From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Highway 2, Sandhill Scenic Byway

One answer to an impossible question


Someone asked me today, "What's the most beautiful place you've ever seen?" I had a hard time answering that question, because I've been very fortunate. I've seen many beautiful places, and it's impossible for me to rate them.

One of the places that came to mind was the National Scenic Byway section of  Highway 2 from Grand Island, Nebraska, to Alliance, Nebraska. Charles Kuralt, longtime news reporter and host of the CBS television program, "On the Road", listed Highway 2 among the top ten most beautiful highways in the United States. I love what Kuralt said about it (italics added by me!)

From the first time I ever drove along it, I’ve been in love with Highway 2. It’s not so much that there’s a special something to see along Nebraska’s Highway 2. There’s a special nothing to see. From Grand Island to Alliance, Highway 2 takes you through the Nebraska Sandhills, the largest area of sand dunes in the western hemisphere. Writers inevitably use a metaphor of the sea to describe the hundreds of thousands of acres of grass – and hundreds of thousands of acres of sky. Like the sea the emptiness of the Sandhills gives the travelers a strange sense of comfort, there’s a feeling that as long as these two things are in order, the earth and the sky, all the rest can be forgotten until tomorrow. Highway 2 is not just another highway that goes somewhere, Highway 2 is somewhere.
"The emptiness of the Sandhills...the earth and the sky"
Photo by leish76

Life has taken me many places since my childhood in the Sandhills. In 2000, I visited Nebraska for the first time in about 15 years. I brought my children with me, and during our adventure, we drove part of the Highway 2 Scenic Byway. That was the first of several summer trips I made to the Sandhills with them.

When I came back from that first trip, I wrote a long account of our odyssey. After re-reading it tonight, I realized that the Sandhills will always feel like home to me, and no place on earth is more beautiful to the soul than home.  Here's a quote from myself about my first sighting of the Sandhills on that trip:
What a thrill it was to see the Sandhills again after so many years. I lectured the kids on the details of the landscape -- windmills, sand-capped hills, blowouts, lowland meadows, cattle herds, soapweeds, cow trails, ranch signs! My young Kentuckians listened with some interest to my dissertation, and they were impressed by the striking sparsity of trees, the big blue sky, and the immense and endless hills.
I doubt if I'll get back to Nebraska again with both kids. They've grown up, and they have their own responsibilities that tie them down. But I'm glad that I had the opportunity to show them the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills.  I'm glad that we drove part of the Highway 2 Scenic Byway, and I hope I'll get a chance to travel that road again, one of these days.

Related:

Grass as far as the eye can see. The Sandhills prairie is
the largest area of natural grassland left in the United States.


4 comments:

Collagemama said...

Thank you for the sky and the earth and the calm comfort.

Genevieve Netz said...

Surely almost anyone who drove through the Sandhills would say "Earth and sky." But Charles Kuralt saw that the simple, basic elements of the Sandhill landscape are a comfort to the very soul of the traveler.

His insight and his ability to communicate what he saw and sensed were what made "On the Road" such a great show.

Mike Schubert said...

Having lived in Cherry County since 1981, I am blessed with the sights and sounds of this part of the country every day....

Genevieve Netz said...

Knowing that you and many other friends from my younger years are still in the Sandhills makes me happy, Mike.

It's a gift to be able to see that you're blessed. Not everyone is capable.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.