Ah, Nebraska! It turns out I have roots there, which may explain the deep satisfaction I felt during Darlene’s and my long weekend in Omaha, visiting her family. My great-grandfather Edgerly was born and raised in Omaha. He wasn’t a farmer, but the family’s general merchandise and equipment business served many farmers as customers. My grandfather Stuart Edgerly went East, young man, to Dartmouth, and raised his family in Syracuse and Sudbury, Mass. My father and mother settled in the next town, where I grew up and eventually headed back West as a young man. Now I live in East and West and feel at home in both.
There is lots of corn in Nebraska, and we wandered among some of it on Saturday, when Darlene’s brother Rod and wife Connie took us to the SkinnyBones corn maze south of Blair, Nebraska. Here’s what it was like:
I loved the corn maze! The six of us wandered through its spider-webby paths, looking for posts where we could punch a clever card given to us at the start. “If you punch all eight locations, you can turn the card in for a drawing for a t-shirt,” the woman at the ticket booth had informed us. We and everyone else in the corn maze dutifully hunted for the eight posts with paper punches at them. It reminded me of Napoleon’s famous discovery, that “men will die for ribbons.” The corn was over our heads and so thick that there was no sneaking off the path into the Amazonian tangle of husks and stalks. It was impossible to really know where you were, so I soon began to enjoy the ramble, sometimes following Connie or Rod, sometimes peeling off to walk solo. Each of us eventually became familiar with a small portion of the maze, so we could pass snippets of recon to each other. “If you go right, you’ll come to the bridge,” my nephew would tell me. The bridge didn’t go anywhere, but climbing its steps gave you a view of the tops of the corn stalks (see photo above).
I felt refreshed after my time in the corn maze. For one thing, I had no signal on my iPhone, so there was no checking satellite photos for clues, or seeing if an email had arrived. It was me and my feet for an hour, giving in to confusion about where I was heading, and where I’d been.
Our delayed flight from Minneapolis had landed in Omaha on Thursday, September 24th, just in time for Darlene’s sister to whisk us from Eppley Field to a cross-country meet in Fort Calhoun, where we surprised and cheered on our niece and nephew, wearing our brilliantly orange Fort Calhoun Pioneers booster sweatshirts. The kids ran long courses in and around Fort Atkinson, a restored historic site surrounded by tall grass. That night we attended the homecoming football game at Fort Calhoun Junior-Senior High School. The Pioneers won, and the rain didn’t arrive until halftime, at which point my nephew (tuba) and niece (clarinet) were wrapping up their junior-high band duties. For a sample of the music, click on the triangle “Play” button in this AudioBoo:
The news from Nebraska is that things are okay. The kids are pumped up about their school. The parents go crazy cheering their student athletes. You don’t always have to know where you’re going to enjoy a walk in the tall corn. If I had to pick a word that summed up my impressions of Nebraska it would be “earnest.” I suspect there’s less irony per capita in Nebraska than in Massachusetts. Or maybe the truth is that I felt more earnest while I was in Omaha, and the feeling lingers, now that I’m back in Harvard Square. It’s a good feeling. It’s good to have roots in Nebraska, and it’s good to have family there still, who welcomed us with such renewing wit and warmth.