Saturday, 14 June 2008
14 June 2008
said so I saw the great trees in the distance that snaked with the riverbed and the great verdant fields around it, and almost agreed with him. Then as we were standing there and it was starting to get cloudy another cowboy, this one six foot tall with a modest half-gallon hat, called us over and wanted to know if either one of us could drive. Of course Eddie could drive, and he had a licence and I didn’t. He had two cars with him that he was driving back to Montana. His wife was sleeping at Grand Island in a motel and he wanted us to drive one of the cars there, where she’d take over. At that point he was going north and that was the limit of our ride with him. But it was a good 100 miles into Nebraska and of course we jumped for it. Eddie drove alone, the cowboy and myself following, and no sooner were we out of town that he started to ball that jack ninety miles an hour out of sheer exuberance. “Damn me, what’s the boy doing!” the cowboy shouted, and took off after him. It began to be like a race. For a minute I thought Eddie was trying to get away with the car---and for all I know that’s what he meant to do. But Old Cowboy stuck to him and caught up with him and tooted the horn. Eddie slowed down. The cowboy tooted to stop. “Damn, boy, you’re liable to get a flat going that speed. Can’t you drive a little slower.” “Well I’ll be damned, was I really going ninety?” said Eddie. “I didn’t realize it on this smooth road.” “Just take it a little easy and we’ll all get to Grand Island in one piece.” “Sure thing.” And we resumed our journey. Eddie had calmed down and probably even got sleepy. So we drove 100 miles across Nebraska, following the winding So Platte with its verdant fields. “During the depression,” said the cowboy to me, “I used to hop freights at least once a month. In those days you’d see hundreds of men riding a flat car or in a box car, and they weren’t just bums, they were all kind of men out of work and going from one place to another and some of them just wandering. It was like that all over the west. Brakemen never bothered you in those days. I don’t know about today. Nebraska I ain’t got no use for. Why in the middle 1930’s this place wasn’t nothing but a big dustcloud as far as the eye could see. You couldn’t breathe. The ground was black. I was here in those days.