Tag Archives: England

The Tail-Gunner’s Grandson

May 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Filmmaker Ben Drickey’s lifelong fascination with history turned personal in 2001. That’s when he documented his grandfather’s return to Germany, revisiting the sites where the U.S. Army Air Corps serviceman crashed and was captured during World War II.

Drickey’s video of the emotional trip has only been seen by family, but the project inspired him to make video production his career after years working with still photography and politics. Today, he creates documentaries and branded film content through his studio, Torchwerks.

Growing up, Drickey was spellbound by family patriarch Wendell Fetters’ stories of being a tail-gunner on a B-26 Marauder flying with the 9th Air Force, 391st bomb group.

On an ill-fated daylight bombing run during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 23, 1944, his plane crossed the English Channel and delivered its payload over the Ahrweiler bridge. Enemy artillery and fighter flak killed the left engine, igniting a fire, but the crew bailed out before the plane went down.

Fetters’ chute pitched him into a tree. The impact broke an ankle, but he cut himself down. Alone, injured, and afraid, the 20-year-old Iowa native took a sun reading and hobbled west behind enemy lines in sub-zero cold and snow. Two days later, militia captured him. A family housed him over Christmas, and he spent the next four months in a POW camp before the war in Europe ended. After a stay-over in England, he came home to resume his life. He worked, married, and raised a family.

Ben Drickey of Torchwerks

Fast forward nearly six decades. Drickey was attending a family reunion, where he learned of his grandfather’s plans for returning to Germany to visit the plane’s crash site. German amateur historian Hermann Josef Stolz found its debris and used a piece stamped with identifying information to trace the plane’s manufacturer, bomber group, and crew. He invited Fetters to come pick through remnants.

“The rest of us were totally intrigued and we quickly realized this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Drickey, who, along with his mother, two aunts, and an uncle, joined his grandparents on the summer 2001 trip. Drickey went as a video documentarian even though he was strictly working as a still photographer at the time.

“I had no formal experience creating a moving image. I borrowed a friend’s camera and pirated a copy of Final Cut Pro. But I just knew I had to go do it,” he says.

With Stolz as guide, the Americans traveled to the site, where a cross memorializes the remains of the pilot, Jack Haynes, who died in the crash.

Even all this time later, Drickey says, “pieces of fiberglass, aluminum, and rubber” are strewn about. “I was picking up things to take home.” He displays one piece on his desk in the Mastercraft Building.

He says his “ecstatic” grandfather “was like a little kid being reunited with something from his past.”

The Americans next went to the nearby two-story wood and stucco farmhouse of Josef Hayer, the man who—at age 14—first arrived on the scene of the 1944 crash. Hayer had salvaged things from the smoldering debris. Among his finds was a tailpiece with a yellow triangle on a canvas peak.

“It was the first time on our trip where my grandfather was presented with the past in such a dramatic way,” Drickey says. “You could see on his face the memories just flooding back.”

Fetters then wanted to return to Eisenschmitt, the village his captors paraded him through to the home he was billeted in. He recalled a tannenbaum atop a table and framed photos of two German Army conscripts hanging on a wall. He was fed dinner and slept in the barn, then he was taken to the rail depot for transport to the POW camp.

After nearly giving up the search for the home all those years later, Fetters noticed a familiar landmark. Sure enough, just beyond the hill sat the house. Through translation, the elderly woman occupant said she remembered that war-torn Christmas when an American airman was brought to the house. She was 9 years old then. She recognized Fetters standing before her 56 years later.

She explained that the uniformed men in the photos were her brothers, and the pictures still hung in the same spot. She invited Fetters to see for himself. He refused.

“My grandfather said, ‘No, no, no, let’s go,’” Drickey says. “He went to the car and wouldn’t come out. He was visibly shaken. We didn’t know what to do, but we were standing there in awe reliving this history with him.”

As the visitors drove off, the woman hurried behind clutching oranges as a gesture of friendship. She handed them to Fetters. A family meeting ensued. Fetters held firm. Drickey explained he’d come too far not to go back, so he did.

“In my business, I would rather beg for forgiveness than ask for permission most of the time,” Drickey says.

He filmed inside the house and interviewed the woman, one of many interviews he conducted for the project.

The experience gave him a career path and archived a precious family legacy.

“I’m so glad I did it. It was such a learning experience for me about myself, my eye, and my ability to capture an image,” he says.

“So many things happened on this trip,” and Drickey says he can only appreciate them all by re-watching the footage.

His grandfather lived to see the video. “He thanked me for taking the time to do it,” Drickey says. “He was very pleased it will live on past him.”

Drickey has gone on to produce slick corporate videos, commercials, and short films. He also worked as cinematographer on the feature film It Snows All the Time, but nothing compares to that first personal project.

His grandfather—the airman who also served in the Korean War—passed away July 31, 2015.

Visit torchwerks.com for more information.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition Sixty-Plus, a publication within Omaha Magazine.

Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

April 25, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

The following interview presents my grandfather’s recollections of World War II.

A transcript of the interview, conducted in May 2005, is collected by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center’s Veterans History Project (memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.52021). Omaha Magazine’s version of the transcript has been updated with minor edits for clarity and accuracy.

Robert Wesley Meigs was born Oct. 11, 1922. He graduated from Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho and was drafted on Jan. 16, 1943. After enlistment, Grandpa entered into the Army Specialized Training Program before the program was emptied to fill the 99th Infantry Division. He was honorably discharged on Jan. 6, 1946, after being awarded numerous distinctions, including a Purple Heart. Grandpa enrolled at University of Colorado through the G.I. Bill, graduated in 1950, became an engineer for Phillips Petroleum, and raised four children, including my father, John Meigs. All of Grandpa’s children would graduate from high school in Omaha.

Doug Meigs: Dad told me about how you were in the officer corps, and they were short on soldiers, so they emptied out the training colleges for infantry. Is that right?

Robert Meigs: Well, it was called ASTP, the Army Specialized Training Program. We were never told that was what it was—it was understood. But before that, I went into the service as a clerk typist, I went to a clerk typist school. Then from there I went to the ASTP, and from there into the 99th Infantry Division.

D: Had you graduated from high school yet?

R: Yes.

D: So you were just out of high school and thinking about college?

R: No, I was an assistant manager at F. W. Woolworth’s in Twin Falls, Idaho.

D: Why clerk typist?

R: Well, that was what I was qualified to do based on the entry tests. When I was inducted, we had a series of tests.

D: Aptitude tests?

R: Yes, aptitude tests, and they put me in. We didn’t know anything about what was going on. They took a big mass of people and then took their scores. I ended up in Camp Maxey, Texas.

D: Basic training was at Camp Maxey, Texas?

R: As soon as we got out of basic training, I went into the ASTP.

D: What would you have done if you were a clerk typist?

R: I would have been a company clerk. Well, I don’t know, actually. I was also in medical training. I could have also been a medical typist.

D: It would have been office work then?

R: Yes, office work: keeping records and checking on stuff like that.

D: Was there any sort of catalyst or reason why they emptied out the ASTP?

R: Oh, I don’t know. We had heard that they had closed the program down. That was about the time when we were into heavy casualties. I assume—but I don’t know anything about it—that it was for filling up the new divisions just being activated.

D: When you got in the 99th Infantry Division, did you have to be retrained?

R: Yes, we went from ASTP, clerk typist school at Camp Barkeley, Texas—where the typist school was—to Camp Maxey, Texas, which was for the infantry.

D: What was it like going through basic training a second time?

R: Just more involved. It was infantry basic training while the other was close-order drills, learning your general orders for the Army, getting acquainted with the Army, and indoctrination.

D: When they put you in the infantry, what were you thinking?

R: Oh my god!

D: I think I remember you saying a line about mushrooms and the infantry.

R: Well, that was not my quote. But some soldiers would say, “They treat you like a mushroom. They keep you in the dark and feed you B.S.”

D: So, you’re down in Camp Maxey doing infantry training, and these are the guys that you’re going to Germany with?

R: Yes, they had just activated a new division, the 99th Infantry Division. We were the fill-in for the people who were in there and had casualties, and we were put in the service of that company to fill out some divisions so that they could activate.

D: So there were a bunch of other people in similar situations?

