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Thanks for the suggestion, SBNM

February 9, 2015

Yesterday, someone at Scotts Bluff National Monument posted the following on their Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.16.11 AM“Come and enjoy the park.”

Well, since they suggested it . . . okay!

It’d been ages since I’d hiked up the bluff.

It was time!

Bugman and I chased our shadows up the Saddle Rock path.

Bugman and I chased our late afternoon shadows up the Saddle Rock path.

I kind of forgot how steep the path gets on that one section just after the bench. It’s a good workout.

It reminded me of the time Bugman and I were in Queensland, Australia, back in 2004, hiking up the Mount Beerburrum trail in the Glass House Mountains.

The Mount Beerburrum trail is a bit steeper than Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff, rising about 530 feet in about 0.4 miles, as compared to our local ~460 feet in about 1.6 miles.

I recall that as we were huffing and puffing up the Mount Beerburrum slope, a woman pushing a baby jogger passed us – la la la – as easy as you please. I felt like such a wuss, but I reminded myself, “She probably does this every day. I’m a flatlander tourist. I have an excuse.”

Welllll . . . I can’t really use that excuse anymore, now that I have this fabulous natural training facility right in my community. I better get my butt out there more often, so the tourists don’t pass me by – la la la – and bruise my delicate ego.

A comparison:

A two-shot panorama of the view from Mount Beerrum.

A two-shot film panorama of the view from atop Mount Beerburrum.

We watched as the shadow of the bluff extended over town.

A view of the shadow of Scotts Bluff creeping over town.

Chimney Rock, warmed in temperature and color by the unseasonably balmy winter sun.

Chimney Rock, warmed in temperature and color by the unseasonably balmy winter sun.

On our way back down Scotts Bluff, a great horned owl started its evening territorial hooting.

The sun sank, and turned the clouds to cotton candy hues, with a vibrant smudge of indigo at the horizon.


Just before the light died, several gunshots rang out in the valley – the last salvo in the 2014-2015 goose season.

On our way home, we passed several flocks of geese browsing in the cornfields beside the road.

“Safe!” I shouted, making a subdued spread-handed baseball umpire gesture in the confines of the car.

I was glad they survived the hunting season. And glad I had an opportunity to get out and hike on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

An American Dilemma in Scottsing

February 6, 2015

onscreen_american_denialI attended a Community Cinema discussion of the film “American Denial” at The Midwest Theater last night, and I’m still stirred up about it, with a thousand things swimming in my head.

This post is a bit difficult to write, in part because I don’t know where to begin, and in part because this post takes a different tack from what I generally write about in this space.

This blog has focused on highlighting the positives of living here in western Nebraska. The truth is, every place has its warts.

One of western Nebraska’s warts is racial discrimination. (I would note that a vast portion of America suffers from this as well.)

There’s the stuff that makes the news. The student who had a racial epithet written on his car. The xenophobia stirred up by a proposal to bring in Korean workers for a meat-packing plant. The nasty remarks made to the Korean-born spouse of an area resident. And a bit further afield, but still in our broader region, the Native American kids who were mistreated at a hockey game.

And then there were the topics brought up at the discussion last night after the film. A young person who drives around town flying a large confederate flag. Latino people who feel pressure to change who they are to engage with community institutions and white-dominated social groups. A mother who felt the need to take her mixed-race child out of school due to bullying. College students who have noticed stares when they accompany non-white foreign students to local stores.

Getting back to the film . . .

“American Denial” centers around the 1944 study by Swedish economist/sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, published in 1944 as “An American Dilemma: the Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.” One of the central issues raised in the book and in the film was the difficult conflict that can arise between ideals and innermost, sometimes unconscious, beliefs.

Myrdal noted that there was a disconnect between a core value of American society – equality and the sense that anyone can make it if they just work hard enough – and the racial discrimination inherent in American institutions and policies and in the beliefs of many white Americans.

Americans want to be good people. They want to hold up this ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” Yet, many of their actions run counter to this ideal, sometimes unconsciously. An uncomfortable truth of American society is that it produces in its citizens an unconscious bias against people of color, even within people of color themselves.

