Urban legend always hints that people who live on the east coast – NYC, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia – don’t even know that Nebraska exists. Hmmmm. Nebraska? Is that somewhere over by Idaway or South Mexico? Isn’t that where all the Indians live?
I don’t know if it’s true that the Great Plains states remain a mystery to New Yorkers or Californians – just one of the so-called flyover states – but I will tell you that even as one who left Nebraska to put roots elsewhere, I never fail to be proud that I grew up in the Midwest.
All my life – both when I lived in Nebraska and after I moved to Colorado – I have heard people complain about that long drive on I-80 through ugly Nebraska. The sentiment makes me laugh because, while certainly the mountains of central and western Colorado are magnificent, the eastern plains are, well, less than splendid. But the cattle that graze on that land and the wheat that grows both summer and winter in eastern Colorado feed all of us throughout the United States and frankly, the world. So to me, it’s beautiful. It’s all beautiful.
And once you cross into Nebraska and start following the Platte River past field after field of corn and soybeans, the scene is frankly bountiful and gorgeous. It reminds me of the vineyards in Tuscany in sort of a weird way.
Midwesterners work hard, whether or not they are farmers or ranchers or city folk. Hard work, family, faith, and the Cornhuskers are what make most Nebraskans tick. It’s as simple as that. And if you spend your formative years in Nebraska, it is always part of you, even if you call yourself a Coloradan or an Arizonan.
Bec tells a funny story about a time when she was driving around her town of Chandler, AZ, shortly after she had moved there. She passed a field of something green. Hmmm, she said to herself. There’s a field of sorghum.
Wait, what? She reminded herself that she didn’t have the slightest idea of what sorghum was or even its purpose. But when she got home, she googled it. Yes, you guessed it. The field was, in fact, sorghum. Somewhere inside her head that had lived in Germany and Alabama and Washington, DC, for way more years than in Nebraska, she recognized sorghum.
The recent few days that we spent in Nebraska for my family’s reunion were wonderful, and made all of us nostalgic. Those cornfields are so beautiful, one of us would say about every 15 minutes. It looks like there’s been a lot of rain, another would say, interest in weather being a perfect indicator of a Midwesterner.
Here are some of the things we saw and did while in Nebraska…..
Beautiful old houses surrounded by magnificent trees (Do you know that Arbor Day started in Nebraska? Do you even know what Arbor Day is?)….
We drove on the Lincoln Highway quite by accident while in Omaha. Bec instructed her car’s GPS to take us the shortest way to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Valley, Nebraska, on Saturday evening, and the GPS took us on old Highway 30 – the Lincoln Highway – which at that point is a brick road. Lincoln Highway was built in the early 20th century and passes through a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and more than 700 communities across the United States….
My immediate family has history at Husker House Restaurant in Columbus. It was where we went for celebrations. My mom and dad celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Husker House. We celebrated birthdays and first communions and confirmations at Husker House. So, it’s a command performance when we are in Columbus. This time, Bec, my cousin Marilyn, and I toasted my parents with a Grasshopper following our fried chicken dinner….
And the reason we chose fried chicken, my friends, is because by that time we had practically eaten nothing but beef because NEBRASKA. Bill, Bec, Jen, and I ate our first meal in Nebraska at a steakhouse. What else?……
And finally, what do you suppose I found on the shelves of a Hyvee Supermarket in Omaha, NE? Stewart’s Diet Orange and Cream soda. Yay Alastair!….
While I consider myself a Coloradan — at least mostly, deep down inside me, I am a Nebraskan-at-heart. And, by the way, Go Big Red!