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Jim is Professor of English at Emporia State University; Tom is Professor of History at North Dakota State University. We've been writing Plains FolkTM weekly since 1983.
Both Jim and Tom have active schedules presenting concerts, lectures, and workshops to public and academic groups.
Together Jim and Tom have published two books (Plains Folk and Plains Folk II) based on writings from the column, and individually we have published other books dealing with life on the plains. We're happy to offer these books (including inscribed copies) to the public via the Plains FolkTM bookstore, Commerce of the Prairies.
Jim promotes regional studies by serving as Director of ESU's Center for Great Plains Studies, which provides course offerings and public programming.
What Are the Great Plains?In the preface to our book, Plains Folk, we said that we "decline to define the exact areal boundaries of the region about which we write." That's a discussion that never ends, and anyway, as we said, "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. The greatest of Great Plains historians, Walter Prescott Webb, characterized the plains truly (if inexactly) as level, treeless, and semiarid. Typically, this characterization carries negative connotations: most thought about the plains begins with a catalog of what they lack, namely, mountains, trees, and rainfall. To restate these facts in a positive manner--to say that the plains have expansive vistas, lush grasslands, and blue skies--does not change them in substance." Although we define the plains mainly in physiographic terms, we recognize that they also may be defined in cultural terms, according to the patterns of life among regional residents. Those patterns, in fact, are our stock in trade, what we write about in Plains FolkTM. We also encourage people to think in north-south terms, to recognize the continental nature of a region that stretches from Alberta to Texas. Although we don't want to get hung up on boundaries, we do want people to know the general area we are talking about, and so for convenience and clarity we provide a map.
Center for Great Plains Studies, Emporia State University
Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University
Center for Western Studies, Augustana College
Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina
Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska
Plains Humanities Alliance, University of Nebraska
Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, Chadron State University
Where no monument stands,
And the only heroic thing is the sky.--William Stafford