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Tots 'n' Taters: A Seventh-Birthday Party in Nebraska's Western Panhandle

In every issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.
(Photo: Danielle Beebe)

(Photo: Danielle Beebe)

Research has shown that, before the age of five, American children believe that birthday parties cause us to age, and that you haven't aged until you've had a birthday party.

  • One theory of play suggests that humans enjoy sports and playful behavior into adulthood because they involve useful behaviors from our evolutionary past that were once necessary for survival. Throwing, chasing, and outsmarting opponents are all skills that might have been useful for hunting prey or avoiding predators.
  • In a study of gender differences in the play of migrant workers’ children, researchers found no differences between girls and boys in classroom play or during unstructured play at home. This is in contrast to research showing gender differences emerging in play behavior in non-migrant American children as young as two.
  • Felipa González, the mother of the birthday girl (pictured, in the chair), is one of the few year-round laborers at Thompson Seed Potato, Inc., a 20-year-old family owned farm based in Alliance, the Box Butte County seat. (Most of the rest are seasonal, migrant workers.) She works 12-hour days cutting large potatoes for re-planting. Her husband, José, crushed three discs in his back in a work-related accident, and Felipa is the family’s sole breadwinner.
  • Carhenge, a replica of England’s Stonehenge, sits just outside Alliance. It consists of 39 vintage American automobiles painted gray. A gravestone for three foreign cars buried at the site reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great.”
  • One study of Chinese-, Vietnamese-, and Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles whose parents immigrated to the United States found that, although the Mexican-American kids had the lowest levels of educational attainment, they doubled the high school graduation rates of their mothers—a bigger generational jump than the other groups. The study authors argue that this makes Mexican-Americans the most successful immigrant group in America today.
  • A Washington, D.C.-based anti-immigration organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, labeled three Nebraska counties "sanctuary counties" for officials' refusal to honor requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold prisoners for an extra 48 hours after their scheduled release date, without a warrant (so-called "immigration holds), so ICE could determine if the prisoners should be deported. Box Butte is not one of those counties.
  • During the first decade of this century, wages increased for U.S.-born workers without college degrees in the 20 metropolitan areas with the highest levels of immigration.
  • At least 1,300 young Nebraskans who were brought into the country illegally as children have received driver's licenses since the state legislature voted in May to let them apply. (The state was the last in the country to do so.) Nebraska's Latino population, currently around 10 percent of the total, will triple by 2050, estimated the University of Nebraska's Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • "Put off, or put on / Youth hurts. And then / It's gone," wrote the poet James Emanuel, a Langston Hughes biographer widely considered one of the most underrated poets of the 20th century. He grew up in Alliance.

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