The post title was in fact a state advertising campaign. I thought it was hilarious, but not everyone did and it was quickly abandoned. There's truth in it though. For a bit of light diversion I thought it might be fun to tell you about where I live. I found some old photos to better illustrate the Nebraska Experience for people that have never been here.
January 2006-it snowed a little!
There's a driveway beneath all of that, though if memory serves, it was days before we were able to get out. Sometimes I miss rural living, but then I remember how hard it was in winter. On the positive side, if I could make it out the drive, our county road was on a school bus route, so it got ploughed first. Maybe not ploughed to the standards people have in the city , but good enough to be drivable for most cars/trucks. Beyond that stand of trees is a wildlife area that was open to fishing and hunting. That didn't stop people from coming up in the driveway to hunt. If I'm generous, I could believe people didn't know that the house and drive weren't part of the wildlife area. That's being awfully generous, but yeah. Today's tip is to ask permission if you want to hunt on someone's land. Most people will say yes, but you should ask first.
I think this was the first time I let Dan play in snow. Might have over-dressed him in a snowsuit and a ski jacket (sent by my late friend Evelyn because she must have thought it was all cowboys and Indians out here and we wouldn't be able to find outerwear that wasn't buffalo hides). Poor kid had so many layers on he could barely walk or move his arms. This was the back door to the mudroom. It led to the kitchen. Our storm cellar was under the mudroom, and that's where we rode out the tornado in 2008. Today, that little boy can't be bothered to wear a coat unless it is below zero outside, and he has closed all the vents in his bedroom because he enjoys sleeping in a cold room. Typical Nebraska conversation:
Ma: Where's your coat?
Kid: In the car
Ma: I hope it is keeping the car warm.
I have had elderly strangers scold me for not wearing a coat when it is close to 60 degrees F.
"Well what about a nice windbreaker? You should find yourself a windbreaker." For the record, I haven't seen anything resembling a windbreaker (a thin nylon jacket) for sale in at least 40 years.
Anyway, here's a photo with a baby for scale. There's a sidewalk under there, somewhere. Note the garage, and the car sitting in the snowy driveway. Nebraskans don't keep cars in a garage-that's for lawnmowers, bags of lawn fertiliser, cool metal implements you bought at a farm auction. It could go in the shed, but that's already full. I've yet to meet anyone here that uses a garage for their car.
The barn is no good for storage-it is full of scrap wood, feed, and tools.
Eventually the snow melts in spring, but then the dirt drive becomes a muddy mess. Nothing a chain hitched to a tractor can't pull you out of, but still a mess. If you squint, you can see some cattle in the upper right corner of the photo. We moved to the city when Dan was 8 1/2, but he has a healthy fear of livestock (it isn't just bulls that will charge), farm machinery, wells, and septic tanks. Most farm kids do. I'm glad he had that experience and hopefully it will serve him well when his friends want to do dumb things like driving 100 mph down a dirt road because they think no one is around (spoiler: Sometimes there's a tractor).
I always wondered if the salon owners were being sarcastic. Still, that's not the sort of thing you'd see in a big city. I've never been to a tanning salon. My mum was rather partial to them in the 80s, but I have to think even she would have been hesitant to visit a salon called Three Mile Island*.
You know you're a Nebraskan when you have an album of photos with pictures taken beside heavy machinery.
I mean, why wouldn't you want a photograph beside a giant excavator?
If you're a Nebraskan, there's also likely a photo of you in front of a grain elevator. Of course there is-that's the tallest structure in town besides the water tower. Baby provided for scale. You might notice Danny had a case of wry neck when he was born. We straightened him out with physical therapy and exercises (which he screamed through) but I'll never forget the woman who looked at him in the grocery store and said, "What's wrong with him?! Why is is head all floppy like that?" Some people don't have filters. I think I tried explaining how it happens (the baby curls up in the womb and prefers that position once they're out, etc.) but if it happened today I might have had a more pointed response. Anyway, my floppy headed little baby is once again a good measure for scale in the photos.
Many Nebraskans have a good old dog to keep them company. Well, the dog was old anyway. And lazy. I'm sure he rode back to the house in the wheelbarrow. He lived to 17, and is buried on the farm.
March in Nebraska means visiting the farm store and trying to resist bringing home ducks and chicks. By some miracle, I never did which is a good thing because I know they would have died of old age and never ended up on the dinner table. Raising poultry is a bit of work, and they're prone to infections that you need to isolate and treat. I know everyone thinks a pet chick or duck is nice for Easter, but trust me-you don't want to do that. As for people that dye the chicks pastel colours for Easter to sell knowing they'll be "Set free" by parents that can't be bothered...please don't do that. Chicks can't fend for themselves in the wild and will just end up some feral cat's dinner. Do the right thing and visit the chicks-and then leave them at the store for people that know how to raise them.
Back in 2009 on the blog, I wrote a little song about keeping poultry healthy:
If your little birdie is lookin’ sort of dirty
Call your vet.
If your poor old chicken has a cough that’s really kickin’
Call your State poultry diagnostic lab.
If your duck has green diarrhea, droopy wings, and doesn’t see ya’
Take her out.
And wash your hands.
If your bird’s eggs are gross misshapen
And the wattle’s really gapin’
Take it out
(And scrub your shoes with disinfectant).
If your rooster’s not so large and has a thick nasal discharge
Call the vet.
If the swans begin to sneeze it might be Exotic Newcastle Disease!
Call a vet!
Some creepy genius guy from MENSA
Caught Avian Influenza
When he stuffed and mounted a pheasant head
And now poor Einstein’s DEAD!
