Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I Going Mentor?

May 11

As often is the case today's action started long after the walking had concluded.  I embarked on a routine straight shot west to Donaphin, situated ten miles to the south of Grand Island and ten to the north of Hastings.  On the way I conducted an interview with Darren from their weekly paper, the Herald.  
 Before I entertain you with stories of personal interaction, I'd thought we'd go over some boring history first.  You should at least be glad that for one day I'm not pretending to be the host of "Alastair Eats His Way Across Nebraska" on the Food Network.
I figure I've been remiss in telling you exactly what the towns since Lincoln are like.  As we've often seen, the railroad deserves the bulk of the credit for the birth of these burgs.  Towns would form at the various stops where farmers brought goods to market.  Wholesalers would gravitate to where the product was and large grain elevators and silos were built for storage.  Stores would pop up to provide services to the farmers, including banks and insurance companies, which would keep the wheels of commerce greased.
These developments took place from 1870 to 1900, when all of my recent destinations were founded.  Many like Stromsburg were settled by immigrants who came to the United States only to find the east coast absent of vacancies.   Almost all of these people were white and if they weren't then they sure are now. Or the black people are adeptly hiding from me.
All of the towns are small in size.  Out of Rising City, Brainard, Shelby, Stromsburg, Marquette, Giltner, Aurora, and Doniphan only Aurora has more than four thousand residents.  Only one or two others even manages a thousand.  Usually there is at most one bar or cafe.
Despite all these similarities my experiences in each have been unique.  Donaphin was no exception.  I struck out at the cafe, where my fellow customers were more interested in losing at keno than in breathing, much less talking.  I then headed out to the city park, where I had permission to camp, hoping to find some friends over there.
Around seven, as I was prepared to concede to a quiet night, a boy named Austin came up and spoke with me, asking if I'd like to kick the soccer ball.  I said yes, wondering how soon until some worried parents swooped in and attacked me.
Supervision never did show up on the scene, but Austin's older brother Junior did.   We ended up talking for a couple of hours after Austin left to join his other friends.  Junior was concerned about me, believing I had no home, no food, and I would be cold out in the tent.  He tried to think of anything he could do to help me out.
The more I learned of his situation the more I became the worried one.  His mother was raising him alone with four other young siblings.  Nothing specific was mentioned, but the father had clearly been a bad seed.  Although his grades were good there was trouble at school - fighting.  Junior felt he was forced to defend his mother's honor from the cruel words he heard in the yard.
There was no doubt this kind-hearted boy was in need of a mentor, some sort of positive male role model in his life.  He was crying out for me to help - but I was leaving.   Never have I been more torn.  How could I leave someone who desperately needed a friend?

12 miles/2026 total miles     

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