Nebraska Authors

Roger L. Welsch

Born 1936 Lincoln, NE (USA)

That Roger Welsch is Nebraska's most famous and recognizable humorist and story teller might obscure his achievements as one of its great scholars of folklore. Welsch introduced his 1966 collection A Treasury of Nebraska Folklore with observations by Louise Pound. Pound started a remarkable scholarly tradition of the study of regional culture and folklore at the University of Nebraska that included people like Lowry Wimberly and Benjamin Botkin. Welsch has been the beneficiary and perhaps the last widely read scholar of that tradition. In his 1981 collection of old time horse trading tales Mister: You Got Yourself A Horse, we find Welsch digging the files of the WPA's Nebraska Federal Writers' Project of the 1930s out of Omaha basements and lost file cabinets in Washington, D.C., and corresponding with the Project's editor, Rudolph Umland. The 1930s effort was led behind the scenes by Lowry Wimberly and Mari Sandoz. Welsch recovered, analyzed, and mined its materials for his own books.

Welsch's wider fame as a public story teller began in 1974, when he ran for a seat on the Lancaster County Weed Control Authority on a pro-weed platform. With slogans like "if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em," he won the seat. The campaign attracted the attention of CBS reporter Charles Kuralt, and Welsch appeared on Kuralt's "On the Road" CBS news segment, sharing a meal of weeds with Kuralt. He formed a friendship with Kuralt, and appeared on several "On the Road" segments. Then in 1988, Welsch began to present "Postcards from Nebraska" as a regular segment on CBS News Sunday Morning, lasting for 13 years. From 1987-1996, Welsch's newspaper column, "Rodger and Out," appeared in newspapers around the state, exploring all kinds of issues from Welsch's unique local and regional perspective. "Roger Welsch &..." was a long running interview program on NET in which Welsch interviewed Nebraska writers and other local characters. These efforts made Welsch a permanent public presence.

It was always clear that Welsch had deeply inhaled the atmosphere of the 1960s hippies. In the 1980s he published a guide to the city of Lincoln, Inside Lincoln (the things they never tell you), that irritated some of the straight-laced inhabitants of the Capitol City, but delighted its young people.

Also in the mid 1980s, as a scholar and as a friend of Native American tribes, Welsch entered into bitter conflict with the direction and the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Newspapers of the time make it clear that there were many issues of controversy--nepotism, fossilized attitudes and administration, lack of transparency in spending, and so on. For Welsch, the most salient issue was the bald refusal of the NSHS to repatriate human remains of Native Americans, mainly Pawnee. But those remains were eventually repatriated. The direction and Board of the NSHS changed, and by the mid 1990s Welsch was on excellent terms with the Society, and numbered its scholars among his close friends.

Welsch was always a fascinated student of Native American life. He was particularly close to the Omaha and the Pawnee. He was adopted into the Omaha tribe in 1967, and was given the name 'Tenuga Gahi,' which means Bull Buffalo Chief. When, in 1987, the Minnesota Historical Society republished Nebraska scholar Melvin Gilmore's 1929 collection of Great Plains Native American legends, Prairie Smoke, Welsch provided the introduction. In 2007, a decade after Roger and Linda Welsch moved to their farm on the Loup river near Dannebrog, the couple, retaining life-tenancy, deeded the farm to the Pawnee. Roger Welsch is an honorary member of the Pawnee Nation and has long served as their representative on the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.

Welsch has published over 40 books and numerous scholarly articles. He has hosted a number of television programs, Barn Again (2002) being a recent and especially popular example.

Heritage Room files include a collection of his "Rodger and Out" newspaper columns (1987-1996).

There is a file list of Roger Welsch association books in the Heritage Room collections. The books themselves were integrated into the regular Heritage Room collection, with the books that had signed dedications to him replacing plain copies in the collection.

