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Nebraska...Our Towns

About Nebraska...Our Towns

Times and Distances...

Map of the Union Pacific main line and branches, from Omaha and Kansas city west to Denver and Cheyenne.
East Southeast volume includes the counties bordering the Missouri River on the east to the mouth of the Platte, then west to include Lancaster County, then south, jogging over to include Jefferson County, and then eastward to the iron cornerpost which marks the beginning line between Kansas and Nebraska.  This aerial taken in northern Gage County captures the patterns of fields - both artfully contoured and geometric rectangles laid out between the streams and rolling hills.  Pickrell is visible on the right, with the City of Beatrice in the distance.[Photo by Gladys Phillips for this publication.The Phillips', who live near Beaver Crossing, fly a Cessna Skylark.]

To the many thousands of people who rode in covered wagons or walked along dusty trails in the early days, the Nebraska Territory was "that huge area between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains." Except for a few land marks, the maps show only an occasional fort, ranches, and way-stations where travelers could get food and water to continue their journey. Settlements came and went. Real "towns" were few and far between.

LATER - for the price of a ticket - people could ride the train and cover the miles from one end of the state to the other in relative comfort. In addition to fuel and water every 8 or 10 miles, the railroad needed people and goods to transport, so it established towns along its right-of-way.

The clicketty-clack of the wheels on steel rails provided the rhythm for many a ballad, as the conductor called out the station names in alphabetical order: "Alexandria, Belvidere, Carleton, Davenport, Edgar, Fairfield, Glenvil, Hastings..." The Burlington, also following this system, got up through Juniata, Kenesaw, and Lowell before they abandoned the idea and/or ran into established towns with names of their own.

EVEN TODAY, in the air-conditioned comfort of a luxury automobile, Nebraska is still a very big place. Travelers on the Interstate system may view a variety of crops, miles of wind-breaking "shelter-belts," neatly painted farmstead, decaying corn cribs, and abandoned barns as they glide along "the boulevard." The wide road-that-never-ends winds over rivers. through fields, and back yards on a continuous concrete carpet from one side of the state to the other, on its way to "elsewhere."

In some places, the sky stretches from one horizon to the other, with only a windmill, some hay bales, and grazing cattle to indicate that someone, somewhere claims it.

When driving cross Nebraska, travelers often measure the distance in inches on the map or hours on the clock, exiting only for food, fuel, or a respite to stretch the legs and rest the eyes. Our towns swish by almost unnoticed with only church spires, water towers, or huge elevator silos rising above a cluster of trees to indicate their presence.

Given all the options available in this modern age for traveling from the Missouri to the Rockies - FLY! Nebraska is beautiful from the air. The land stretching out like a quilted counter- pane, with gentle rolling hills and tree-etched valleys that gather into the familiar meanderings of the Platte, the Blue, or the wide Missouri. On a clear day, familiar land marks and towns appear as tiny models on a giant relief map. Highways gleam like satin ribbons, linking one town with another, and the rivers, dotted with bright blue lakes and reservoirs, sparkle like jewels in the sunlight. With the right tail wind, it takes only hours - not days or weeks, as it did years ago.