Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Out of Step

On June 10, 1952, the US Army Corps of Engineers dedicated its $45-million Harlan County, Nebraska, dam and reservoir. 

The all-day celebration drew ten thousand people from the Republican River valley. 

A huge parade in Alma, Nebraska, my home town, kicked off the celebration. A color guard led eleven bands, twenty-eight floats, a drum and bugle corps, ten saddle clubs, a fire department truck, and a line of massive construction trucks used to build the dam. 

My sister, Margaret, led the Alma High School band. I marched with it and carried a heavy glockenspiel, its bulky keyboard shaped like a lyre. When I hit its steel keys with a mallet, a bright bell-like tone sliced through the air. 

As we neared the end of the hour-long march, I spotted Dad standing in the crowd. Afterward, I scampered to him. "How'd I do?"

"Oh, you were terrific!" A smile played across his face. "Everyone was out of step but you."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


A favorite poem by my most-frequently-read poet:


How come your "horrendous"
never feels quite as God-awful
as the simply wretched thing
that happened to happen to me

Does that ring a bell? Let me know.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


The gooseneck lamp made a pool of light on my desk about 3 a.m., June 5, 1968, when someone pounded on my apartment door.

Tall skinny Bev, my upstairs neighbor, cried, "You've got to come up! They've shot Bobby Kennedy!" 

On Bev's TV, I saw the classic image of that night: Robert Kennedy, dressed in his black campaigning suit, sprawled flat on the kitchen floor, his limbs jutting out as though they didn't belong to him.

"Oh my God!" Bev shook her fist at the TV. "I can't believe this!  Martin Luther King only two months dead, and everywhere, rioting, thousands arrested, and who know how many shot! And now this." 

Bobby, still alive, asked, "Is everybody okay?" Bev reached for a tissue. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Jimmy flew into Nebraska from New York when his Teamster contract with Dad's truckline lapsed on June 1, 1950.

And wouldn't you know it,  Jimmy wanted Dad to sign that same old Central States contract, the one with that terrible featherbedding clause they'd fought about in 1947 until "The Little Guy" dropped that clause.

Dad protested.

"Sign or strike," Jimmy said.

Dad, still unhappy with his 1947 contract that transformed his twenty-five drivers into Teamsters, decided to resist. 

He collected from his drivers all those union cards that Hoffa's contract had forced Dad to distribute. He returned them to the Teamsters.

Then my father hunkered down for a fight.