The Forgotten Artistry of Charles Swanson

All around Sargent are memories of the past that have been forgotten or overlooked. The other day I was reminded of this when someone asked me where the library’s bird bath came from and how old it was. For anyone who has ever noticed, this is a beautiful lawn ornament, and it turns out there is quite a bit of history behind it.  
The bird bath was purchased for the library in 1931 by the Justamere Club.  Charles Swanson was the person who created and designed the stone structure.  The history behind Mr. Swanson is what makes this story so interesting.

Charles Swanson was a Swedish immigrant who homesteaded some land in the Cummings Park area (12 miles NW from Sargent).  In his later years, he and his wife Maggie moved to Sargent.  The couple loved to travel, and everywhere they went, Mr. Swanson would bring back rock specimens – lots of rocks.  It made sense then, that he would become an artist in cement.  He started building cement/rock structures for his home in Sargent. He designed the front steps, fireplace, and numerous lawn ornaments, and he was able to tell visitors exactly where each rock came from. In addition to his home, he built cement structures all around Sargent and Loup County. According to the Sargent Leader (12/20/34), “it would take volumes to describe all the things he made with his rock specimens set in cement.”

Here is the challenge. How many structures made by Charles Swanson still exist? His artistry was placed in Sargent, Loup County, and the surrounding countryside.  You may have passed by one of his works every day and just didn’t know where it came from. Take a picture and send it to, text it to 402-316-2201, or post it to the library’s Facebook page.


Loup County Museum in Taylor, NE

Madison Square Cemetery

Gravestone at Madison Square Cemetery


New Books at the Library

Scent of Murder by James O. Born – “Scent of Murder is a terrific twist to cop tales – a gritty, realistic look at the men, women, and dogs in police K-9 units. It’s a joyride that’s at turns funny, thrilling, touching – a must-read.” – W.E.B Griffin

Deadfall by Linda Fairstein – “Hunting a killer within New York’s urban jungle becomes the biggest case of Alexandra Cooper’s career in New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein’s latest riveting thriller.”

Cruel Winter by Sheila Connolly – “Maura Donovan’s Irish pub is running smoothly until a winter storm hits and she, some of her employees and regular patrons get snowed in overnight – along with a suspected killer in a cold case.”

Knife Creek by Paul Doiron – “When Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is tasked with shooting invasive feral hogs that are tearing up the forest in his district, he makes a horrific discovery ― a dead baby buried in a shallow grave. Even more disturbing: evidence suggests the infant was the child of a young woman who was presumed to have died four years earlier after she disappeared from a group rafting trip.“

Still Life by Louise Penny – “Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods on Thankgiving morning. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Chief Inspector Armand  Gamache smells something foul this holiday season . . .”

The Late Show by Michael Connelly – “Renee Ballard is a fierce young detective fighting to prove herself on the LAPD’s toughest beat. One night she catches two assignments she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting.” 

All the Little Liars by Charlain Harris – “Aurora Teagarden is basking in her new pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids have gone missing from school―and her teenage brother, Phillip, is one of them.”

Dead to Begin With by Bill Crider – “In Clearview, Texas, a wealthy recluse has joined the community and is leading the restoration of an old opera house. When he falls to his death, Sheriff Dan Rhodes suspects that he’s been murdered, but there doesn’t seem to be a motive. Who would want to kill someone who’s helping the town and hasn’t been around long enough to make any enemies?”

The Fix by David Baldacci – “Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution-style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself. The killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter–a family man with a successful consulting business–and his victim, a schoolteacher.” 

Pandemic by A.G. Riddle – “In Africa, a mysterious outbreak spreads quickly. Teams from the CDC and WHO respond, but they soon learn that there is more to the epidemic than they believed. It may be the beginning of a global experiment–an event that will change the human race forever.”

Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins – “Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site. He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the C.I.A. She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment. But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone.”

Even a Cloud Covered Eclipse Can Be An Amazing Experience

Right now it is cloudy outside. It is not exactly the weather that we wanted. Hopefully the clouds will dissipate later in the morning and we will be able to see the sun. If we have a little cloud cover, we may still be able to see the 360 degree sunset during the eclipse. However even if we have total cloud cover during the eclipse, be sure to get outside anyway and experience the effects of the eclipse. Many people have experienced an eclipse on a cloudy day, and they all say they would rather be in the shadow of totality when it is cloudy than to be outside of the shadow on a clear day. Even under cloud cover, you will be able to see the shadow rushing toward you. Then it will suddenly get very dark. The temperature will drop, and finally you will see the shadow rushing away from you. As I write this, the sun is trying to peek out. No matter what happens it will be an awesome experience, so get outside!

