David Lunsford has a suggestion that will help transport you back to simpler times. It only costs a small amount of time and a bit of gas-money. Read along as he shares his memories from one such excursion along the rolling plains of his Nebraska home town, with an old friend.

by David Lunsford

Hi Jerry,
I thought of you last evening as Thelma and I made what is a frequent “cooling off” ride out West of Falls City. It had been a hot day occupied by a.m. labor on a refinishing project I am working, a 40 mile bike ride in the afternoon and then three hours in the 17:00 - 20:00 sun whilst watching a niece and nephew compete in our little league games. Directly thereafter we went to G’ma Merz and saw her safely in for the night. At that point it was shortly after 21:00 and I told TRL it was time for a ride. I put in my new Merle Haggard CD and we headed West towards Hwy 75; the N/S highway which connects Omaha, Ne and Topeka Ks. That’s a journey of 13 miles and is the juncture where we usually turn the wagon towards home.

As I put old Merle on I had to think I am indeed getting older. I find myself drawn more and more to slower and gentler tunes. Nine times out of ten I will look for my Joan Baez CD which is filled w/songs of political angst, or something from Merle or Willy who tend to focus on the afflictions which beset the common man: i.e. me, or what could have been me had I come to the fork in the road and taken it, Ha! I also thought about you Jerry: about to embark on your last TDY (tour of duty) and put off that uniform of so many years. I know you are going to miss a good part of that experience and I also know you are relieved to be through w/other parts. I only hope you can find the same level of satisfaction w/life as I. I hope as well that we can find many more opportunities to sit in the fishing boat in the days to come. But, I digress a bit from my main line. I have something to describe and something to recommend for you the next time you are back in Aberdeen. That requires a little description of our ride last evening.

As TRL (Thelma) and I headed out of town we turned off the air conditioner and cranked down the windows. Put the pedal to the metal and pushed the Explorer up to a solid 45 mph. By that time the temps had fallen to the mid 70’s and there was a very gentle breeze out of the South. It was not yet fully dark so we could see the lovely cast of the lush green fields and rolling hills which dominate our Western horizon. Heading in that direction always puts me into a sort of cowboy mood. There are few houses. The bottom ground around the Little Nemaha River is cropland the upper elevations are mostly pasture land. I used to hunt out that way when I was a kid, and I used to top some of the hills on foot thinking I would not be too surprised to see a band of Indians on their ponies down on the other side. Would that I could have had that experience.

Anyway, the land is unchanged from the days of my youth, and many of those old memories flooded back as we rolled along. Best of all were the evening smells. What a pot pourri! Hard to describe the general smell but you know what I mean: it’s that cooler, fresher, cleaner smell than one finds in town. Superimposed on that however were the more aggressive odors which waxed and waned as we progressed. Early on we passed some newly cut alfalfa and once again I was filled w/the thought of my own experiences baling hay with a gang of boys working for some grumpy old farmer for $.75 - $1.00 an hour. (Not all were grumpy: some of the old guys would even crack open a 6-pack for us when the job was done. One in particular used to tell me: “Don’t tell your Dad I gave you that beer!” Next came the cattle smells which again transported me to the times when I held in my own hands” a thousand teats a day.” Cattle smell so much better than hogs I think, don’t you? The cattle smells quickly fell to the singular cast of the grain elevator and then the more humid air close to the river as we crossed back and forth over its meandering course. I don’t think Thelma and I even spoke in the 20 minutes it took for us to get to the turnaround point, and best of all we did not meet a single vehicle the whole way out. Nothing broke the mood set by Merle and Mother Nature. It was a sublime experience made special by memories evoked in song and that deepest part of the brain. Special too because of its transitory nature. Coming back was enjoyable but the “spell” was broken. We did meet a couple of vehicles and by that time TRL and I were back to talking, preparing to wind up the day and making plans for the one to come. We did bring the trip out back with us though and I know we will attempt to recreate it again before long. And that leads me to my recommendation.

The next time you and Kathy are back in Aberdeen, wait for the end of a hot day. Grab Kathy as the cool of evening dusk sets in and jump in the car and with some CD you especially like and drive slowly out to your old farm and back. Don’t talk: just open your ears and your nose and see if you can cast a spell. I hope you can and I hope it brings you half what that sort of conjuring brings to me. We can talk about it later over a beer. TTYL: Dave L.

Seven Spanish Angels, Merle Haggard

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