R: Definitely. Most of the people in my squad or my platoon were ASTP people. We had enough of the original people who had been with the 99th for training and all, and some older people, but most of the group I went over with were in the same category I was.

D: What was the general atmosphere of the camp? Were folks scared?

R: No, it was just military training.

D: Was it frightening to know you were preparing to go into war?

R: No, because young people don’t have an idea what war is about. And it was the Army, and Army training was disciplined—a lot of discipline.

D: So, once you left Camp Maxey, did you go straight to Europe or did you go back to Idaho?

R: From Camp Maxey, we were sent to Boston where we departed for Europe as a unit.

D: Were there U-boats prowling the Atlantic when you crossed over?

R: Not that I knew of. They were out, but not in the area where we were. Some guys said they saw some. But I never saw any. We went over in a convoy.

D: Where did you land in Europe?

R: We landed in Firth of Clyde in Scotland, and from there down to some resort area on the coast of England—I can’t remember the name of it—and we departed from there to the continent. And we replaced the 2nd Infantry Division on the front line.

D: And then you were in Belgium?

R: Belgium, along the border of Germany. We came to the Belgian city of Buchenbach first.

D: Do you remember your first day on the front line?

R: Not really. We were taken down, and it was snowy.

D: I know you were in the Battle of the Bulge. That occurred while you were in Belgium?

R: That occurred when we went on line. We went on line in December. It was

Dec. 16, 1944, the first night of the Bulge. The action started in the morning where we were. It may have started before, but when they came through our area, I think it was the 16th.

D: How long had you been in Belgium by that point?

R: Several weeks.

D: So it was pretty soon?

R: Oh, yeah.

D: Did you have much combat between when you got there and the Battle of the Bulge?

R: No.

D: When you got to the front line, what was the atmosphere like?

R: It was in the winter, and we were in line. We had our positions. I think the division was spread out over several miles, 25 miles maybe. We were living in foxholes, and living on the edge of the woods. We had our company headquarters—units were out. And right across the valley were the Germans with a kind of stalemate—nobody would move. And in the Battle of the Bulge, they broke through our division and an adjoining division. They rolled right on back.

D: How many people are in a division?

R: 15,000.

D: So there were two groups of 15,000 and they broke through your lines? How close were you to the breakthrough?

R: I don’t know—pretty close. It was close enough that we were in a quasi-retreat. Then we got cut off, and we were behind enemy lines for a couple days as a unit. And going back up was, of course, after the first instants of the Bulge.

D: So, what was it like when you got surrounded?

R: Well, you didn’t know who was where.

D: Was there a lot of hiding? Or were you fighting? Could you see Germans marching by? It’s hard for me to even picture it.

R: It’s hard to describe because everything was so convoluted. We weren’t into any hand-to-hand; it was mostly artillery duels and patrols to find out where the other side was. On the morning of the breakthrough, it was just bedlam.

D: Did you wake up to gunfire?

R: Yes, we were under artillery most of the night.

D: So, did you basically not sleep while you were in combat?

R: We slept the most we could. We had four or five guys in a dugout, a foxhole.

D: How deep were these foxholes?

R: They were deep enough to where you had to stoop to get in—maybe 6 feet by 6 feet.

D: So when you were in the Battle of the Bulge, was the ground frozen or was it muddy?

R: It wasn’t frozen. There was a lot of snow, a lot of rain. It was extremely muddy. We were in the Ardennes Forest. The snow would pack in on the trees, and it would melt. But the water would be dripping off the trees for days. It could be a bright day but it would still be wet. The 99th Division was also called the “trenchfoot division.” Trenchfoot occurs from too much moisture on your feet and not enough circulation. They don’t really turn frozen, but they turn black.

D: Kind of like gangrene and frost-bite mixed together?

R: Yeah, there were a lot of amputees and toes lost.

D: Did you have any problem with trenchfoot?

R: Not trenchfoot. I think I froze my feet one time.

D: How did your feet freeze?

R: Just exposure.

D: Was it any particular incident when you were stuck or stranded?

R: Just living out in the winter. It was in December, with a lot of snow and a lot of inclement weather. One of the problems was the Air Force couldn’t fly to attack the Germans from the air because of the overcast.

D: You said prior to the battle it was just a lot of artillery. Do you have any personal stories, like the foxhole you were in being hit?

R: No, not a direct hit, but it came close. The first morning of the Bulge, we sent out patrols, and every company had a command post, and every command post along our regiment took direct hits. Before that, a lot of patrolling went on. We were patrolling on the enemy side, and they were coming back. So, they knew all the locations.

D: Were you on any of those patrols the night before the Bulge?

R: Yes, I was on a couple.

D: Was it like a different atmosphere, like you knew something was going to happen the next day?

R: Oh no. That patrol was days before the Bulge. We were trying to get prisoners and vice versa, but the Germans didn’t capture any of our men. 

D: Did you ever capture any Germans?

R: Yes.

D: What was that like?

R: They would give up since we had tanks. This was after the Bulge and we were beginning to move forward and advance. We’d find these pockets and then our guys would surround them and they’d take prisoners and we’d take them to the rear.

D: Were there any times when you were taking prisoners that you remember in particular?

R: No.

D: Back to the Battle of the Bulge, when every command post had direct hits, how did you know what to do?

R: At first, we didn’t know what to do, but we just followed our officers, and the leaders. After that was when they pulled on by us, and left us behind the lines. That period of time is kind of fuzzy, hazy in my memory,

D: What was the hierarchy of units, in terms of division, platoon, etc?

R: It goes division, ahead of the division is the corps, then it goes into what you called “triangular divisions,” and each division had three regiments, and each regiment had three battalions, and each battalion had three companies, and then you have your squads.

D: Were the companies broken up?

R: No, we were pretty much all together as a company. But people were all over the place trying to find their units. You’d meet a guy and he’d want to know where the unit was that was in that area, and they’d try and direct him to where they were located now.

D: Did you ever get separated?

R: Not really. We stayed together as a unit.

D: Then you guys got up to some sort of elevated or mountainous area? Dad told me you had taken refuge there.

R: Our division was in what you call the Elsenborn. Our unit was in reserve, at Elsenborn Ridge. We weren’t directly on line; we were waiting to replace somebody.

D: What was the process? You got up to the ridge, and could you see the German Army trudging forward?

R: No, we knew they were on the edge of the forest, they had their gun emplacements and they had their troops there.

D: Was the Bulge like they had a huge mass that just broke through all at once and then you saw the mop-up coming while your guys tried to regroup and find each other?

R: Pretty much. Our groups would try to hold up the main elements. In fact, it wasn’t our particular unit, but a lot of units in the 99th Division held up the German advance. You read an awful lot of history, and you read about the 99th and how keen they were in holding it.

D: Were there really heavy casualties in your area?

R: I used to have statistics, but I’m not certain. We probably had 20 to 30 percent casualties.

D: What was your role in your unit?

R: I had the Browning Automatic Rifle.

D: Once you realized the Germans were coming through, did you guys set up and put your tripod down for the B.A.R.?

R: No, it wasn’t that kind of fighting. They ran through. And we more or less retreated. Why? I wasn’t in on the decision-making. While we were on the line, it was kind of interesting; we had built corduroy roads for evacuation.

D: Corduroy?

R: We cut out trees and used the trunks for roads to keep out of the mud and the snow. And while we were on the line before the Bulge, that was mostly what we were doing and stakeouts, setting up ambushes, and patrols.

D: When you say “on the line,” you guys were at the very front?

R: The very front.

D: Up at the Elsenborn, when did you know the tide was turning and the Germans weren’t going to breakthrough and get the oil and all that.

R: I’m not sure, but at some point, all the units that could move were put up in trucks, and we were rushed to the Remagen Bridge.

D: So, you had already been put under Gen. George Patton by that point?

R: You know I’m not even sure, but that’s what I heard later. I didn’t even realize we were under Hodges’ command, but somebody told me we were under British command for a while, too.

D: So, you go from the Elsenborn Ridge on trucks to the Remagen Bridge?

R: After the German breakthrough with the Battle of the Bulge in December, we started north, then they trucked us south to the Remagen Bridge in March. We made the Rhine crossing at Remagen. In fact our unit, I think, was the very first unit across the Remagen. Our platoon was about 30 or 40 guys.

