Wood Lake, Nebraska

Since I do not know where to begin with the blogging of my experiences of the Summer of 2016 I guess I will start with this quaint abandoned church in Wood Lake, Nebraska.  

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Wood Lake is in Cherry County, Nebraska and is on highway 23.  

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It also has a historical marker.  Here is some historical information about Wood Lake which was originally called "Cottonwood Lake."  

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I caught a glimpse of this old church off of the highway and had to go find it.   

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It was a hot day and the drive across Nebraska seemed like an eternity because it was our last day of our great Northern adventure and I was tired of driving. 

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I'm afraid I'm a victim of wanderlust.  Our last trip was in July and I'm already wishing I could go somewhere else.  

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Looking at the abandoned churches, houses, settlements is realizing that someone spent their time and craftsmanship to build that building, home or place of worship. 

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And someone else chose to allow it to fall into a state of disrepair.   

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I think everything needs time, passion and attention for it to thrive.  When the time and attention leaves things fall into disrepair.  We no longer care.  I'm afraid that this blog is going the way of losing my time and attention.   Yet, I have so much material that I can pour into it, which could be useful for someone, somewhere.   

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One more shot before we left town to head towards I-80 to get on our way back to Oklahoma on that June day.  

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Random Western Nebraska

Everyone should take a minute to watch this video about the online harassment that women receive about their looks and appearances.  Blogger Takes Off Her Makeup

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A bunny at Toadstool Geologic Park 

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It was a cool, rainy day the day we went to Western Nebraska. 

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We stayed the night at Chadron the night before we went further west.  

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Another shot outside of Chadron 

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Train near Toadstool Park - lots of trains in Western Nebraska.  That's about all there is out there. 


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On the way to Highway 29 to go north to the Agate Fossil Beds.  

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Toadstool Geologic Park is an awesome place.  My favorite stop on the trip.  

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A fence (of course). 

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The Niobrara River Valley...  


Now that's enough for now.  Goodnight.   

Real Landscape Photography

So, yesterday I halfway read this blog posting that made it on Petapixel "Will the Real Landscape Photography Please Stand Up."   It struck me as the in general frustrated that there are so many amazing photographers out there taking so many amazingly similar shots.  How do you be unique in a world where there are millions of people just like you?  How do you make a difference in your world? 

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 Fence in rural Nebraska June 2014

And I looked at the gorgeous landscapes that you see on sites like 500px which I only learned about through reading photographer blogs such as Petapixel, I only learned of this page recently.  I'm not too serious about worrying about what the other landscape shooters of the world are doing.   They really don't matter to me.  

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Another problem is that I am seeing a growing trend of conformity in landscape photography. I could not recognize any one of those photos and tell who the photographer was, but at the same time they could have been attributed to any one of the many photographers who are very popular on social media.

There is this prevalent style in landscape photography that aims to capture the viewer with dramatic light, strong composition and bright, saturated colors. I can definitely see why people like it, but I personally don’t like it anymore. (Cei)

I think the type of shots our author is speaking of are these gorgeous dramatic landscapes that take your breath away...

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Something golden, a photo at the right time of day in the right landscape.  Something that you have to edit until you are convincing your audience that it was straight from your eyes to their screens.  

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I've only recently allowed myself to be sucked up into the world of photographers. Photographer bloggers, Rockstar Photographers, and people out to make money off of the industry of photographer.  The money to be made from teaching workshops or mentoring those new photographers who desire to gain skills, knowledge and eventually income from their "passion."  I've only recently learned about names like Leica, Hasselblad, and Zeiss.  I've only recently started reading about "medium format cameras," and all things technical that go with it.  

I have mixed feelings about this world.  I learn from it.  It's interesting, yet, it's competitive. Everyone has something to sell or desires some benefit from passing on their knowledge and hard work.  Too many want all the answers and a shortcut on how to be a great photographer.  

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So perhaps my first four years of photography, before I truly learned technical skills and about lenses was better.  When the body of my camera was the most important thing to me and I didn't have a clue about lenses.  I did know that I "needed" better lenses but didn't quite understand what I needed them for when I really loved my 18-135 lens that came with my Canon 7D that I purchased in 2011. 

