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

Reading the Plains

Feb 26, 2018


On the last page of her new book, Great Plains Literature, author Linda Pratt quotes Booker T. Washington. In a speech in 1895, Washington advised his hearers, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

The story of Fanny Kelly, the woman ransomed from the Hunkpapa by Sihasapa (Blackfeet Lakota) emissaries and turned over to General Alfred Sully at Fort Pierre in late 1864, remains cloudy and confused. This is due partly to the fragmentary nature of sources and partly to the reluctance of people in her time to take her own narrative of events seriously.


One of the military figures who played key roles in the history of the Great Plains, but about whom we don’t like to talk much, is Brigadier General Alfred Sully.

Inheriting the Earth

Jan 23, 2018


Alongside the fireplace in our study is the Big Bison Chair. I bought it at a swanky furniture store on the east side of Fort Worth. The gal who sold it to me, when she told me how much it cost, I said, Wow, how many miles does it get to the gallon? But, she threw in free shipping to North Dakota, so I bit. It was money well spent.


There came a lovely letter from Mrs. Betty Lehman, of Holtville, California. She seems to have been moved to post by the write-up in the most recent NDSU alumni magazine about the volunteer efforts of my students repainting Zeeland Hall, the WPA-funded, National Register-listed property in Zeeland, North Dakota.


Jan 18, 2018


This new book by three scholars from Nebraska--Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History--is making quite a splash. Or, to get my metaphor acclimatized to the prairies, it breaks new ground.


Jan 18, 2018


Getting around our prairie country, I often encounter people who are justifiably proud of their lineage as descendants of homesteaders. They share in our collective memory of the homesteading experience as a matter of democracy, opportunity, and connection to the land. Homesteading, we generally emphasize, too, was hard work. Attaining patent to the land required a combination of steely determination and good luck.

The One-Spotted Hog

Jan 5, 2018


It seems like yesterday, but likely it was close to two decades ago when I entertained the grandkids with our own version of the Lutheran carol, “Away in a Manger.” Our prairie stanzas were set in a snow-covered landscape and populated with animals suited to the locale--howling coyotes and barking retrievers joining the usual cast of barnyard creatures--denizens vocally present, howling and barking on cue.


My friends in the West River keep working toward the establishment of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, a great thing for this part of the country. Bricks and mortar are in the future, but in the meantime, they have been building up the digital collections pertaining to TR and his western experience. Such as this intriguing item: the “By-Laws of the Little Missouri River Stockmen’s Association,” 1885. Chairman: Theodore Roosevelt.

Beaches of Manitoba

Jan 2, 2018

The ancient beaches of Lake Agassiz are subtle features in the landscape, generally unnoticed except by persons specifically looking for them. I recognize some of the beaches when I cross them, but am too geologically ignorant to discern most of them.