D: Where would you be in the placement of men crossing?

R: Somewhere in the first 50.

D: Could you see the first guy going across?

R: Yes, I think I followed him.

D: What was it like? Were you in groups waiting for artillery bursts, and just ran you across the bridge?

R: What happened was the Germans were trying to blow up the bridge, but the artillery couldn’t reach it. It could reach the west side, the side away from Germany. Then somebody, a sergeant or someone, timed it and figured out they were coming in bursts. And those bursts would hit the entrance to the bridge, so when we got that worked out, after a burst, they would shove people across, and once you got on the bridge you weren’t in any danger of artillery fire, but you were in danger from small arms fire.

D: The artillery was landing where you would get on the bridge?

R: Close enough.

D: Was that where you got shrapnel in your shoulder?

R: No, I got shrapnel on the other side, after I crossed the bridge. I don’t remember if it was a day or two after crossing, when we were going forward.

D: While troops were crossing the bridge, were there a lot of casualties?

R: Yes, but like I said, because of the position of the artillery, to my knowledge I don’t think we lost that many people there. But once we got in on the other side, then we were in the rear of the retreating German army, and they hit us with small arms fire.

D: You get across the bridge, then they get your platoon across, and then the company, then the Luftwaffe bombed the bridge, but the engineers built another bridge. Is that right?

R: Yes. When I was wounded, we went back to the hospital in, I think it was Liege, Belgium, and we crossed the river on a pontoon bridge. I came back to the hospital for some time, and then I rejoined the unit. By the time I rejoined, they had started mopping up what was called the Ruhr Pocket.

D: What was the Ruhr Pocket?

R: The landscape was pretty much the plains. We were like pincers—going around and surrounding German troops, getting all the Germans. The Ruhr Pocket was a big area. The U.S. captured thousands upon thousands of prisoners.

D: What exactly happened when you were wounded?

R: It was artillery. There was shrapnel. There were two other guys—two or three other guys who were killed. And I got small shrapnel in my arm, which is still there.

D: What were you guys doing, doing mop-up activities or patrolling?

R: Going forward, we were pushing the Germans back.

D: So, were you firing at the time, running and firing?

R: Just going forward, having the artillery fire at me.

D: Were you aware that artillery was firing at you at that point?

R: Oh yeah.

D: Were these two guys people who had been with you since ASTP, were they clerk typists too?

R: No, they were in our unit. That’s the thing—I don’t recall their names.

D: Was that a really traumatic incident, when the artillery hit you, was it really destructive on your bodies, were you really close together?

R: They shielded it.

D: So, you were on a corner?

R: I was on the outside, they were just advancing.

D: When you got hit, did you retreat with your wounds, or did somebody come and get you?

R: They sent a medic, a medic came up and looked at you, and they sent you back to the medical evacuation.

D: Were these other two guys in really bad shape?

R: I heard that they were gone.

D: You guys didn’t have any conversation after being hit?

R: No.

D: Were you close enough to speak to one another or were you spread out?

R: Spread out. I’m not even sure of the number of casualties, I just know there were casualties.

D: Do you remember lying on the ground with a shrapnel wound?

R: I remember when the shrapnel hit, and somebody called the medic up.

D: Were you standing at that time?

R: No, crawling on our hands and knees.

D: Oh, so you were advancing on your hands and stomach and it hit you in the left arm?

R: Previous to that when we were on the line, we had some casualties, but have you ever heard of a buzz bomb? They were ram-jet powered bombs Germany fired mainly at England. The engine would stop and it would glide. The target was London but they didn’t have the sophisticated guidance technology. One day, one broke over our line, and their warheads were wrapped in wire. When it exploded, it spread shrapnel. I remember poor old Ned Potter, and he was on line, and he was hit, right across here, and it made a couple marks across his penis.

D: Was it deadly for Ned?

R: He had to go back to the hospital, and he wasn’t in the hospital I was in. This happened before I was there. But he finally came back and he was telling about it, and they put a curtain around his bed, and all the nurses and everybody would come over because they wanted to see the guy with the wounded penis.

D: Were those buzz bombs pretty heavy-duty then?

R: Oh yeah, they were huge, and I’ve heard that was what it was that hit us. But I couldn’t even tell you. If it was, it was one that didn’t reach its destinations. It just fell short. But when it hit, it really exploded.

D: How much of an area would it have taken off?

R: Oh gosh, I have no idea.

D: So, after you got wounded, troops took you across the pontoon bridge. Then, after you recovered and returned, heavy fighting still raged?

R: Oh yeah, we took a lot of our casualties then. There we were destabilizing pockets of resistance.

D: In the Ruhr Pocket, what was the largest group of Germans you captured?

R: I didn’t have to force any of them to surrender. I think the most I had to take back to the rear was two or three.

D: What was it like walking with these Germans as prisoners? Were they tied up?

R: No. You had your gun pointed at them out in front of you.

D: Did you ever have any try to take off or some that wanted to escape?

R: No. They were pretty anxious to get out of there.

D: Any Germans speak English over there?

R: Oh, probably in some of the camps. I don’t remember. Some of them spoke pidgin English, some of us spoke pidgin German.

D: Were many of your friends injured in the mop-up?

R: Several of them were. A guy lost an eye. While we were going forward, I saw this sergeant crouched in front. He’d direct the guys where he wanted them and about that time I heard a “kerplunk.” There was a sniper who had got him right in the gut. He just begged for us to shoot him. We called the medics, but he didn’t make it back. Then, I think the same sniper shot at my unit. They missed me luckily but finally one of our guys figured out where he was.

D: Dad mentioned how you were out with a platoon, and a sniper was picking off guys and you had to play dead until nightfall.

R: Well, that was the same time with this sniper.

D: So it started with the sniper hitting your sergeant in the stomach, then did you guys all fall to the ground?

R: Yes. We were all down, trying to get where we weren’t targets.

D: So, you got down and got away to the edge of things?

R: Yeah, after they had neutralized the sniper, then they came out and evacuated.

D: That sergeant got hit, and he was down a couple hours, and the medics came but he had to wait?

R: There was some wait I don’t remember how long it was. We were moving so fast, the memories go. What I should have done was kept a diary.

D: Did you send letters to Grandma Maddy?

R: Oh, yeah. There was a special mail that you could send back.

D: About how often did you mail her?

R: Madeline said it wasn’t very often, but it seemed to me like it was quite often.

D: So, what was the last German city you remember?

R: Wurzburg is where we ended up. It was on the Main River. And that was after the war was over, and we were occupying. We were there for about two months after March of 1945. We also spent a lot of time occupying the town of Randersacker waiting to be transferred to Japan.

D: And that’s where you heard about the bomb?

R: And when Roosevelt died.

D: What was it like occupying the town?

R: We did guard duty.

D: Were the residents unhappy?

R: Yes. We would take over homes for billets. We’d take over two or three buildings to sleep, like barracks, and we had our mess hall. And we’d go into Wurzburg for assigned duties. After they dropped the bomb, the war was over as far as we were concerned.

D: So, what happened next for you?

R: From there we went to what they called “cigarette camps,” where we were deployed back to the U.S. They were back in France. Before the bomb, we were told we would be shipped from Germany through the Panama Canal to Japan. But that was only rumor. So when the war was over, we were redeployed to the cigarette camps. And from there we were assigned points according to how many days we were in combat, how many days we were overseas, and they added them up until you could be shipped back overseas.

D: Did you have to wait around long?

R: I must have waited around. The war ended in the spring—May 8, 1945—and I got back in November.

D: Were you eager to get home?

R: Sure, everybody was. I wish I kept a diary. We didn’t do much of that. I didn’t, at least, and I don’t think many of the guys did.

D: Did you run across any concentration camps while you were in Germany?

R: Yes. Our unit relieved one. We came in and opened it up. They made the mistake of opening the gates, and these inmates went nuts over the countryside and were going into farms and picking up rabbits and anything they could get. I remember one had a rabbit by the neck and a bayonet. It was pretty horrible. Then, at night, you’d see all these little fires around where they were squatting.

D: Was it like a refugee camp all around?

