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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A short break in rural Nebraska

I left Red Cloud Saturday morning and drove for five hours, mostly through fog and drizzle, to arrive midday at Ainsworth, where I visited my good friends Keevin and Dottie Arent. Keevin's dad grew up in the red house (as featured in my book The Red House on the Niobrara) and later bought land in the Ainsworth area.

After taking it easy Saturday afternoon we hit the road Sunday morning and took a tour of the ranch land where my host grew up. He knows that area intimately and is a mine of information on the people who used to, or still do, live there. Of course, as in any agricultural area, it's often a story of the way things used to be - where the apple orchards were, the peaches or mulberries, the fishing lakes, the best hunting spots, the old wooden houses now completely erased, the occasional barn still standing. We grow older, and things change. Sometimes it's really quite poignant.

Before we left Highway 20 we swung by the site of the old Army Air Field, now the municipal airport - which is where I photographed this rather amusing picture:

From there we drove a little further west, and called in at Johnstown, where the 'Hanover' scenes for the movie of Willa Cather's 'O, Pioneers!' were shot. More relevant to our immediate needs, the town still has an active bar, The L-Bow Room, where we enjoyed a cool beer. So nice not to be in a hurry - or driving, for that matter.

The L-Bow Room a handy place for a quiet beer on a Sunday morning.

Leaving Johnstown, we went on down to cross the Niobrara at Norden Bridge and follow the north bank. The scenery was all blue (sky) and yellow (leaves), a delightful outlook. We drove as far as Meadville, where we stopped at a wonderful riverside joint I remembered from a previous visit.

Great place for a lunch - if they're open.

We lingered over a beer (Fat Tire in my case), a steak sandwich (with cheesy potatoes), a drop more of the good stuff and a plate of cherry pie a la mode. It's a super place, and although the sun was shining there was a nip in the air, so we were glad they'd had the good sense to fire up the cast-iron stove. Speaking for myself, I could easily have put my head on the table and had a little nap, but, to reference Robert Frost, we had 'miles to go before we slept'... back over the river.

This morning it was definitely Monday - no disputing the fact -, and back to work for this writer. I took my leave around 9.30 and drove slowly down to Kearney where, this evening, I entertained a small gathering at the city library to the story of how I ended up being a debut novelist at 67. Before they dropped off I made them listen to a few extracts from Cody, The Medicine Man and Me. Tomorrow I head for Omaha, where I'll be giving a talk at the Bookworm, 6 p.m.. It's meant to be quite the happening place in town.
More in due course.


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