“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” — Aldo Leopold

2011 Wild Words & Art contest winners



College/Adult — 1st: Norbert Gabby, West Burlington; 2nd Jan Blankenburg, Donnellson; 3rd: Becky Ireland, Montrose.

High school — 1st: Curtis Messer, Mediapolis; 2nd: Eric Tyner, Mediapolis; 3rd: John Wischmeier, Mediapolis.

Middle school — 1st: Bobby Kemp, Burlington; 2nd: Jacob Roy, Burlington; 3rd: Emma Carper, Burlington.


College/Adult — 1st: Jan Blankenburg, Donnellson. No additional places awarded.

High school — No prizes awarded.

Middle school — No prizes awarded.


College/Adult — 1st: Dan Roberts, Mount Pleasant; 2nd: Kelly Harbin, Lockridge. No additional places awarded.

High school — 1st: Hannah E.R. Allen, Burlington. No additional places awarded.

Middle school — 1st: Kaite Whitehall, Burlington; 2nd: Kristyn Vedder, Burlington; 3rd (tie): Kassidy Lawler and Ana Johnson, Burlington; honorable mentions: Kaleb Branton and Brittany Gilpin, Burlington.



Dan Roberts, 1st place, College/Adult; Mount Pleasant



Kelly Harbison, 2nd place, College/Adult; Lockridge


College/Adult essay


Win-Win Situation; 1st place, by Jan Blankenship, Donnellson

A few years ago during a stressful time in my life, I needed an outlet for my frustrations, and I needed it badly. That outlet appeared in the guise of a blank journal and nearby Shimek forest.

I found myself wandering happily, journal in hand, into a new and healing world. I tried my hand at sketching what I was seeing in the natural world around me, and recording notes in the margins. I would date each entry and note the weather and maybe add a few personal thoughts, then head home refreshed.

As I continued my walks and journaling, I discovered a natural place brimming with life and color. I began to observe nature on a personal level, and my curiosity about what I was recording became a wonderful interactive, and inexpensive pastime. 

However, my sketching left a lot to be desired. I soon began using my digital camera. By doing so, I captured the colors and details lacking in my rough sketches. On rainy days I used my computer to print my pictures, reminders of what I’d seen, and had the pleasure of enjoying my walk all over again. Technology also allowed me to research interesting facts about the habitats and animals I was seeing in an efficient way. This knowledge often prompted me to find other resources and learn more.

I’m a Libra. My zodiac sign is the lady balancing the scales of justice. Seeing both sides of a problem comes naturally to me, but because I always want to be fair to both sides, I often have difficulty making decisions. I understand the necessity of keeping up with the rest of the world. It’s called progress. Technology has invaded my life and is here to stay. Its impact has changed the landscape and America’s way of doing business from Main street to Wall street. Farmers, conservationists, bankers, schools, merchants, and entire communities have been touched each in different ways.

Due to its impact we all save time, get immediate feedback, and experience the accuracy necessary to solve problems in all walks of life. At times this fact has made me lazy, and sometimes it has sparked an interest in learning something new in a challenging way. I’ll continue to live happily in both worlds. 

On my nature walks I slow down, pay attention, and enjoy the limited time I have to be outdoors. The time I spend in front of my computer printing the beautiful pictures for my journal helps me remember each day even longer. As I add these memories to my journal, I am content knowing that my own way of balancing these two worlds works for me. It’s a win-win situation. Either way I always learn something new and wonderful.


No other winners


High school essay


No winners


Middle school essay


No winner


College/Adult poetry


Nature's song; 1st place, by Norbert Gabby, West Burlington


It is enough for me to walk

along some deep wooded trail

green growth sprouts around me

wild flowers on hill and valley


Oh tired and burdened soul

I beg you to walk a while

along a clear running stream

for its music brings a smile


In a secluded place I rest

listen long to nature’s song

the forest now awakening

but I must be moving on


My stride has steady purpose

great strength comes to me

on sunny days in the wood

rejuvenated, mind and body


Web Master; 2nd place, by Jan Blankenburg, Donnellson


The digital spider forgot how to weave

His webside grew stringy and slack

He couldn’t dial up — he couldn’t arrow down

He couldn’t scroll forward or back


He needed to Google to find his web pattern

To get his life back on track

When he hit search — a virus appeared

His site came under attack


He sat all alone at the end of his silk

Unable to reach his best friend

A field support team saved the day

His website was soon on the mend


The landscape had changed — the systems all new

His navigating needed some tweaking

His friends ‘tried and true’ were his GPS

Great software in a manner of speaking


He recalled the days when weaving intricate webs

Was done simply to catch his next meal

Now being a Web Master in the natural world

Was becoming a really big deal


If you’re a Web Master in this spinning world

Remember the spider’s plight

We’re all connected in some small way

Keep threads of your community piled tight


The Hour Without Power; 3rd place, by Becky Ireland, Montrose


At three-thirty predawn dark I stare at my computer’s screen.