There was a scene in the film that just made me ache. Dark-skinned children are presented with two dolls – one dark-colored and one light-colored. They are asked things like “which is the good/pretty/nice doll?” and “which is the bad/ugly/mean doll?” The kids, when forced to choose, often chose the dark-colored doll for the negative descriptors. Then, in the part that broke my heart, the kids were asked to pick the doll that looked like them. You could see the hesitation in some of them as they picked the doll that they had just chosen as bad/ugly/mean to represent themselves.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

“American Denial” discussed the Implicit Association Test, which uses a person’s reaction times in sorting images and words to test a their automatic, unconscious responses between such things as race and positive/negative emotions. The results can be kind of shocking.

People who consider themselves to be completely open-minded can still show an implicit bias against a particular group of people, buried in the circuitry of their brains.

It’s very uncomfortable to think about. But denying that the bias exists does not help it go away.

The challenge is – how can people be encouraged to take a hard look at the way their brains react, without shutting the people down because they feel like they are being accused of racism?

One woman at the film discussion highlighted this point by asking whether her childhood preference for a blonde Barbie doll over a dark-colored Barbie doll would classify her as a racist.

The Implicit Association Test FAQs notes a positive point in which I think there is hope. Implicit associations can be unlearned. Research suggests that being exposed to people who counter the biases in your brain will erase those biases.

This highlighted something for me, which one of the Latino participants in the film discussion mentioned – making an effort to actively participate in different social groups. It’s a lot harder to hold a negative bias against a group of people when you are friends with a member of that group.

This idea of erasing biases by associating with a variety of people, and how biases can affect society, was brought to the forefront of my mind by a meeting I attended immediately before watching “American Denial.” It was a meeting of the Community Connections group, populated by many of the movers and shakers in the community. The attendees were vastly white. It made me start wondering about the implicit associations held by those in the room . . .

Now, I begin my linkstravaganza, in an attempt to exorcise all the thoughts that are pinging around in my head.

Here is the page about “American Denial” – what the film is about and when you can see it, with a discussion guide included.

Here is the link to take an Implicit Association Test yourself. There are other tests available beyond black/white preference.

Here is a link to a Washington Post article that does a good job of explaining the context of the test, from when it hit the news in 2005.

Here is a link to an interview with comedian Chris Rock, which I thought of when someone in “American Denial” mentioned that “the Negro problem” is not a problem with black people, but with white people. Chris Rock was also mentioned in the post-film discussion last night. To quote the part of the above-linked interview that struck me:

Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. … So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.

Here’s a link to a kind of game, “Parable of the Polygons,” in which triangles and squares are use to illustrate how segregated neighborhoods happen.

Here’s a discussion of how America’s housing policies have helped to keep minority families in poverty. I was introduced to this concept in graduate school. It blew my mind.

Here is an analogy comparing white privilege to American transportation infrastructure, which really stuck in the minds of several people with whom I’d shared it.

A mention in “American Denial” about how black men being portrayed as thugs, being constantly held in suspicion, can contribute to them embracing that stereotype made me think of this Humans of New York post. I just love the whole saga of HONY’s chance encounter with young Vidal, and where it has led (most recently to the White House).

Here is a description of a little taste I got of what it feels like to be a racial minority, when I traveled to South Africa.

Here is a (rather too academic) processing of a racially-charged incident I once faced as a community college instructor.

Something I will never forget: a mixed-race friend from junior high loudly questioning how he was supposed to respond to a standardized test that required at its start a single fill-in-the-bubble response for race. What was he supposed to choose – black or white? How could he choose? And the later knowledge that bothered me – that when members of groups stereotyped as “inferior” (blacks, women) think about their category prior to a test, those thoughts can cause a person’s test scores to tank. I could recall filling in demographic data at the start of so many tests!

Once again, thank you to the Midwest Theater for hosting Community Cinema!


January 29, 2015

I was first introduced to Kelly Morten’s culinary ability at a farmers market. I could not leave a market without one of her cupcakes (Or three. Or five. I didn’t buy them in odd numbers – I’m referring to the ones that left the market.) They were always so pretty, and there was such lovely variety, it made my little sugar fiend heart happy. (See this blog post, which includes a picture of a plate of sweets. The cupcakes on the plate were from Kelly.)

