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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
February 12, 2009
Critics continue to shoot at the wrong target in their indignation about the fact that four beer-only liquor stores in tiny Whiteclay, Nebraska sell more than four million cans of beer a year, mostly to residents of the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Emotional, irrational indignation, waxing and waning for years, has flared high again, fueled by a documentary film entitled “The Battle for Whiteclay.”
One critic has described the Whiteclay beer sales as a “boil” on the face of Nebraska.
Attorney General Jon Bruning, never reluctant to take a publicly-popular side in a controversial public issue, has declared: “It is a sad situation, and we need to do more…I’m not done trying.”
Members of a Creighton Prep theology class said they are launching a petition drive to urge President Obama to overturn a 1904 order signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Until the 1904 order took effect, federal policy had been to forbid alcohol sales within a five-mile buffer zone around the legally “dry” Pine Ridge Reservation.
Ending the buffer zone meant that Whiteclay, just south of the Nebraska line at the edge of the Pine Ridge reservation, would fall within the no-alcohol restriction if the buffer zone were revived.
A great deal of indignation over Whiteclay and all those beer sales, but it is totally off target. If Whiteclay is a “boil,” then the alcoholism rampant on the Pine Ridge Reservation is a cancer, a tremendously more serious problem than liquor sales in Whiteclay.
As a practical, non-emotional issue, shutting down beer sales in Whiteclay would simply drive the beer-drinkers to travel from their supposedly “dry” reservation to other northern Nebraska communities like Chadron, Hay Springs, Rushville and Gordon, increasing the potential for drunken driving by virtue of longer distances from the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Are the well-intentioned anti-Whiteclay crusaders aware of the fact that a number of the Indian reservations in South Dakota—in contrast to the Pine Ridge Reservation north of Whiteclay—allow liquor sales on the reservations, where they are subject to tribal control?
Interestingly—although apparently unknown to or ignored by the anti-Whiteclay zealots—the very large Rosebud Indian Reservation some 30 miles due east of the Pine Ridge Reservation is one of several South Dakota reservations which allow liquor sales. Also apparently unbeknownst to or disregarded by the Whiteclay-focused crusaders is the fact that beer sales are allowed in five communities within the Winnebago and Omaha Indian Reservations in Thurston County in Nebraska.
Beer can be bought at eight (that’s right, eight) locations in Pender, four in Emerson, three in Walthill, two in Rosalie and one in Thurston.
In short, I think a strong case can be made that instead of hyperventilating about Whiteclay, Nebraska, the anti-Whiteclay crusaders should turn all that firepower on Pine Ridge tribal leaders, urging that the symptoms of alcoholism be addressed closer to where the alcoholics live; i.e., on the reservation.
With well-intentioned, friendly pressure should come a commitment to work hard to help the tribe overcome, or at least alleviate, the alcoholism problem, by working to help create jobs and doing anything else that can reasonably be done to get at the root causes of the alcoholism.
That certainly would be a worthy undertaking for an indignant filmmaker and newspaper columnist and attorney general and earnest young high school students
* * *
An Omahan who is a consistent critic recently sarcastically suggested that I “please end the suspense and tell us all what political views Michelle Obama will share with the public in the days to come.”
This was my critic’s response to my prediction that we would be hearing “Michelle Obama’s views on political issues.” This critic’s e-mail said that if I feel the need for even more “partisan rantings…lob an attack in the direction of old Joe Kennedy.”
Not a bad idea, except that this time I will use some of the words in a new book about “old Joe’s” time in Hollywood. The title is “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents,” author is Cari Beauchamp and the book was reviewed recently in The Wall Street Journal by Edward Kosner, former editor of Newsweek, New York Magazine, Esquire and The New York Daily News.
The book concentrates on the years when Kennedy, founding father of the Kennedy political clan, was a major player in Hollywood, largely through obtaining control of various studios.