R: Eventually, when they rounded them up again. For a while they were on their own.

D: Were you aware of the concentration camps?

R: Yes.

D: What was your role on the liberation of the camp?

R: Support troops.

D: What was the atmosphere when you heard the first atomic bomb was dropped?

R: Relief. The war was ending for all practical purposes.

D: Was there a different attitude from the first to the second bomb?

R: I don’t remember. It just meant there was a good chance we wouldn’t be going to Japan. When the war ended in Europe, the war was still going on in Japan, and they were still sending troops in to meet the Japanese. After the bombs dropped and they surrendered, there was no need for the big armies of Europe to go to Japan. Then the problem of redeployment came up, and we went from Germany to the cigarette camps in France before we were shipped out and landed in New York. When you think of it, there were 12 to 13 million people in uniform. There was always something going on. There were huge movements of people.

D: You have a lot of medals. What are they from?

R: Most of those were for campaigns and a Purple Heart. We also got a unit citation from Belgium for our defense of Belgium before and after the Bulge.

D: Was it pleasant in France after the war ended?

R: No. It was cold. We had these big barracks and cots. Are you familiar with meat wrapping paper? We’d sleep on these cots, and the cold would come from underneath, and it was bitter. So, we’d go down to the meat market and get rolls of the meat wrapping paper and make them a pile thick to insulate the cots. I remember that, but everything moved so fast.

Doug Meigs is the executive editor of Omaha Publications.

Calendar of Events

January 5, 2017 by

The following online calendar of events appears as it does in the print edition of Omaha Magazine.
To be considered for publication, please send your event three months in advance to editor@omahamagazine.com

Art & Museum Exhibits

Passion & Obsession at KANEKO

Passion & Obsession at KANEKO

Passion & Obsession: From the Collection
Through May 6 at KANEKO, 1111 Jones St.
This exhibit celebrates both the passion of the artist to create and the obsession of the connoisseurs who collect. Admission: Free. 402-341-3800.
thekaneko.org/passion

Dirt Meridian: Photographs by Andrew Moore
Through Jan. 8 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.
During the past decade, artist Andrew Moore made more than a dozen trips to photograph along the 100th meridian, from North Dakota to the Texas panhandle. This is a ticketed event: $10 adults, free for ages 17 and younger, college students with ID, and Joslyn members. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

Hayv Kahraman
Through Jan. 8 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.
Hayv Kahraman draws on sources including Renaissance painting, Japanese woodblock prints, and Persian miniatures to create work that considers the repercussions of being displaced from one’s home. Admission: Free. 402-342-3300
joslyn.org

The King is Dead! The Regicide of Charles I
Through Jan. 8 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
This exhibit shows the rise and fall of England’s King Charles I and his kingdom. Running in conjunction with this exhibit is “War, Wealth, and Stable Repairs.” Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors, $7 children ages 3-12, free to ages 2 and under. 402-444-5071
durhammuseum.org

War, Wealth, and Stable Repairs
Through Jan. 8 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
This exhibit shows the old monarchs of Europe did not always yield absolute power that changed the course of history. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors, $7 children ages 3-12, free to ages 2 and under. 402-444-5071
durhammuseum.org

YMCA of Greater Omaha: 150 Years of Providing Firsts
Through Jan. 8 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
On April 2, 1866, the YMCA first began to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all citizens of Omaha. Today, they continue to strengthen the community through programs focused on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors age 62 and older, $7 children ages 3-12, and free to ages 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

exhibits01-01americanspirits

American Spirits at The Durham.

American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
Through Jan. 29 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Step back in time to an era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance workers, and legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors age 62 and older, $7 children ages 3-12, and free to age 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Homebrew: A Spirited History of Omaha
Through Jan. 29 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Krug. Storz. Metz. These were some of Omaha’s founding brewers. Local brews fueled the workers who helped the city expand so rapidly and gave power to the mob bosses of the Prohibition era. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors age 62 and older, $7 children ages 3-12, free to age 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

exhibits01-04operationivy

Operation “Omaha Ivy” at Lauritzen Gardens

Operation: “Omaha Ivy” by E. Taylor Shoop
Jan. 4-Feb. 20 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St.
Shoop has focused his lens on ivy to create his unique, kaleidoscopic compositions. This show focuses on the city’s collection of ivy. Included with garden admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12, free for members and children younger than 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Imagination: Celebrating 40 Years of Play Exhibit
Through April 16 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.
The museum is bringing back fan favorites from the past 40 years. Admission: $12 adults and kids, $11 seniors, free for children (under 2) and members. 402-342-6164.
ocm.org

First Friday Old Market
Jan. 6 and Feb. 3 at various Old Market locations (Harney to Jackson streets and 10th to 13th streets).
Stroll distinctive brick streets to live music, ride Ollie the Trolley for free between venues, and ignite your imagination with art. 6 to 9 p.m. Free.
firstfridayoldmarket.com

exhibits01-14legos

Nature Connects at Lauritzen Gardens

Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks
Jan. 14 through May 15 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St.
Sean Kenney’s third indoor exhibit features 13 displays with larger-than-life sculptures. Included with garden admission, which is: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for members and children younger than 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project
Feb. 18 through April 30 at Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Drawing inspiration from the Great Depression-era Farm Security Administration photography project, the photographers of the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project created a portrait of America in the early and mid-’70s. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors age 62 and older, $7 children ages 3-12, free to age 2 and under. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Art Exhibit: Omaha Artists Co-op
Feb. 23 through April 3 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St.
Local artists will exhibit their works in the gardens. Included with garden admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for members and children younger than 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Performing Arts

The Met: Live in HD 2016-2017 Season—Nabucco (Verdi)
Saturday, Jan. 7, and Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater, 1340 Mike Fahey St.
The legendary Plácido Domingo brings another new baritone role to the Met under the baton of his longtime collaborator James Levine. Tickets: $10-$24. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

Thumbelina
Jan. 14 through Feb. 5 at the Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
Thumbelina is a flower-sized girl determined to discover the true meaning of friendship. This world premiere production uses inventive puppetry and innovative design. Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 and 11 a.m.; select Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Tickets: $12. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company’s The Legacy Project: A Dance of Hope
Jan. 19 at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
Told through the lens of the Holocaust and its devastation, hope inspires the journey to a land that promises new beginnings. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15-$36. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Around the World in 80 Days at Omaha Community Playhouse

Around the World in 80 Days at Omaha Community Playhouse

Around The World In 80 Days
Jan. 20 through Feb. 12 at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.
Two men journey around the world to win a simple wager, but they leave an incredible story about loyalty and friendship in their wake. Wednesdays: $28 adults, $18 students; Thursdays-Sundays: $36 adults, $22 students. 402-553-0800.
omahaplayhouse.com

The Met: Live in HD 2016-2017 Season—Roméo et Juliette (Gounod)
Jan. 21 and 25 at Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater, 1340 Mike Fahey St.
Giana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo perform as opera’s classic lovers in Charles Gounod’s lush Shakespeare adaptation. Gianandrea Noseda conducts the sumptuous score. Admission: $20 for Film Streams and Opera Omaha Members, $24 adults, $10 students. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Jan. 27 through Feb. 12 at the Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
Join intrepid go-getter journalist Lillian McGill live in the ready-for-reality-TV courtroom for the trial of the century to determine if the wolf we all know as Big Bad is truly guilty of the crimes of which he has been accused.  7 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m Sundays. Tickets: $20. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

The Sound of Music
Jan. 24-29 at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
The hills are alive in this brand-new production of The Sound of Music, directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien. Tickets: $35-$110. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

ætherplough
Jan. 27-28 at the KANEKO, 1111 Jones St.
This group will perform genesis 2.0, a variety of dance styles that aim to provide tools and infrastructure to encourage risk taking and innovation. Dance forms explored include butoh, aerial silk, burlesque, and modern dance. Back-to-back performances Friday and Saturday with one performance at 6 p.m., and the next beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-341-3800.
aetherplough.com

HIR at the Bluebarn Theatre

HIR at the Bluebarn Theatre.

