Derek Johnson Muses

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Category Archives: Seward

Seward Nooks: Trailing Up

These photos were taken last fall. I meant to write a detailed description and post them back then, but of course, I got caught up in football writing. Better late than never I suppose. 

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Walk Out

Turn a tight corner.

Downhill...

Downhill…

I’ve shown you the stroll down the hill. This time…

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Turn

I go the other way.

North

North

It isn’t out there, even if it kind of feels that way.

Fields of Tall Grass and Barley

Fields of Tall Grass and Barley

Shuffle through.

Cross Straight Ahead

Cross Straight Ahead

More and More.

Stark Path

Stark Path

Those powerlines have a way of messing up my photographs.

Modern Street

Modern Street

The new part.

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Stream

Sky getting low all around me.

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Flounders

At this point in my walk, I’m dragging.

Road Home

Road Home

So I’ll just skip to the end. 

Sprung

Faker

Faker

So I got my wish: winter ended. The snow melted, and the dead grass started to show itself. Now comes the laundry list of choirs: pulling grass out of the rocks, acquiring seeds, mowing. And oh yes, I still have cook, clean, and do everything else.

Monday, I bought seeds for my garden. I have thirteen packs of seeds, and ground that still needs to be tilled up. I have a rain barrel to set up and other boring tasks to do. It got up to 80 degrees in Seward and it’s still March.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The Last Days of Winter. Ever.

Not This Again

Not This Again

I hated it when it snowed last Saturday, even though it saved me the trouble of going to Lincoln and fighting the Saturday rush at Menards for a drainage implement I ordered off of Amazon anyway. I can’t help it: I want to wear my shorts the second 55 degrees hits.

I’m just waiting until I can till up new ground. Waiting until I can stop running the heat. Waiting until I can drink a beer on my front deck.

Waiting.

Snow Falls

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Piles upon piles

Snow drives me crazy. From the multiple layers required just to go outside, to the shoveling, to the reduced outside time, snow creates so much extra angst. And since my place doesn’t have an attached garage, even getting to my car becomes an adventure.

But I think snow really helps culture. You get perspective when it snows and realize that stuff outside your control sometimes runs your life. Yes, it’s annoying and sometimes conducive to the spread of disease, but snow has taught me a lot of patience.

So when New York City bans people from leaving their homes during a snow storm or Seward cancels Monday school at noon on Sunday, I roll my eyes. What can we do?

Future Once Happened Here

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A tragedy has befallen Seward. Something terrible has happened in our fair city, so irreversibly terrible I won’t recover.

Dollar General has built a stand-alone store south of town and vacated their storefront downtown. That location had a Ben Franklin store in it until I was in high school, and right after it closed the Dollar General came in. And now, the General Store of Seward sits alone.

Ok, I’m being over-dramatic. Dollar General would not have built a stand-alone store if it wasn’t able to provide more products and better products. But that location has had a store inside it all off my life. And now it sits alone, who knows for how long. Maybe it will become office space, but that is going to take a lot of work.

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Since I moved, I’ve walked a lot to that store to pick up the occasional Gatorade or toiletry. I can still go to Sun Mart (sorry Mike) to pick up some of that stuff, but I’ll miss that store. That small, cramped, rolling floor store, with the cheap Husker gear in the window and the seasonal items by the counter. I hope they still bring out the Halloween candy in August at the new location.

Life in the Wastelands

San Francisco's Grand and All...

San Francisco’s Grand and All…

I’ve seen the cartoons with the maps shows New York, LA, and nothing in between. Those big executives and companies on the coasts, they think so little of us in Flyover Country. Sadly, sometimes they are right, but there are good reasons people choose to live between Middle America’s hay bails.

I’ve been to Southern California twice, Chicago many times, DC twice, and spent a month in San Francisco once. My goal to visit New York remains unfilled, but I’m guessing I have spent more time in major cities than any rich, urban commentator has spent roaming the fruited prairie. Don’t get me wrong, the options there are amazing, and if I did make a lot of money, I’d love to live in Chicago or San Francisco. Or I could buy farmland here in Nebraska.

Bright Lights

Bright Lights of Chicago

There a lot of reasons people would choose to live here in Seward, or in any small community. A slower pace of life. Chunks of people (yours truly included) have been born here and never moved. Others have worked in a larger city and wanted to move someplace where they can preserve their savings and buy a better house for less money, even if they have to take pay cuts. Since the recession a lot of people have come out to the sub-1,000 towns of Staplehurst and Goehner here because they’ve become impoverished.

