Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

WELSCH, ROGER (b. 1936)

Nebraska author and folklorist Roger Lee- Flack Welsch has as many alter egos as Nebraska has weather patterns: storyteller, professor, talk show host, originator and first president of the Liars Hall of Fame, raconteur, columnist, Omaha Tribe member, family man, musician, "that guy in the overalls on CBS News Sunday Morning," and antique-tractor- hugging collector. Highly sought after as a speaker, and best known for his humorous portrayals of Great Plains characters in the popular press and media, Welsch also has a more scholarly side. He has published important works on tall tales, sod houses, foodways, round barns, and traditional stories of the Omaha Tribe, among others. He was formally adopted into the Omaha's Wind Clan by tribal elders in 1967.

Born on November 6, 1936, Welsch grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, a member of the city's substantial community of Germans from Russia (Volga Germans). He attended the University of Nebraska, earning both a bachelor of arts (1958) and a master of arts (1960) in German, and then pursued a growing interest in folklore by completing graduate work at the University of Colorado (1962) and at the Folklore Institute, Indiana University (1963– 65.) Welsch taught folklore and English at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, from 1960 to 1964, at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln from 1964 to 1973, and at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) from 1973 to 1988. He remains a unl adjunct faculty member. Welsch has published many scholarly and popular writings on Great Plains folklore.

He has also played an important role in promoting Great Plains folk traditions by coordinating Nebraska's featured participation in the Smithsonian Institution's 1975 Festival of American Folklife, serving on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Folk Arts Program, and successfully nominating Nebraskan Albert Fahlbusch, a Volga German who makes and plays hammered dulcimers, for an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1984.

Welsch first came to national prominence, however, as a result of his successful 1972 campaign for a seat on the Lancaster County (Nebraska) Weed Control Authority board on a "pro-weed ticket," reducing the number of native plants defined as weeds. Charles Kuralt, who was at that time still conducting his "On the Road" series for the CBS Evening News, got wind of the folklorist-politician and invited Welsch to appear on his show. That meeting began their long-term friendship and working relationship. Welsch became nationally known as the overalls-wearing Nebraska essayist, affably relating stories–"Postcards from Nebraska"– of rural and small-town life in the Great Plains for Kuralt's show, cbs News Sunday Morning.

Now living with his wife, artist Linda Welsch, on their tree farm near the small community of Dannebrog (a "star" of many of the "Postcards from Nebraska"), Welsch continues his writing, television, and speaking career. His ability to prosper by doing what he loves is a good example of the "can-do" adaptive spirit he celebrates in the people of the region.

Gwen K. Meister Nebraska State Historical Society

Welsch, Roger L. A Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folklore. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Welsch, Roger L. Shingling the Fog and Other Plains Lies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980.

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