Saturday, April 30, 2011


cherry tree

 This is the week for celebrations.  Will and Cate partied all night, Harry hosted a breakfast this morning at the palace for any survivors still standing after all the celebrations yesterday, and while not on the same scale as their parties, Nebraska City is holding its annual Arbor Day festivities.  This is my first year partaking of these events and as I look at the list in front of me, I think it might take several years before I can possible get to all of these activities.  And, my goodness, if I had started eating last night, I wouldn't be able to sample all of the wonderful assortment of foods before the weekend is over.  Last night was the chili cook-off.  This morning there was a breakfast to celebrate military families.  I see that there will be kettle corn and funnel cakes later as well as "parade snacks" (I'll definitely have to check that out if I am truly to get the ambiance of the parade).  Tonight at the Catholic Church there is the Spring Dinner.  Pancake feed in the morning and it looks like every place advertising an activity has food involved.  Wow!  You could really pack on some pounds this weekend!

This is the 139th Annual Arbor Day Celebration.  Very impressive!  Of course, Arbor Day was yesterday but the activities actually began on Thursday evening with a concert.  And what would Arbor Day be without trees, so there are tree plantings scheduled throughout the weekend, free trees given away, as well as planting and nurturing tips. 

What exactly is Arbor Day all about, you ask?  Well, we all know it's about trees but here's a little more:  Arbor Day was the idea of J. Sterling Morton.  Mr. Morton was raised in Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan.  After receiving his diploma in 1854, he moved with his bride, Caroline Joy French, to Nebraska, which was not yet organized as a territory, and staked a claim in Nebraska City. Soon after arriving at Nebraska City, Morton became the editor of the local newspaper, the Nebraska City News. He used this platform to promote his ideas about agriculture and nature.  Morton served in the Nebraska Territorial House of Representatives in 1855-1856. He was then appointed Secretary of the Nebraska Territory by President James Buchanan on July 12, 1858, which he served as until 1861. He also served as Acting Governor from December 5, 1858, to May 2, 1859.

Respected as an agriculturalist, Morton sought to instruct people in the modern techniques of farming and forestry. Among his most significant achievements was the founding of Arbor Day. He became well known in Nebraska for his political, agricultural, and literary activities and from there was appointed as Secretary of Agriculture by President Cleveland. He is credited with helping change that department into a coordinated service to farmers, and he supported Cleveland in setting up national forest reservations. (Wikipedia)

We have the good fortune, here in Nebraska City, to have been the beneficiaries of his good stewardship.  There are trees of all kinds here and they are beautiful!  Nebraska City sits right on the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers.  The main street of town takes you directly to the river where the barges still bring corn and other crops up and downstream to the larger cities.  We are built into the hills and from my office I can look down the main street to the river and the bluffs beyond which are Iowa.   Mr. Morton left a wonderful legacy.  His home, expanded by his son, Joy Morton-owner of Morton Salt, is a beautiful, historical place surrounded by trees, flowers and nature.  It sits at the west edge of town.  The Lied Lodge and Conference Center brings people from around the world to our little town to learn about agriculture and, especially, trees,  and Arbor Tree Farm provides all manner of educational opportunities for people of all ages to come and learn about trees.  And, of course, everyone goes home with a tree.

In this age of tearing down the old to make way for the new, I am enjoying this little slice of history.  On my walk, shortly after I moved to town, I decided to visit the historical landmarks at the local cemetery.  I was fascinated with the markers there.  Of course, J. Sterling Morton's family plot was bordered by stone cut to look like logs and his marker is an 8 foot stone tree stump with his and his family's names carved all around it.  All throughout the cemetery are markers similar to his for people who are recognized for their efforts to plant and grow trees. 

Our landscape is looking much different these days.  When I first moved here it was October and the leaves were falling.  Within a few short weeks, the trees were bare and I had some of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen from my deck through the bare trees.  Today, as I look out, the trees are red, violet, green, yellow, white, and brown.  It is lovely to look out any window in my home.  The air is clean and the skies are blue thanks to the work of Mr. Morton and his associates.

Thank you, Mr. Morton!  Let's go party! 

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