A Walk Across Dodge County
Welcome to Winslow
Stepping out of my red truck in the Winslow Village Park, a line from the movie “Shrek” popped into my head. “It’s quiet here, too quiet.”
I’m not sure I ever noticed this park that sits on the east side of U.S. Highway 77. A few concrete picnic tables and iron grills sat nestled under the shade of large trees, seemingly waiting for anyone to come along.
Barn swallows swooped over my head welcoming me to Winslow.
Nestled along the highway and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line, the small village of Winslow with its population of 140 quietly lies in the Elkhorn River valley.
Crossing the highway, I glanced at my watch that read 10 a.m. as I started my walk across Winslow. Several cattle trucks, leaving an odor, passed me on the highway; no one waved.
I saw a man dressed in bib overalls walking down the street a couple of blocks from me. He was walking east toward the highway as I headed west.
I paused for a moment wondering if I should try to get his attention. My concern was being able to find people to chat with. I opted out. I had heard there was a bar in town, and at the very least I was hoping to find a lunch crowd there. Westward I continued toward downtown, leaving the noisy highway traffic behind.
Main Street was almost completely deserted.
I could see the bar with the appropriate name, The Bar. I continued walking and wondered why there were no cars or pickups parked in front.
As I walked past, I noticed a handwritten sign posted on the door, “Closed till further notice Thank You.”
I glanced back toward the highway, looking for the man I had earlier seen. He was gone, leaving me wondering if I would find anyone.
I kept walking west, taking a right on Elkhorn Avenue. On my right, a woman popped out from the post office. I looked to the sky and silently said “Thank you.”
“Good morning,” she said.
We chatted for a few moments. She was on her way home from a night shift at 3M in Valley.
Not wanting to keep her from sleep, I said goodbye. Her parting words were, “It’s quiet here and don’t get lost.”
After one more block at 10:13 a.m. I finished my walk. The only person I had met was the 3M employee.
I was standing on the new dike that was recently completed to protect the town from potential high water from the Elkhorn River. I wondered where to go to find people.
Walking back into Winslow, I noticed a man working outside a shed with a sign hanging over the door that read Reach Out’s Winslow.
I said to myself, “It must be a business.”
I approached the man and asked, “Do you run a business out of your shed?”
“Nope,” responded Richard Dorfmeyer. “Everyone calls me Reach Out. I used to own the bar for 20 years; the sign came from there.”
So happy to finally find anyone, I completely forgot to ask him how he got a nickname like Reach Out.
“Winslow’s a quiet town with good people,” Reach Out said. “If you would have been here Thursday, you could have floated with us on the Missouri River in my ski boat from Blair down to Kansas City.
“We’re not getting any younger, and I’m still a little crazy. So the Scribner Floaters, as we call ourselves, made the voyage.
“In a small town like Winslow, fun is what you make it,” Reach Out said.
In my conversation with Reach Out, I learned The Bar closed two months ago and the co-op is gone. So, there’s nothing left but the post office.
With nowhere else to go, I headed to the Winslow Post Office.
Inside I found Mary Darnell who has worked for the post office more than 30 years. Sitting behind a brown wooden wall, a window with small black iron bars separated us as we talked about Winslow.
“I have a short commute to work,” Mary said. “I live a block from here.”
Mary told me Winslow is a good place to raise a family, there are good schools in the area and it’s a safe, quiet town.
I asked if Winslow had 140 people. That’s what the sign says.
“No, I keep a list of everyone in town. We’re down to 120 people, and a family of seven is moving to Hooper,” Mary said.
In the middle of our conversation, Rochelle Rice walked in to get her mail.
“Winslow is quiet, small and safe,” Rochelle said when asked about living here. “If my kids get into trouble, I’ll know about it before they get home,” Rochelle said with a smile.
It was canning day for Rochelle … tomatoes.
Alicia, her 13-year-old daughter, walked into the post office.
“Winslow is nice because you know everyone and it feels safe. It’s the best town ever. You can walk everywhere. Sometimes we even walk to Hooper to go to the pool,” Alicia said.
“How far is Hooper?” I asked. “Two miles,” responded Alicia.
I thought to myself, it must be a quiet walk through the countryside.
Mary mentioned the apples look good this year, inferring it won’t be long before Rochelle would be canning apples.
With noon fast approaching, I waved goodbye so Mary could begin locking up the post office and Rochelle could get back to her canning.
I walked across town back toward the village park where my red truck was waiting. The last house I passed had a small Chihuahua chained to the porch barking at me. He seemed to be doing his best to say goodbye from the quiet little town of Winslow.