Somehow, I managed to miss Kelly’s Kickstarter campaign this past summer. She has been dreaming for a long time about opening her own restaurant, and she got an opportunity to do just that – in an old bank building on 1st Avenue in downtown Scottsbluff. (If you cross the street behind the Midwest Theater, you’ll find it.)

The old bank building now sports benches outside and chairs inside in a variety of happy colors. grace is a reality!

graceIn keeping with my resolution to “go out to lunch with a friend every week,” I targeted grace for my most recent meeting, which was also an opportunity to keep another resolution at the same time: “go someplace new every month.”

As grace is still a very new and small restaurant, the menu is starting out small as well. There are breakfast options, and I remember a hot brown sandwich being on the menu.

The advice I heard was, “check out their Facebook page for their daily special, and go when the special is what you want.”

So, I ordered the special. Two of them, actually.

I tried a cup of the day’s chicken cordon bleu soup. I loved the texture of the ham and chicken in the soup, but I loved the flavor of the Swiss cheese most of all.

My main dish was a Thai crunch salad. How can your eye not be made happy with a colorful dish like this on a winter’s day?

thai saladThe flavor of the sweet-spicy chili-peanut dressing punched through my cold-dulled sense of taste. And, I got to eat with chopsticks! Fun!

I did not order dessert, as I was plenty filled up by the salad and soup. Also, a person I was with was doing a workplace-wellness-type challenge, so she was avoiding the dessert case. I am such a good friend, I did not want to tempt her. (That’s my story, anyway . . .)

Because there was a line of people in front of the bakery case, I did not get a picture of the goods in there. (Also, I’m a little rusty after my long hiatus from blogging.) So, I will borrow a picture posted today on grace’s Facebook page:

Raspberry vanilla and chocolate strawberry cupcakes . . . mmmm . . .

Raspberry vanilla and chocolate strawberry cupcakes . . . mmmm . . .

Bottom line – I’d recommend heading over to grace. Get some good food, support an entrepreneur’s dream.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Why I love the Midwest Theater, and cultural sponsors

January 23, 2015


Last night, I attended a wonderful concert at the Midwest TheaterMatuto.

Matuto is a “world jazz” band that ties together musical traditions of African diaspora on the North and South American continents, blending bluegrass and Brazilian folk music. On stage, the members of the band radiate a joyous energy that seeps into the audience. I left the concert feeling a warm happiness in my core and thought, “Ah, this! This is the power of music!”

Matuto has received some pretty big honors and has seen a lot of the world. The band was awarded a Fulbright Grant in 2009 for a residency in Recife, Brazil, and in 2012 was appointed “American Musical Ambassadors” for the U.S. State Department. In 2013, the band toured Mozambique, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Senegal.

This is the type of band that appears at universities and major music festivals, yet, here they were, performing in a rural community in western Nebraska.

It’s this type of programming that makes me feel a little more connected to the university-campus-town type of life that I led for 17 years before moving to Scottsbluff five years ago. Yes, we have a community college campus here, but it’s not the same vibe.

I’m grateful to the Midwest Theater for providing exposure to a variety of art forms and for opportunities to think about our connections with the wider world and other people.

I’m looking forward to the Community Cinema screening of “American Denial” on February 5. I could just stay home to watch the films (they are also available on TV), and I may not always stay for the community discussion after the film, but I appreciate these screenings because they provide an uninterrupted time to watch a thought-provoking film and an expectation that there will be a discussion of the issues presented. I love walking home with Bugman after a Community Cinema screening and talking about the film.

This type of programming would not be possible in our community without sponsorships. The program for the Matuto concert alone listed 19 sponsors, and other grants and sponsorships enable the Community Cinema program.

To all the organizations, individuals, and businesses that sponsor events at the Midwest Theater – thank you!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Double rainbow!

October 1, 2014

Today was one of those lucky days.

I was working late, feeling soothed by the sound of a cold autumn rain, when out my office trailer window, I saw an orange glow.

