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NEBRASKAland March 2014

Read the full issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. See stunning photographs of Nebraska outdoors.

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MARCH 2014 • NEBRASKAland 11 10 NEBRASKAland • MARCH 2014 A Brief History Buffalo and Cow Chips By Patricia C. Gaster, Nebraska State Historical Society The scarcity of wood west of the one hundredth meridian forced a reliance on animal-made fuel there. Buffalo excrement, when allowed to dry a few weeks in the hot Plains sun, was clean to handle and usually odorless. It burned with little blaze but formed hot coals, which were very effective for cooking or heating. It was almost the only fuel used by the Forty-niners and other travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails. The first permanent settlers came not long after the buffalo were decimated. Fortunately for the settlers, after the buffalo were gone, great herds of Texas cattle were driven to or through Nebraska and filled the ranches that occupied the United States grasslands. Homesteaders were said to invite trail bosses to bed down herds on their property, thus gaining enough cow chips for a winter fuel supply. According to Everett Dick's Conquering the Great American Desert, an initial aversion to using the fuel, especially among women, soon dissipated. "In spite of the fact that cow chips were absolutely clean and not messy to handle, not infrequently a fastidious housewife from the East turned up her nose at this effective fuel and, taking a chip between a dainty thumb and forefinger, gingerly tried to get it into the firebox without touching it any more than she could help, as though it were poison. It wasn't long before she overcame her squeamishness, however, for in this case familiarity did not breed contempt but rather respect and appreciation." The following poem from the Trenton Register of December 28, 1894, makes much the same point. An Idyl of the West Over the sun-kissed prairie swells She strayed in her youthful grace. The wind-blown tresses of auburn hair Half-hid her bewitching face. Her gathered apron, one slim hand held, As she scanned each tuft with care. And oft and again she lithely stooped To place her treasure there. "O maiden fair, what seekest thou? Pale lily, rose divine Or the shy, sweet buds of the violet?" She lifted her eyes to mine. And then the answer, soft and clear Fell ripe from her coral lips, "Stranger, there hain't no posies here- I'm lookin' fer buf'lo chips!" ■ RG2723-3-17 RG2608-1425 By Julie Geiser For the seventh year, The Great Park Pursuit (GPP) will be taking people on a scavenger hunt of sorts, encouraging them to explore parks throughout Nebraska and live a healthy active lifestyle, and rewarding many with prizes, including one outdoor package valued at $1,500. Twenty locations in Nebraska, including state historical parks and recreation areas, local parks, natural resource district areas and a national forest, are part of the free program. Teams of friends, families, coworkers, youth organizations or any other groups start by registering online at NEGPP.org. They can then select parks to visit and print off the page for that park, which includes information about the park's attractions and a clue to guide them to their ultimate goal: a post tucked away in the woods and topped with a nature impression. When the post is located, teams can use a pencil, crayon or marker to make a rubbing of the impression on their park page. That rubbing is their entry they mail to the headquarters of the contest, which runs from May 1 to September 16, 2014. The more parks a team visits, the more prizes they qualify for. Prizes consist of N E B R A S K A l a n d M a g a z i n e calendars and s u b s c r i p t i o n s , state park permits and cabin stays, outdoor packages valued at $250, $500, $750, $1,000 and $1,500, a digital camera, a backyard bird package and more. In addition to the fun of f i n d i n g t h e posts there are many educational and fun activities you can download from the site, including how-to guides on making binoculars or a pinecone bird feeder, and directions for scavenger hunts that challenge hikers to look for different colors or shapes rather than objects, and even one to record things heard rather than seen in nature. This program is made possible by a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Park Commission and the Nebraska Recreation and Park Association, a non-profit organization comprised of professionals and advocates dedicated to the promotion of park resources and recreation advancement in Nebraska. Other sponsors include the Papio- Missouri River Natural Resources District and Scheels. The program is looking forward to hosting more teams, encouraging people to have an active lifestyle and increasing the awareness of all the outdoor recreational opportunities of the state. ■ Cow chips near post office and store, Norway, 1937. Joseph Beckwith homestead, near Broken Bow, 1888. Gathering cow chips in Cherry County in the 1890s. RG2455-145 RG3313-10-72 Great Park Pursuit Update Pile of cow chips, Sheridan County. Participants of the Great Park Pursuit can win many prizes, including a NEBRASKAland Calendar.

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