What makes this area look depopulated are the family farms where one sibling took over the farm and the other three moved someplace else. But the demographics are more complicated.

Towns like Seward (like most of rural America) have a gap of people between the ages of 22-30, as this is the demographic that has moved away to get more education and work experience. They come back in droves in their thirties and forties, but the lack of young adults is noticeable, and makes you feel a bit lonely if you were one of ones who stayed. It’s a part of a new age in America, where moving has become tied in with economic prosperity.

The Main Street...the One and Lonely.

The Main Street…the One and Lonely.

There is no question that this return to the small towns is tied to the “good place to raise kids” adage that cities quaintly tied upon rural America, and rural America in turn embrace to prop up their own self-esteem. But with the rise of adults-only priced neighborhoods, perhaps “a more affordable place to raise the kids” better reflects what these communities are. (Interesting side note: a friend in the know told me over the weekend it now costs as much to build in Seward as it does in Lincoln. Amazing we caught up.)

It’s weird for me to be in this money-preserving middle, having skipped the step where I moved to the big cities, or abbreviated it in some sense. But there would have been a lot of work involved in that too, so I guess I should be grateful for that.

Horizon

Horizon

Seward Nooks: South Tracks

It’s been more than a week since I’ve posted, a lifetime for this blog. This is of course the time of year where I post a lot over on Huskermax.com, and will continue to do so for the rest of the year. Last year, fall was a time where I felt I didn’t have a lot to say, and that has proven to be the case again this year. But I still have plenty of photos, and these shots come from around my new end of town.

The empty place...

The empty place…

This house is right down the street from where I live. It’s the prototypical empty house, with some overgrown bushes and grass, but it probably wouldn’t take that much work to be a livable home. I hope someone jumps on it.

Step up!

Step up!

Stairs for a sidewalk are like basements that you can go outside through, signs of geographic anomalies that cause for such construction. I always think of sidewalk-stairs as a special place, even though I never use them because they are on tighter streets that I never feel like walking on.

Last Side Road out of Dodge...

Last Side Road out of Dodge…

Highway 15 isn’t the only southbound street that leads out of Seward.  Second runs out of town on a country road (as does South Columbia for that matter). It’s a backroad to Wal-Mart.

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Rail Tracks…

Railroad tracks make up Seward’s south border. Even from my house, I can still hear the trains as they rumble by at night. I’ve gotten more used to it over the last couple of months, but it’s still bothersome.

Power Grid...

Power Grid…

I’m sure this mess of steel, right on the north side of the tracks, is where I get my electricity from.

Up and away...

Up and away…

Right down the railroad tracks, next to the highway is  a station where I get my sand for work. They also deal in concrete and other raw building material.

What....

What….

This looks like a water tower, but as a kid, I always thought that it poured out sand. It’s probably an old water tower or something.

Turn...

Turn…

On the right is new office space that was built four or five years ago, along with some storage units. It’s one of the newer units in Seward, and very respectable. And as you can see, the tracks just go on in the distance, toward Pac-‘N’-Save, Hughes Brothers, and the Fairgrounds.

Seward Nooks: The Golf Side

There are certain trademarks of the small community, or of urban sprawl through communities where not every farmer wants to sell his land.

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Corn Field off a Paved Street…

…is one of the more prevalent of these signs. This one is off North Eighth Street in Seward, and it just feels odd. I know a town-line has to be somewhere, but still. Sometimes, I wish we as a town could just waste money on a wall so we didn’t have to look at stuff like this.

Three Way...

Three Way…

This sign presides over one of those dreaded traffic circles. At least this traffic circle wasn’t rammed into a place where a stoplight would work just fine, although I’m not sure they needed to build an angle street in this neighborhood just east of the field. Maybe it’s because of the hill, or just an attempt to look classy. 

DSCN9925Golf Club Lane…

This is the turnoff for the golf course. The same golf course that hams the cornfield above into a block of houses. Seriously, farmer-whoever, what did you get offered for that land? I’ll start a petition tomorrow to get that land sold if I was actually industrious. 

Crosser...

