Children's book honors elk ranch founder

NIOBRARA, Neb.- A book called "Suzie Saves the Day" is not only an educational tool, but a way to honor a northeast Nebraska woman's father.

Stacy Kreycik Miller recently visited Cross County Community Schools to talk about her new book called "Suzie Saves the Day." It's a story that seems to resonate with kids, and is important to Stacy personally. "I've always loved to write stories, and after my Dad passed away 6 years ago, I wanted to write a story about him, as a tribute to him and his passion for his elk," Kreycik Miller said.

Her dad Kenard started the Kreycik Riverview Elk and Buffalo Ranch two decades ago. It quickly turned into a tourist attraction just a few miles outside of Niobrara. "A bus wanted to come, and we couldn't take a bus in the pasture, so that's why we built the covered wagon and started the tours. It turned into a business, and an alternative income for the farm," Kreycik Miller said. When Stacy's dad passed away, she wanted to honor him in a special way. "I couldn't figure out what would be a good story to tell about him and the elk, and then there was this story was right under my nose. It happened about four years before he passed away," Kreycik Miller said.

It turns out the story centers around an elk named Suzie, who we met during a Pure Nebraska visit to the ranch a few years back. As the story goes, the elk herd got out of the pasture at one point, because someone opened a gate. "Since Dad bottle-fed Suzie, they had this connection, and so when they got out, the next morning when they found them on top of the hill 2 miles away, then Dad hollered for Suzie, and she came to him," Kreycik Miller said. "Then the rest of the elk followed her back to Dad. Dad and Suzie led all of the elk back home. So, if it really wasn't for Suzie we would have lost the whole herd. She really did save the day."

Now, Stacy is talking to kids about her book. Teachers who attended her presentation at Cross County Community Schools near Stromsburg say it was a good experience for the students to see an author first-hand. "I think this was really special," 3rd grade teacher Rachel Branting said. "Just to see an author in person, a Nebraska author, it allowed them to make some connections with our state."

Reading teacher Teresa Hinn agreed. "I was really pleased with one of the questions our kids asked was, it scary to have your book published? And I think it's so important for kids to know that following your dreams can be scary, but it's important to have a dream and follow that dream, and even kids from rural Nebraska can have big dreams," Hinn said.

Learning about Stacy's book may inspire 5th grade students like Emaree Dickey. "I'd maybe like to write a book about a field trip," Dickey said. "In 3rd grade I started a book about a field trip, me and a friend did it, and it just is kind of cool."

Stacy hopes kids are inspired by the story, and learn something from it. "I hope they get the story out of it, the lesson out of it that Suzie was courageous, and that it's important to be kind and to be caring," Kreycik Miller said. If you would like to get a copy of the book, go to nebraskaelktours.com.