Forty years ,—almost,—of life therein have made Nebraska dear to me. From early boyhood to middle years her prairies, plains, lakes and streams, her hills and canyons, buttes and badlands, have been my constant and loving companions. Her people have been my people,— Pawnee, Sioux, Omaha, Otoe, Ponca ;—the diggers of dugouts in early days; the dwellers in white topped wagons who slept and ate on mother earth; the isolated ranchers and cowboys; the freighters who hauled civilization to her most distant settlements: the homesteaders,—from whatsoever land—Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New England,—German, Pole, Irish, English, Swede, Dane, Russian, Bohemian.
Central in the great American plain between the Gulf and Hudson Bay, parted by the broad Platte Valley, natural roadway between the East and the West, Nebraska is the heart of the continent, the pathway of Empire. Life within her limits his been always strongly characterized—the type of its class. The monsters of the Cretaceous age lived here in greatest host and left their bones as witness to the fact. The plains’ Indian here attained his greatest perfection,—Pawnee in culture, Sioux and Cheyenne in war. The mountains and the Mississippi Valley meet within her borders and greater variety of fauna and flora flourish here than in other states.
Two great migrations peopled Nebraska with whites. The first,—at the close of the Civil War, reaching into the seventies,—filled the valleys and prairies of the southeast and central sections. The second,—in the later eighties,— crossed the sand hill belt and planted the settler’s cabin and sod house on the remotest peak of the Pine Ridge in the northwest and the furthest canyon’s edge in the southwest. Boyhood found me in the midst of the first migration early manhood was borne along to the farthest frontier by the second.
The scenes and incidents of early settlement have a charm for all the generations which come after. The conquest of a new land from wild animals, wild plants and wild men is full of human action, of hardship, of sacrifice, of heroic deeds. Nebraska life is filled with these. The material for a new literature is here. A new literature will spring from its inspiration. There must be the beginnings,—this book among them.
Many of these poems and sketches were written in the hurry of country newspaper life,— some of them composed with printer’s stick in hand while the press waited for the form. Not always the sentiment expressed is the sentiment held now, but always it is a sentiment which lived on these plains.
Personalities are in these poems— none of them unkindly meant, either when written or now. It has been found impossible to print significant things in Nebraska life without the names which belong to the events.
Most of the illustrations are made from the author’s camera, two or three from that of Dr. E. H. Barbour and Dr. C. E. Condra. Seven years service in field work for the Nebraska State Historical Society has resulted in some fifteen hundred negatives from which selection has been made. Those who have made original drawings for the hook are Mr. W. H. Farnam, Mr. Ned Hadley, Miss Bernice Branson and Ruth Sheldon. Each of them has been most helpful and sympathetic in the creation of this little volume, into it, from all who have had aught to do with it, goes the spirit of the German poet, Baumbach:
"Mein Thüringen. aus dem ich schied.
ADDISON E. SHELDON.
Back to Legacy