Powell holds a special place in our hearts even now, nearly 20 years after we grudgingly returned to Nebraska. Anyone left alive in your fair city who knew us well when we lived among you then is …
Powell holds a special place in our hearts even now, nearly 20 years after we grudgingly returned to Nebraska. Anyone left alive in your fair city who knew us well when we lived among you then is keenly aware of that fact.
We came to town Flatlanders born and bred. When we left, we were something more. Not ‘more’ enough to slap one of those condescending (some, but never me, might say insulting) Wyoming Native bumper stickers on the faithful old ‘Burb, yet different just the same.
We learned the ‘road ditches’ of Nebraska-speak aren’t road ditches at all in your world, but rather ‘borrow pits.’ I get it; you borrow material to build the road. But I have to tell you, to this day it sounds kinda silly. Borrow pit, huh? Never heard of such a thing until we moved West.
Same for meadows, which is what grassy openings surrounded by trees are called in tall corn country. In your world we might casually describe a peaceful meadow where we watched an elk or moose, only to be met with puzzled looks. “Oh, you mean a park.”
Others like ‘drainage’ and ‘saddle mule’ (wait, you can ride mules?) and ‘ditch rider’ became endearments that still make me smile as I look back fondly upon those wonderful years.
While in Wyoming we got a sense of how folks think, react, process information and respond to things in general by contrast to Nebraska, which other than topography really isn’t so much different now that I think about it. There certainly are similarities to be found; rural environment and the dominance of ag for one. Plus, both states bear undeniable blame for Trump, so we’re alike in that shame, too.
I learned much about Powell during our years there. Many insights came about as a direct result of my employment at the newspaper. One of the inconvenient parts of journalism is how you are required to educate yourself on a topic, issue or bizarre new sport (ski-joring, ice climbing) to competently report about it in the newspaper.
For instance, I am much more knowledgeable about Native Americans than I ever could have been had we not pulled up stakes and moved to Wyoming. Time is an endless circle, not a straight line with starts and stops to get off and back on again as it is for folks like us, is one example for which I envy Native folks. Ditto for Wyoming’s endless squabbling over who gets to trample public land and how. An infuriating example of this is the few selfish grazing lease-holders, allowed use of public land for a fraction of market price, who arrogantly plaster ‘NO TRESPASSING’ signs everywhere to keep you and me off land we own.
Thankfully, this is not an issue in Nebraska where, unlike Wyoming’s 50-50 public/private split, there is almost no public land. Either you obtain the landowner’s permission or you don’t hunt, fish, camp, recreate or even step over the fence.
Westerners, more than Nebraskans I think, have discovered unique ways to solve problems and most often get their way; non-lethally in many instances. This despite a firearm in every pantry, parlor and pickup (another trait our bordering states share).
Mercifully, we have at last arrived at my promise of a Powell story and it’s one you don’t even know yourself I bet.
Have you ever wondered why Bent is the main street? The core of your downtown from the canal north to the post office and beyond? Of course you haven’t wondered. Why would you? Stay tuned, you’re gonna love this one.
The powers-that-be platted the town and laid out the streets alphabetically: Absaroka, Bent, Clark, Division, etc.
These visionaries with a profit motive in their pocket placed the heart of downtown squarely on Absaroka, then promptly jacked up the price of Absaroka lots.
Wait. Hold on there, stranger. Not so doggone fast.
The clever future business owners had the last laugh. Downtown Powell, they understood, would end up wherever they chose to build their commercial establishments. What they did (tee-hee) is buy up the much cheaper plots right next door on Bent and build their haberdasheries and harness shops and lively emporiums there, leaving the ‘master planners’ to pound sand.
And there you have it: Why downtown is precisely one block off center on the ‘B’ street, not the ‘A’ street where the town mucky-mucks designed it to be.
Isn’t that a wonderful story? A grand and even humorous example of that ‘western mentality’ people here on the prairie and both coasts find so mysterious? Fact check me if you like; this tale of Powell is true. If not, it dang well should be.