Several years ago environmentalists preached sharks were becoming an endangered species. Now we’re being told our seashores are full of sharks and shark attacks on bathers have never been higher. I wouldn’t be surprised the next reports will proclaim sharks have been spotted at the Platte River’s Tooley Park beach, or Lake McConaughey. Some safety stats collected from 2001-2013 show that deaths as a result of animal attacks make up 0.003 of all deaths. Deaths from shark attacks have averaged one per year. Putting that in perspective, 20 deaths per year have been caused by cows. Dogs have attributed to 28. Wasps, bees and hornets killed 58 per year. With tongue-in-cheek, a statistician noted 33,000 deaths occurred by automobiles, which means if you feel it’s safe enough to drive to the beach, it is certainly safe enough to go in the water. ***
It’s showtime. The annual Hamilton County Fair promises to be a feel-good event again this year, the 144th version of what has become a traditional celebration of our ag-based heritage. There is indeed something for everyone, including events as old as the fair itself, combined with a few new activities, by design. The next few days will culminate months of hard work for 4-H and FFA youth who have been preparing their animals and entries for the fair. Lots of ribbons and trophies will be handed out, but what are even more valuable are the life lessons learned along the way. It takes so much dedication, time and effort to prepare and show these animals and various entries, nurturing a Midwest work ethic that will serve our young people well throughout their lives. It’s worth your time to tour the barns and exhibits, showing support for young folks who represent the next generation of agricultural leaders.
Time is a strange thing. It has been said, “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” To me, as a former newspaper publisher, time weekly referred to our newspaper deadline. Now that I am retired I question how much retirement time I have left. Time has remained constant through centuries in what we call the 24-hour day. However, keeping time has certainly changed. Keeping time was once done on a sundial before advancing hundreds of years through grandfather clocks, mantle clocks, alarm clocks, and now atomic clocks. Portable timepieces called pocket watches were replaced by thick, bulky wristwatches and later the thin wristwatch. Now you sport thick wristwatches that by the push of a button can become a stopwatch, calculator, heart monitor and even a small computer.
Are you better off this year than you were five years ago, and do you think you’ll be better off in 10 years than you are today? In rural Nebraska, the percentage of folks answering yes to one or both of those questions is rising, reflecting a sense of optimism that says a lot about our Midwestern values and sense of worth. It’s encouraging, frankly, to know that rural Nebraskans generally perceive the proverbial water glass to be half full, rather than half empty, a judgement based more on a personal sense of perspective than anything else. For 20 years now, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has asked citizens of our great state how they feel about their lives in general. Hamilton County was included in this year’s random survey, which drew nearly 2,000 responses. Our hunch is that the results were far more positive here in Nebraska than they would be in many other states, which in and of itself is reason for optimism.
Digging through some old files I came across an 1884 Hamilton County Agriculture Premium for the 12th Annual Exhibition, or as we call it today, “The Fair Premium List.” As we prepare for the upcoming fair, it was easy to note there have been a lot of changes over a century-plus of Hamilton County fairs. Top premiums awarded to such entries as crocked packed butter, spiced fruits, turnips for table use and a loaf of corn bread warranted a 50-cent prize. The best display of farm and garden products in varieties commanded a whopping $3 top prize. In the Mechanic Class competition, which required the entry to be manufactured in Hamilton County, a double family carriage or a wheelbarrow earned only a diploma. The top pair of draft horses won $5 for first place as was the roadster stallion which was adapted to traveling and light work. A thoroughbred bull could win $5 and a top boar took home a $3 prize, sheep $2 and poultry 50 cents.
What’s your life story? Do you know where you came from, and if so how far back can you trace the branches of your family tree? My mother reminded me recently just how grounded I am here in Central Nebraska with a detailed review of my family lineage. I’ve always felt at home since arriving in Aurora 15 years ago, which I’ve come to realize may have a lot to do with the fact that my roots are planted deeply in Hamilton County soil. As one of two remaining survivors from a family of six siblings, Mom felt compelled to update a document written in 1966 and passed on to her back in 1981. The Andersen Family Tree dates back to the mid-1800s and now, with her help, is a wonderful read for her extended family to enjoy and pass on for generations to come.
Diversify and grow. That’s been the goal of this community’s economic development efforts over the past few decades, a success story which is beginning its next chapter now with last week’s announcement of the first project on the Aurora Mission Critical site. It’s a positive development for the I-80 corridor, a parcel slowly but surely being tapped as one of Aurora’s most valuable assets. State officials and local leaders had once hoped to land a high-tech data center on that 151-acre site, but learned the hard way that Nebraska didn’t make the cut in that intensely competitive industry for a variety of reasons. Kearney had an impressive proposal and was a finalist in Facebook’s search for a data center site, but ultimately came up short.
A new logo has been added to Aurora’s portfolio of corporate citizenry, an impressive sign of continued economic growth and diversity in a community that prides itself on progress. Pacific Ethanol became the new owner of the two ethanol plants on Aurora’s western edge as of July 1, turning the page to the next chapter in a dynamic local story dating back to 1995. (See related story on Page C10) Nebraska Energy LLC opened the door 20 years ago to an industry that has since become a vital, though also volatile, source of ag-based jobs, investment and value-added opportunity. So much has happened on the site now known as Aurora West in the last 20 years. It has changed the local landscape, to be sure, making Aurora one of few rural communities to host not one but two ethanol plants.
I’ve always had confidence in our younger generation. I marvel at our two middle school grandsons on the subject matter they discuss and the understanding of those “big, long words” describing any subject from science to economics. As much as I would like to say, “My grandkids are the smartest in school,” that’s not the case. They are well-rounded students, have good grades and are a reflection of today’s educational system. With some initiative, hopefully they will be part of a future generation making a positive contribution to our society. Of course at times there are doubters about the upcoming generation. I found this subject titled, “All in the Name of Science” containing actual excerpts from science test papers written by high school students. A reader moaned he hoped the writers were not aspiring to be scientists of the future or we are in trouble. Here are those student comments:
For those who long for the days of yore, your days may be just around the corner particularly if you live in Nebraska. According to a couple of news reports modern technology is being replaced with of all things, a herd of goats and streetcars. Well in all fairness, the herds of goats has already become state employees on a two-year contract and as for the street cars – the cars are still on the drawing board. Happy Goats Grazing Service has entered into a two-year, $120,000-max contract that provides up to 1,300 goats to take care of undesirable weeds on wetland migration sites and interstate areas. In fact, some goats could be near our area when they go to work on 56 acres near the Rain-Water Basin. Apparently the “Rent-A-Goat” service is cheaper than chemicals, equipment and labor that had previously been used. I can’t help but wonder if the goats work an eight-hour day or charge additional for overtime. ***