A Hot Prairie Wind
We were on our way to eastern Nebraska, when me and my traveling partner got dropped off at a busy intersection along I-76 in eastern Colorado. Unfortunately, we did not see the state prison until it was too late. This meant a 20-mile detour along two-lane highways, but eventually we got let off near the interstate by a local man, who said it was OK to hitch a ride on the big four-lane.
A half an hour later we had a through-ride all the way to the Nebraska state capitol, located some 400 miles away. Watching the countryside fly by at 75 miles an hour, as it changed from short-grass prairie to plowable farmland was a real treat, especially from the cab of a spacious, four-door pick-up truck.
Lincoln, Nebraska is not a high-priority travel destination, but the bustling city does have a nice downtown area and a bustling economy with a low unemployment rate. It also holds a branch of the University of Nebraska and a large sports arena, where the football team plays their home games. The public library is a small modern building, conveniently located in the downtown area. There is a small reading room on the third room, which houses over 12,000 books devoted to Nebraska authors and history. The space is officially know as the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska authors. Among this extensive book collection, the best known authors would probably include Willa Cather’s ‘Little House On the Prairie’ and John Neihardt’s ‘Black Elk Speaks‘.
The Importance of Black Elk
Though ‘Little House on the Prairie’ became the basis for a very popular TV program by the same name; for me, John Neihardt’s riveting account of the life and times of the Sioux elder, became one of my landmark adventure’s in leisure reading that I pursued in my early twenties. Though the Native spiritual leader resided in neighboring South Dakota, it was the Nebraskan author ( and college professor) along with the University of Nebraska Press that made the publication of this landmark book happen.
Over the years many books have been written about the life and times of Native Americans, but few seem to capture the spirit of the times as well as this window in life among the Sioux at the turn of the century. Black Elk was unique in that he participated in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, survived the Wounded Knee Massacre and went on to participate in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Neihardt’s interpretation of Black Elk’s life was first published in 1931, but is still read and enjoyed by many today.