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." 

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A Book-Hungry Land

Feb 23, 2019

The words you hear are composed in an exceedingly literary environment. An entire floor of our split-level house is devoted to office and library, as I am a writer and my wife is a publisher. She is always overhauling someone’s manuscript, and I am always composing one. Sometimes she gets a crack at one I have composed, but that is another story for another day.

Today’s story has to do with bookish environments and what scholars have come to call “print culture.” Here we are with our books in progress and a jillion books shelved or spread all around us, our desks catty-corner distant from one another, the dogs going back and forth but mostly patronizing the fireplace in the middle.

The Duck Stamp Guy

Feb 9, 2019

Waterfowl hunters, check your wallet, and you will see that this year’s duck stamp - now known as a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, but who calls it that, anyway? - this year’s duck stamp features a pair of mallards. It is a return to the roots of the program. The first federal duck stamp, issued in 1934, also bore the likeness of a mallard pair.

Deep winter is a time for serious culinary work, and we have a freezer full of venison. In a previous essay I made the case for a new code of the sportsman suited to the prairies--a code that partakes both of the gentlemanly values of Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell and also the practical values of our homesteading forebears.

River of Stories

Jan 28, 2019

Notes from a winter diary. Awaiting rosy fingers on the eastern horizon, I make a prayer of thanks for the morning dark, the starry quiet, and the companionship of this interlude. Not a creature is stirring, not even Angie the History Dog. So what is this pre-dawn "companionship" of which I speak?

Venison Chronicles

Jan 28, 2019

Whitetail deer populations on the Great Plains, like so much of life in the region, are a boom-and-bust proposition. Not being a wildlife biologist, I speak from the experience of a long life connected to the land and its history when I say, this is the nature of things in our place.

Difficult Birds

Jan 5, 2019

For us people of the plains, especially outdoor enthusiasts, the ringneck pheasant is a problem child - the difficult bird that, despite its demerits, we love all the more.

Favorite of upland game hunters up and down the plains, the ringneck tries hard to be a bad bird. Unlike quail, or even early-season grouse, ringnecks refuse to hold for a dog. They run, they are sneaky, and if left any feasible escape route, they find it.

To Be an American

Dec 22, 2018

Last week I began the reading of my remarks to 131 New Americans who took the oath of citizenship from Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal, at the Sanctuary Events Center, on 12 December 2018. Today I resume those remarks, hearkening back to homesteading days of the nineteenth century and reflecting on what it means to be an American.

Early on a Wednesday morning I took care of some medical matters endemic to old guys. My attending physician was named Patel. I mention this, because, well, you’ll understand shortly.

From there I drove over to the Sanctuary Events Center, where I was scheduled to address 131 New Americans taking the oath of citizenship administered by Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal. Thank you, Judge Senechal, for the invitation.


Dec 8, 2018

A muggy day at the National Archives two years ago was the most disturbing day I ever spent in scholarly research. All day I plowed through correspondence of military authorities in the Department of the Missouri detailing actions, most of them obscure, in the latter stages of the Dakota War in Dakota Territory.

The Remembrancer

Dec 1, 2018

My friend Ron Vossler, in Wishek, says some of his neighbors consider him a Judas. I think he is, rather, what is known historically as a remembrancer.

“Remembrancer” was a formal title conferred on certain figures in British legal and political affairs, someone designated to remind officials of their debts and obligations. Remembrancers were not popular.