Yes, Nebraska can be beautiful

A couple of days ago, I was simply driving west on Sixth Street.

It was a pretty mundane thing to do . . . I was just going back to the office after covering a story on the east side of town.

I don’t know if it was because of the way the sun was shining.

Maybe it was because I saw it on just the right day before the leaves fell.

But the view down Sixth Street was actually breathtaking.

I know, that sounds a bit over the top. Regardless, it was so lovely, I took instant notice.

Of course, there are the beautiful historic houses, lining both sides of the street, that have been preserved and affectionately cared for over many, many, many decades – this stretch makes me happy at any time of year.

But the colors of the trees just added to the ambience. The reds, oranges, yellows and greens nearly seemed to sparkle.

The sky was the most beautiful color of blue.

I was the beneficiary of a surprise view that could have easily been considered the perfect shot for a post card or a promotional photo of our town.

I was fortunate to have seen it with my own eyes.

There have always been certain places I love to see in the autumn months – just random places I have driven through where the view never disappoints.

One, for example, is when you are driving south on Highway 81 just north of McCool Junction. I love the view when you just crest the hill and proceed into the “valley” right before you turn into town. The trees in that area are absolutely gorgeous this time of year . . . always have been.

Or when you drive on Highway 34, east of Seward. I love the area where the roads starts to curve back and forth . . . the trees in those pastures and on those hills always make me say aloud, “See, Nebraska can be beautiful.”

How about driving through the winding areas by Silver Creek? This time of year, the trees are absolutely an artist’s dream . . . but don’t get too mesmerized, because the deer tend to love to jump out in that particular stretch.

I remember being a child and strangely excited to collect the colored leaves from the massive cottonwood trees that grew along the road to my grandparents’ place. The legend was that my great-grandfather, August, “accidentally” planted those trees. The story was that he was simply playing, as a child, and stuck cottonwood branches into the ground. Rain came and amazingly, over time, the branches started to sprout trees. Over the years, those cottonwoods reached many, many feet into the air and the girth of their trunks was impressive. I loved to lie under their branches, listening to the wind blow through the leaves and imagine a young August playing in the same exact place . . . many decades earlier. I wondered if the leaves were as beautiful for him as they were for me.

I also remember standing in the remote area my family owned, which was called “The Bartak Place.” When I was a kid, it was literally the same as the pioneers found it. There were native grasses, volunteer evergreens reaching to the sky, colorful seasonal trees bursting with hues that only God could create. It was one of my favorite places on this planet.

I also remember The Big Tree at the District 60 school where I was educated. This tree was the biggest cottonwood I have yet to see with my own eyes. Its leaves were bigger than my hands and its rustling sounded like an orchestra . . . if you used your imagination a little bit. There was nothing more heavenly than sitting in the tire swing, leaning as far back as possible and tilting your head back as far as you could, without falling out . . . looking up into an incredible autumn painting that nearly blocked out the sun.

Of course, autumn is fleeting. The wind is bringing down the leaves as I write and soon everything will be covered with snow. But even then, I will have to remember to look at the whiteness while it’s still pristine and sparkling in order to appreciate it.

Sure, here in Nebraska, we don’t have mountains or an ocean. We don’t have movie stars or theme parks. We don’t have four star resorts or wonders of the world.

But this state does offer beauty in places that we sometimes don’t recognize and have to actually take the time to notice.


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