, enjoy.

I actually visited the town Dan Bern was born and raised in (if I am informed correctly) Mount Vernon in Iowa in March of this year. Unfortunately it was a dreadful day with rain and sleet so the photos I took are of rather poor quality, but here are a few to give you an idea if you don’t know the town yourself.

Main Street, Mount Vernon, IA

Main Street, Mount Vernon, IA

Abbe Creek School Museum, Mount Vernon, IA

Mount Vernon Middle School, Mount Vernon, IA

Abraham Lincoln A Biography (Book review)

Abraham Lincoln A Biography cover

Abraham Lincoln A Biography

Benjamin P. Thomas (1952, Knopf/Southern Illinois University Press)

 I first became interested in Abraham Lincoln after stopping off in Lincoln, Illinois on a trip through the Midwest in March of 2013. During some dismal weather I found out about the Postville Courthouse and the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College – both located in Lincoln and both proved to be very interesting. Lincoln used Postville Courthouse as he traveled the Eight Circuit as a young lawyer. The Lincoln Heritage Museum features a wealth of Lincoln’s private possessions, such as furniture, stationary and even a lock of his hair. When I visited the museum, it was still located in a somewhat cramped and dark room, but apparently they will be using new, improved facilities in the near future. It was still fascinating, with an exhibition dedicated and introducing all American Presidents amongst all the Lincoln related stuff, which was very welcome to me as for me as a European my American history knowledge is still rather sketchy.

Lincoln christened the new town in August 1853 (see photo below)

Abraham Lincoln marker in Lincoln, IL

After returning from my trip I searched for a biography about him, as I was reluctant to watch Steven Spielberg’s film, as I am not very fond of his films. However, I guess that I will be catching up on that at some point, I asked the person working at the Lincoln Heritage Museum what he thought about the movie and in his opinion it’s not that badly made and fairly accurate about the facts, and I am sure Daniel Day Lewis’ did a great job on portraying Abraham Lincoln.

A quick search revealed this biography to be something of a standard and is reported to be the best one, so I decided to purchase it. As I knew very little before I started reading the book, I wasn’t aware of Lincoln’s troubled nature with dark moods he encountered a lot of times during his life for example. I was especially captivated by the first chapters describing his upbringing which can only be called humble, in an America in its early stages – an intriguing insight into an US, drastically different from the one we experience in the 21st century. What struck me most where the multitudes of work lines people at that time tried to make a living with, very different to the world I come from, where you more or less stick to the job you decided early on in your life, and possibly only change your career one or two times in your life at most. What I also found amazing early on in the book, was his almost complete lack of formal education (he visited school for less than a year), and that you could study law by reading books alone, lying on a pile of wood for example. (As I found out reading on, it was not that uncommon, but still).

Somewhat of a disappointment for me though for me was the realisation that his stance towards the issue of slavery and the treatment of black people was not as clear as I assumed it was. As far as I can tell it was always in him, but as President and throughout his political career before that, it was probably not always very wise to profess to his beliefs openly – an explanation maybe, but still something to be frowned at in my opinion. Being white and European, I am by no means an expert on these matters, and they aren’t THAT near to me heart, but it is of course not a question that all people are equal, whatever their colour. Reading for example that he thought that the white and black race were better off apart at some point, or that he tried to ship them off to middle America to build up their own country, made me shudder on a few occasions (chapter ‘… Piled High with Difficulty’).

However, especially towards the end and throughout the war it became increasingly clear on a number of occasions that he was a man full of compassion, he granted parole to a lot of soldiers for example during the war and was in favor of rebuilding the nation instead of punishing the South – which made me respect and like him a great deal.

I still don’t claim to be much of an expert on his life, the Civil war or American history after reading Abraham Lincoln A Biography, but the book gave me something of an insight into all these things, and encouraged me to try to find out more about them in the future. The writing is quite accessible, a lot of name-checking making understanding a little bit difficult at times, but it’s still not too hard to follow the going ons, so I would recommend the book to anybody wanting to find out more about a person perhaps shaping US politics and the country as a whole more than anybody else, during what was definitely a challenging time, both for him (he also had the loss of one of his young sons to cope with on top of everything else) and the country.

The book also encouraged me to go and find out more about his life and I plan to visit places such as Springfield,IL and New Salem at some point in the future.

Postville Courthouse (914 5th St, Lincoln, IL)

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Site of Deskins Tavern, opposite Postville Courthouse

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Lincoln Heritage Museum (at Lincoln College)

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