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Friday, June 18, 2004


North Loup

I left Ord rather later than I intended, in the afternoon instead of the morning. The sky was overcast and the weather cool, but not wet. I tried to take it easy, resting every mile and a half or so. As well as lots of cornfields, I passed a couple of herds of cattle, (one with calves), and a few horses. They paid rather more attention to me walking by than most people do. I noticed a beautiful red-winged blackbird. Here in rural central Nebraska, drivers tend to wave at others, whether or not they are acquainted, so I made a point to wave at passing motorists. Not much social interaction beyond that; walking is a good way to spend time thinking.

I reached North Loup just before full dark, had something to eat, and found a place to lay a bedroll for the night. Not the best, unfortunately, because an hour or so later it started to rain; a slow, steady soaking (about 2 tenths inch, I heard later), and by the middle of the night I was getting water inside and underneath my tarp and poncho. By morning I was counting my curses instead of my blessings. I hung out most of the day at the local convenience store, but I couldn't bring myself to do more than nod and say hello to the customers and clerks, and they weren't inclined to converse. The library didn't open until 2:30, which means another short day of travel.

North Loup's big annual event, Popcorn Days, is a three-day festival featuring...what else? August 27, 28, and 29. In the meantime, the Comstock Windmill festival, a 4-day Country Music concert closer to Ord just ended, and the area is getting ready for the Comstock Rock festival, in the same location, July 12-15.

As for myself, the next leg of the trip, to St. Paul Nebraska, will take a couple of days. There are a couple of small towns along the way; Cotesfield and Elba, where I should be able to refill my water.

Generally speaking, convenience store clerks wages are pretty pathetic, and they usually have lots to do to restock, clean, observe & so forth. You might (if you need to wait around longer than a few minutes or so) try to set their minds at ease, and let them know you'll be there till the rain stops or whatever. Loiterers tend to need to be watched, which prevents work from getting done, and can result in calls to local police departments, etc. On the other hand, if they are having a crappy day...that's the way it goes.
When I stopped in Thursday night, I spoke to the clerk on duty first thing, and she pointed to a picnic table hearby where I could sit. Friday morning when the manager came in, I did speak to the manager a little, mentioned that I got wet last night and needed to stay out of the cold wind and dry out lest I get hypothermia, and wait for the library to open so I could post a report. She and the clerk had no problem with that, and neither of us gave the other any trouble. This was quate a different atmosphere than what I saw in Omaha a couple of years ago, where convenience store and motel clerks work inside barred glass cages. I'm reminded of a scene from Mary Poppins.
Bert: "The one I feel sorry for is your father, caged up all day in that cold, hard bank with all that cold hard money."
Jane: "Father? In a cage?"
Bert: "They makes cages in all shapes and sizes...bank shaped, some of them."
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