Cornhusker: (n) a Nebraskan
It would be much easier to claim that you’re a cow if you’re able to chew your cud and moo. Producing milk would also be a positive.
When I graduated from high school and opted not to go to college because my wife and I were pregnant with possibilities, I realized that I did
not want to be the kind of guy who didn’t go to college and worked at the kind of job this kind of guy is forced to take.
I liked music. I thought I had some talent.
No one ever actually sat down with me and made suggestions on how to use my ability or guided me in a direction of turning my existing efforts into some sort of cash flow.
I was told that I was not allowed to do anything but get a job and take care of my family.
I didn’t want to do that.
Now, I’m not asking you to side with me on this issue, nor am I desiring your cultural rebuke. I’m just explaining that if I were claiming to be a singer and a musician, I needed to go “music” somewhere.
So discovering in a very obscure newspaper a notice that there was a coffeehouse opening up in Kearney, Nebraska, I contacted the fellow beginning it on the phone, told him about my little group, and said that we would love to come and share at his new venue. He was thrilled (since we were from Ohio and he was all the way in Nebraska.)
It didn’t even cross my mind to look at a map. Before I knew it, the gentleman invited us to come and sing at the coffeehouse with the promise that he would “help out with gas.”
At that point in my life I had a van which creaked and squeaked just driving around town, threatening to break down at a moment’s notice. I didn’t care. Nor did my three other comrades.
We set out for Kearney, Nebraska. Matter of fact, when I began this essay today, I had to look up how far it was from Columbus, Ohio, to Kearney, Nebraska. I am so glad I didn’t have the Internet back then, because the distance one way is 968.4 miles.
We packed in some soft drinks, made some sandwiches, gathered as much money as we could borrow and pull out of couch cushions, and took off. We joked about “touring to the Cornhusker State,” never realizing that it would be many, many hours—twelve to be exact—before we would be anywhere near those who were traditionally proclaimed “huskers of corn.”
I’m happy to report that we actually made it there.
As is often the case, the opportunity was even smaller than I could have imagined. But the fourteen people who showed up said they were really impressed with our songs and happy we had made the trip. They gave us thirty dollars for our gasoline, a bushel of sweet corn and a peck of apples.
It was my first payday.
The round trip, as you can imagine, ended up being nearly two thousand miles.
But I was young, looking for an adventure, and especially trying to find a way to escape—for one week—from hearing all the town cronies telling me what a deadbeat I was.
Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Podcast