Crosser…

This an odd rip-off of an on/off ramp on a interstate, except it’s a crude on/off ramp for Highway 15 right as you come into Seward. I’m not sure why it has to curve in such a drastic fashion, but that’s the way it is.

What will always be Sunderman...

What will always be Sunderman…

This building is now called Ridgewood, but it’s the place where I volunteered in high school and where my grandmother lived her last years. I will always think of it as Sunderman, with the crappy beige walls and the tiled floors. I don’t know why they chose to cut down those trees on the left side of the picture, but I think it has something to do with the photo below. (Side note: the little gazebo is gone too.)

The Nursing Home...

The Nursing Home…

They must be building some kind of edition to Sunder-ahhh, Ridgewood. It seems sad that they would tear one of the older buildings down, but I guess I understand it. I’m glad Seward will have these places for years to come.

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Benched…

This bench was the place of a pivotal life conversation I had over ten years ago. That’s all I’m going to say.

Road Side...

Road Side…

Across the street from Sunderman (sorry, can’t change it) East is the high football field. Someday, I wish they’d gut those stands and move games to Concordia on a permanent basis, even if it completes the school

Seward Nooks: South Trail

As I’ve written before, I love to walk, although since I moved I walk downtown more than I do on the trail near my new home. Technically, it’s the same walking trail as I used to walk on every day at my previous residence, but as you will see, the route feels a bit more cramped, and quite frankly, less inviting in certain spots.

Big Crossing...

Big Crossing…

The worst part of my walk is this intersection of US Highway 34, which is too wide, and at this moment, under construction. But it’s either cross here, or cross a bridge with highway traffic on it, so I always dart in front of the incoming traffic. (For Lutherans, the LCMS Nebraska District office is in the background on the left.)

Downhill...

Downhill…

Up a block from that vast highway cavern, I turn and head down to the low-land floodplain. It’s one of the better streets of old houses in Seward, as all of them are well maintained and have genuine old-world charm that’s unique to each house. Don’t get me started on the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill, though.

Bridge....

Bridge….

This is the bridge I have to cross to get to the main trail, and while the bridge is broad and modern, but the pedestrian walk-way is narrow and not big enough for two people to pass by each other. At least it’s not as busy as the interstate. After the narrow crossing I have to go down a narrow connector path to get to…

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..the end of a spur.

This is where real trail begins. The John Deere repair place is in the background, on the other side of the soybean field. The trail is basically a whole bunch of curves around the river.

Curvature

Curvature

See.

Underneath...

Underneath…

This part of the trail runs beneath US Highway 34. It’s the one part of Seward that feels strangely urban, with the shadows and the lights along the top. But you can always see the greenery from either side.

Downtown...

Downtown…

More curves and greenery. Off to the right is a small parking area with a couple of historical markers, one of I don’t think I’ve ever read, and another one of those tall Nebraska historical plaques, blue and metal. There’s also a picnic table that I’ve never eaten at. But if I was driving through town on a business trip, I’d like to eat my lunch there.

Emptier....

Emptier….

A few paces down fro the picnic area, this drain hangs over the river. It may not empty anything into the river, in fact it probably doesn’t. There’s a lot I don’t know about this town.

Dome....

Dome….

The south tail of the trail runs by the ever bright sewage/water cleaning facility of the great city of Seward, right by this weird dome. It looks like the Trop in Tampa, where the Tampa Bay Rays play, not a great for them.

Gravel Street...

End Line…

Here’s where the trail ends, at Columbia Street across from a farmhouse and field complete with livestock, which you can just make out in the picture above. Columbia turns to gravel just before the it gets to the paved trail, and if there’s a sure sign of a rural town, it’s a gravel street and livestock within city limits.

Hibernation...

Hibernation…

On the other side of the fence is this winter-bear-float. I think this a Fourth of July Float, but I’m not sure since I never go to the parade. Either way, it looks so cheap in this city yard down on South Columbia in almost-ghetto. You think the city could find some empty shed to put it in.

It’s a long uphill walk, but I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s certainly not as bad as having to go down a steep hill when you’re tired and try to keep yourself from stumbling and falling all over yourself. On the left are the cheap Fox Run Apartments. When I worked at Valentino’s, I had to deliver to a woman in those apartments who always ordered an extra-cheese, extra-black olives small pizza.

Uphill...

