July 8, 1999 - Day 32 - Grand Island to Seward, Nebraska

72.4 miles, 5.5 mph average, 1972 total miles, max speed not functioning

100 degrees
6:45 p.m. in Seward
And in spite of this, it was a great day.

Today: Left Hamilton County, passed through York County, and am presently in Seward County. Hamilton County didn't get done on the Info Maps York County (Allison Barrett) and Seward County (Megan MacKinnon) are both really good.
By the way, if you've been checking the Nebraska student web sites, you see that the background makes it hard to read the site. That's my fault, not the student's. I chose this 'water droplet' background for Nebraska since it was the first humid state, but I didn't realize how hard it would be to read.

Last shot of the Platte
One more time: The Platte River
It's one of the most important rivers of our history. It was the Way to the West for over 300,000 Americans between 1841 and 1870. It looks like it's 'up', but like everything else in America, it's extremely controlled now (That's why we no longer have any problem with flooding in this country!)
When the pioneers came through there were no trees along the banks because the annual flooding didn't allow trees to take root. Now both banks of the Platte are lined, mostly with cottonwoods and willows.

Nancy and Ivan Ediger
American Gothic Revisited
Meet Nancy and Ivan Ediger. As you can see, the Edigers have a great sense of humor. The American Gothic pose was Ivan's idea. I thought it would be really funny. But now in looking at the picture and really knowing its setting, I like it a lot.

In some ways the Edigers are the most typical Nebraska farm family you will find.

And yet...we didn't spend one minute talking Husker football!!! I know you're reeling at this revelation, and I hope I haven't gotten the Edigers in trouble for exposing it on these pages, but it is THE TRUTH.
Furthermore, Ivan was the goalkeeper of the 1966 Wheaton College NCAA regional SOCCER championship team. We spent some time in their farmhouse kitchen talking about the Women's World Cup. (They're REALLY gonna kill him at the next Grange meeting now.) The time's they are a'changin'.

But I mostly asked Ivan a ton of questions about farming and got a ton of answers. I asked him if he would be willing to be an email contact for my students when we stumble across that paragraph on 'Farming in 20th century America'.
Nancy, lunch was just great. Thanks a lot. It set me up for a hot afternoon on the road. I'm really appreciative of you both taking time out of your day.

Here are just two interesting things I learned about farming today from Ivan:
1. Center pivot is better. It does make sense, once explained. Ivan uses both systems; the old 'trough' system, where the water is pumped up and run down furrows a quarter mile long right next to the plants.

Trough System
You'd THINK this would be more logical; less water evaporating into the atmosphere. Wrong. It can take up to twelve hours for the troughed water to reach the other end of the ditch. In the meantime, all the water at the near end is going right back down into the water table where it will just have to be pumped back up again. AND the farmer has to monitor the troughs twice a day and open and shut panels in the main pipe because you can't irrigate more than about 80(?) rows at a time. PLUS, they are making new center pivot systems now that spray DOWN into the plants, not up and out (see July 4 journal) with sophisticated nozzles so water droplets are best absorbed, so less vapor into the atmosphere.

2. The European corn bore is a beetle that destroys corn. This can be tough on a corn farmer. About ten years ago, Monsanto developed a seed corn that contains a gene that kills the corn bore as it feeds on the corn.
Nice and neat, huh? Wait. All the companies bought the Monsanto patent and now offer the same seed corn. But if all the farmers planted only this kind of corn, it would kill all the corn bores EXCEPT the few that for whatever the reason were born with a resistance to it. Since these would be the only corn bores left, they would then mate and eventually produce millions of babies which would be totally oblivious to the gene that kills corn bores. SO... farmers have agreed that they will plant only certain fields with the new corn and other fields with the old corn so that the corn bore gene pool will remain susceptible to the seed corn that kills them.
And you thought farming was easy.

Lonesome Whistle
Lonesome Whistle
It's one of my very favorite sounds, a diesel whistle wailing out across the plains. And because Nebraska is platted with a grade crossing every mile (see your Northwest Ordinance of 1787), there's a lot of that soulful wailing.
Now, for those of you that have really been paying attention to the daily journals, this train is moving from west to east. What is it probably carrying in all those cars that are exactly alike? (Answer below)

Seward County Courthouse
Seward County Courthouse
The city of Seward was named after Lincoln's Secretary of War. The city of Lincoln was named after Seward's boss. Think these folks wanted to make a statement as to their sentiments about Union?
The small sign on the right points left and says 'Seward, Alaska - 4135 miles' (Good thing I didn't make a wrong turn.)

The Reinkordts
The Reinkordts
Peter Reinkordt is a German professor at Doane College near here in Crete. He became good friends with my sister-in-law, Fran Madsen. I met him in May when he was visiting her in Chicago, and he said I must stay with them when I came through.
Peter is on the right next to his wife, Jane. Their son, Alex, is next and Elisabeth is on the left. They live on a 60-acre farm outside of Denton, near Lincoln. Peter and Elisabeth drove up to Seward in the Dodge Ram and brought me and the bike to their wonderful place.
Evidence of hard work and ingenuity abound all around their property. They keep 22 head of cattle, grow beautiful flowers, prairie grasses and trees, run alfalfa and hay, have about five outbuildings that Peter has built himself. They are all proud of their place and have good reason to be.
And they both teach fulltime. Peter is Chairman of the Humanities Division at Doane and Jane teaches foreign language at Lincoln SouthEast High School.
They fed me a wonderfully delicious spaghetti dinner. The meat came from their own cattle, the spices came from their own garden, the apple sauce came from their own trees. You get the idea.
Thank you, Peter and Jane, for a wonderful respite from motel life and restaurant food.

One last note on American culture: It occurred to me today for some unknown reason that you just don't see refrigerated water fountains any more. I have not seen a single one on the trip so far. I thought about this and came up with some possible reasons:
-Water really is getting scarce (in the economic sense), and law of supply and demand applies.
-Americans are greedier than they used to be; if we can get a buck for that bottle of water, why give it away?
-Americans have lost confidence in their public drinking water; even if it was available for free, we'd still buy it.
All three of these potential answers indicate a loss of something in our culture.

And a piece of sweet news by email today from my "long, lost cousin" Annabelle Secor in New York. In response to yesterday's journal posting and the picture of the tractor that I thought looked like my Grandpa Hall's, she wrote me today and said she knows where his tractor is. I assumed it had been sold off when his land was sold in 1963. That tractor is part of my history: I can remember riding on Grandpa's lap and steering. Then when I was older he let me drive it myself, the first 'vehicle' I'd ever driven, maybe 9 years old? It was a childhood thrill.

Phil Leswing wrote tonight and suggested a World Cup Finals party in the middle of Iowa en route. It could be cool. If you're interested, drop me an email(graham@route99.org) and we'll try to put something together tomorrow night.
I haven't mentioned the Game this week, but I've been thinking about it. I have a very strong feeling about this team. They have that above and beyond mentality. If you're betting, go ahead and put your money on favored China, but I'm telling you, these women will find a way to win that game. Then watch: they'll give all the credit to the fans. Whether I'm alone or with a crowd, I WILL be watching that game.

Answer: Coal, of course (see June 21 journal). I like seeing how things tie together.

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