Kids Are Smart

I realize that parents and teachers are concerned about young children looking at the sun tomorrow.  This is an important concern and every precaution should be taken. However, I think the kids will do just fine. Even young children can understand the dangers of looking directly at the sun with no protection. Today in Sunday school, we had a pair of eclipse glasses sitting on the table. The kids remarked that these glasses looked different from the glasses that they were going to use in school. One little kindergartener asked me, “are you sure those are safe to use? Do they have the correct number on them?” I had to laugh. It seems the parents and teachers are doing an excellent job of educating their children about the eclipse.

Are Eclipses Best Viewed on a Lonely Hilltop or With An Energetic Crowd?

Are you ready for a mass crowd of people to descend upon Nebraska? For anyone who lives less than 4-5 hours from the path of the eclipse, they would be foolish not to come, see, and experience such a rare event. If I lived north of Sargent and within driving distance of the eclipse, my thought would be to drive to where the eclipse will take place, find some lonely country road and pull to the side and watch everything take place. I wonder how many other people have this idea. Perhaps our lonely country roads won’t be so lonely for a few hours – time will tell. However, is a lonely road or hilltop really the best place to view the eclipse?

Great occurrences such as this are even better when shared with other people. This is a video of the total eclipse in 2010 on Easter Island. Just listen to the excitement and energy coming from the crowd. Listen to the cheering when the eclipse finally occurs.

Yes, events like this are best when shared with other people. In Sargent we have an eclipse event planned on the school football field starting at 11:30 a.m., with totality occurring around 12:56 p.m.  Free eclipse glasses will be available. The Sargent Economic Development will be serving a lunch (on a donation basis).  The library will have a bake sale, and it has been rumored that Janie’s Kolaches and Ricky’s peach muffins will be available.

A special guest and speaker will be AJ Gemer.  AJ has degrees in Aerospace and Mechanical engineering, and he is a researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado studying cosmic dust. He will be a great source of information for all questions that are space related.

So far the weather forecast looks good for Monday. We may have a few clouds, but hopefully they will move aside when the eclipse happens. We hope to see you at the football field.

Why Using a Welding Helmet to View the Eclipse May Be a Bad Idea

I have heard countless numbers of farmers tell me that they are going to view the eclipse with their welding helmet. According to NASA, make sure that you are using a shade 12 or higher welder’s glass; any shade less is not safe to look directly at the sun.

Gene Willers of Neligh, NE recently gave this testimony of how his eye was damaged by an eclipse when he was 13 years old in 1963.

“There was a lot of news about the eclipse…They gave advice to not look at it and those type things.” After all looking at the sun during an eclipse can cause retinal burn or permanent eye damage.

“Being a farm kid and a 13-year old who knows a lot, so I thought ‘It can’t hurt to look at it through a welder’s shield or helmet .’ Just to be on the safe side, I looked through one eye – it was my right eye. I didn’t really look for a long time because it was blinding, even with the welder’s glasses…but apparently it didn’t take a long time.”

Little did he know the damage that had been done to his right eye.

“The next day when I woke up my eye was matted shut and swollen. I went to an optometrist and of course it was like a sunburn on my eye, plus there were indicators that retinal damage may have occurred. Not too soon after that I had to wear glasses to correct some things.”

Please protect your eyes and use proper eclipse viewing glasses. You don’t want to turn your eyes into these.


Find Out When the Eclipse Will Begin From Your Exact Location

Here is an interactive website that shows the exact time of the eclipse for your area. I clicked on the football field at the Sargent School and came up with the following times. The times listed are in Universal Time. To convert to Central Time, subtract 5 hours.

So . . . the partial eclipse will officially start at 11:32:40.2.  The total eclipse will be from 12:56:56.7 till 12:57:52.5, and the partial eclipse will end at 14:23:47.0. Set your alarm and plan to meet us for a party at the Sargent football field on August 21. Lunch will be served at noon with a freewill donation. The library will provide free eclipse glasses at the event.  All you need to bring is a lawn chair.

If you will be out of town for the eclipse, you can still get free eclipse glasses at the Sargent Library.


Viewers on the Edge of the Shadow may see Strange Phenomena

Sargent is not located on the center of the total eclipse path. Totality will only last for a little under one minute in our town. However, that doesn’t mean that Sargent isn’t in a prime viewing area. At, Joe Rao makes the case that sometimes people prefer to be closer to the edge of the eclipse path. This is because certain strange eclipse phenomena will last 10 times longer when you are only a few miles from the edge. One of these phenomenons is called shadow bands.

As the moon almost covers the sun, it causes small strips of light to be projected through the earth’s atmosphere and dance on the ground. These are called shadow bands, and it may almost look like little snakes moving around.  A good way to be able to see these shadow bands more clearly is to spread a white sheet on the ground. As I said before, we should be able to see these shadow bands a lot longer than those in the center of the shadow.

You can read the rest of the article here.  An ‘Edgy’ Suggestion on Where to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse


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