Uphill…

This headless mailbox stands in front of an empty house. Like I said before, my neighborhood is a mixed bag of homes that are kept up and homes that have been neglected, the degrees of neglect range from semi to major.

Turn Sign...

Turn Sign…

Here’s where I turn off Columbia. This street runs one way for a single block to accommodate parking for the vision clinic and the insurance agency, hence the reason there’s an inordinate amount of traffic bothering me. I have never liked that this street runs one way,  but if it’s good for the eye clinic, I get that.

Seward Nooks: Twists and Turns.

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Fairgrounds Border…

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Waiting Game…

Hughes Brothers forms the east border of the fairground on the opposite side of the highway. It must be one of Seward’s biggest employers, but I’ve only known one or two people who have worked for them. In fact, I don’t even know exactly what it is they do there, although I do see a lot of their guys milling around the factory entrance whenever I drive by it on Seward Street.

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Levee Road…

This road leads out of the Fairgrounds and turns into Lincoln Street, rolling along the levee-top without a care in the world, steep slope falling on both sides of the levee. I drive this road worrying about my safety if some teenager or know-it-all with an over-sized pickup comes barreling from the opposing direction, all jazzed up with a case of beer in the front seat.

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Old Folks Home…

Lincoln Street leads out to the Senior Citizens Center, home to potato bake lunches, and other shows for the elderly. (Side note-a couple I knew actually met at a lunch here.) It’s the ideal place to preserve retirement savings, complete with off-color yellow walls, small windows right next to each other, a pop-out from ’50-’60’s mass construction. Of course, the dazzling new building in the background is putting a cramp in the retro-, live frugal style, but anything to attract new business to our spend-lite state.

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Exactly…

In keeping with the neighborhood’s shabby-no-sheek theme, this complex of cheap apartment buildings lies catty corner to southeast from the Senior Center Complex. It was the perfect shade of cracked white until a couple of years ago, when someone had the bright idea to paint the buildings tan. Talk about building yourself out of the neighborhood.Now it looks like a 1980’s-built prison in a desert town, or a filming site for a cheap horror movie. Hope you got a tax write off for that.

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Red Brick Road….

This is Eighth, a brick street that is way too narrow to service the amount of traffic it gets. Even worse than that, it has hills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving down this road, bumpty-bump-bump, hoping that another car doesn’t turn onto the street in front of me. They shouldn’t let people park on either side of this street.

How Much Traveled?

How Much Traveled?

There is a small housing development that is an U-shape of three blocks just off of Hillcrest on Tenth street, which is what should have been done with the Augusta Drive project. This foot bridge crosses a drainage ditch, to a path that leads down to the senior center. It’s a great idea, so at least the people who live on these street don’t have to walk on the busy Hillcrest street, even if there’s just an empty field and no walking trails on the other side.

Many tenants...

Many tenants…

When I was growing up, I was in this place many times when it was the Evangelical Free Church, for youth group and various homeschool functions. Since then, E-Free has moved to a big box location that used to be Wal-Mart, and two Lutheran churches have occupied this space. It never made sense to me why E-Free left after all the money they had to put into two additions, but I guess they are happy in their new location, and the old location is still used.

Once in high school, I nearly ended up in the ditch right there in the spot by the fire hydrant. I was seventeen and had not yet learned how to scrape my windshield when it snowed.

Put her up...

Put her up…

Wish they would have put that hope in when I was in high school. (More Seward Stories…)

August Daze and Winds of Change

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Seward Square…

The turning of the calendar to August marked the three month anniversary of my move into my new home. Three months is a season, so a new chapter has been written and something has changed in my head. I can’t wait to find out what that is.

Walking around my new neighborhood is different because of the heat and the trails don’t feel as wide open. Instead, I walk down to the square and sit read or just watch for people. I’m surprised more people aren’t around the square in the evening, but I suppose if there were more people there, I wouldn’t feel like sitting there and reading.

I always enjoy seeing children and young people hanging out and playing around the square, or on the street outside my house. I wonder if the teenagers are dying to get out of this cracker-jack town like I was when I was their age. (Hope their plans for that go better than mine did.) Sitting out there watching the kids from a bench I wonder to myself if I would have been better off leaving this place.

I had grand plans for leaving this place in high school. I didn’t talk about them with most people but simply went on thinking that I would find a new place to call home, because I knew in my heart this wasn’t my home. I still don’t feel like Seward is my home, even if all visual evidence speaks to the contrary.