Hir
Feb. 2-26 at Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St.
Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from the wars to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 12 and 19,  and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb 26. Tickets: $25-$30. 402-345-1576.
bluebarn.org

Where the Wild Things Live with photographer Vincent J. Musi
Feb. 7 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
For a story on “Exotic Pets” that appeared in the April 2014 National Geographic, Vincent J. Musi explored the deep connections some people have with creatures you can’t get at the pet store. Tickets: $10-$25. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Elvis Lives! at the Orpheum.

Elvis Lives! at the Orpheum.

Elvis Lives!
Feb. 14 at Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
Elvis Lives! features hand-picked finalists from Elvis Presley Enterprises’ worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35-$65. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Huck Finn
Feb. 24 -March 12 at the Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
The great American novel comes to life in a thrilling and deeply funny adaptation. Huck Finn flees the claws of “civilization” for the freedom of the mighty Mississippi. Along the way, he comes across Jim, an escaped slave. The journey downriver is a real education for Huck. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $20. 402-345-4849.
rosetheater.org

Concerts

Casey Donahew
Jan. 6 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
In just over 10 years, Casey Donahew has risen from being a favorite on the local Texas music scene to a nationally popular touring act who sells out venues across the country. 9 p.m. Tickets: $25. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

concerts1-07mckeeAndy McKee
Jan. 7 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Andy McKee is among the world’s finest acoustic guitarists. He entertains both the eye and the ear as he magically transforms the steel string guitar into a full orchestra. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance/$25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

No Getter with Mom Jeans, Sports, and Graduating Life
Jan. 8 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave.
Four Omaha dudes with similar and different influences. Emo/punk songs came together with ease—their EP, Fitting, was released last year. 8 p.m. Tickets: $7. 402-884-5707.
-reverblounge.com

Cold Cave with Drab Majesty
Jan. 15 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
This band has become a name synonymous with the contemporary resurgence of darkwave and synth pop sub-genres. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12 advance/$15 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

concerts01-17lumineers

The Lumineers at CenturyLink Center Omaha

The Lumineers: The Cleopatra World Tour
Jan. 17 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St.
Two-time Grammy-nominated artist The Lumineers will be embarking on their first-ever North American arena tour. 7 p.m. Tickets: $30-$60. 1-800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Jamison Ross
Jan. 20 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
Drummer and vocalist Jamison Ross delivers his hard-hitting, rhythmic jazz in Omaha for the first time. 8 p.m. Tickets: $30. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

No Shelter with Badmotorfinger
Jan. 21 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
No Shelter is a Rage Against The Machine tribute band, and Badmotorfinger offers the ultimate Soundgarden tribute experience. All ages. 9 p.m. Tickets: $8 advance/$10 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

Bazile Mills EP Release
Jan. 21 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave.
Bazile Mills is based around songwriter David Mainelli and features lead guitarist Tim Rozmajzl, singer Laura Streeter, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Sam Vetter, bassist/lap steel guitarist Dan Stein, and drummer Robb Clemens. 9 p.m. Tickets: $8. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com

Josh Abbott Band
Jan. 25 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Josh Abbott Band has become one of the leading country acts in Texas music, winning four trophies in the inaugural Texas Regional Radio Awards. 9 p.m. Tickets: $20. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Turnpike Troubadours with Dalton Domino
Jan. 26 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Turnpike Troubadours are a hard band to define. Take some steel-guitar country music, throw in some punk rock, and add that fiddler from the honky-tonk. 9 p.m. Tickets: $30. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Cherry Glazerr with Slow Hollows
Feb. 1 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
The off-kilter noise pop sound of L.A. quartet Cherry Glazerr was born in 2012 when high school student and singer-songwriter Clementine Creevy began recording songs in her bedroom. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $12 advanced/$14 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

Twenty One Pilots at CenturyLink Center.

Twenty One Pilots at CenturyLink Center.

Twenty One Pilots
Feb. 1 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St.
Twenty One Pilots currently consists of lead vocalist and keyboardist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. The duo rose to fame in the mid-2010s, after several years of touring and independent releases. 7 p.m. Tickets: $39-$49. 1-800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Excision—The Paradox Tour
Feb. 2 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St.
Excision DJ shows are like no other—a virtual apocalypse of twisting and morphing sounds turn massive crowds into a frenzy. Also performing: Cookie Monsta, Barely Alive, and Dion Timmer. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $33.50 advance/$36 day of show. 402-346-9802.
sokolauditorium.com

Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy
Feb. 3 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
This international concert phenomenon features Nobuo Uematsu’s stirring music from one of the most popular video games of all time. 8 p.m. Tickets: $30-$100. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Kevin Garrett
Feb. 4 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
Garrett is known for poignant out-of-love songs that combine a reverence for classic soul with modern electronics and traditional instrumentation. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $12 advance/$14 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

Lemuria with Cayetana, Mikey Erg
Feb. 5 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
Lemuria, from Buffalo, New York, creates what sounds like sugary indie-pop, but is actually discordant notes, odd time signatures, and brutal riffs creating menacing yet catchy music. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $13 advance/$15 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

An Evening with Dawes
Feb. 7 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Dawes is an American folk-rock band from Los Angeles and is composed of brothers Taylor (guitars and vocals) and Griffin Goldsmith (drums), along with Wylie Gelber (bass) and Lee Pardini (keyboards). 9 p.m. Tickets: $23 advance/$25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Ariana Grande at CenturyLink Center.

Ariana Grande at CenturyLink Center.

Ariana Grande
Feb. 7 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St.
The international pop sensation brings her signature cat and bunny ears to Omaha as part of her “Dangerous Woman Tour.” 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $30-$200. 1-800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Susto
Feb. 8 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
Susto is a Spanish word that frontman Justin Osborne learned as an anthropology student. The word refers to a folk illness and means “when your soul is separated from your body.” It also roughly translates to a panic attack. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $8 advance/$10 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

The Five Irish Tenors
Thursday, Feb. 9 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
The Five Irish Tenors fuse Irish wit and boisterous charm, with lyricism, dramatic flair, and operatic style to bring you a unique Irish tenor concert experience. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15-$35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Keller Willams
Feb. 10 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Williams’ music combines elements of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, electronica/dance, jazz, funk, and other assorted genres. 9 p.m. Tickets: $23 advanced/$25 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Tribal Seeds with Raging Fyah and Nattali Rize
Feb. 11 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Tribal Seeds is a reggae band based in San Diego, California. They have shared the stage with Slightly Stoopid, Matisyahu, The Wailers, and others. 9 p.m. Tickets: $17 advance/$20 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Mike Doughty with Wheatus
Feb. 15 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Doughty is touring his largest band ever: a cello/bass player, drums, another guitar player, an organ player, and a backing vocalist. Using hand gestures, Doughty acts as an improv conductor for the band. 8 p.m. Tickets: $17. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Hippo Campus with Magic City Hippies
Feb. 16 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Hippo Campus is an indie rock band that has performed at South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, Red Rocks, Conan, and Reading and Leeds. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Hot Club of Cowtown
Feb. 17 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
Hot Club of Cowtown has ascended from its unlikely beginnings in NYC’s East Village a decade ago to become the premier ambassador of hot jazz. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

P.O.S. with DJ Fundo and Ceschi Ramos
Feb. 18 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Stefon Alexander, aka P.O.S., makes tight, declamatory music that builds on DJ Fundo’s penchant for grinding beats and radical lyrics. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15 advance/$18 day of show. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Nebraska Wind Symphony: “Past, Present, and Future”
Feb. 19 at Omaha Conservatory of Music, 7023 Cass St.
Music selections help reflect on our past, present, and future. 3 p.m. Admission at door: $10 adults/$5 students/seniors; free to children under age 12. 402-216-0325.
nebraskawindsymphony.com

Florida Georgia Line at CenturyLink Center.

Florida Georgia Line at CenturyLink Center.

