June 9th, 2009, Falls City, Neb: Baseball; Americas past time. A place where our nations youth learn teamwork and everyone can enjoy the thrill of competition. A sacred piece of land where generations share stories and communities unite.
It doesn't matter what state you travel to, or size of town you find, every community has a baseball diamond. Last night we found the baseball scene for Falls City. We talked to numerous people, and everybody was enjoying the slightly chilly evening.
Take for example Larry Doris, 66, whom I found sitting on the bleachers with his wife Weaver and their granddaughter Elizabeth, she happened to turn 4 the same day. Larry and Doris live on a farm, but they made time to come into town and enjoy a night under the lights.
As our journey continues, I have an inclination that we'll run into more friendly games and find familiar scenes of children playing in the grass off to the side and the adults cheering on their children from the stands. Perhaps next time I'll bring sunflower seeds to share. (photo by Kyle Bruggeman)
June 8, 2009 Fargo, Neb: I think I almost saw Bruce really mad for the first time yesterday.
Living in a trailer for two months with three other people is bound to grind on some nerves some of the time. Sure, we get along. We got lucky, we're all pretty easy-going. If one of us were to get a bit riffed, we don't have anywhere to get our own space, besides maybe the bathroom or the rest of the campground.
This time, we were outside the camper with nowhere but farmland to escape to, when Bruce and I were driving back to Fargo so I could grab some audio of Arlene Miller. Here's the kicker: Bruce had to follow directions based of what I remembered. Here's what I remembered: little to nothing.
Bruce went from a jovial mood, joking about getting lost to stone silence when he realized we were about a quarter way down a road he described as "driving on soft ice cream."
We eventually found our way to Fargo Hill, no worse for the wear, except for maybe Bruce's car, a little bit muddier than it was before. "You're washing my car," Bruce told me. It's raining right now, so I'm hoping he forgets.
Arlene is the last of her family of eight brothers and sisters. Most of them left the state, one going as far away as Alaska. She moved to Fargo after she married her husband Fred at the age of 16. I asked her what she likes about living in Fargo.
"Oh, I love it," she said. Her voice got distant and quiet. "I love it. I love it. Well, I'll say I enjoy it, put it that way...been a long time."
For a time, Arlene was the sole resident of Fargo, until her nephew Vernon and his wife moved in. Before that, the last resident in Fargo were Vernon's parents. Their house still stands across the street, leaning to one side and mostly taken back by nature.
"[It was] kind of scary." she said. "I ain't scared at night, but I was scared for storms and snow."
She didn't have much to say about the recession now, and said she couldn't remember much about the Great Depression, but she's noticed a difference in how kids are being raised today versus what it was like growing up in her time. "Kids nowadays don't want for nothing," she said. "Anything they want they get. I don't think that's right."
When she was growing up, all eight kids in the family had to work to help their parents, which made it easier to put food on the table. "It's harder today," Arlene said. "I don't know how some families make it. The price of food, I just don't know how some families make it."
When she was growing up, her family raised everything. Arlene remembered making her own cottage cheese and butter in her basement. "Lot easier way to raise a family," she said.
"Do you think if we still did stuff like that we wouldn't be in the problem we-" I began to say.
"Oh yeah," Arlene interrupted. "and the same way for people buying new cars. My son's got a Bronco he's had for 30-some years, and he's still driving it. He said he don't believe in people buying these new pickups and tearing them up like they do on roads."
My mind went back to Bruce's Suburban and how we almost went off-roading into Arlene's backyard. All of us could learn to live a bit more like her, especially if her prediction comes true.
"It's going to get tougher, I will say that. For the people that have worked and saved their money and lost it. It's going to get worse." (photo by Clay Lomneth)
June 8, 2009, Falls City, Neb: Mike Pagnano leans back into the second-hand recliner at the newly opened A to Z store in Falls City, Nebraska. One of the store owners laughs as Pagnano leans back and puts the cap over his eyes, saying he might just stay the rest of the day.
"I think its a good time to open a second hand shop in Falls City," Jo Ann Studie said. "A lot more people are looking for cheaper stuff." Studie said the economy was now just starting to affect the city, with a population above 4,000. She said people were saving more money and looking for better deals. "I think the people (here) are all really nice," Studie said.
Studie isn't worried about opening a store during the rough economy. As confident as her words were, they could not match the stride or look in her eye. It was the first day of open business and they saw a bed, and $100 worth of items fly out the door. She leans back to one of her helpers for the day, "I need more change," she says. A staff member chuckles and takes one of the $50 bills out the door. (photo by Patrick Breen)
June 8, 2009, Falls City, Neb: As the sun fades over the horizon, Tyler Ansel pushes his bike up against the fence at the baseball fields to peer down on a game. Only a few blocks away and a few hours earlier was the town experiencing another business day. Most of the business traveled in trucks, many as far away as southern Kanas.
"The economy has affected us," the man rolling a 200-pound tire said, "It affects peoples choices. (They) don't buy the nicer stuff, but there is always work to do." And that was apparent.
As I walked into "Harmon's OK Tire" I saw two customers waiting to be helped and a busy manager rushing from one to the other. I couldn't imagine a tire business being this busy.
A medium-sized man with a grey beard, and a big smile pulled me to the side and said something along the lines of what can I do for ya? It was a small-town accent with a smile I have become all to accustomed to on this trip.
Larry West, a Harmon's OK Tire employee for 31 years began doing his work. Pulling aside the smaller tires, he rolled one of what he described as a medium sized tire. "We are always busy," he said.
West, whose wife has worked as a secretary for the business for 34 years, began loading another tire that would go on the front of a "smaller tractor." As I watched him load the 4-foot tires into the back of his truck, I wondered how the economy was affecting him, a mid-level employee at a Falls City tire store.
"Ain't bad," he said with a smile. A few minutes later, he was on his way down to Kanas to load the tires. Even with an automobile industry on its knees, a small town tire company is keeping busy. (photo by Patrick Breen)
June 8, 2009, Falls City, Neb: Lisa Kopf (left) and Hannah Milam, both 16 and both juniors at Falls City High School, said they really hadn't noticed any effects in their lives from the recession. Kopf did mention she knew of a person who worked at a vet clinic and this person's hours were cut from full-time to working two days a week. (Photo by Bruce Thorson)