Plains FolkTM

History, Folklore, and Life on the Great Plains of North America

Plains FolkTM is a weekly newspaper and radio feature written by Jim Hoy (Emporia, Kansas) and Tom Isern (West Fargo, North Dakota) and devoted to life on the Great Plains of North America. Jim is Professor of English Emeritus, Emporia State University; Tom is Professor of History & University Distinguished Professor, North Dakota State University. They have been writing Plains FolkTM weekly since 1983.
Plains FolkTM appears in a cohort of Kansas newspapers every week, with Jim and Tom swapping authorship week by week.

Tom reads Plains FolkTM features weekly on Prairie Public radio. If you miss them on the air, then check out the archive of sound files on the Prairie Public Plains FolkTM page.

Jim recently retired as director of ESU's Center for Great Plains Studies. At NDSU, Tom directs the Center for Heritage Renewal.

Tom's Home Page at NDSU

Jim Hoy: Kansan of the Year

Tom's Profile in Goodreads

Jim's Profile in Goodreads

Plains Folk on Flickr

Plains Folk on YouTube

Plains Folk on Facebook

Great Plains Recipe Box

Great Plains Songbook

In the preface to our book, Plains Folk, we said that we "decline to define the exact areal boundaries of the region about which we write." That's a discussion that never ends, and anyway, as we said, "more important to our thoughts than lines on a map are the essential characteristics of the region--the things that tell what the plains are, not just where they are. The greatest of Great Plains historians, Walter Prescott Webb, characterized the plains truly (if inexactly) as level, treeless, and semiarid. Typically, this characterization carries negative connotations: most thought about the plains begins with a catalog of what they lack, namely, mountains, trees, and rainfall. To restate these facts in a positive manner--to say that the plains have expansive vistas, lush grasslands, and blue skies--does not change them in substance." Although we define the plains mainly in physiographic terms, we recognize that they also may be defined in cultural terms, according to the patterns of life among regional residents. Those patterns, in fact, are our stock in trade, what we write about in Plains FolkTM. We also encourage people to think in north-south terms, to recognize the continental nature of a region that stretches from Alberta to Texas. Although we don't want to get hung up on boundaries, we do want people to know the general area we are talking about, and so for convenience and clarity we provide a map.