Yet, making money from doing something I enjoy is great.  But, it's not everything.  I think all the practice I do with shooting and all the work on this blog is business or has business potential, but not everything in life is about money.   

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Swingset in Winnetoon Nebraska 

I consider myself a "real landscape photographer" - I may not be on fancy websites, I may not be selling workshops to the next sucker with a DSLR (So I can continue to travel the world and sell what an amazing person I am), I may not be spending thousands to rub noses with people who think they should be teaching me how to be a better photographer.  I am not constantly trying to compete with other photographers or sell my landscapes.  But, I love shooting landscapes and new places.  Anyone can photograph a national park or national landmark, but not everyone spends their time on the backroads looking for the obscure beauty in the ordinary.  

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Rural South Dakota- June 2014 

I like to do photography to step away from the world around me, not to worry about how other photographers shoot.  I don't care if everyone I know has a DSLR they won't pursue photography like I do.  Not everyone thinks the plains are beautiful. 

To be honest, much of what I see every day on 500px is much, much better than the pictures on that slideshow and I realize that I am being too harsh here. But then again, I don’t see any of the photographer’s emotions and mood conveyed through some of these images and, to me, this is not art.

And yet, I love this guy's post on landscape photography.  I "get" what he is saying that so many photos just look like beautiful, cookie cutter, screensavers, they aren't personalized or incredibly unique.   But as I pull my images together to post them right now I'm  looking through that day's photos-  the day we were in Nebraska and ended at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   Our last stop was the Falls at Sioux Falls.  I don't think my emotions are conveyed in my photos of the falls.   It had been a while since I was that far north, we were there to visit a place that I had written about in my graduate thesis.  This post also goes back to the argument of the art of photography.  

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Yet probably looking at a waterfall probably creates the emotion of awe- at the natural beauty.  But, in reality for me when I was at this place it created anxiety and fear.  I really didn't like the falls at Sioux Falls.  

But, I get why people chase the dream of their own business. I get why photographers want to share their skills by teaching workshops.  I get why people want to make as much money as they can from the craft.  

The assumption that it only has value if you make money from it - is part of the problem with America.  That I'm only happy doing photographs if I'm making money.  The answer to my problems are more customers.  I do believe that real landscape photography is not about selling prints, or making a dollar.  I think it's about finding yourself in a place and time that you know not everyone will experience and taking it home and sharing it.  

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Now the close up photo of the falls wasn't too bad, but I really hated the observation tower.  So I was two hundred feet above the falls.  I don't know why this place bothered me as bad as it did, but I don't like rushing water as it is.  I really do not like waterfalls.  Yes, they're beautiful, and I'm sure this is an easy place to take great photographs, but I was ready to leave.  

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My opinions of "emotions" in photography are different. I believe photographers can use an image to create an emotion.  I believe emotions are in photography but they are open to the interpretation of the viewer. I can create emotions with photographs that may not have been a positive experience for me. Often I post photos where the outcome is beautiful or dreamy yet, emotionally that may not have been my mood.   The beauty of the medium is I can still go out and get a great shot or a great portrait shoot when it I am not in a great mood or don't want to be there. 

But I understand, if you can't see my mood and emotion how would you understand my emotions;   Probably through the music I was listening to that day.   My photography doesn't reflect my emotions, I've gone out and taken photos on the days when I didn't want to exist, but they gave me a reason to want to continue living. 

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Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska

Royal Nebraska is probably not the first place you think of when you want to go view the bones of ancient camels, rhinoceros, and horses but, Royal Nebraska is where you come to find America's Pompeii.  So, mass extinction is probably not at the top of your list to think about today.  But, it was a reality in our very long geologic history on this third rock from the sun.  So before I go into more detail here is a visual for you to contemplate before I show images on the drive to Ashfall.   Ashfall is a site that caused a mass extinction in what will become Nebraska. Please take a few minutes to find some more educational materials on the official site: About Ashfall through the University of Nebraska.  

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So if you are a fossil obsessed person or you love to learn about volcanoes and mass extinctions this is the place for you.  But, a warning you better be ready to drive through a beautiful swath of NE Nebraska farmland.  