Florida-Georgia Line
Feb. 24 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St.
This popular country-music duo’s latest album, Dig Your Roots, includes songs with guests Ziggy Marley and the Backstreet Boys. Tickets: $28-$75. 1-800-745-3000.
ticketmaster.com

Valerie June: The Order of Time Tour
Feb. 24 at the Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Valerie June encompasses a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, and bluegrass. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. 402-884-5353.
waitingroomlounge.com

Sean Jones Quartet
Feb. 24 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
Sean Jones, the former lead trumpet for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, stands out with his bright, muscular tone and impeccable sense of swing. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35. 402-345-0606.
ticketomaha.com

Lettuce
Feb. 26 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
For more than two decades, Lettuce has brought a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop-inspired urgency and mastery of beat. All ages. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance/$25 day of show. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

Miscellaneous

Shane Mauss at The Slowdown

Shane Mauss at The Backline

A Good Trip with Shane Mauss
Jan. 6 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
Sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), comedian Shane Mauss has appeared on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Showtime, and has specials on both Comedy Central and Netflix. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10-15. 402-345-7569.
slowdown.com

Improv on Fridays
Jan. 6, 13, 20, 27, at the Backline Comedy Theatre, 1618 Harney St.
This weekly comedy show features local improvisers and special guests. If you are familiar with the Upright Citizens Brigade, The Backline is the closest in style in the entire Midwest. Tickets: $5. 9 p.m. 402-720-7670.
backlinecomedy.com

Cocktails & Coloring
Jan. 25 and Feb. 22 at the Apollon, 1801 Vinton St.
Come with your friends! Bring your own materials or stop into Oracle Art Supply to pick up coloring books and colored pencils. Cash bar. 6 to 9 p.m. Free. 402-884-0135.
apollonomaha.com

Kevin McDonald
Jan. 21 at the Backline Comedy Theatre, 1618 Harney St.
Known for the TV sketch show The Kids in the Hall and as the alien Pleakely from Lilo & Stitch, McDonald will be in Omaha as part of a weekend workshop. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-720-7670.
backlinecomedy.com

Joke & Dagger Standup
Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Backline Improv Theatre, 1618 Harney St.
Hosted by Winslow Dumaine, this improv show is unique, morbid, and enjoyable. Tickets: $5. 402-720-7670.
backlinecomedy.com

2017 Nebraska Chinese Lunar New Year’s Celebration
Feb. 4 at Westside Middle School, 8601 Arbor St.
This event showcases Chinese culture and heritage with kids’ activities, Chinese cuisine, and traditional cultural performances, such as lion dance, martial arts demonstrations, folk dances, and more. Admission: $15 members, $20 non-members. 402-515-4491.
omahachinese.net

High on Jesus

October 12, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

The Front Range looms overhead as Dan and Dawne Broadfield sip their morning coffee. Towering at a height of 14,259 feet, the snow-capped Longs Peak is the highest point in the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Residing at an elevation of nearly 1.5 miles above sea level, the Broadfields live on the forested grounds of Covenant Heights. The year-round Christian camp is located nine miles south of Estes Park, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, near the base of Longs Peak.

estespark6The parents are career missionaries and together have visited Haiti, Mexico, Canada, England, France, Belgium, and Holland, among others. As assistant director of facilities, Dan helps to maintain the 65-acre Covenant Heights, while Dawne home-schools their three children: 18-year-old Darby, 14-year-old Dakota, and 11-year-old Max.

Their days are filled with hiking, fishing, backpacking, paddleboarding, archery, and kayaking. They have unfettered access to high ropes, zip lines, and a climbing wall—perks of living at a wilderness retreat. The same activities draw campers from across the country.

If the weather is nice, Dan and Dawne say they might go six to eight hours without seeing their offspring, and that’s fine for both parents and frolicking children alike.

In summer, nighttime unveils an infinite heaven of twinkling stars, with the Milky Way shining down on three hammocks arranged in a triangular formation in the trees. Each hammock cradles a Broadfield child, peacefully sleeping.

estespark2

Once the weather turns chilly, they gather firewood for campfires. The winter season also brings snow-shoeing, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing.

Wildlife is an integral part of living at the campground, where animals also make their home. Coyotes, moose, and deer frequently wander through Covenant Heights. Herds of elk are common visitors; during the fall rut, the bulls’ high-pitched bugling will echo for miles.

“The other day, an elk walked through the middle of (the triangle of hammocks),” Dawne says. “Our youngest woke up and thought, ‘Uh, oh. This isn’t good.’ But the elk eventually moved along.”

estespark5The free-spirited mother of three does have one rule about sleeping outdoors. Her kids can’t have lipgloss, sunscreen, or other scented items in their pockets. Bears live in the neighborhood, and scented items or food will attract them. Dawne even brings her bird feeders inside at night so as not to attract unwelcome scavengers.

She loves life amongst the animals. In fact, her animal-watching pastime vaguely reminds her of childhood years spent in Omaha. “We went to the Henry Doorly Zoo about every two weeks,” says the one-time Omahan. Dawne’s father served in the Air Force at Offutt Air Force Base for three years, when she was in fifth through eighth grades.

Her adult life unfolded away from Omaha. Before relocating to Colorado in 2015, Dawne and Dan were living in San Antonio, Texas, where they ran an art gallery and online networking platform for artists called ArtLife.

“Here we are now in Estes Park because we felt like we ran out of space in San Antonio. We wanted to become more of a starving artists community,” says Dan. “We want to develop an artists community up here. I want to create a safe space for people to come and hone their skills. It’s the idea of not being in their normal circumstances.”

estespark4Surrounded by natural abundance, the family feels rich. Not so when it comes to the latest technological amenities. They have a satellite television, the only reliable phone is a landline, and mobile internet service is patchy from camp.

Dawne says “there’s a 20-minute window about twice a day” for internet access. An avid photographer, she posts almost daily on Instagram from her smartphone during those limited windows of online accessibility.

Her photo stream documents their neighbors, mostly the wildlife (@adeltadawne). “We have lots of moose that hang out,” she says. “The elk, the deer, the eagles, and then I sprinkle in family stuff.” If it is necessary to check something online, they head to a coffeeshop or the library in town. Dan and Dawne enjoy their wireless existence. “I kind of like the idea of being disconnected,” Dan says.

Christian wilderness retreats have a rich history on the Front Range near Covenant Heights. Even before Colorado was a state, missionaries were spreading the gospel across the landscape.

estespark3Summer encampments for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) date back to the 1890s. The YMCA summer campsite from 1908 remains the site of the modern-day YMCA of the Rockies. Today, the organization hosts Christian gap-year programs for 18-to-24 year olds “seeking personal and spiritual growth while working in a seasonal job at Snow Mountain Ranch.”

On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park into existence, and the nationwide National Park Service came into being the following year (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016).

Covenant Heights arrived on the scene in the early 1930s through the fellowship of the Covenant Young Peoples and Sunday School Conference of Colorado and Wyoming. The coalition of Rocky Mountain churches sought to give “a concerted effort to provide inspiration, Christian fellowship, and evangelism for the young people of the churches in Colorado and Wyoming,” according to its website. Covenant Heights’ current permanent campsite became operational in 1948.

Separate from the YMCA or Covenant Heights, the nonprofit Wind River Ministries also runs the ongoing Wind River Ranch, a “Christian Family Guest Ranch Resort”complete with dude ranch.

Regardless of one’s spiritual inclination, the sweeping mountain vistas are inspiring throughout the vicinity of Estes Park.

In the wake of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, residents of Estes Park voted to block the opening of recreational and medicinal dispensaries within the limits of town and Larimer County. It was a strategic move to preserve the region’s wholesome reputation as a family destination. Meanwhile, federal marijuana laws reign supreme over Rocky Mountain National Park and other federally owned lands.

Getting high on Jesus in the Rocky Mountains, however, is always 100 percent legal.

Visit covenantheights.org for more information.

estespark1

Lauren Garrison

December 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Demand for haircuts begins early in Omaha’s up-and-coming Blackstone District. It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, and customers have already begun queuing inside the Surly Chap’s renovated storefront near the intersection of 40th and Farnam streets.

The Surly Chap Barbers offer a traditional barbershop experience—affordable men’s haircuts, shaves, and beard trimming—that have attracted a rapidly growing clientele. They don’t offer reservations. It’s first-come-first-serve only.

So, with obvious need for more manpower, they hired a British fashion model to bolster their crew of tattooed, male barbers with slicked-back hair. Lauren Garrison isn’t a chap, but she is a barber with plenty of sass. It rolls off her lips in a thick British accent that she describes as a “mix between East End and country.

