A Walk Across Dodge County
Welcome to Nickerson
Located on the south side of Nebraska Highway 91, the town of Nickerson with its population of 431 has a country feel to it. Like many towns, it sprang up along the railroad, the steel highways of their time.
I circled the few blocks in Nickerson in my red truck trying to determine where to park. At 10:48 a.m. I opted for the east end of Cedar Street. Running east and west, Cedar is the main drag through what was once a busy downtown. The heat of the summer day was well under way.
I started walking west; the street was quiet and empty. For some strange reason as I walked down the middle of the street, the musical theme from the movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” started playing in my mind.
A plane engine roared in the background as a crop duster passed close by. The sound of the grain elevator conveyors filled in as background noise as crickets and grasshoppers signaled my passing.
In the middle of Cedar Street stands a flagpole with a white concrete square base and red trim. On the east and west sides of the base there is a large red N painted on it. I wasn’t sure if it was a reminder for which college football team to root for or whether it was for the town.
By the time I finished my walk across town it was 11:08 a.m. Five out of six drivers I passed waved. The only person who didn’t wave was driving a pickup truck with 29 county plates.
My walking time was a bit skewed because it included a short visit with Jack Mulliken and his two children Tyler, 9, and Kelsey, 12, next to the Be Be Herrick Memorial Park.
They had driven to town from their farm on a four-wheeler.
“The best part of living in Nickerson is you can do things like this,” said Jack, referring to how he rode into town.
“Let’s go get some food,” Kelsey said.
I asked her what kind of food she was hungry for.
Good idea on this hot summer day I thought to myself, as I waved goodbye.
On the northeast corner of town sits the Shortstop Gas station. I had already missed the early coffee crew. One of the patterns I have noticed over the last few weeks is that there seems to be coffee shifts in these small-town gathering places.
As I walked into the convenience station, employee Brandee Craig said good morning with a beaming smile.
Next to the empty coffee tables I saw a printed sign that read “Think Tank classes start at 7 a.m.”
I could only imagine how many world crises have been solved at these tables.
Standing next to the checkout line I met Dan Dislong, who manages the local trailer court.
“Nickerson is a slow, quiet town …#8221; laid back,” said Dan when asked what he liked about the town.
“The people here aren’t in a hurry; they take life at their own pace, knowing it will all get done,” he added.
I made a remark how the 29 county driver pickup didn’t wave as I walked across town. Suddenly the half dozen people in the gas station started offering opinions how the people in Washington County aren’t as friendly. Obviously it wasn’t a scientific survey.
With lunchtime approaching, I started making my way back downtown. Standing in front of a sign that states “Nickerson, Home of State Senator Ramon Janssen,” I noticed a family taking photos.
The Park family from Omaha was documenting their visit to Nickerson.
“Over 10 years we’ve have visited over 200 towns in Nebraska. We always take a photo with something that has the town name on it,” said Sam, the father.
After the photo was taken, Sam and his wife, Sherilyn, and two children, Camden and Claremarie, went to play in the Be Be Herrick Memorial Park before they headed off to Winslow.
Leaving the Park family, I headed back on Cedar. A white Ford pickup pulled up next to me. Inside was farmer Steve Fauss, heading home for lunch.
“So you’re in Nickerson today,” Steve said. “Nickerson is a good town with good people. We have people who have been here for generations and others are new, but we all get along.”
After a brief conversation about hog prices, he waved goodbye. Driving away he said, “Have a good day in our town.”
Next I stepped into Downtown Browns, the only tavern in town. Inside I met co-owner Kim Brown.
“We’ve owned the place for 12 years,” Kim said. “People come from Fremont to have the chicken fried steak, but it’s an evening special, so you’ll have to come back on a Monday for that.”
When asked about Nickerson, Kim responded: “I know most of them, and most of them are good people. Everyone will offer a helping hand when you need it.
“People come here to have a slower pace of life. They want a place where they can stop and smell the roses. It’s a place where people do the right thing at their own pace over time,” Kim concluded.
I decided to drive the brown gravel Luther Road back to Fremont. It seemed appropriate after spending a day in the quiet country town of Nickerson.