The State of Nebraska recently made the news. Nebraska Tourism officials paid a Colorado firm $450,000 to come up with a new State slogan. They were discontented with their old slogan “VISIT NEBRASKA, VISIT NICE” after Nebraska came in dead last on a list of states tourists were interested in visiting.
They came up with . . . DRUM ROLL . . .
“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”
In these days when everything is over-hyped, I appreciate and admire honesty.
But my wife and I really enjoyed our visit to Nebraska, a great state to visit for people who love American history.
In 2008, my wife and I followed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo. to Oregon City, Oregon. Night three found us in Hastings, Nebraska. When we travel, I always try to negotiate to get the very best room rate possible when searching for a motel. After the desk clerk in Hastings quoted me a price, I asked if that was the best she could do.
“Are you here for business or pleasure?” she asked.
“Pleasure” I responded. “My wife and I are here on vacation.”
“SIR” the clerk responded without hesitation. “NO ONE comes to Hastings for pleasure.” I may have lied to an innkeeper a time or two in my life (nope, no pets) but this was not one of them. She gave us the business rate anyway.
Though we traveled mainly off the beaten path, my wife and I enjoyed visiting the historic sites in southern and western Nebraska. After leaving Missouri, Oregon Trail emigrants turned right at Gardner, Kansas and headed north to Nebraska. In Nebraska, they turned left and followed the Platte River most of the way to Wyoming. Along the way are some amazing historic sites, including (but not limited to) Fort Kearny, Chimney Rock, Ash Hollow, and Scott’s Bluff. I had no idea western Nebraska was in the Mountain Time Zone before that trip. (Possible new slogan: Nebraska – There is so much to see, it takes two time zones!)
Our first stop was in northeast Nebraska at Rock Creek Station, famous for being the site of James Butler “Bill” Hickok’s first gunfight. On July 12, 1861, Rock Creek Station employee “Bill” Hickok took offense when local bully Dave McCanles proposed the nickname “Duck Bill” for Mr. Hickok. That was a reference to Bill’s rather large nose and protruding lips. Mr. McCanles also made ill-advised observations about Mr. Hickok’s “girlish build and feminine features.” This peeved Mr. Hickok a great deal. Mr. McCanles and two of his companions, James Woods and James Gordon, all died of wounds received in the ensuing gunfight. There is no record of anyone else ever suggesting a derogatory nickname for Bill after that.
So, there’s that, Nebraska!
“Nebraska: We put the “Wild” in Wild Bill Hickok.”
On July 21, 1865, Wild Bill had what is thought to be the nation’s first one-on-one quick draw gunfight. It occurred on the public square in my home town of Springfield, Mo. after Wild Bill had a run of bad luck in poker. Though warned not to, Dave Tutt had the temerity to go out into the public square wearing a pocket watch he had won from Wild Bill in a poker game. Mr. Tutt became an early resident of Springfield’s Maple Park cemetery as a result of his poor decision-making in that matter.
Seems Wild Bill never got over being a little touchy about being disrespected.
He could take a lesson from Nebraska.