I’ve seen the sky do some amazing things when the sun sets on a rain shower, so I headed out into the downpour.

This is what I saw to the west:


And then, behind me, I noticed this:

rainbow legacy of the plains

And then I realized it was a full rainbow.

I whipped out my iPhone to take a panorama.

Here is what happens when I am excited and trying to take a picture in the rain and forget how the panorama feature works:

screwed up rainbow panorama

Guess what? That full rainbow went double on the ends!

double rainbowSomething interesting to note in that last image: it almost looks like there is a dark arc stretching across the sky between the light bands, doesn’t it?

Thanks to Bugman, I learned the phenomenon is known as Alexander’s Dark Band. (This totally got Alexander’s Ragtime Band stuck in my head.) Also, I made my first-ever post to the Spaceweather Realtime Image Gallery, at Bugman’s suggestion.

I love it when it rains in western Nebraska. Especially when I am free to go stand out in it and get drenched in its blessing.

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

“Free Land?” Chautauqua is here June 25-29

June 24, 2014

I am such a geek.

A couple of weeks ago, I got the book “Roughing It” by Mark Twain at a garage sale for a buck. It’s in part an account of Twain’s stagecoach journey to the Wild West and his experience in mining boomtowns in the 1870s. Not done reading it yet, but it has a couple of witty gems, like this description of an overly chatty stagecoach passenger:

The fountains of her great deep were broken up, and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder projecting above the tossing waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed pronunciation!

It also contains a description of Mark Twain sighting a Pony Express rider near Scotts Bluff:

We had had a consuming desire, from the beginning, to see a pony-rider, but somehow or other all that passed us and all that met us managed to streak by in the night, and so we heard only a whiz and a hail, and the swift phantom of the desert was gone before we could get our heads out of the windows. But now we were expecting one along every moment, and would see him in broad daylight. Presently the driver exclaims:


Every neck is stretched further, and every eye strained wider. Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky, and it is plain that it moves. Well, I should think so!

In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling, rising and falling—sweeping toward us nearer and nearer—growing more and more distinct, more and more sharply defined—nearer and still nearer, and the flutter of the hoofs comes faintly to the ear—another instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider’s hand, but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces, and go winging away like a belated fragment of a storm!

So sudden is it all, and so like a flash of unreal fancy, that but for the flake of white foam left quivering and perishing on a mail-sack after the vision had flashed by and disappeared, we might have doubted whether we had seen any actual horse and man at all, maybe.

We rattled through Scott’s Bluffs Pass, by and by. . . .

And now, here Mark Twain is again at the pass at Scotts Bluff, having just autographed his book for me:

mark twainGiven that time travel is not currently known to be possible, you’re probably guessing that this is not actually a photo of Mark Twain.

You are correct.

This is actor-scholar Warren Brown, who is at Legacy of the Plains Museum this week as part of the Humanities Nebraska “Free Land?” Chautauqua.

Don’t know what a “Chautauqua” is? Here is a definition from the Humanities Nebraska website:

With origins in the late 19th century, Chautauqua combines oratory and lectures with literary readings and musical entertainment. In the past, these touring groups would entertain and inform people living on the plains about political and cultural happenings. The name itself comes from a resort community in New York State where in 1875, a summer program of lectures, sermons, and music attracted such enthusiastic audiences that within a few years similar programs sprang into existence for the public in other parts of the country. Today, Chautauqua upholds the tradition of offering entertainment, education, and community-based heritage. Attendees gather under the “big tent” and enjoy scholars-in-residence presenting first-person portrayals of some of our most important historical figures along with a variety of activities for all ages.

At this Chautauqua, which runs June 25-29 here in Gering/Scottsbluff, Mr. Twain will introduce several other contemporaries whose lives intersected Nebraska history in some way.

nebraska chautauqua

From left, other than Twain, in words mostly borrowed from the “Chautauqua Reader“:

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver lived in an era of great change, from slavery through the first half of the 20th
century. In a research and teaching career that spanned nearly 50 years, Carver created countless products that improved the quality of life for many in America and abroad. His work with sweet potatoes (sweet potato
bread, in particular) in a wheat shortage during World War I and his efforts to promote peanut milk in the Belgian Congo are just two examples of the breadth of his work. He instituted the first extension program in the South and developed industrial uses for farm wastes and byproducts.

