|The Sit N Bull Saloon in Giltner|
One of the best/worst features of the Great Plains is the ability to see great distances. Only four short miles after leaving Aurora I had spotted the water tower of Giltner, which was to be the finishing point for the day's hike. It is reassuring to know your destination is actually there, but also a tad bit frustrating to never seem to arrive there.
The distance was inevitably covered even with the insistent resistance of the wind, which blew steadily north after I turned south onto the Giltner spur. Upon reaching the town I made immediately for the Sit N Bull, whose pizza had been recommended to me as far back as forty miles.
I'd gotten reliable intelligence. Ryan, the restaurant's owner, had lived in New York and spent time in Chicago. Upon returning to his birthplace of Giltner he created a hybrid of the two city's pizza styles. His pie has a doughy crust like a New York pizza and a is layered with inches of toppings, similar to the Chicago deep dish. The result is a cheesy, savory marvel, easily the best tasting pizza I've had on the journey.
While I dined I was interrogated by two middle school age boys at the adjacent table. They asked a number of well-thought out questions, better than those I get from most reporters. I'd say they are more than qualified to take the jobs of some of the fools at several of the 24 hour newsless outfits on television.
After the feast and the inquisition I headed to the park to set up for the night. I sensed trouble as I neared the shelter I had picked out as a proper home on the way into Giltner. The place was now crawling with youths frolicking about with little apparent supervision.
Why was I worried? Well, back in Iowa I used to head straight to city hall or the police department to get permission to camp and hopefully activate the town's gossip hot line. In these small Nebraska towns there is no such apparent center of authority. I therefore have to find other methods to assure the populace that I'm not some surly predator coming into town to rape the women and eat the children.
My in came when the two lads from the Sit N Bull invited me to shoot some hoops. After blocking a few of their shots and showing them what's up I headed over to the group of adults that had gathered in an attempt to figure out whether I was a pedophile or a mass murderer. One of the men was an ex-marine and the other the brother of an army veteran. They quickly warmed to my cause when I explained the mission. I would not be lynched or burned alive like Freddy Kruger this night.
Later on, I drifted quietly off to sleep, feeling safe and secure. Suddenly, a noise jolted me from my slumber. Someone was next to the tent. I thrashed out with my legs in the most useless example of self-defense since Poland vs. Germany in 1939. I turned to face my assailant, only to find Ryan and a friend barreled over laughing at my expense. They had come down to donate a portion of the Sit N Bull's profits from the evening to the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Don't forget Giltner," Ryan yelled back as the two faded into the night.
I certainly won't forget the generosity of Giltner - or the stain I now have in my shorts.
14 miles/2014 total miles