Day 251: Miller Thriller

McCook is a small city of about 8,000 inhabitants in Red Willow County, Nebraska. On the way to McCook, Laetitia and her group went to the Red Willow Reservoir and State Wildlife Management Area. Red Willow is one of the best areas for viewing black-tailed prairie dogs. It is also good for viewing a variety of waterfowl, in addition to both mule and whitetail deer.

When the group returned to McCook, they found that their hotel was near the Heritage Hills Golf Course, and most of the group decided to play golf. Laetitia didn’t want to play golf, so she walked several blocks to Elks City Park. On a bench in the park was a young teenager reading. The title on the cover page of the book read, Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer. Laetitia had read a review of the book. It was a thriller written for nine- to thirteen-year-olds by John Grisham. Laetitia introduced herself to the teenager and asked him about the book. He said his name was Bob, and that was the book was “way cool.” Several of his friends had read it and then passed it on to him. He said his parents really appreciated that he read books instead of playing video games or watching television. As Laetitia got up to leave, she happened to notice the running title at the top of the page Bob was reading. It read, The Rosy Crucifixion Volume 1: Sexus. Laetitia smiled as she walked away. She had her limerick for the day. The John Grisham cover was a disguise.

Bob’s parents were sadly mistook
When they praised him for reading a book
For it was Henry Miller
Disguised as a thriller
Passed around among teens in McCook.

Day 250: Kearney Journey

Laetitia and her group drove through agricultural land to Kearney, their next destination. Built on the site of Fort Kearney on the banks of the Platte River, the present day Kearney is a town of about 30,000 inhabitants. The fort was active in the late nineteenth century as a supply depot for the Pony Express and for settlers going west on the Oregon Trail. They visited the Fort Kearney Historical Park and went to a bird sanctuary on the Platte River to view some sandhill cranes.

In the late afternoon, the group went for happy hour at a local brewpub. As was her custom, Laetitia sat at the bar and talked to the bartender. Today’s tidbit was about an intern and nurse at the local hospital. Later, still at the pub, the group ordered dinner and Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

An amorous intern in Kearney
Seduced the head nurse on a gurney
That rolled down the hall
And amused one and all
And thereafter was known as “the journey.”

Day 249: Red Cloud Crowd

Laetitia and her group headed north out of Jewell, crossing into Nebraska, headed for Red Cloud. The community is named after Ogalala Lakota Chief Red Cloud, who heroically fought a losing battle against European-American encroachment on Lakota lands. The city of Red Cloud has around 1,100 residents and was once home to novelist Willa Cather. The town, with names changed to protect the innocent, is the setting of several of her books. The Willa Cather Historic District includes her home and several nineteenth-century buildings that are described in her novels.

That evening at happy hour, the bartender gave Laetitia some gossip about a local couple whose penchant for al fresco romance got their neighbors’ attention. It became the day’s limerick.

Young Henry and June from Red Cloud,
Making love in the yard, were so loud
That all of the neighbors
Looked up from their labors
And, ‘round the fence, formed a large crowd.

Day 248: Jewell Crewel

Laetitia and her group decided to go to Jewell, Kansas next. Jewell was a pretty little town of about 400 souls in northern Kansas, organized around a square more or less in its center, surrounded by some interesting brick and stone buildings. The town was built on the site of Fort Jewell, a sod fortress built by citizens for protection from Indians.

When the group arrived, there was a crafts fair going on. They walked among the tables and kiosks looking at the displayed wares, and some of the group made purchases. Laetitia stopped at a booth that featured exquisite embroidery pieces depicting scenes from the area. Staffing the booth was a pleasant older woman with wire-rimmed glasses and her gray hair in a bun. Laetitia purchased a piece and then moved across the street to a bench beneath the shade of a tree while her group continued to shop. She struck up a conversation with a man sitting there while his wife shopped.

They both admired Laetitia’s purchase, and then the man told her about Maude, the lady behind the booth. “She grew up on a farm near here. She was pretty and had lots of boyfriends, but she was independent and wasn’t in any hurry to get married. Her siblings all married and left the area, and when her folks were hurt in an automobile accident she was the only one left at home, so she took care of them for several years until they died. By then, the bloom of youth had faded and all the eligible men were either taken or moved elsewhere. She bought a bungalow in town with her share of the farm proceeds and drifted into genteel spinsterhood.

“There isn’t much to do around here. It’s a dry county, so the social life mostly consists of card parties, church basement suppers, and the like. She goes off to Kansas City every once in a while ostensibly to visit kinfolk, but Bob, who’s the leader of the prohibition advocates and the town gossip, claimed he knew someone who had seen her in a cocktail lounge there. Most folks here suspected that Bob had seen her there himself, but couldn’t admit it, so his eyewitness account had to be downgraded to hearsay.

“One time when I was between jobs she hired me to do some yard work. I went upstairs to use the bathroom and accidentally blundered into her bedroom. The walls were lined with her embroidery, but instead of the usual things she does, these depicted lovers in various poses; something of a Kama Sutra in needlework. It was beautiful work, erotic but not pornographic, but if certain folks in town knew, it would create a scandal, so I never said anything. I only tell you because I know you’re leaving town tomorrow and don’t know anybody here to tell it to.”

That night after dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day to the group.

When a lonely old lady from Jewell
Found that life was exceedingly cruel
With her love life subdued
She made images lewd
On her samplers, embroidered in crewel.