The book recounts the ways in which Kennedy gained control of various studio deals and also gives details of Kennedy’s affair with movie star Gloria Swanson while his wife, Rose, “who had once left Kennedy because of his compulsive infidelities, kept going to Mass and acted oblivious to the whole tawdry scene.”
The book review refers to Kennedy as “a blatant anti-Semite.” Reported also is the story that when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Kennedy as a purported reformist chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Roosevelt is said to have commented, “It takes a thief to catch a thief.”
During his disastrous time as the United States Ambassador to Great Britain, Beauchamp writes, “Joe used his envoy’s clout to ship 200,000 cases of Haig & Haig scotch back to the U.S.”
Kosner’s review ended with these words: “It’s an enduring wonder of American politics that JFK managed to become an effective and admired president despite the heavy hand of the old scoundrel.”
* * *
Some of you already know this, but for those who don’t, some advice: For some interesting reading, lay hands on the abstract which gives the history of ownership of property on which you now live. You may find fascinating reading.
For example: The abstract of previous ownership of the lot on which our Fairacres home is built has this history of ownership:
William Grimsley, a part of “Captain Coffer’s Company, Virginia militia, War of 1812,” received a plot of public land granted by Congress to certain military veterans.
Grimsley sold 80 acres to Harry D. Hester of Rochester, New York May 24, 1857. Hester also bought 80 acres from John Eastley, “Seaman on the United States Ship Columbus” in the 1846-48 war with Mexico. (The abstract includes no indication of how Grimsley and Hester or Eastley and Hester got together to make their deal.)
According to an affidavit filed in 1916, Harry Hester, who had become the owner of the land on which our home is built, in 1857 dug the foundation to build “a dwelling house…of solid lumber 8 x 10 feet in size, said dwelling being finished in a good and workmanlike manner with plank floor and roof, window and door and in every respect suitable for a residence, that he has furnished the same with bed and bedding and other household fixtures.”
The affidavit said Hester had plowed and planted and fenced three acres and moved in, “fully prepared to make the same his home.”
Proof of residence such as this was regularly a requirement for citizens who sought to acquire title to public land by “homesteading” on it.
In 1887, the Patrick Land Company purchased 240 acres, which included the Hester-homesteaded land, presumably with the idea of developing it into something more valuable than farmland. Our abstract details a number of transactions by which the land was sold to new owners. By 1892 the 240 acres had been involved in three lawsuits and had been sold at a sheriff’s auction in March 1893 for $1,693.
Finally, in 1907, after a number of changes in ownership, more lawsuits and mortgage foreclosures, Roy Towl, a surveyor who later became mayor of Omaha, filed a plat of “Fairacres” on behalf of the Dundee Realty Co. Some of the property was dedicated to streets. Construction along most of those streets did not proceed promptly, to say the least.
In our case, the lot of a little less than one acre, was sold in 1928 to a new owner named Arthur H. Fetters for $3,000. In 1937, the lot was acquired by Henry W. Yates, who built an Alan McDonald-designed house to which Marian and I added when we acquired the property from Dr. and Mrs. (Melba) Payson Adams in 1966.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, I hope you have found something of interest in the story of the evolution of Omaha’s Fairacres neighborhood and also the message that you, too, may find some interesting reading if you take time to examine the abstract history of ownership of your property.
* * *
A cynic might write it off as kind remarks from one member of the “Former Presidents’ Club” about another member. Judge for yourself.
In any case, I found interesting the response that Jimmy Carter gave when Larry King brought up the subject of the low public approval ratings of certain presidents as they left office.
King noted that Carter’s rating had been in the low 30s but that recent polling showed 60% approval of Carter.
George Bush, King noted, left office with low ratings. (The range was 24% to 34% among various polls.)
Carter said he thought Bush had done a “superb job” in providing aid to Africa. “Nobody could have done better,” Carter declared.
Over time, Carter predicted, “undoubtedly his ratings will improve."
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