HR Archive: First draft, cover art, and galley proofs for Catfish at the Pump, Corrected draft, Cather's Kitchens,, corrected proofs, Mr. You've Got Yourself A Horse, and typescript copy Of Trees and Dreams. Two large gray document boxes labeled "Roger Welsch Manuscripts" 1 and 2.

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Places Lived

Dannebrog, NE
Lincoln, NE

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Journalism
  • Nonfiction

Keywords

Folklore; Humor; Nebraska Subjects; Omaha Tribe; Pawnee Tribe

Education

BA, 1958, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
MA, 1960, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

Additional study:
1962, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
1963-1965, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
1971, British Oenological Institute

Occupation

Professor of English and Anthropology
author
essayist
columnist

Places Worked

Nebraska Wesleyan
Dana College
University of Nebraska - Lincoln until 1988
CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt
Natural History magazine

Honors

Nebraska 150 Books honor for It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It From Here, 2017
“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 47 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
Outstanding Young Faculty Award, NWU, 1967
Distinguished Teaching Award, UNL, 1971
Welsch was named distinguished Nebraskan of the year by the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C., Sept. 14, 1992;

Associations

Columnist with Sucessful Farming magazine.
Kay Young
Lynne Ireland
Jim Potter

Bibliography

This is a representative, not a complete listing, see paper files in the HR

A Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folklore. 1966. revised, 1984. (Compiled by Roger Welsch)
Sod Walls: The Story of the Nebraska Sod House. 1968, revised, 1991.
Love Notes From a Native Son: To Nebraska -- The Great American Desert 1972. (Film Strip)
Broken Hoops and Plains People. 1976. (Contributor to)
Tall Tale Postcards: a Pictorial History. 1976.
The Summer It Rained: Water and Plains Pioneer Humor. 1978.
Shingling the Fog and Other Plains Lies. 1980.
Big Time: American Tall-Tale Postcards 1981. (Contributor to)
Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse: Tales of Old-Time Horse Trading. 1981.
Omaha Tribal Myths and Trickster Tales. 1981.
Catfish at the Pump: Humor and the Frontier. 1982.
Of Trees and Dreams: The Fiction, Fact and Folklore of Tree-Planting on the Northern Plains. 1982.
Inside Lincoln: (The Things They Never Tell You!) 1984.
Inside Lincoln: New and Improved. 1984.
How Cold Is It. 1996.
Nebraska: Highways to Heritage. 1985. (Audio Cassette)
The Prairie: From Pistol to Plow 1985. (Audio Cassette)
Beautiful Dannebrog... 1986. (edited and intro by Welsch)
Folk Tales and Folk Songs. 1986. (LCL video production)
You Know You're a Husker (with Paul Fell). 1986.
Cather's Kitchens: Foodways in Literature and Life. 1987. (with Linda Welsch, introduction by Susan Rosowski). 1987.
The Liar's Corner: A Garland of Humor Columns from the Pages of Nebraska Farmer. Fall 1985 - Fall, 1988. 1988.
You Know You're a Nebraskan (with Paul Fell). 1989.
It's Not the End of the Earth, but You Can See It From Here: Tales of the Great Plains. 1990.
The Return of the Sacred Pole. 1990. (NETV video production)
Nebraska #2: A Special Highway. 1990.
Touching the Fire. 1992.
Uncle Smoke Stories. 1994. (Young Adult)
Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them. (working Title -- Expected publication date: 1996). 1995.
Diggin' in and Biggin' Out: The Truth About Food and Men. 1997.
Busted Tractors and Rusty Knuckles. 1997.
You Know You're an Old Tractor Nut... 1998. (with Paul Fell).
Love, Sex, and Tractors. 2000.
Postcards From Nebraska. 2000.
Old Tractors Never Die. 2001.
Evertything I Know About Women. 2002.
Outhouses. 2003.
My Nebraska: The Good, the Bad and the Husker. 2006.
Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity. 2006.
Embracing Fry Bread. 2013.

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