by Todd Herges
It’s mid-September and I’m driving
on a perfectly-paved asphalt road
in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Highway 11
North out of Burwell leads me toward a wedding
in Atkinson, where bridal parties ride to receptions
on flatbed trailers pulled behind pickups – rural limousines.
My kids are with me … the one prone to
carsickness up front, and three in back all happily
listen to my plagiarized story about the
Indian Scare of 1864 and the two young brothers
shot dead by Sioux arrows on a frozen Wood River,
near our home, now many miles to the South.
We’ve already discussed the trip home:
when we’ll leave the reception; what we’ll listen to
on the radio – if we can pick up any station; if my
thirteen-year-old daughter may practice her driving.
The Cubs won out over the Huskers and pop music,
though as it later turned out, NPR was our only choice – and was just fine.
It’s been exactly 100 years since the Baby Bears
last won a world championship, and it’s looking
like THIS MIGHT BE THE YEAR,
though I’ve warned the boys this late-season,
top-of-the-standings situation has been seen before
As we round the curve just north of the Amelia cut-off
I lift my right foot, move it left, and press down lightly
to slow the car, for facing us
in the ditch to my right, between fence and road,
trot three dozen head of black angus cattle, kept in a tight
group by five cowboys on horseback.
A couple of steers near the lead break off to their right,
hoofs hitting highway, wide eyes a little surprised by their
independence and blustery desire to go where they please.
Heading these renegades off at the pass comes a young
Bud drinker on his steed, jeans chap-covered,
head shaded with a surprising cap.
Mostly royal blue, including the bill,
with a white front on which is stitched
in faded red a familiar circular C.
It’s just like the ones I see on TV
atop college kids and retirees
sitting behind home plate or over the vines.
And it’s here, in Nebraska,
on a road less travelled than any I’ve ever seen.
And the fabric of our country,
it now seems to me,
just got stitched a little tighter.
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