One would expect the American prairie of Nebraska to be a flat and monotonous ride across endless farmland. It was to my surprise then that a conspicuous sign appeared, “Fort Morgan – boyhood home of Glenn Miller”. My curiosity had become aroused in a time warp of old time America and I had to find out why.
Stopping at the next rest stop, I noticed an amazing array of literature describing towns to visit by car. To my surprise, I read that a “The Lincoln Highway” still traversed Nebraska as a reminder of a time when Americans cars first traveled America’s transcontinental highway.It’s parallel path along the North Platte River provided evidence of how dangerous waterways paved the road west for 19th century pioneers.
Stopping for lunch, I then noticed differences in vocabulary. A touchdown did not refer to a football score, but a place where a raging tornado would reach land from the sky. Pop became a refreshing drink rather than a convenient term for a father. I became fascinated to know if such terms were signs that these prairie people were not up with the times.
With this thought in mind, we now visited a past neighbor who had recently moved to Lincoln Nebraska. Expecting the typical tourist trap tour, I gazed wondrously at slickly rebuilt glass towers with grassy gathering places nearby. Silicon Valley in Nebraska could not be far from the truth.
I looked further into the irony of my surroundings. A plethora of people from many nationalities inhabited spacious parks that day. Modern Refugee Centers had been strategically placed to serve those that had recently arrived. Downtown slum areas had been replaced by rows of new housing in oddly shaped barn frameworks. Front doors were left open to suggest trust in the safety of their neighborhoods.
I then became distracted by hunger. Growing tired of endless fast food establishments, we spotted a lonely donut shop. As the shop was closing soon, the donuts were already packed away. Surely we would be told the shop was closed. To my surprise, after I ordered my one pastry limit, the waitress warmly greeted us with an entire box of gourmet donuts for free. The owner then arrived to warmly entertain me with travel tips in Lincoln although I suspected there was a catch to her cordial ways. Visions of Norman Rockwell rang true then to vanish these doubts.
With eyes turned eastward, I realize that these hallowed flatlands have given me a sense of history that is often not found in my crowded, urban life combined with a surprisingly cosmopolitan friendliness of the places I saw. The plains will never be plain for me again.