A soft glow wraps around the words that search down as I read.

Beep, blink, bang, powering off. Bling, beep, pop, powering on.

Repeat, repeat, it’s gone. I’m sitting in the dark.


I’d better get a candle. I need to light a light.

That doesn’t do much. It isn’t very bright.

I find a flashlight in a drawer. It lights the living room.

An LED light throws confetti through the dining room.


I wonder if it’s just our house, the neighborhood, or the town.

Everything is very still. Is everyone powering down?

I walk outside and feel a chill. I see the darkened homes.

A dark wool wrap has trapped our village all around.


I look up and am astounded that everywhere

Are blinking twinkling lights so bright it hurts my eyes to stare.

In bold relief against an inky canvass skyway

Glow Venus and Orion on their glorious cosmic highway.


Hannah E.R. Allen, 1st place, high school; Burlington


High school poetry


"Plugging Into the Landscape; 1st place, by Curtis Messer, Mediapolis


Now they are unplugged into our landscape.

They are old refrigerators and freezers, 

old washers and dryers, 

old deep fat fryers,

old ovens and stoves

old microwaves

old DVD and VHS players

old record and cassette players

old toasters and roasters

All plug up our ditches and trenches


Saved by my Cell Phone; 2nd place, by Eric Tyner, Mediapolis



I’m lost in the woods!

What can I do?

Except look to you

My cell phone 

With GPS

I find my way out

No need to pout

I’m saved

Saved by my cell phone

Now to my home

Where am I?

Look to my cell phone

I’m 3 blocks away

Using technology in nature

That is the way.


The Dividing Forest; 3rd place, by John Wischmeier, Mediapolis


The power lines cut through the innocent trees

Leaving nothing for the bees

A perfectly straight open area is what I see

For it looks like a bulldozer put down its blade taking everything including the leaves

What it needs to be

It’s something that’s already gone

For now the timber is not free

It tears something out of me

It makes me want to plea

For now the animals will have to leave

It is something that is not meant to be

The power lines have cut through the innocent trees


Middle school poetry


The Ashes; 1st place,  by Bobby Kemp, Burlington


I remember this place,

Once green with trees,

Where you could bask in the sun

And enjoy the breeze

A place where the birds sang.

All night and all day

A place I used to come

To laugh and run and play,

But man’s hand

Has fallen fast and hard

And now all that remains of the land

Are ashes — cold, black, charred.


The Pheasants I Hunt; 2nd place, by Jacob Roy, Burlington


The pheasants I hunt travel in groups,

It is safer that way.

The pheasants I hunt stay perfectly still, 

It is safer that way

The pheasants I hunt stay in the taller grass,

It is safer that way

The pheasants I hunt are beautifully camouflaged,

It is safer that way.

The pheasants I hunt explode into flight,

It is safer that way.

The pheasants I hunt head for the woods,

It is safer that way.

But some of the pheasants I hunt are too slow. 


What life used to be.; 3rd place, by Emma Carper, Burlington


If we could change

Just one thing,

What would it be?


A new face,

A safer place,

A new, protected world?


We’ve lost what the

Native Americans used to see-

The stars in the sky at night.


Do you know 

Where the wildflowers grow,

When all you see are streets?


Because once upon a time,

In this world of mine,

All you could see were faces lit by firelight.


Once there was a world,

Where bald eagles flew,

Everything was new.


Together we lived

Walking hand-in-hand,

No matter if rain or shine.


Purple flowers grew,

We picked them new,

We saw the beauties outside.


Together we lived,

With what nature provides,

Not with what we made.


Kaite Whitehall, 1st place, middle school; Burlington



Kristyn Vedder, 2nd place, middle school; Burlington



Kassidy Lawler, 3rd place, middle school; Burlington



Ana Johnson, 3rd place, middle school; Burlington



Kaleb Branton, honorable mention, middle school; Burlington



Brittany Gilpin, honorable mention, middle school; Burlington