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Route 20 Report #4

What can I say about Nebraska?

That I was dreading its 431.6-mile length? That “sandhills” sounded like a euphemism for craplands? That Willa Cather notwithstanding, I figured the only way to make it through was to binge-listen to Elmore Leonard audiobooks? That Nebraska would be the least interesting state on our Route 20 cross-country trek?

Boy howdy, was I wrong.

I loved Nebraska. And here are a few of the many reasons why:

Chadron, home of the extraordinary Museum of the Fur Trade where we saw not just the penis bone of a raccoon (as if that was not enough), but a rain jacket made of seal intestines.

Rushville, where I had this conversation with the postmistress after she told me she’d moved to town 35 years ago and could not imagine living anywhere else:

What do you love most about this town?
(No hesitation) The water! It’s the best!
Where does it come from? (I am thinking artesian well, deep aquifer)
(She points) There! From right there!
(She is pointing at the town’s water tower)

Valentine, where until 1967, half the town was in Mountain Time Zone, half in Central. Like right down Main Street. Also the Pacific-to-Atlantic Route 20 and the Mexico-to-Canada Route 83 cross here. Like right on Main Street. And, best yet, the extraordinary Fort Niabrara National Wildlife Refuge where prairie dogs came out of their holes to click and chatter at us.

Plainview (pop. 1,200), where a huge sign invited us to camp for free in the  city park. So we did. The park was directly across from the Klown Doll Museum. Yes, with a K.

Laurel (pop. 964) where we had an “anything you want, we’ll make it” breakfast at Friendly Corner, a donation-only restaurant that supports a youth center. The other patrons that morning were ten octogenarians celebrating the 92nd birthday of the lady at the head of the table.

I leave you with these opening lyrics to Nebraska’s state song:

Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairie land
Laced with many rivers and the hills of sand
Dark green valleys cradled in the earth,
Rain and sunshine bring abundant birth.

The author is said to have composed the original piece in an hour. “I was lying in a pasture and words just came to me,” he said.

Uh huh.


1 Steven Finster { 09.26.18 at 8:22 pm }

Ahhh poets, liars second only to fiction writers! And it’s fun – try to communicate a golden gem of truth with words that may well not be true. 🙂 I found out the words don’t “just come to you” pretty early on… But it’s like my granddad said, “of course the game is rigged, but don’t let that stop you!” 🙂 I like Nebraska.

2 Lauren { 09.26.18 at 10:53 pm }

I am always amused when I hear a writer say: “It just wrote itself.”

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