This fall Joie and I – and anyone who wants to join us, hint hint for those living in Lincoln – are going to be doing our first annual Friday Night Lights Tour of Southeastern Nebraska. Almost every week we’re going to pick a high-school football game happening in a small town within an hour or two of Lincoln and we’ll go to that town, eat dinner at a local restaurant and go to the game. The idea behind this came from watching the phenomenal TV show Friday Night Lights. Basically, the idea is that small town community is a beautiful thing that is often demeaned or mocked by city dwellers. And yet in a state like Nebraska, our small towns are our lifeblood. The reason we didn’t go belly up in 2008 – we just fell and broke a leg, so to speak – is because our state’s agricultural base held and the rest of the economy lived off of that. So Joie and I want to be in more regular contact with the state’s small towns and we want to commend that way of life as beautiful, necessary, and profoundly healthy. So we’re going to make these Friday night trips a regular part of our week. If you live in Lincoln, please join us. I’m going to post a list of where we’ve been and where we’re going below, so you can meet us out there or you can comment below and we can get in touch that way. My dream scenario for this would be to see a sizable number of Lincolnites joining us on the tour.
Last week, Joie and I went to Crete, a small town of 6,000 that’s about 30 minutes southwest of Lincoln. It’s a farming community, like most of small town Nebraska, but Doane College, a small liberal arts college, is also located in town, which means there’s a small student population as well. We came into town off Highway 33 and found Gladys on Main Avenue, a small Mexican restaurant owned by a family that settled down in Crete about five years ago. How do I know they arrived five years ago? Well, the owner came over and talked with Joie and I for about 20 minutes while our food was being prepared. He spoke a little English, we spoke a little Spanish, so we had a delightfully-bilingual conversation where each of us routinely had to ask “what is the word for ______?” or “como se dice _____?” The man has family in Mexico, all in Chihuahua, and has worked at farms in Idaho and California, near Reno. A few years ago he settled down in Crete and has found that he quite likes it there. It’s a good arrangement because we quite liked his food. Joie had a chicken taco (she’d been sick for the past week so didn’t want to try anything too spicy) and I had a pork pambosa, which is a torta (a Mexican sandwich served on telera bread) where the bread has been covered in salsa and a chicken tamale.
From there, we arrived at the game and sat down in the Waverly section with some of the parents. (The quarterback’s grandmother was sitting just behind us.) The first half was tense, with the team’s trading touchdowns. Crete’s running back was an absolute beast – he finished the game with five rushing touchdowns. He also spearheaded the defense as their middle linebacker. Waverly got a bit lucky in the first half as they tied the game at 14 on a 4th and 7 completion where the ball was tipped by a defender who should’ve intercepted it and then fell into the hands of a Waverly player who ran untouched into the end zone.
In the coming weeks, I’m hoping to write a bit more about the tour, why we’re doing it, what the towns we go to are like, maybe talk to a few people at the games about it too. But last week was a bit rushed because we left home late and the weekend has felt rather full, so I regrettably don’t have time to say more about this stop. But there is more to say. And hopefully I’ll be able to start saying it a week from today. For now, enjoy the photos below and check out the schedule to see if you can join us.
Schedule with the length of the drive from Lincoln:
Week 1 – Crete, NE
Week 2 (Sept. 7) – Syracuse, NE (45 minutes)
Week 3 (Sept. 14) – Fairbury, NE (1 hour, 20 minutes)
Week 4 (Sept. 21) – Doniphan, NE (90 minutes)
Week 5 (Sept. 28) – BREAK
Week 6 (Oct. 5) – Pawnee City, NE (90 minute)
Week 7 (Oct. 12) – Humphrey, NE (2 hours, but it’s the best rivalry game in Class D football so it should be worth it)
Week 8 (Oct. 19) – Wahoo, NE (40 minutes)