The little town of Paxton, Nebraska, pop. 614, is not far off Interstate 80, about a mile to be exact. It is a farming community and one that is still intact in this area when so many small towns seem to be struggling to stay alive. To the north are the sand hills of western Nebraska in a long winding line set beyond the shores of the North Platte River. To the south, wheat fields recently harvested and an abundance of corn higher than my head for as far as I can see. It is here in this tiny hamlet that I would be shown first hand, the hospitality of these wonderful Midwest people.
On Saturday morning, Dale my host, introduces me to Fred the Pilot. Fred is retired from farming and a veteran. He will take me in his small Piper Lance on a tour by air through the county. We fly over the sand hills and irrigation ditches that flow from Lake Maconoughy. He gives me a history on the homesteaders back at the turn of the 20th century. A rugged, hard life and when given a parcel of land you merely had to have a building and plant a tree as a requirement from the government. In North Platte we fly over the largest classified switching rail station in the world. I am amazed by the Ogalalla aquafir that has provided much needed water to this area resulting in fantastic crop growth. After landing I get the word we are going on a prairie dog shoot. Now this should be interesting. Prairie dogs are a huge problem and can decimate a field easily, hence their removal is welcomed by many farmers. It reminds me of a military operation. Me, with a rifle equipped with a silencer, scope and tripod and my “spotter” with his binoculars. In short order three go down and I have passed that test. On to the combine. Now for a guy who pushes a stroller all day this is a big deal. After climbing up, Dale explains the working parts and allows me to take over. Now this is the real thing…..air-conditioning, music, bathroom (coke bottle) oh ya, show me the fields, I’ll drive all day….3 things down for the day and still one more to go…….”Tanking” Now I had thought I had seen a lot of strange things till I saw this. When he first mentioned it I figured it was some weird drinking game….I was wrong……we loaded up an 11 foot horse tank, the kind they drink out of, on to a flat bed trailer. Haul it down to the river. It then gets rolled down the bank to the water. We load lawn chairs and coolers into it and because we forgot our push pole, use 2 garden shovels as paddles. I am speechless. This is better than the teacup ride at the carnival. I kid you not. Life on the road does not get any better than flying in the morning, shooting a couple of prairie dogs, driving a combine and then floating down the river in a horse tank…………and then we head for Ole’s……..established on the day prohibition ended, August 9, 1933, Ole’s is known nationwide as a great bar and restaurant but mostly for the collection of over 200 stuffed animals from around the world acquired by Ole Hermstead throughout a hunting career that spanned the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Next to Ole’s was once the Cheetah Lounge….this was run by one of Paxtons finest. A rather large, boisterous, make-up laden woman never seen without her leopard skin tops and skirts and whose presence was preceded by the best perfumes Avon had to offer.
I could not imagine a more colorful, event filled day along this stretch of Route 30 nor more accomadating and gracious hosts….Paxton….you gotta see it and experience it…..