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“Have a seat, darling,” she beckons. I catch a glimpse of tattooed cursive script inching across her chest. Her hair is tied up in an immaculate top knot. She has bright red lipstick, long painted eyebrows and big eyelashes; huge hoop earrings, designer sneakers, and a chic black-and-white outfit inspired by the latest London fashion.

Garrison describes her own style as a little bit of everything: classy, modern, retro; inspired both by English trends and passersby on the street. But with her clippers now readied, she is all about the customer. She asks what I want to do with my hair. Garrison cuts conservatively, then re-trims as needed to ensure satisfaction.

Garrison was born in the British countryside and spent most of her youth in London. Her “mum” helped her get into modeling at age 14. After various gigs, she hit the catwalk of London Fashion Week as a high-schooler. At 18, she narrowly missed the final cut to advance to Britain’s Next Top Model.

Her father’s side of the family hailed from Nebraska, and she had visited before. A Navy man, he relocated to Colorado. Garrison moved to be with him after finishing high school in 2012. Culture shock didn’t fully set in until she later moved to Lincoln.

“Oh my gawwwd,” she says. “I’m out in the sticks!”

Still interested in pursuing a career related to fashion, she decided to study at the College of Hair Design in Lincoln. That’s where she met the Surly Chap Barbers. They were among the many professionals scouting for talent (only to overlook the female trainees, she says). Fate—along with Garrison’s surly attitude—intervened.

“They didn’t pay much attention to us, so I threw a fit.” she explains. “I said ‘Why aren’t there any barber shops interested in talking to me? And my teacher went and told them.” Then, the recruiters came and talked to her. They liked her enough to invite her to a job shadowing session.

“I ended up just loving them,” Garrison says. Soon after graduation she had a job in Omaha. Here Garrison found the pace of life more agreeable, faster than Lincoln but still fairly relaxed. She fell in love with neighborhoods—Blackstone and Benson with their plethora of hip bars—which reminded her of home.

Unfortunately, a day doesn’t pass without unwelcome commentary on her accent, questions about her kinship to the Queen of England, whether she lived in a castle, teasing about the Revolutionary War (she admits history was not her best subject in school), and other “bloody irritating” comments conversely familiar to any Omahan traveling afar, a la “Did you ride a cow to school? Are you a farmer? Etc.”

She misses British food—bangers and mash, curries, fish and chips, full English breakfast—but was pleased to discover elusive British-style Heinz beans in tomato sauce, Ribena, and a sparse selection of overpriced British fare at local groceries. She relies on annual trips back to see her mother to satisfy her homesick yearnings. In the meantime, she has come to appreciate the finer side of American cuisine: fast food, deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, Gushers, and Fruit Roll-Ups.

I ask what the tattoo on her chest reads.

“Dream like you’ll live forever and live like you’ll die today,” she says.

For now she’s content in Omaha. “If I was home, I wouldn’t have gone to barber school, or met the boys from the shop, or even realized how much I love Omaha,” Garrison says. “I’ll definitely be setting up my nest here for a while.”

That’s good news. My hair grows pretty fast and I’ll need to see her soon for my next haircut.

Visit surlychapbarbers.com to learn more.

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The Reality of the American Dream

March 25, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The apartment’s living room is warm. Blankets are on the couches, an old TV is playing cartoons, and 5-year-old Hana is mimicking the enthusiastic English of the monkey onscreen. Her grandmother, Zinab Abdelmote, watches from the couch, quiet and smiling.

Amna Hussein tells her daughter to lower the sound. “Zuza!” she calls her by nickname. Amna sets down a silver tray with one glass of juice. “From Egypt,” she says, gesturing to the delicate tray. Dinner, she says, is cooking.

She’s experiencing her first full winter in Omaha. She arrived in February 2013, after a circuitous route from her home country of Sudan that spans several years. Six of those were spent in a refugee camp in Egypt. Though Amna lives in a small apartment with Hana, her mother, Zinab, and her younger sister Elham, three of her siblings are still in Egypt. Two sisters, Najwa and Suzan, live close by in Omaha. Two other siblings are in Libya, two are missing in Darfur, and the eldest is living in the U.K.

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There were 16 of them once upon a time. Amna laughs at the shock the number incites. “How did she do it?” she asks, gesturing at Zinab.

Amna is obviously proud of her mother. She, Najwa, and Elham take turns watching out for Zinab throughout the day. Her heart is bad, she has kidney problems, and high blood pressure. Her current dream, Amna translates, is to learn English. “Her willingness to study has stayed with her to this moment.”

Zinab’s daughters living in Omaha are already deep into studies at Metro Community College: a few hours a day of ESL, per the requirement to receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF). Their knowledge quickly outgrew the English classes provided by Southern Sudan Community Association, where they still receive some case management.

“We’re comparable to Lutheran Family Services,” says Marni Newell, SSCA program coordinator. “Just a lot smaller.” Newell explains that as a federal resettlement facility, they have 90 days to offer in-depth information on a wide variety of complex topics: Medicaid, food stamps, banking, job searching, English classes, cultural orientation, and driver’s ed. Other assistance includes helping to apply for relatives’ resettlement, applying  >for citizenship, and demonstrating how to ride the bus.

Amna reflects on how much she’s learned just in the year she’s been in Omaha. She and Elham entered the U.S. through Miami. The use of Spanish everywhere in the airport threw her off. “I asked a caseworker, are we really in America?” Amna recalls. She can laugh about it now. After a stop in Washington, D.C., the sisters arrived in Omaha. “I was thinking…I have been to small villages before but…” She chuckles again.

But she says, “Omaha’s like a land of knowledge. A land of peace. It’s a friend to all refugees to find a right beginning for their life. To resettle correctly, this is the right beginning. Leave the dreams for a while. Then later on, you can go.”

Elham sets down a plate of beans with tomato paste and spices, some thin bread, and two slices of American cheese. Amna excuses herself to get Hana her dinner.

Elham’s English is only slightly less fluent than Amna’s, but the confidence is there.

“Refugees see America as a dream,” Elham says. “But when they start their life, they face real problems. Many become, like, lost. Because their families back in the refugee camp think they will send money. And people in refugee camps think life in America is very easy. You can find money and jobs anywhere. But since February [2013], I haven’t got a job. I’ve interviewed many, many places.”

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It’s a difficult life—going to school, finding work. “Najwa,” Elham says, referring to her elder sister who lives with three grade-school children, “is father, mother…everything. Here, you have friends to help you with these things.” But if you’re new to the country, she says, who do you have? She shrugs. “You can’t get a car without a job. And you can’t have a job without a car.”

Amna returns, saying it’s time to have tea. Her conversation is gentler than Elham’s as she stands over the stove, but she mirrors her younger sister’s opinions.

For example, she’s learning how to drive, but money has a lot of other places to go first. “At the beginning when we came,” Amna explains, “the organization does it for us. But three months is not enough. After three months, they require us to find a job. Some people can’t start school for two years because they’re running here and there to support the family. Even now, for me to go to a job and to school, it’s a problem.”

Still, she says she hopes to start work at Walmart soon as a cashier. The goal is to study at Metro and work at the same time. Of course, daycare is a problem. Due to Hana’s September birthday, she missed the cut-off date for kindergarten. Transportation, as always, is a headache.

But studying is important. “Here, there is no limit to education,” Amna says. “No matter your age, we can study what we like. We’re greedy to learn as much as we can.” She and her sisters hold college degrees in a variety of fields, but “the technology that America has reached, we feel that we are behind. In technology, development, education…”

Amna, for example, has a bachelor’s in English and sociology from India, as well as a diploma in health and social care from the U.K. She’s thinking of eventually taking up nursing studies.

“We will study according to what the market needs,” Elham chimes in. “If I studied geography, maybe I’ll do nothing. You must start with what the market needs. That is first.”Amna sets down a glass of hot tea with a single clove for fragrance. “You can take it with you,” she says, nudging the mug. “You will come back. It’s fine.”

Another winter day, another trip to the small apartment. A variety of pastas and glasses of nonalcoholic liqueur cover the dining room table. The atmosphere is intimate. The headscarves have come off, and the talk becomes frank.

“I lost my job,” Amna confides. Her voice is still gentle but frustrated. The buses, she explains, can’t reliably get her to Walmart on time and home again.

