I have been awarded a one month residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. In March, I shall be living at the Center in Nebraska City and writing a creative nonfiction book about my insights and experiences drawn from the project, a couple of 830 mile long conversations. I am eager – and daunted – at the chance to create something fresh and meaningful out of the project. My hope, moreover, as part of the writing process, is to create ways to share my draft writing in conversation with people in the Nebraska City community. This is a wonderful opportunity to amplify the project’s outcomes and the potential for ongoing outreach.
The key to community is leaving the campsite better than you found it, says Chris. Although taken out of Boston, you can’t take his love for Boston from Chris. That said, Chris spent many years and many miles traversing Nebraska, generating business and relationships, making friends and building a family. Above all, there is a lot of life to Chris and it comes through in this vignette.
In honoring D-Day, I am reposting this audio vignette from Wayne Mills. I met Wayne, a World War II veteran, in Broken Bow. “War is Hell,” Wayne said. “I wish we didn’t have to do it. There were many wonderful and warm aspects to Wayne Mills, though this vignette focuses on his experiences as a veteran. Wayne told me, “… They called for us to go down into central France, down south of Strasbourg, it would be in eastern France. And we got into combat down there. And I got wounded the first day. Well, I got shot with a machine gun, which several of us did at the time. And I spent about a month in the hospital, then went back up into Germany after that. I was up in Germany when the war ended.”
[Image above courtesy of The National WWII Museum]
The Danish Baker, Tom Schroeder, entertained me with conversation and song, talking about small town mischief makers, community as a place where people get together and do stuff, and the character of small rural towns, all while serving up the infamous “Heart Attack Sandwich.”
Listen to the audio below:
Tom and Aleisha talk about different communities in South Dakota, Colorado and their ranch and neighbors in their home state of Nebraska. They also observe the vast expanse that is Nebraska and the thread that keeps it all together.
Listen to the audio below
I found Natalie to be a warm, lighthearted, open and willing conversationalist. Among the topics we chatted about, Natalie, an Army veteran, talks about her service in the military police and identifies her community as something of a “geek” tribe, including one of Nebraska’s longest running science fiction conventions, WillyCon. Natalie also discusses her film-making ambitions and penchant for the psychologically macabre.
Listen to the audio below:
A week before I spoke with Edison Red Nest III in Alliance, I had spoken with a young lady in central Nebraska. She said, “I’m not a racist, but… ” then proceeded to tell me that there were usually 4 – 5 drunken fights in town involving Native Americans. I recoiled at what sounded like casual stereotyping and yet her language reflected much of what Edison told me about his perspectives. Despite the similarity of their narratives, however, the distinction perhaps is in the optimism and openness expressed by people like Edison, who declared that the solution to his people’s trauma has always been there and is theirs to reclaim.
Edison Red Nest III explained that it is against the backdrop of what he describes as historical trauma that the ills today afflicting some Native American communities play out. Simply telling me about the troubled state of Native Americans unnerved him. Yet he continued to speak with candor and brutal self-awareness. It was a display of conversational courage and vulnerability that I admired.