Sunday, June 29, 2008


At springtime, the farmer of today always feels a rush of excitement at the start of the planting season. In this excerpt from Prairie Pioneers, a novel written by Emery Stoops (1999, 2003, p. 81) Clint, a pioneer in the Oklahoma strip, feels even a greater excitement. For the first time in this land’s history, it is being plowed.

By February 15, snow from the blizzard had thawed again, and it was time once more to plow sod. Clint gripped the handles of his plow, listened to the clank of metal-tipped tugs transferring power to the hooks of on singletrees, heard the crunch of sod roots and the gentle panting of Nell and Bess as they leaned into their stretching collars with a ton of pressure. He watched a twelve-inch strip of sod rise and curl across the shiny moldboard of his plow and leave a black ribbon of soil that had not seen the sun during the last million years. There was the smell of leather mingled with steamy sweat, dust from dried grass, and the aroma of newly turned soil. Clint felt at one with his universe. The sounds, the sight, the smell, the feel of this turning prairie soothed his determined soul.

"There is something about plowing sod,” Clint said to Lylie that evening, “that just makes me feel terribly good. It wears me out, but it makes me feel…feel so satisfied. It’s like a fish getting back to water. I just feel like I’d always been a sod buster.”

He tried to find words and then continued, “I guess God made us out of soil, and we just long to get back into it”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Do you know about locusts? As a kid did you look with wonder at their shells in your yard? Wait a minute; those weren’t locusts. Those were cicadas.

So, if those weren’t locusts then exactly what is a locust? Locusts are “mysterious creatures, whose sudden irruptions are their defining attribute. In biological terms, a locust is a type of highly mobile grasshopper with the capacity to attain enormous population densities and a proclivity for aggregating and traveling in bands [as immature nymphs] and swarms [as winged adults].” There are only ten species of locusts. [1]

Which one of these ten species of locusts ravaged the central part of the United States in the 1870s? You have heard those stories, right? If you have any locust stories in your family oral history please share them by clicking on the comment button below.

Cicadas are stumpy, clear-winged insects that resemble large aphids. Cicadas are in an entirely different insect order from grasshoppers and locusts. The misnaming of cicadas as locusts began in the 1600s and continues to today. Cicadas lay their eggs on plants while locusts lay theirs in the soil. Cicadas live below ground as nymphs while locusts live above ground. Cicadas feed sparingly as adults while adult locusts devour everything. Cicadas live in the vicinity of where they emerge while locusts migrate in swarms.[2]

A cicada is an insect with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the globe, and many remain unclassified.

Cicadas live in temperate to tropical climates where they are among the most widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and remarkable acoustic talents.

Cicadas are sometimes colloquially called "locusts," although they are unrelated to true locusts. They are known as "dry flies" because of the dry shell they leave behind. Cicadas do not bite or sting, are benign to humans, and are not considered pests.

The cicada grows up to three inches. Cicadas suck juice from tree roots when they are larva. Once the female cicada comes above ground, she mates. Then she lays her eggs and dies. The cicada can lay four hundred to six hundred eggs. The adult cicada lives in trees. Adult cicadas live for thirty to forty days. A cicada can chirp so loud you can hear it from half a mile away. A male cicada abdomen has two drum like sound chambers.

There are two main kinds of periodical cicadas in the United States. One kind spends 17 years as a nymph feeding on tree roots while living below ground, and the other lives underground for 13 years. Then each type, as if on some signal, emerges at the same time from the ground. They change into adults, lay eggs, and after a few weeks, they die. We don't see the next generation until 13 or 17 years later.

But don’t we see and hear cicadas every year? How do you explain that?

[1] Lockwood, Jeffrey A. 2004. Locust. New York: Perseus Books. Page 27.
[2] Lockwood, Jeffrey A. 2004. Locust. New York: Perseus Books. Page 28.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

According to the Information Please (2007) web site the original pledge of allegiance was published September 8, 1892, in a Boston publication titled The Youth's Companion. Credit for the writing of the pledge was attributed to both James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy, a member of the magazine's staff. The United States Flag Association determined in 1939 that authorship be given to Bellamy. On June 14, 1954 the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge .

Today on Flag Day, June 14, 2008, at Homestead National Monument there was a Naturalization Ceremony. Over 50 new citizens swore their allegiance to the United States of America. Perhaps President Bush's (2005) statement describes some of the feelings and thoughts our newest citizens may have experienced during this ceremony.

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings, and health insurance, preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Promised land…

Here are the first impressions of a 4 years old boy, finally reaching the family homestead. Because of the Dust Bowl, his family had left Oklahoma to settle to New Mexico in 1929.

All of the homesteads had beautiful gardens, corn fields and bean patches. Someone took us out to a section of land. We could smell the piƱon and pine trees. What a peaceful and lovely place it was! I remember standing there, looking up to the top of the Alegra Mountain and saw a big rainbow in the sky.

An excerpt from Manuel Hastings’s memoirs. His parents homesteaded near Pie Town, NM in the 1930s.

Savoring Pie Town