Even recently, I still feel inside that God is calling me to leave Seward. I’ve seen evidence to that in the last year, but no path has come together, and given my history, I feel I shouldn’t leave this town without certain things in place. But God is still telling me that He has plans for me elsewhere in this world. Maybe I’m just coming up with this stuff as a way to blame my problems on circumstances. Even if I leave this town, I’m still the same person with the same problems, and I can’t expect everything to magically change. But maybe if I don’t expect everything to change, I will make the most of a move…, oh forget it, I’m reasoning this all out.

Road Downtown...

Road Downtown…

Writing has not come as easily this summer. Maybe I have not been putting as many good things into my head, maybe I need more meaningful interactions and clear some things off my schedule. I do spend more time into editing, to see that the hours invested writing projects don’t go to waste. but I can see things in my past that I left unresolved. At the time, it was the easiest thing in the world not to do anything about certain things, but they have caught up to me now. It’s time to take action.

Seward Nooks: Empty Fairgrounds

Sign in

Sign in

My indifference towards this weekend’s Seward County Fair stems from my lack of children, or from having been out of 4-H for thirteen-some years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go enjoy the crowd tonight, but I am loosing a favorite walking/quiet time spots for a few days. To show the area as I know it best, I have assembled these photos of the fairgrounds without people, as it is most of the year.

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Mini-Street

If the Seward County Fair was the Wild West, this would be Front Street. Instead, it’s just food and hot tub-vendor alley. There are some good funnel cakes and stuff, but fair food is geared solely geared toward helping feed kids’ sugary desires and helping adults gain back those ten pounds they’ve lost since Christmas. During the year, it looks musty and worn, but the summer heat sells the food.

The Old House...

The Old Spot…

When I was in 4-H, I spent a lot of time in here working the food stand, all proceeds going to our local clubs. I remember getting there at 9 in the morning, straddlers roaming around, probably having no idea that we had cinnamon rolls to go with burgers and hot dogs we always sold. Th short distance between the food stand and the sheep and hogs that were being paraded around must have driven our sales down. At least I hope it did.

Big Kahuna

Big Kahuna…

Oh, the Ag Pavilion, where I brought my 4-H projects and served as host in the 4-H exhibit room. All the big booths for the important businesses and the stage for all of the big, big acts were under the giant aluminium roof. The silver metal walls gleamed in on all the joyful patrons with a bountiful grin, making it the gem of the grounds. Until they built….

The New Kid in Town...

The New Kid in Town.

I don’t remember the exact year that Harvest Hall was built, only that it was after I graduated college in 2005. All the wedding receptions are held over there now, even if it’s just “the new Ag Pavilion”. The original Ag Pavilion itself does feel less crowded during the fair, but I can’t remember a single exhibit from the one time I strolled through the Hall during the fair. I know its outside walls of this corporate barn better than the inside.

Park it Here

Park it Here

This is where I go when I come to the fairgrounds when there’s no fair. I’ve consumed one too many Runza or Amigos meals sitting under this tree, casting the empty brown bags into the green trash can, walking the grounds to unwind afterward.

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Walkspace…

The fairgrounds are my walking trail when I’m bored with my other walking trail. It’s a makeshift footpath that goes in too many circles, but at least I can get 45 solid minutes of walk-time in without passing the same place twice. I go by the cattle sheds, the metal buildings, the stand beneath which the Demolition Derby is held. It’s not a journey like Seward’s actual trail, it’s just a bunch of loops.

Winterscape...

Winterscape…

That is what the ditch by the creek looks like in winter. The tire trends of maintenance cars filed with mud slushee require that I wear my winter boots to walk. The tall grass has turned to yellow straw, the long winter sky stretching on above.

Rapids...

Rapids…

This bend in the Big Blue River is a good thirty yards away from the main fairgrounds, rough waters playing freely without interference. As one can see, the river did freeze partially at this time. I like walking to this spot, even it is right next to the dumping grounds.

Lazy Lake...

Lazy Lake…

But this weekend, there will not be any frozen water, except for ice to make snow cones and keep a lot of drinks cold. I’ll go, hope to see an old acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while, and maybe grab a funnel cake. Oh by the way, I’m probably going to kick it in Omaha on Saturday morning.

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