(Portrayed by Paxton Williams, who, like G.W. Carver and Bugman and I, lived in Ames, Iowa)

Laura Ingalls Wilder

When Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the series of books chronicling her life, she had no way of
knowing the tremendous popularity these books would enjoy. Fondly referred to as the “Little House” books, the stories of Laura’s experience homesteading in the American West have endured through the decades and continue to hold a place dear in the hearts of American readers. The books have been immortalized in film, television and musical theatre. But, a further study of the life of Wilder indicates that her significance surpasses these much beloved novels

(Portrayed by Karen Vuranch)

Standing Bear

“That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both.” Ponca Chief Standing Bear won an 1879 ruling in an Omaha U.S. District court that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law” and have the right of habeas corpus.

(Portrayed by Taylor Keen)

Grenville Dodge

In 1866 Grenville Dodge became chief engineer for the Union Pacific and went immediately to work, examining terrain and planning the Union Pacific route to the west, where, according to the Pacific Railway Act, it would meet the Central Pacific line then building eastward over the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. As his survey parties pushed westward, Dodge planted division points and divided the land into lots. When the graders—and later the work crews—followed, many of these locations quickly became towns. Some faded quickly, but others, such as the beginning of the Union Pacific route in Omaha and other Nebraska cities of Fremont, Columbus, Grand Island, Lexington, and North Platte, along with Cheyenne, Wyoming, became permanent.

(Portrayed by Patrick E. McGinnis)

Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s life, along with the lives of millions of Americans, was transformed by three pieces of legislation passed in 1862, more than a decade before she was born. Thanks to the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 and 20 years of railroad building, it was possible for the family to go 11 miles by wagon, board a train in Winchester, Va., and ride 1,250 miles to the depot in Red Cloud, Neb. Six of her 12 novels and several short stories were set in Nebraska, although she sometimes tried to disguise Red Cloud.

(Portrayed by Betty Jean Steinshouer)


Check out the full schedule, come down to the museum, and check it out.

PS – If you want to read “Roughing It,” the full text is available online through the Gutenberg Project. NB – there is some blunt racism and stereotyping in the book.

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw and other copyright holders

Defining the region

December 22, 2013

When I moved to Nebraska from Illinois, the place felt different to me. Different from Illinois. Different from further-west Iowa where I’d lived for seven years. As I’ve learned, western Nebraska itself is different from the rest of the state.

I’m a bit of a geography nerd, so I had delved into the phone book to take a peek into how the region’s identity shows up in business names.

I’ve been geeking out lately about the flurry of maps popping up online that show different ways of dividing up the country by population, politics, culture, sheer imagination, etc. (One such map, which was recycled from a 2009 Kansas State project, defines the connectedness of various regions of the country to the seven deadly sins, based on demographic data.)

I always look to see how western Nebraska fares.

In this map from Tufts Magazine, we’re in the “Far West Nation.”

US nations

If the country were divided up into states of equal population, Neil Freeman would put us into the state of Ogallala.

new states

If geographer C. Etzel Pearcy had his way, we’d be in the state of San Luis.


I also found interesting this 1940 map of Rural Cultural Regions I found on the Oklahoma State University site. We’re in the “Southern Homestead” region.

Rural Cultural Regions

Some folks at MIT looked at how connectedness of cell phone calls can define regions of the country. Note to our state leaders: western Nebraska is more closely tied to Denver than to Lincoln.


I think a lot of the disgruntlement western Nebraskans have with our government in Lincoln, “back east,” is linked to the cultural differences between the regions.

A December 2013 article and photo essay from the New York Times, “Life Along the 100th Meridian,” which has been shared by just about every one of my local Facebook friends, captures well a portion of what makes this region different from the rest of Nebraska.

If you’ve run into other identity / imaginary maps like the ones I’ve posted, please share in the comments.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw


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