THREE: Rayford Lake, South Central Nebraska
By Harry Holdorf
The waves coat the lake with an enormous, remarkable pattern.
It's as good a scene as we've seen lately. No people; water to swim in, enough shade to fight the high heat and humidity. First Nights are wonderful: last evening a Willa Cather full golden moon rose over the lake. Fireflies.
First ANYTHINGS are great, giving us enough enthusiasm to make it through the not-so-great middles and lasts. Children play with incredible energies, lifting high their knee before tearing off in one direction or other.
Four nights ago, our first evening at Indian Caves, on the Missouri, was also wonderful. Terribly hot and muggy, but also full of hardwood forests, no people at all, a robin's nest above our tent which barely held two large juvenile robins sitting up like they were riding in a convertible (we named them Elan and Darcy). Fireflies all night, at all altitudes above the lawns and in the forests; very light-colored , statuesque white-tailed deer; a whippoorwill who would not stop nor change its tune, and an owl who kept to his tune: "whoo …who-who-who… who.. who.. who, except once or twice a night when, from a different tree, it would give out its startling version of the loud sound of arguing campers. To the list of items, which settled the west "the revolver, barbed wire, and the windmill ," I would add the fly swatter: black flies take big chunks out of you when they bite.
Sadly, way too many of the good and smart farmers or their kids have fled the farms for the Cities and the Coasts, allowing the entire rural Midwest to steadily go way downhill. We drove fifty miles, through four nearly abandoned towns, before finding a cafe in Humboldt to eat breakfast in. Farmers haven't gotten a decent price for their products for decades. Becky cried for the wheat farmers in Western Kansas, having to do so much work for so little pay.
They tore down my grandmother's house, eight miles south of here, on the Blue River bottomland, where her parents had homesteaded, having come from Iowa by horse and wagon. What's left there now is a narrow x-shaped sandstone-walled basement, with the plumbing left from when she finally put a bathroom in the closet off her bedroom. The Wymore grocery store sells cheap steaks, which we are grilling.
Yesterday was depressing, but this morning brought us back into the moment, asking the friendly Beatrice gas station attendant not "where's a good place to eat breakfast", but: "Where do the locals eat breakfast?" The Country Kitchen was the smallest concrete-walled tilt-up I'd seen, purely industrial, but for a square vent on one end which was shooting out bacon grease, and a parking lot full of farm vehicles. Inside were long, plastic-covered tables filled with farmers, and farmers who now live in town, in their caps and overalls, along with tables of older women. The walls were covered with dusted, floral knickknacks, but one look at the menu showed the place was serious: the price charged for the hash browns increased with how much food you ordered, indicating they took their "taters quite seriously. When they brought the food, the hash browns literally covered the large platters.
We aging Boomers can spend our remaining days either sharing tips on eating or sleeping places, or we can deliver on the promises we made in our youth. We can either settle for tie-dyed dead-head musical remnants of a culture which once believed in something, or we can forcefully express what we still believe in. Living lightly on the earth is indeed a beautiful, all-encompassing idea, and it can be done, and every time we do it, it brings us real pleasure; and it is directional, and progressive, etc.
The best thing to hit our generation was Japanese and German small cars. The EPA, clean water, and environmental regulations are real good ideas. Extend light living to all we do, and we will all succeed, graciously, really. If we live correctly, we can have our cake and eat it too, probably for a long, long time. And, most importantly, it will be an extremely nice experience.
Leaving Beatrice, Becky asked if we were going by the Homestead National Monument again. I thought maybe she wanted to learn more about homesteading; she said, no, she was interested in using a really nice, Federal bathroom.
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