It is fun roaming from town to town down a lonely, hot, rural highway. Each community has its unique flavor. Residents, usually numbering only in the hundreds, are fiercely proud of their town’s heritage and place in history. [This seems to be different from the older towns and villages in the northeast where folks seem vaguely aware of their community’s history but do not seem to spend a lot of energy contemplating the past]
Elk Creek, Nebraska, like many other little places here, sprang up around the railroad, when the train company decided to build a depot on this track of farm land. Settlers, business people, and every day folk set up their living quarters around the rail stop. Just like in the dime western novel there were clap board houses, a church, and shops and of course a salon. Many of the earliest arrivals found work on the railroad. They also brought fervent sentiments for their ancestor’s religious beliefs. In this town many of the early inhabitants were Irish Roman Catholic.
Just like in “Lonesome Prairie” the original cattle were driven here by daring drovers all the way from Texas. The cattle barons assumed they had a God given right to take over the land that had been hunted for centuries by local Native Americans. Settlers arrived in mass not much later. Since “the Great White Father” way back in Washington, D.C. had given each of them free land for farming they naturally assumed they had a God given right to farm the land, and fence out bothersome cattle. Add to this explosive mix ruffians, drifters, gun fighters, gamblers and con men, The resulting violence was inevitable!
But hold on Nebraska! You are not alone. Every state west of the Mississippi has the same heritage. And, save the cattle, every state in the lower 48 has a past much the same. Yes, this is what America was once like.