A Nebraska Moment

A week ago today I was returning to my place after an errand run to North Platte. The last ten miles of my homeward journey are on county roads. Heading down that county road I encountered a herd of cattle being moved. The road itself was being used to move the cattle, not an unusual or odd happening out in this part of the world.

I followed my usual way of dealing with herds of cows on the road heading toward me; I got to within fifty yards or so and pulled over on the shoulder and stopped. My theory being; those guys are working, and doing something somewhat difficult and my task is to not hinder them. The lead rider, as he rode by remarked “beautiful day,” I replied “yes it is”because it was. I could see the pick-up with the big round hay bale in the bed drawing the cattle onward. The driver was a young woman, we nodded at each as she passed by. Then I saw them, three boys riding drag.

To prevent any misunderstanding here and if you are not familiar with the cowboy term “drag” or cattle herding in general visit this site and all will be made clear: http://geraldmango.blogspot.com/2009/07/riding-drag.html

The oldest of the three boys appeared to be twelve, if that. But they were all wearing western style hats, kerchiefs, gloves and in general “cowboyed up.” As they moved just in front of and to the left of my truck I could clearly see the look on their faces, jaws set, serious about their task. And, for some inexplicable reason, I yelled out the open window “There’s the cowboys!” And the faces began to crack, just a bit and then for even a more unexplainable reason I yelled “Looking great guys!” The three faces broke out in the widest of smiles, literally, ear to ear. Then the cattle were all past, I put the truck in gear and headed on home, but as I did I began to ponder that brief encounter with the three cowboys. I began to understand that what happened was I “saw” those boys.

Out here in western Nebraska, and I am sure elsewhere also, boys and girls are doing adult tasks, day in, day out, unseen, unknown, unacknowledged because the tasks need doing. In that brief encounter I had, somehow, seen the boys for who they were and what they were doing. And that somehow struck a chord in them. The poet Robert Bly says “elders need to bless” youngsters, well I certainly am a geezer(74). I would use the term “honor” in place of bless. Choose your term, bless or honor, but without realizing until after the fact I was given a glimpse of the young men, later the adults those cowboys would grow into and become. The warmth of that brief Nebraska moment is still with me and I think will be here for a while.

Note: I did not have a camera with me when I encountered those cowboys. I began looking for pictures that might add a bit to this entry. I came across the web site of Todd Klassy. It is by the kind permission of Todd that these pictures are used. If you enjoy agricultural photography or cowboy photos Todd’s web site is a treat. Click on either link and find out for yourself.

Woodrow (Woody) Harper

Woodrow Harper lives in Sarben (Keith County), Nebraska. He used to make his living flying airplanes, and has traveled the world. Now he hides out from the popular culture (as best he can) in the valley of the North Platte river as it flows through the Sandhills. An avid reader, he enjoys the quiet and tranquility of his location. He has a JD degree. He has lived in Germany, England and Saudi Arabia.


  1. VideoPortal March 30, 2017 at 12:42 am -

    The reality of life in rural Nebraska vs. the picture presented by the media appeared out of alignment. We decided to help change people s perceptions of rural Nebraska and invite them to see rural life on the Web site more as it really is.

  2. Meredith mafuller March 23, 2017 at 4:53 pm -

    Woodrow, I hope I meet you some day! LOVe your blog post. Like Betty, Robert Bly’s comment means something to me, as a poet who recalls Robert Bly in the period he was first writing these words. And as a mother and grandmother who likes to see us honor the younger generations who will inherit the earth we leave behind. I love moments like these on the smaller roads in Nebraska. Being slowed down for a good reason, making it a moment of seeing, of witnessing. Best, Meredith

  3. betty sayers March 23, 2017 at 4:07 pm -

    i want to see more from your perspective. thank you and especialy like the robert bly reference. expresses the depth of meaning in the moment. klassy’s photos placed me on the road too.

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