Jacobs Begins His Tour of the County in the Community of Dodge
Turning west on Nebraska Highway 91 from U.S. Highway 275, the road leaves the flat Elkhorn River bottom for the rolling hills of northern Dodge County. It’s a route I’ve taken before but not often.
As I drove over the first gentle hill, I was struck by the knee-high height of the corn. This was a stark contrast to the river bottomland that has been swelling with water this spring. The corn and beans in the bottomland was only ankle high.
In my quest to know Dodge County, I thought the place to begin is the town that is the county’s namesake. A late start meant that I would probably miss the morning coffee crew at the Co-op.
But confident something would happen, at 10:27 on a Thursday morning, I parked my red truck on the west end of Second Street, the main drag through town. I began walking east. By the time I got to the east end of town, it was 10:44 and nine out of 12 drivers waved as they passed.
Dodge is filled with well-kept yards and neatly painted homes that line the cobblestone streets. These are outward expressions of a town that shows pride in itself since 1880 when the German, Czech and Polish immigrants settled here.
Walking along Second Street, I noticed two women painting the brown trim on a house. Connie Rolf and Danielle Klosen suggested grabbing lunch at The Bank Quit. Apparently the bank failed, but the cook didn’t. The rumor is The Bank Quit has the best homemade pies in town.
Asked why they liked living in Dodge, Connie responded that the children can play and ride their bikes to school without parents having to worry. Danielle added if the children would get into trouble, the parents will find out.
Dodge has 700 residents, which means most people know everyone. Connie and Danielle agreed its a good place to raise a family.
On my way to lunch, I poked my head into the Farmers State Bank. Inside I met Becky Stecher who insisted I return for the annual Dodge Daze, a weekend of fun activities in July.
According to Becky, anyone who breathes puts together a softball team, comes to play and have a good time.
“Make sure you go see our city park; we have three new ball diamonds,” Becky said.
An hour later I finally made it to The Bank Quit. It lived up to its reputation. A place that makes homemade mashed potatoes is a guaranteed hit in my book. Too full, I had to pass on the pie.
Next stop was the Brand X Saloon. I was told about a notorious 2 p.m. card game where I could hear the real stories of Dodge.
While drinking a Coke I visited with farmers, a seed salesman and a mechanic who also serves as the town’s fire chief. Men with nicknames like “Whitey” played Sheepshead.
Art Baumart is a retired farmer has been playing cards with the fellas for 50 years.
“They tell me I drive them nuts,” Art said.
When I asked him why, Art replied, “They call it cheating, I call it fun.”
After leaving the Brand X saloon, I made a brief stop at the public library. This gave me the opportunity to talk with a few young residents. Frequent visitors include Tucker Luebbert, 10; Ely Henrickson, 8; and Kayla Hashberger, 10.
Librarian Mary Mandel said the community residents use the library regularly and often families come in together.
Continuing east on Second Street, I arrived at Hilltop Lanes.
Bernie and Sandy Eikmeier have run the bowling center for 10 years. Bernie prefers driving a route to work where he doesn’t have one stoplight along the way.
Sandy said jokingly, “I used to work in a dentist office. My friends tell me they prefer to come see me here; it’s a lot less painful.”
As I promised Becky in the bank, I stopped to see the city park. Here I joined a group of people at a picnic table gathered for an upcoming wedding.
People introduced themselves to each other as Jackie Steffensmeier and Devon Robotham. They were bringing two families together for the first time.
Although they currently live in Lincoln, they echoed what I heard repeatedly from people in Dodge. Its a good place to raise a family or, in the case of Jackie and Devon, to lay the foundation for a new one.
In the late afternoon I opted from taking the highway home. Instead I meandered back along brown gravel roads that rolled over Dodge County hills, and I found myself dreaming about homemade pie.