Tag Archives: nebraska panhandle

The Nebraska Panhandle, 1988 is up at Numero Cinq

My essay about a summer childhood afternoon is up at Numero Cinq.  Douglas Glover has this to say about it:

  Here’s a lovely addition to the growing list of Numéro Cinq “Childhood” essays from Court Merrigan who grew up in Nebraska and lives just across the state line in Wyoming. Court was raised on a farm. He has that authentic Western voice, a voice bred in the  dirt and heat and the smell of oil from the farm machines and the chink of irrigation pipes and sound of distant thunder (farmers watch the sky far more than city folk). I have a fondness for the piece based on personal history—the first story I published was about a hail storm on the farm where I grew up. Court’s father towers over this story, his laugh, his exhortations and his reading. What’s really particular and authentic here is that father, Catholic, Jesuit-trained, literate, and wise. He’s appeared before on NC, just in passing,  in Court’s “What it’s like living here.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Brad Green for reading several early versions of this essay and pronouncing them – thankfully – DOA.  I found this piece as difficult to write as anything I’ve ever done, and I ran a real risk of real embarrassment in those early attempts if Brad hadn’t been there to save the day. 

Thanks also to Douglas Glover for asking for the piece, and then publishing it once he had it.

Please head on over to Numero Cinq and have a look.  Thanks.

The Nebraska Panhandle – really a part of Wyoming

I’ve always maintained that the Nebraska Panhandle, where I’m from, is not in the Midwest.  Omaha, where I went to college – total Midwestern city.  You could change whole parts of it out with Cincinnati and no one would even notice.  Scottsbluff, my hometown – more like Cheyenne.

By geography, climate, and culture, the Panhandle has practically nothing in common with the Midwest.  A hundred times more Wyoming than Ohio.

Now I’ve got the map to prove it:

See? See?

The only real link – other than all those bothersome laws and institutions – that western Nebraska has to the rest of the state is our beloved Husker football team.  I’d take them even if we seceded.  Which probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.  I doubt they’d miss the Panhandle back in Omaha, and I’m sure we wouldn’t miss them.

In the 1890s the residents of the Panhandle threatened to join Wyoming if the water laws didn’t get changed.  They were foiled then, but the idea was vetted again in the 80s.  It went nowhere again.  Damn easterners.

Nonetheless, out here the term “Wyobraska” has persisted.  Katie Bradshaw has a pretty good run-down on how that term is more common in the Scottsbluff phonebook than, well, Scottsbluff.

I should clarify that I now live in the eastern Wyoming part of Wyobraska, enjoying the various advantages of Wyoming life (no income tax, a state capital that is not 450 miles away, no associations with the Midwest … no income tax).  I’d just like my brethren across the border to share in the wealth, too.

I should add, too, that the above map, while starting in the right direction, includes way too much of the east.  This is the Panhandle.  Everything else is just Back East:

Look how neatly the Panhandle would fit onto Wyoming. They wouldn't even notice we were gone!