I took a drive a couple days ago to southern Lincoln County to look at the big “water farm,” which is what the project to pump water all the way to Kansas is commonly called.Water is flowing now down the typically dry Medicine Creek, forever leaving the Nebraska aquifer, headed for some farmland across the southern state line, although no one seems to believe enough water will get to its destination to do anyone any good, as we have observed and reported.
Regardless, the water farm, (also known as NCORPE, a weird concoction of letters,) is an unprecedented multi-million dollar project that for some set of reasons the other news media in North Platte doesn’t cover much.
So I drove south to take a look. It was a sunny day in early spring — a good day to enjoy life and the feel of a jacket.
From Nebraska Highway 23, I drove a few miles on Somerset Road along the Medicine Creek.
The creek looked nice.
Too bad about the cost.
When you are powerful enough, or blissful enough, costs don’t matter much.
When a person is blissful, a person can pretend he or she is powerful, at least enough to enjoy a bit of time on a drive in early spring.
I visited with people along the creek, took photos at bridges and Wellfleet Lake, drove around Wellfleet looking for a place to buy a cup of coffee without success, and slowly worked my way east to the Dancing Leaf Earth Lodge.
I spent about three hours that way, and as I returned to North Platte around 6 p.m., I felt, as I do when I go into rural Nebraska and return — good lord, what a nice town.
I drove past Lake Maloney and down Dodge Hill, overlooking the trees and buildings and streets of North Platte.
There was the historic, pastoral, academic state research farm, and then the modern big box store, Menard’s, where hundreds of thousands of items of merchandise (need them or not) can be bought.
North Platte’s shopping district presents an appealing selection of motels, car dealers, restaurants and gas stations, farm stores and veterinary clinics.
As I drove across the South Platte River bridges, the Great Plains Regional Medical Center’s five-story building, with its construction crane, was visible above the trees—a symbol of growth—and the busy one-way streets carried nice looking motorists in nice looking cars to many of hundreds of places North Platte has to offer.
Even if you’ve seen it all a thousand times, it’s nice to get out of town, get in a blissful mood and drive back, looking at our town with refreshed eyes.
North Platte is a virtual mecca of civilization in the plains and hills of Nebraska. Generally, a person knows that already, but we tend to get caught up in the same-o, same-o, the amount of drug abuse and crime (and the relative lack of solutions,) the small-scale community events that one often helps to produce before one can enjoy them, not to mention the challenges of life no matter where one is.
What was certainly evident to me that day is that North Platte is one of Nebraska’s largest towns, a small city with many things to see and do, lots of people to know and lots of places to buy a cup of coffee.
North Platte is not as serene as the peaceful countryside and meandering creek, but it is as serene and interesting as a small city can be.
We don’t remind ourselves and one another of that often enough.
We seem to get caught up in elbowing one another for customers, or attention, or both. Elbowing others is a common dynamic of city life, and it makes city life miserable, and that’s why I propose that we all drive down to Wellfleet (or up to Tyron, etc.) at least 3-4 times a year, enjoy the blissful serenity of wide-open Nebraska, and come back to North Platte and figure out how to make our little city greater.
George Lauby is the Editor of the North Platte Bulletin. This column was first published in the Bulletin's March 26 print edition.