“Smack in the middle of our great nation
Is a state that requires some explanation
To east-west coasters, who’ll come right out and ask ya
Is there anything of interest in the state of Nebraska…?”
Having spent nearly two months in the Western United States, our road trip agenda would finally turn eastward. Traversing the emerging prairie lands east of Fort Collins , Colorado, we made efficient progress along Interstate 80 across Central Nebraska to our next destination, Lincoln. The transition from the staggering heights of the Rocky Mountains to vast sand dunes/farm dotted flatlands of the prairie seemed relatively boring at first. However, our desire to sidetrack off the main highway would reveal several unexpected moments of greater tourist interest in this long trek eastward.
In crossing mid- Nebraska,it made sense to imagine the arduous, pioneer travels along the Oregon Trail routes taken there in the mid 19th century. At a routine rest stop , I curiously spotted a historical exhibit pointing me to mucky footpaths marking the actual wagon ruts made of these west-seeking American settlers. A glance at bridge crossings of the wide, North Platte River gave clear notice about their mindset to follow its continuous flow westbound. I thus understood why Nebraska’s had built a grand arch hovering over Interstate Highway 80 at Kearney to honor the legacy of these intrepid wagon explorers .
Nebraska beef cattle represents a major source of income for farmers in this state. Sighting hundreds of black cattle penned tightly in mud filled corrals along I-80, however, did not exactly fulfill my desire to continue eating hamburger. How fortunate, it seemed, then, that we could obtain a firsthand, look at cattle ranching, by eagerly accepting an invitation by a Lincoln- based, Nebraska friend to visit his family farm. As a result, we would witness a more humane view of the cattle action as I soon learned that this farmer did not slaughter his own herd of cattle, occasionally selling off only a few young calves at a time as needed. Many of his older cow stock would also have plenty of room to graze freely in open fields and remain on the farm as lifer breed stock.Some were even given their own names.
Baseball now occupied my attention in our offbeat tour of Nebraska. Visiting the Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball in the little town of St. Paul , I witnessed extensive displays about the forty two Nebraskans who had played in the big leagues in the past and present. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Dazzy Vance, Richie Ashburn, and Wade Boggs were notably featured in this small yet captivating museum.
Some intriguing political questions remained in our latest Nebraska adventure. Why was the U.S. flag displayed at half mast in mid- May throughout our state visit? Why were Israeli flags unfurled in our brief glance of an outdoor, evangelical church rally? Why did farmers allow oil fracking on their lands in view of the damage that such drilling incurs on the natural environment? What circumstances enabled a female “progressivist candidate” to win a Democratic congressional primary this week in this most conservatively Republican state?
It was an awesome visit to the family farm and to experience the animals up close. You hear about how tough things are for farmers, the long hours every day and all year long. To see equipment and fields and to have ridden on the ATV as Paul’s mom so proudly and lovingly shared the family’s farm was something I will never forget. We owe a huge amount of gratitude to these selfless families who work so hard to feed our families every day!
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Jim – I was born in a hospital in Auburn, Nebraska, went home & spent the first year of my life on a small farm about one mile outside of the town named Stella.
Wow! Nebraska to S.F.. That’s quite a cultural and political difference.
Oh, Nebraska has depths one does not at first perceive — as you note throughout your post, James, including politically. From my 2018 Progressive Candidate List:
2nd Congressional District – Kara Eastman (D-NE) – WON Democratic Primary
— Her campaign refuses corporate PAC donations
— Took the American Promise Candidate Pledge
— Stands up for Single Payer Healthcare
3rd Congressional District – Paul Theobald (D-NE) – WON Democratic Primary, unopposed
Governor – Vanessa Ward (D-NE) – Lost Democratic Primary
— Her campaign refuses corporate PAC donations
Not bad, coming from the Heartland. (NE only has the 3 congressional districts). Yes, Eastman’s primary win has excited progressives around the nation. Fingers crossed for November!
But as you toured Nebraska, did you personally sense that a progressive or blue wave is unfurling?
To be honest , we spent most of our time in Lincoln, a college town. Traveling through small towns , people were veryl “hush hush “ and did not seem to be receptive to my outside presence.. Small town newspapers editorials seem to be a good way to feel the pulse of these communities.