Words and Images from "This Place, These People"

The following are photographs by Nancy Warner from This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains. Warner’s photographs are juxtaposed with the voices of Nebraska farm people, recorded by sociologist David Stark:

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

We wrapped a chain around that house
and hitched it to a tractor, but we couldn’t
bring it down.

We’d pulled off the boards about waist high
and cut notches on all these beams
here and here and here, wrapped the chain
all around it at the notches.

The tractor died, the house didn’t.

That tractor groaned and wheezed, but it died
and we couldn’t get it started again. It was
a tough old tractor, but an even tougher house.

That was about five years ago. There’ve been
wind storms you would think would’ve done it,
but nothin’s bringing that house down.

It’s still there.

— Les

We had chairs lined up across the way—
not too close, we didn’t want anybody
to get hurt. I don’t know how many chairs,
but it must have been a bunch because
all kinds of people were here.
I can’t think now who was all here.
I know the neighbors came over
for the big show. Nothing happened.

—Ferny

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

I’m proud to be a farm girl.
I’m proud to have been raised on a farm.
Some people don’t think highly of that.
There’s a pretty strong negative reaction.
It’s a dismissive attitude, that’s what I’d say.
It’s not hidden, you can feel it.

I work in the capital.

This county, Cuming County, is the number
one corn-producing county in the whole world.
Or maybe it’s not exactly number one, but it
must be pretty high.

Where are you from? I go, I was raised
on a farm. They go, Ohhhh, long like that,
and then silence.

It’s not all negative. The nice way to put it
would be indifference. I can understand it.
It’s far from their experience and they just
can’t relate to it.

—Katie

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

I enjoy planting because it starts the year
of farming. I’m prayerful for a chance to
see the fruits of my hands.

Hopes are high.

What do i enjoy? I enjoy being out here
on my tractor because I like having time
with my own thoughts, with this field.

—James

But, you know, what i really enjoy is
spraying chemicals. That’s the best.

I own the sprayer. It’s got those big,
bouncy wheels and arms reaching out
when it sprays.

I go around the field twice. The best part
is setting the straight A to B line. Once I’ve
got that fixed, the GPS can show me where
to drive.

I’m watching the monitor and everything
is clicking right along, whether i speed up
or slow down.

I can bounce along as fast as i like.
I’m in control.

—James

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

They’ll put a match to it and you won’t recognize it. What they do is they take a
bulldozer, knock down the old sheds,
trees too.

If there’s a lot of old wood and not too
many trees, it’s gonna go pretty easy.
Pour some gasoline on it, throw in
some tires. You’re not supposed to
burn tires. some guys do.

Wait for some foggy morning. Throw in
some tires. Toss on a match. It gets real hot.

Then they’ll dig a big hole, bulldoze the ashes
into it, cover it up, and farm right over it.

They’re lookin’ to use every acre.
Every square foot.

—Neil

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