Today is a red letter day in Nebraska–perhaps the reddest letter day in the state aside from opening day at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. It’s the anniversary of Nebraska’s admission into the Union on March 1, 1867.
Anyone even remotely familiar with the state knows that many Nebraskans have a fetish about the color red as it applies to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team. Now that this bit of trivia is out of the way, I can move on to share a few thoughts about my home state.
Nebraska came about through the whittling down of previous occupants’ territories. Before the European invasions, this area belonged to aboriginal inhabitants, mostly Plains tribes. Next came France, they ran the show from 1682 to 1762 and a few years from 1801 until 1803 under the name of Louisiana. In between the two French administrations, It was part of Nueva España which was established by Habsburg Spain.
The United States took over this area in 1803, when Napoleon Bonaparte sold it at the garage sale price of $15,000,000 (approximately $18 per square mile). During the remainder of the 1800’s, Louisiana Territory was carved up into smaller territories. Among them was Nebraska Territory which began in late May of 1854 as part of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. During the 1860s, this area was further parceled down to the size of the current State of Nebraska when it was admitted as the 37th State in 1867.
“I’m the kind of person who would love to play whenever I felt like, with a band, and it might as well be the Holiday Inn in Nebraska–somewhere where no one knows you, and you’re in a band situation just playing music.”–George Harrison
As far as I know, George Harrison and the Beatles never visited Nebraska. Perhaps they flew over the state during their heyday. Apparently, Harrison referred to our state because of its reputation as a flyover state that people mostly ignore. Of course, Nebraskans know who George Harrison was.
Folks in flyover states like Nebraska sometimes enjoy listing famous people who grew up or once lived here. Here is where I trot out that list:
The Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. William Jennings Bryan. President Gerald Ford was born in Omaha. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was born in Lincoln. J. Sterling Morton of “Morton Salt” fame and founder of Arbor Day was a famous Nebraskan. Buffalo Bill Cody was born in Iowa Territory but grew up in Nebraska. General John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War was a Nebraskan.
“I was a young man working in Omaha, Nebraska, in the mid-1960s when I received a call, and I was summoned to Atlanta to work at WSB.–Tom Brokaw
“When I was a kid in Nebraska, a cantankerous farmer, known for plinking with his ’22 at passing cars in which he perceived enemies, ingeniously rigged up a shotgun in his house, trained on the inside of his front door so as to widely distribute any intruder.”–Dick Cavett
We can lay claim to Fred Astaire, who was born in Omaha as was John Beasley and Marlon Brando. Henry Fonda was born in Grand Island. James Coburn came from the small Northeast Nebraska town of Laurel. Gordon MacRae and Hilary Swank were born in Lincoln. Daniel Lawrence Whitney, aka Larry the Cable Guy, came from Pawnee City, Nebraska. Talk show host, Dick Cavett was born in the tiny town of Gibbon. Like Buffalo Bill, Johnny Carson was born in Iowa but grew up in Nebraska. My hometown of Norfolk is also Johnny Carson’s hometown. There are many other famous people from this state such as billionaire Warren Buffett who did not leave Nebraska but still lives in Omaha.
“The openness of rural Nebraska certainly influenced me. That openness, in a way, fosters the imagination. But growing up, Lincoln wasn’t a small town. It was a college town. It had record stores and was a liberal place.”–singer, songwriter, musician Matthew Sweet
All things considered, Nebraska is a reasonably quiet place to live if you don’t consider the violent summer storms and wicked winter blizzards. The per capita income here is $1,400 lower than the national average. Not including Omaha, our state has a below average crime rate.
Nebraska is nothing fancy, but it’s where I hang my caps.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes NFL New York Jets center, Ryan Kalil. “If Hollywood was somewhere else, if Hollywood was in Lincoln, Nebraska, then obviously celebrities would be coming around a lot more to the Huskers games.”