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NEBRASKAland April 2014

Read the full issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. See stunning photographs of Nebraska outdoors.

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APRIL 2014 • NEBRASKAland 13 12 NEBRASKAland • APRIL 2014 A Brief History Early Catfish Tales By Patricia C. Gaster, Nebraska State Historical Society One of the early encounters of Europeans with catfish in this area of the country is found in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Just north of an Omaha tribal village they reported catching 318 fish of various kinds, and the next day caught "upwards of 800 fine fish," 490 of which were catfish. The value of this creature is acknowledged by Lewis C. Edwards, whose History of Richardson County, Nebraska (1917) praised "the great value of the catfish as a means of assisting the early pioneers in maintaining body and soul together." He includes in his book the recollections of Margaret H. Maddox, who recalled that catfish was an integral part of her 1855 Christmas dinner in Nebraska City: "Besides a wonderful roast turkey we had baked catfish, the largest I ever saw cooked. It weighed twenty pounds and was browned and cooked to a turn." Edwards also stated that catfish oil was "used for a variety of purposes such as to grease the boots of the entire family, oiling or greasing the harness, and to oil the gun locks, the oil also being considered a fine specific for rheumatism and sore throat." Senator John J. Ingalls of Kansas bestowed the name "catfish aristocracy" on indolent settlers along the bottomlands of rivers in eastern Kansas and Nebraska because they supposedly lived by fishing and hunting instead of cultivating the land intensively. Stories of oversized catfish dot the columns of Missouri River area newspapers. The Nebraska Advertiser of August 13, 1857, reported the catch of a 120-pound catfish at the Brownville wharf. The Omaha Nebraskian of May 5, 1860, reported a 175-pound specimen captured when it went aground a short distance below Omaha. A curious episode in Nebraska territorial history, the so-called "Catfish War," was only indirectly associated with the fish. In July 1855 near Fontanelle, then a recently established village on the Elkhorn River 20 miles west of Omaha, C. L. Demaree and a Mr. and Mrs. Porter met a small group of Sioux. Accounts of the hostile incident which followed vary, but all agree that Demaree and Mr. Porter were killed; Mrs. Porter was not harmed and she fled to Fontanelle. Afterward, Mark Izard, Nebraska territorial governor, sent a detachment of thirty men to the Fontanelle area. However, the general Indian uprising which had been feared never materialized. The soldiers had little to do for the rest of the summer besides enliven the social life of Fontanelle and shoot catfish in nearby lakes and rivers – from which the episode became known as the "Catfish War." ■ RG813-314 NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY RG813-127 NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY By the 20 th century it was easier for anglers to prove their fish stories with snapshots. Here is a 75-pound catfish, caught March 20, 1949, near Wilber, Nebraska. 12 NEBRASKAlan who of R Cou Neb pra gre the a m as ea in b t i h Emil Bartu and Joe Kozak, Wilber, Nebraska. The larger yellow channel catfish weighed 56 pounds. Richard Cabela Dies at 77 Richard "Dick" Cabela, co-founder of Cabela's, Inc., died February 17 at his home in Sidney. He was 77. Dick, along with his wife, Mary, and brother, Jim, founded Cabela's somewhat inadvertently in 1961 when he purchased $45 worth of hand-tied fishing flies while in Chicago on a furniture and housewares buying trip with his father for the family's Chappell furniture store. With the flies not moving off the store shelf, Dick came upon the idea of selling them through the mail. His first ad, in a Casper, Wyoming, newspaper, produced one sale. Rethinking his situation, Dick placed an ad in Sports Afield magazine: "FREE introductory offer!!! 5 popular Grade A hand-tied flies. Send 25c for postage and handling …" Orders started coming in, and Dick purchased more fishing gear to sell. Realizing the potential for mail-order sales, they began producing a catalog. Growth led to the opening of a retail store in downtown Sidney and today, Cabela's is a $3.6 billion company with a worldwide catalog and Internet business and 50 stores in the United States and Canada. "Dick and Jim made it possible for sportsmen and women to get quality outdoor products no matter where they lived," said Tommy Millner, Cabela's Chief Executive Officer. "They weren't the first to offer outdoor goods through the mail, but nobody did it better or with more care about providing customers a good value for their money.... He pushed for research and development in every outdoor field. Dick always looked out for the customer and if he couldn't find a vendor to provide what he wanted, he pushed Cabela's to design and make it. Because of that passion, the Cabela's brand and its products are iconic throughout the world." Dick is survived by his wife, Mary, their nine children and their families, two sisters and three brothers. ■

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