To get to Lincoln, Nebraska, from my home town of Columbus, you drive south out of town on state highway 81; 81 ends as it meets state highway 92 just east of Osceola; you turn east on state highway 92 until you get to David City; you then turn south on state highway 15 until you get to Seward, where you then make your way into Lincoln.
At least that’s how I remember it.
Somewhere before you get to Seward, there was a small two-lane road that signage told us would take you into the town of Bee, Nebraska if you turned left. Population 156. I made the drive between Columbus and Lincoln about a million times because I attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and, unlike most of my friends, I was a homesick freshman. So I would catch a ride any weekend in which someone I knew was going home.
My confession of homesickness relates to my story only because as I would drive (or ride, as the case may be) to and fro so often, I would pass that sign for Bee, population 156, and wonder what it was like to live in a town of 156 people. Keep in mind, I didn’t live in a huge metro area; however, my home town had in the neighborhood of 10,000 people at the time, and that felt perfect to me. We had three or four grocery stores, many churches, a city park, a thriving downtown WITH A BAKERY, three high schools (two public and one Catholic), and plenty of places to eat (though no fast food joints when I lived there). We even had a community college.
I’m guessing Bee maybe had a few small homes, a gas station, a post office in need of paint, a teeny-tiny food market, and a bar. Always a bar.
I remember always thinking that I would be comfortable living in a small town. On the other hand, Bec couldn’t wait until she got to a city where everybody DIDN’T know your name. She has told me that even as a small girl, she imagined living in a city the size of Washington, D.C. And she, of course, actually has lived in not just that city, but other cities for most of her adult life.
But not me. To this day, I will imagine how lovely it would be to live in a little village the size of the fictional Mitford, NC. And then I have to remind myself that while Mitford has a wonderful food market with anything Father Tim needs to make a gourmet meal, in real life that same market would have canned goods, snacking chips, a small variety of meat, beer and pop, and sad looking fruit. There would be no multi-plex movie theaters, no pho (unless you lived in a village in Vietnam), and no liquor store with an enviable wine selection. The hardware store would be the only place to buy ladies’ underwear and toothbrushes.
Recently a friend of mine posted a story on Facebook about a very real town on the north border of Nebraska called Monowi. In Nebraska, the town/city boundary signs list the name of the town/city and its population. As of this photo, you can see that Monowi had 2 residents…..
According to the story published by the BBC, there remains only one – 84-year-old Elsie Eiler. Since the photo was taken, her husband Rudy died. She is the only remaining permanent resident, though the tavern seems to attract a bit of a crowd. According to Elsie herself, she “pays taxes to herself, grants her own liquor license, and is the only remaining resident.”
She goes on to say, “When I apply to the state for my liquor and tobacco licenses each year, they send them to the secretary of the village, which is me. So I get them as the secretary, sign them as the clerk and give them to myself as the bar owner.”
The story is worth the effort it would take to click on the link, if only for the photography.
By the way, I checked the population of Bee, Nebraska. It had 191 people in the 2010 Census. A population boom from the days when I drove past the sign, wondering who could possibly live in Bee, Nebraska. Perhaps it’s on its way from a village to a township. Maybe it will even be on the map someday. Go Bee.