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Close to "home" we were pulling in the local radio station.  But we were almost to Ashfall.  

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This will probably be a very long post with lots of images (which is why I didn't get these up earlier).  Ashfall was our main destination on our trip to Nebraska.  We did stop at Neligh Mills right before we made it to Ashfall.  

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So up the hill to the Ashfall beds.  I find it interesting that places look different than you think they will.  I like to do a lot of research before I visit a new place, I don't think I spent a lot of time looking up Ashfall.  I was sick the week I went to Kansas and Nebraska.  This was the first day I was feeling better, which was good because we did a lot of driving.  The night before we ended up in Lincoln and it was the night the big storm of 2014 went through Nebraska, the clouds were pretty wicked in Lincoln.  

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I love this landscape, it is beautiful.  This is what I see when I think of Nebraska.   

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So here is the barn that houses the mass grave.  The horses that went extinct, the rhinos, the mammoths.  All of these animals that died out.  Mass extinctions are no joke.  

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Yes, what were all these creatures doing in Nebraska? 

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So, what about this Yellowstone Caldera?  

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About 12 million years ago, a volcano in southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over a very large area. One or two feet of this powdered glass covered the flat savannah-like grasslands of northeastern Nebraska.

Most of the animals which lived here survived the actual ashfall, but as they continued to graze on the ash covered grasses, their lungs began to fill up with the abrasive powder. Soon their lungs became severely damaged and they began to die. 

So, this was not a pleasant way to slowly suffocate..  

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Here this humbling, ancient tragedy is at our feet.  Pompeii of the rhino.   

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Undisturbed except by an occasional scavenging meat-eater, the skeletons of these animals are preserved in their death positions, complete with evidence of their last meals in their mouths and stomachs and their last steps preserved in the sandstone below.

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Of the seventeen species of vertebrates recovered from the volcanic ashbed, twelve are mammals. Over 200 fossil skeletons from 12 species of Clarendonian Land Mammal Age have been discovered at the site so far.Related articles

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Geology is fascinating, Yellowstone is a place I'd like to visit before it erupts again.  I hope it waits until I'm dead to erupt again too (I'm a realist AND an optimist).  

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I feel like you as a reader gain more when I share snapshots of the information shown at these historic sites and museums.  

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So if  you ever decide to make this fossil pilgrimage to Ashfall as we did, you will have an interesting day.  

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So this is a very long post but I didn't put all the pictures I edited in it.

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Check out what the Smithsonian has to say about Ashfall

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That's Gross (Nebraska)

Gross Nebraska is a little town in Boyd County.  Kind of like Monowi (also same county), Boyd County is known for it's small towns.  

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It's always funny looking up these tiny villages in the county where I spent my childhood.  There are plenty of blogs of people who drive through out of curiosity.  Gross Nebraska was founded in 1893 by homesteader Ben Gross and family.  This is another small town that died when the railroad failed to go through, it did at one time have  a population of 600.   

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See the deer?  

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In 1965 the Gross School district became part of the Spencer District; which would be where I attended school from K-9.  So as much as there isn't much here now, stop and read about what it used to be: History of Gross Nebraska

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So, I got a pressure cooker for Christmas.  I'm now mastering the art of cooking quickly; I'm not as afraid of blowing up the kitchen now.  I probably should be.  <--I posted this and was told that this statement was kind of random.  I'm sure it is.  But, the soup I made for dinner was nice.   

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 So there is a park in a town with the population of two, and a swimming pool in a town with the population of 500. Nebraska treats their children right.  Now what is going on in our small towns where we can't make our parks and have pools in Oklahoma?  It's a shame.  

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Save often! My internet froze as I was working on this post and fortunately I had just saved. I believe this is the business establishment, and they do have a Facebook Page.

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I handed over my other camera to my friend and she took a few shots of me shooting.  

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It was a good day! We haven't met in person since Summer of 2008 and that summer she was pregnant the first time I drove through and had a new baby the next time so this visit was much more fun.  The time before that I was up for her wedding.  We had a great visit. Oh Monowi is another town that is frequently blogged about for it's distinct lack of population.  Here is what Yahoo has to say about these small towns. Go Here and Double The Population...



