Plains Folk | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Plains Folk

Once a week during Main Street, weekdays at 3 pm CT with a repeat at 7 pm CT.
  • Hosted by Prairie Public

Plains Folk is a commentary devoted to life on the great plains of North Dakota. Written by Tom Isern of West Fargo, North Dakota, and read in newspapers across the region for years, Plains Folk venerates fall suppers and barn dances and reminds us that "more important to our thoughts than lines on a map are the essential characteristics of the region — the things that tell what the plains are, not just where they are." 

Ways to Connect

Prairie Wolves

Sep 14, 2019

It can be confusing to read, in documents of early prairie settlement, references to “prairie wolves.” The creature of note is no more a wolf than a prairie dog is a dog or a prairie chicken is a chicken. Canis latrans, known in parts south as the coyote, was christened the prairie wolf by early travelers on the overland trails, who first encountered it on the prairies.

The Cows Came Home

Sep 7, 2019

One day in October 1907, a herd of milk cows belonging to townspeople in Pembina broke into a pasture that belonged to a farmer named Jim Kneeshaw.

“The town herd got into solitary confinement in Kneeshaw’s pasture on Wednesday,” the local editor remarked drolly, “because they seemed to like Jim Kneeshaw’s young timothy better than other feed. The matter was finally fixed up between Messrs Kneeshaw and Mr. Allen the herder -- and the cows came home as usual at night.”

The Town Herd

Aug 31, 2019

“The large amount of grain that has been seeded near town will necessitate the herding of stock now running at large,” announced the Dickinson Press in 1883. “Mr. S. Burnside proposes starting a town herd and will herd all stock at the low rate of $1.00 per head per week.”

Well into the middle of the twentieth century, prairie townspeople kept milking cows at their residences. They had fresh milk, but at the cost of some public nuisance and personal trouble. To take care of the problem, there arose an institution known as the “town herd.”

Ice Age

Aug 24, 2019

Climate change is a subject I hesitate to introduce, for fear of igniting disputes between political partisans debating anthropogenic climate change--that is, change caused by human actions--and what ought to be done about it. I am a historian, so that is not what I do. It is historical climate change that I propose to introduce to the discussion, here, and abroad, among the historical scholars of the Great Plains.

A couple of weeks ago I detailed that scandalous episode in the history of the Flickertail State, the great gopher-tail fraud case of Ransom County, 1900, which had to be settled by the state supreme court. The court’s opinion hinged on the funding provisions of state law authorizing counties to pay bounties for gopher tails.

The most prominent historian in the history of African Americans in the American West is Dr. Quintard Taylor, of the University of Washington. He is a revered--some might even say formidable--scholar. He is the empressario of the go-to website on black history in America, which is called Black Past.

The Second Baptist Church, Bismarck, North Dakota, organized in 1917 to serve the African-American residents of the city, some of whom previously had attended the predominantly white First Methodist Episcopal Church--now known as McCabe United Methodist Church.

On October 17, 1900, the supreme court of North Dakota upheld the conviction of one Robert H. Stewart, a resident of Sargent County, for “having fraudulently obtained money from Sargent county by means of a false, forged, and fictitious instrument. . . . This is one of a series of offenses,” writes the court, “which appear to have been committed in that county by various persons, and which are known as the ‘gopher-bounty frauds.’”

The Food Cache

Jul 20, 2019

Sean Sherman calls himself the Sioux Chef. That’s in the title of his book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. S-i-o-u-x Sioux, as in Lakota, not sous chef, as in the hands-on guy who runs a kitchen operation and reports to the executive chef. So if you have a distaste for puns, you can stop listening now, while I talk about The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, published by University of Minnesota Press.

Great Plains Geology

Jul 15, 2019

Great Plains Geology, by R. F. Diffendal Jr., is a recent volume in the Discover the Great Plains Series of handbooks organized out of the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska, and published by University of Nebraska Press. The author is professor emeritus of geology, UNL, and has a strong record of writing for academic and popular audiences.