“I must work,” she says. “Someplace where I can walk to.” She mentions a few places she’s thought of and is unfazed when told it would take an hour to get there. “It’s good exercise for me.”

But here, in the small, warm apartment, frustrations are put aside for a moment. Elham brings tea to the living room, and Amna produces a small bottle of homemade perfume. “For after dinner,” she explains. “To cover the scent.”

Arabic and English swirl around the room as six women chatter about anything and everything and nothing in Omaha, Nebraska.

Editor’s note: As of late January, both Amna and Elham have found employment.

Sam Mercer

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Vera Mercer

Continental bon vivant Samuel Mercer, who passed away in early February, was not a typical Nebraskan. Though he grew up to become the Old Market’s undisputed godfather, he started life as the son of prominent Omaha physician and landowner Nelson Mercer. Young Sam was born and raised in privileged circumstances in London, England, and educated at Oxford and Yale. After living in Washington, D.C., he based his law practice in Paris, where he mostly lived the rest of his life, holding dual citizenship.

In Paris, Mercer cultivated relationships with avant garde artists. A watercolorist himself, he made artist Eva Aeppli his second wife. On his handful of trips to Omaha each year, Mercer cut an indelible figure with his shoulder-length gray hair, his trans-Atlantic accent, and his waxing on far-ranging subjects. He spoke perfect French.

“He projected an aura of unpretentious aristocracy…I liked him immediately and enormously,” says designer Roger duRand, who with Percy Roche opened the Old Market’s first business, The Farthest Outpost.

With the death of his father in 1963, Mercer took charge of the Mercer Management company here. He appreciated the century-old brick warehouses—some Mercer-owned—comprising the wholesale produce market just southeast of downtown. But it was designer Cedric Hartman who first advocated doing something with those buildings, which by the mid-1960s were largely abandoned and in disrepair.

Hartman, an acclaimed designer of lighting and furniture pieces made at his Marcy Street factory, recalls the genesis of the Old Market. He and Judy Wigton were partners in a high-end gift shop. Like Mercer, they admired the dying produce district’s buildings and in 1964, began meeting with him about these structures as potential sites for exciting, new ventures, such as fine shops, galleries, and restaurants.

“He projected an aura of unpretentious aristocracy.” – Roger duRand

“We were quite surprised to find such a person,” says Hartman. “He was a very smart, very worldly, and sophisticated character with great personal charm. We were both wowed by him, and in his way he was with us.”

Wigton says, “He certainly had a great appreciation for old buildings and also a need to fill the empty places with new tenants.”

“He did respond to us in a great way,” Hartman notes. “We were a couple of really artsy kids, and he was really artsy, so it couldn’t have been a better association. He was a kindred spirit in so many ways.”

Those early encounters formulated the vision for what became the Old Market.

“I remember we walked around the streets trying to imagine what could be done. I’d say, ‘Now look at this building; we could do this with it,’ and he’d just respond right in kind,” says Hartman. “I couldn’t have done that with anybody else. He hooked into all this stuff really fast.”

By 1968, Mercer moved strategically to gain control of a collection of buildings in what is now the Old Market. “Sam did not want anything said about the project until he could acquire options on enough other properties in the area to ensure the success of the redevelopment,” says Wigton.

It was Mercer’s idea to make the groundfloor space of the former Gilinsky Fruit Company into a French restaurant. There, Hartman designed the Old Market’s signature spot, the French Café, as well as apartments above it. Ree Kaneko, a fellow Old Market pioneer, says the restaurant, opened in 1969, was “very important” in helping solidify and legitimize the Market.

“He certainly had a great appreciation for old buildings and also a need to fill the empty places with new tenants.” – Judy Wigton

“It was a risky thing for him to do,” Hartman says. “Who knew if that would work? However, it was a great success.”

More anchor attractions followed—Homer’s, M’s Pub, Mr. Toad, Spaghetti Works, Nouvelle Eve, the Firehouse Dinner Theater, the Bemis. Designers duRand and Hartman advised Mercer and his son Mark, daughter-in-law Vera, and nephew Nicholas Bonham-Carter on this never-planned but organically developed area. The Mercers created one of the Market’s most distinct features, The Passageway, and later opened their own distinguished enterprises—V Mertz, La Buvette, and The Boiler Room.

“We worked to shape the Old Market neighborhood in the most authentic and benign ways possible, gently guiding new tenants away from the clichéd and vulgar, and to more thoughtful and honest approaches to development of the beautiful old structures,” says duRand. “Even though Sam lived and worked in Paris, his presence was in every decision of significance in nurturing the Market. He made frequent visits to Omaha in the early days and was instrumental in bringing the city fathers around to acceptance, then eventual approval, and finally enthusiasm for the preservation and rebirth of our neighborhood. His passing leaves a permanent and poignant void.”

Sam Mercer viewed the Market as an evolving social experiment and art project aligned with his own desires. Mark says the family has continued that philosophy by encouraging unique ventures that “fit our tastes and interests.” He and Vera say creating new things is their passion. They vow to retain the vibrant charm of this historic neighborhood that Mercer lovingly made happen.

Samuel Mercer passed away Feb. 5 at his home in Honfleur, France. He was 92. Services were held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Omaha.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Ekapon Tanthana

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When worldly local photographer Ekapon Tanthana isn’t at a glamorous photo shoot or rubbing elbows with the fashion elite, he drills teeth. Mild-mannered dentist by day. Fashion photographer by night.

There is a method to his madness. Meticulous about his craft, he plans every detail of each shoot, carefully sketching out the images he wants to capture. His work has a signature look. It is, at times, dramatic with flights of whimsy. Always tongue-in-cheek, he likes to push boundaries. With everything from nude models to bondage themes, it becomes clear after seeing his work that he is not your typical photographer. He’s an artist.b

Tanthana did fashion photography for the first Omaha Fashion Show in 2006, which won him the Omaha Visual Arts Award. He has worked in L.A. and New York but prefers Omaha. He is enamored with the Old Market and marvels at the explosion of creative energy on the local scene in recent years. He’s excited to be in the thick of it: creative people coming together to create art for art’s sake.

“Great thing about Omaha is everyone’s friendly in the community and helps each other out,” Tanthana says. He has befriended all the local photographers in town. They help each other out by sharing equipment and contacts.ekaponfinal

He chooses his work with great care and has to really be inspired by a project to pursue it. His eyes light up as he describes bringing his vision to light, that aha! moment when a vision is captured. “There’s that moment when everyone in the room just feels it,” he says. “I want my work to look like a still from a movie, to tell a story.”

Locally, Tanthana has shown his work at the Professional Darkroom Gallery, Jackson Street Artworks, and Nomad. He’s also had his art featured in local magazines, publications in his native Thailand, as well as Omaha Fashion Week. He’s even been invited to be a guest speaker on his art at Creighton University and BW Thai.

Tanthana first discovered his passion for film at age 12, while attending boarding school in England. He has gone on to do artistic and fashion photography, most of which was shot locally on a shoestring budget. He worked with supermodel Samantha Gradoville at a shoot at the former French Café in the Old Market. He works with Rhodora, a local makeup artist who trained with Chanel and is a guest makeup artist for the brand. He has also worked with Payton Holbrook, a local hair stylist who has since moved to New York and does editorials and New York Fashion Week hair.F

Tanthana says that juggling full-time dentistry with his numerous creative projects takes planning but is well worth the effort. Seeing his vision come to life is gratifying.

“I think of these images. They just come to me. Then I have to capture them,” he explains. “To me, being a success is someone being influenced by you, as you have been influenced by others.”

He says he couldn’t do photography full-time because he is so particular about his work. True to his art, he is ruled by inspiration—not always an option for a working photographer. He also adds that it can take time to fully dream up the visual designs he later creates.Elisafly

Like his photography, Tanthana takes pride in his dental work. He shows off pictures of some of his patient transformations. One photo titled Meth Mouth is the before picture of a patient’s rotting teeth. The after picture is a stunning Hollywood smile. Beyond creating a beautiful, healthy smile for patients, Tanthana is touched by making a real difference in someone’s life.

Whether planning a shoot or crafting a smile, Tanthana leaves his distinct trademark of perfection.