Does anyone still take country drives as family outings or for sightseeing? Years ago, when cars were relatively new and gas was cheap, taking a drive competed well against books, radio, chores and other things to do at home. Now, the competition includes big-screen TVs, internet and smartphones.
I’ve always done country drives. We lived 11 miles from school, banking and other business in Wilcox, and twice that far or more from Franklin, the county seat and Holdrege and Kearney, where my grandparents lived.
As a journalist, I often drive rural roads to cover agriculture, natural resources and small-town stories.
On two mostly sun-drenched days last week, I drove to Broken Bow and Harlan County Lake. I listened to oldies music on the car radio and enjoyed impossibly green late August scenery — corn and soybean fields, alfalfa, pastures, small town parks and football fields — that’s one blessing from an overly wet year.
Along Highway 2 to Broken Bow, cattle of many sizes and colors grazed pastures. Near Ansley, two deer leaped across an alfalfa field and crews worked on utility poles, railroad tracks and a highway bridge.
On my drive back to Kearney on Highways 183 and 40, I saw more green pastures, grazing cattle, windmills and hawks, plus one farmer windrowing alfalfa and another moving big round hay bales.
The next day, I took the “dam” road south from Axtell to Highway 136 a mile west of Naponee.
Nostalgia nearly overwhelmed me as I drove the miles south of Highway 4 to north of Naponee through the part of Franklin County’s Ash Grove Township where I grew up. I could link most farmsteads to years-ago names.
The mile between P and Q roads is the east border of the Potter section. My cousins own the east half of the farm ground, my twin sister Lisa and I own the west half, and our sister-in-law Lois lives on the farmstead. The cousins farm it all.
Trees on the southeast corner (P and 23 roads) mark where Pleasant View Christian Church stood until it was closed and torn down in summer 2014. It and earlier buildings at the intersection were the congregation’s home for 100-plus years.
As I drove by, I could picture the sanctuary filled with regulars sitting in their usual pews. Pleasant View was where four generations of my family worshipped on Sundays, ate potluck dinners, attended Bible school and baby showers, and joined neighbors for shivaree caravans to surprise newlyweds — Bessie Meyers always brought her cowbell.
The church was the polling place where I voted for the first time.
Driving country roads in that area makes me sad. Most of the wonderful, hardworking, generous and faithful family members, friends, neighbors and mentors I knew growing up, especially from the Greatest Generation, are gone now.
I passed Naponee, where I took Mom (Class of ’35) to several Memorial Weekend all-school reunions. On my way home, I passed Alma City Park where we attended Dunn and Seyler family reunion picnics years ago.
As I watched thunderheads grow to the south and west of Highway 183 on my way back to Kearney, I drove by “miles to” signs for towns I’ve been to or passed by many times during the years for work, high school volleyball games and family visits: Orleans, Huntley, Ragan, Holdrege, Loomis, Elm Creek.
There are so many things to see, think about and remember during country drives. My whole life didn’t pass before my eyes last week, but some wonderful parts did.