Mom's Mudflaps at Chimney Rock

So in the 1970s and early 80s my parents had a trailer manufacturing business in Butte Nebraska- S&S Trailers it was called.  They were pretty successful for a while. 

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This is where I spent my early childhood.  This is the kind of town where I could ride my bike to the store a few blocks down at age seven and be safe.  This is the kind of childhood our kids deserve but most don't have.  I was fortunate.   

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The paint shop, where some of my earliest memories are helping wipe down trailers to clean them before they were painted.  

So not a lot to say about Butte Nebraska but I'm one of the Sharp kids.  Which even decades after moving away people know whose family you belong to.  That's what small Nebraska towns are like. So when I was a kid my parents sold mud flaps that she designed with the outline of the state map around them.  

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One of the shop buildings.   

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The big green shop.  The old burnt out shop caught on fire before I was born sometime.  The irony of internet addiction when your phone has no coverage is for whatever reason I had 3G coverage if I walked over on the property.  I was staying across the road at my best friend's home.  

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But a few days later I was on the way on a spur of the moment last moment change of plans with my Plainsgirl buddy from Omaha...

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Way out west - we were taking the Great Nebraskan Pilgrimage to Chimney Rock, a place that was far, far away from our Eastern Nebraska.  Yet, it has always been such a huge part of the state's identity having never been there seemed kind of wrong in our advanced ages of the somewhat early middle.  

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So Chimney Rock in the Platte River Valley which was incredible.  This just doesn't seem like the Nebraska I've known.  Yet there it is Chimney Rock.   

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And WOW.  We were there.  

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So there was a museum, cool, we can go learn about this monument.   

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I walk in and see these.  I kind of did a double take.  I told my friend that my Mom designed those and my parents sold them all over Nebraska when I was a kid.   I had to call Mom and make sure I was correct that she did indeed design these mud flaps.  COOL.   My Mom did this and it's in a National Monument Museum that many people walk through and see every day.  

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So were it not for flooding in Omaha, and our random decision to travel west I wouldn't have known about this.  But I'm proud of my Mom's creativity in this museum.   Also, yeah how cool is that to go into a museum and see a part of your own family history preserved. Chimney Rock Joy Franklin -5585

I'm trying to work my way through more of my images from The Great Plains tour 2014, because I just confirmed the dates of The Great Plains tour 2015 this evening.  I'm excited!  I love going North in the Summer.  Maybe I just love traveling anywhere, anyways!  Yay for road trips.  I'd be a happy person if I could travel more.  

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So it was an interesting day last June when we visited Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff, and I'm even more thankful that we had more time with Grandma that evening.  

A Lesson in Exposure

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A barn near Edison, Nebraska 

This photo is a lesson in exposure.  It works in black and white (which it's not- I actually added a slight amount of split toning to change the feel).   This photo is a lesson for you novices who think you can fix a bad exposure by converting it to black and white.   You can't fix bad exposure by converting it to black and white! 

Stop bad photography.  Educate. Shoot often. Shoot better.   


What Are You Doing?

So, I was out taking pictures near the small town of Edison Nebraska on Friday. I had a man in a truck stop, watch me, turn around come back and ask me "What are you doing?"  -  Ummmmm...  what does it look like I"m doing?   I'm taking photos of the beautiful Republican River Valley during the golden hour on a crisp September day.   

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First of all a woman out taking photographs alone doesn't like to be confronted.  Now, the dude (who I gave my card to- and said I was a photographer)..I hope you read this.   Made a comment that I was photographing "his land" - well, actually I was photographing the river valley - the spectacular clouds and I was standing on the public road, which I informed him.  

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Who wouldn't take pictures in this lighting?   

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Of course this lighting is difficult to edit sometimes.  

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So if you see someone out taking photographs on a gorgeous afternoon on a public road do me a favor and LEAVE THEM ALONE.  Especially if you are a man and they are a woman.   It's really not your business what people do while on the road.   