Don’t play with dead birds your find in the wild!
And don’t eat them either.
If you must handle a dead bird with your fingers or your toes
Please don’t go rubbing your eyes
Or pick your nose.
Get some water. Get some soap. Call the State!
Why did the chicken cross the road? Who knows? He might have been sick!
Don’t take chances
Call the State!
And wash your hands.
And don't touch.
Now that's the quality content you come to the blog for.
So what's there to do for fun in small town Nebraska? Well, if the owner of the local car dealership owns an antique firetruck, he might just take you, and your parents for a ride. If you're well behaved, he might even let you clang the bell.
Your dad will have to hang off the side to keep you from falling out. Mama's hanging off the back of the truck protecting no one but herself.
That firetruck would come out every summer for the town's Days celebration, and again for Halloween. There were only a few streets in town to drive up and down, but the kids loved it. He's since retired and sold the dealership, but I suspect that truck still comes out once in a while.
Here's something every Nebraskan can relate to. If there's livestock, there's going to be flies. How many flies depends on how good your hygiene and management of the lot is. Unfortunately, we lived next to someone who didn't do a very good job. Was this what inspired Danny to see a future in exterminating? Who knows? I'm sure it had some influence. His first sorta-complete sentence was, "Flies mama, flies!" Thought it sounded more like, "Fwies." First warm sunny day in spring and they'd come pouring in through the widow gaps, floor vents, and anywhere else they could fit. Fly paper would last a day before needing to be replaced. It was horrifying, disgusting, and painful (those brown flies bite) but it would usually settle down pretty quickly until the first cold day in autumn when the flies would panic again and head straight for the warmth of the house. Anyway, my little "Fly Hunter" got pretty skilled with a swatter, though I had an old ballerina slipper I'd employ for serious cases. At any rate, it wasn't as bad as field mice running for the house as soon as the corn was cut down in harvest time. I never had flies pounce out of a cabinet when I opened the door, hit my head, then the ground, and then run out the door before I could comprehend what happened. But yeah, flies.
At least his last bite was expensive cheese.
There were snakes too! Bull snakes. They look like rattlesnakes and even do a pretty good job of shaking their tails to frighten predators, so you'd be forgiven if you mistook them for a rattler. Bull snakes are harmless (though it will hurt if you get bit) but they're BIG. I mean really BIG. Five feet long. And wide. Big, big, harmless stupid snakes that liked to hang out in the mudroom (fine) but occasionally wandered into the kitchen (not fine). I have to think that's just part of the Nebraska experience that you get up for a drink of water in the night and there's a five foot snake curled up in the corner. I chased it off through the back door yelling after it to, "Eat some mice while you're in the mudroom."
If you're lucky enough to have farm cats, they'll help keep the snake population down (though you find snake heads all over your lawn because they pop off the heads and then eat the bodies like noodles).
Every once in a while we'd find a snake in winter, but they'd be small like this one.
"I am snek. I am smol."
Living next to a wetland, we also had our share of frogs. They'd jump up on the windows at night making a plopping noise that would scare the daylights out of me.
"Hello human. Do you have any flies?"
"Oh certainly, come right in."
I didn't mind the frogs. I miss hearing them at night.
Another familiar sight to Nebraskans-the Turkey Vulture.
Came home to this one afternoon-like they were waiting for me. Sometimes I like to shout at them that I'm not dead yet. This was the hay barn being re-built after the tornado. Oh yeah, we get tornadoes in Nebraska. That was a mess. We do get all manner of extreme weather, but every region gets something. I'd prefer a tornado to an earthquake.
I didn't think I'd end up a storm spotter, but Danny wanted to take the class, so I figured why not? I've only had to call something in to the weather service once.
On the roads...
If you're driving down a two lane highway and someone is headed the other way, lift a finger to "wave" and every so slightly nod your head. I don't know why we do it, we just do. More of a rural thing than urban, but I've had people do it in Omaha too.
This was our home library. The short bookcases in the front are double-sided so it was a bit like walking through a labyrinth on the other side. I home schooled Danny until he was 14, and having a home library while not essential, was helpful. I definitely had a better collection than our town library that consisted of two bookcases in a trailer. We've since whittled down the collection.
Another part of the rural Nebraska experience is your neighbour's cattle getting loose and coming over for a visit.
"Let's go eat the grass at Goody's"
"If I hide in the hay bales, maybe they won't notice."
"Nice car...be a shame if I charged it"
"Okay, let's help them mow this grass..."
Danny thought a sign might serve as a warning, but cattle aren't good readers.
Admittedly, even the bull was pretty tame and accustomed to being fed by humans, so I was wary, but not petrified. I learned that had I really needed to get to my car, leaving a trail of cereal in the opposite direction would be enough to distract them. Cattle are really only concerned with eating. One time a new neighbour from a few miles down the road lost his long horned rare breed bull which showed up in our yard surprising the hell out of our little poodle. We didn't know him, but he was a sort of hobbyist farmer that hadn't really thought through the whole enterprise and was gone in a year or so. Now, that bull scared me because it looked like an ox! Anyway, if you're visiting Nebraska and someone is moving their cattle across the road, just turn off the engine of your car and wait the few minutes it takes. Honking, or trying to cut through a line of cattle won't win you any friends when the farmer has to go round them back up. You'll get where you're going shortly, just hold your horses...er...cattle.
I hope you've enjoyed your visit to rural Nebraska. Next time, I'll take you into town, and maybe a "real" city.