Making my way from Chadron to Alliance and Scottsbluff on the western fringes of the state, I visited Tom and Aleisha at a large ranch in the middle of the Sandhills. Their ranch is along Highway 27 amid the landscape and its people famously and notoriously rendered in the writings of Mari Sandoz. Despite comprising over a quarter of Nebraska and being designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984, Tom said that many Nebraskans know little about the Sandhills. Out east, we are unaware of this vast expanse and its place in our social, economic and historic narrative.
The ranch house was several miles west of the highway along a track acceptable for trucks though somewhat less comfortable in an RV. With people and animals so dispersed, I asked Tom what community means to him. He observed, “You can live in Omaha and hardly know your neighbors at all, and when you live out here there is a whole lot more opportunity to get to know and work with your neighbors. Your neighbors are miles away but you get to know them.”
Tom and Aleisha were welcoming hosts that appeared at ease in this pastoral location, yet sophisticated too in their appreciation and experience of the world. After lunching with them, I left the ranch and kept on down highway 27. The impression of an ocean of grass washed over me. Marking this route, Mari Sandoz lived and is buried among these rolling grasslands.There is a calming solitude to this forever green, though I wondered how I might endure this limitless landscape if I worked within it, especially with weather less serene. I had asked Tom and Aleisha if this lifestyle was lonely, but they said simply that you adapt to your circumstances and come to appreciate the environment. I savored it while I could.
Hi Stuart. You are still traveling? How is it going? I hope you are enjoying every minute and things are going well for you.
Hello Nancy: I returned to Omaha last Thursday and 17th & Vinton was my final conversation stop. I’ve been decompressing! Best wishes, Stuart
Great interview Stuart. I found your comment’ weather less serene” very intriguing. Having spent a lot of time in the Sandhills and growing up near them, the weather got to be a special sort of friend and a close connector to the beautiful state we have. As they say, if you don’t like the weather, just stick around 5 minutes. A lot of truth to it. All I can say is that , you adapt. It all comes and flows together. My favorite writer/ poet, and Nebraska ‘s Poet Laureate, John G. Neihardt , who loved life and the earth and wrote so dearly of it, said it best. ” I am part of my God as a raindrop is part of the sea.! Looking forward to you next stop!
Thanks Randy. Those are beautiful sentiments.