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Photography is not a crime.  Just because my camera is more sophisticated and I'm not taking pictures with my cell phone doesn't mean I'm scoping out your land Mister Farmer Man.   It is much more about the lighting and the place I happen to be.   But, as a blogger, I will write about anything relevant to my life and of course this incident was a little on the annoying side since I have rarely been bothered while out taking photographs.   My husband's family owns five houses in this town, so I imagine I have just as much right to be out shooting in Edison Nebraska as anyone.  


Going Home

I went home this month.  On the 18th of June I headed up to visit my friend and her family.  I took the time to stop on the road and gaze at my childhood home in Boyd County Nebraska.  

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The long stretch of empty highway that make up the stretch of US Highway 281 in the Sandhills seems to stretch out forever when I'm longing to see a particular place that was once my home.  

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South of O'Neill, Nebraska you drive through miles of rolling hills.  

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O'Neill, Nebraska-  the town where I took my first breath.  

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I didn't have any desire to stop between O'Neill and Spencer until I got to Eagle Creek.  Finally I approached the Niobrara River Valley, just a couple of miles or so from my childhood home.  

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As a teenager I hated this place.  I hated the fact that I was bullied in school. I hated the town. I never hated the landscape, but I couldn't disconnect the two. 

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Names give a place power.  I tend to photograph signs because for whatever reason those names give meaning. I hate the trend towards roads that are numbered for enhanced 911 services.   Names have meaning and we are taking away the names of places and giving them numbers.  But, after a time numbers have meaning, like our highways.   

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But, I haven't returned since June of 2008.   Since then I've become a photographer.  I find this landscape incredibly beautiful.  It makes me heartsick not to be "from" here, yet I have no desire to live here, because I love Oklahoma.   I know that it is a part of my past.  

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The house my parents built, more house than most children could imagine to play in.   A whole floor, a hot tub in the basement and a deck.   I picked my own room colors at age six.   Pink walls and pink carpet.   

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So this is a place that I call home.  I don't live there.  But it is still home, as much as I am from Oklahoma.  I'm still a Nebraska girl.  

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My parents made it to Nebraska in the 60s - my Dad was a school teacher and they ended up in Spencer.   

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The barns that I played in.  

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So if you want to read intimate, revealing posts, this is pretty personal to me.  Because as much as I post photos of the farm in Oklahoma- this farm is my childhood.   

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So here are some turkeys.   It was six years since I've visited my old home, yet I've been in Nebraska numerous times over the years.   I spent the next couple of days with my friend in Butte and across the road from the property that my parents once operated a business in.  But I'll write more about that later.   I hope you enjoy the images, and surely you will see an improvement as I've switched from a PC to a Mac and the screen resolution is incredible!  I'm excited to know that my photographs will continue to improve and I can share a better depiction of my world! 


Monowi - The Smallest Town in Boyd County Nebraska

Monowi is an interesting little town;  a tourist destination for the obscure.  Monowi has always been there as long as I remember, it is only a few short miles from my childhood home.  Grantland writes about Monowi

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I didn't really pay attention as we drove into "town" - my eye was caught by this old grain elevator which fascinated me. 

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I was happy to spend the day with my friend Laura.  How often do you get to enjoy time with a friend who you shared your childhood with?  It was a great day in Nebraska. 

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I can see a lot of bloggers have taken time and effort to visit Monowi.  Yet, they seem to miss something besides pointing out the anomoly of such a tiny village.  Photographer's Blog  but they will give you more detailed accounts of Monowi than I will. 

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According to The Roadside History of Nebraska Monowi's name means flower (309).  A group of Mormon's made their winter camp near Monowi in 1846.  The Mormon's camped along the Missouri River and seventeen members of the group died before spring. 

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It is incredible the amount of press this town has recieved by bloggers and in human interest stories across the web. 

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But to some this is home.  To others it is a place to return and call home.   I guess to me Monowi is just a few minutes away from the place I still can call home.  Monowi was once part of the homeland of the Ponca people.  

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Monowi is an example of how the media works, it takes one place and makes it a story.  Others grow interested and cover this particular place out of a desire to have been there or done that.  But what they miss are the other small towns in this tiny county where three rivers converge.  

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Yes, visit Boyd county but take more time than just visiting Monowi.  Drive the backroads and see the scenery.