Tag Archives: Gering/Scotts Bluff County

A Litter-ary Opportunity

When I was a kid, my dad would drop my brother and me off at the top of the hill by our house with a couple Jirdon feed bags and have us pick up litter while we were waiting for a cattle truck. We would fill the bags on the way down the hill, picking up everything from pop bottles to diapers.

According to the “Star Herald,” tourism to the Scotts Bluff National Monument in 2022 added $15 million to our local economy and supported 179 local jobs. This number probably overlaps a little with other tourism opportunities like Oregon Trail Days, or the High Plains (Rat Rod) Riot. With local stops on the Nebraska Passport and other promotions throughout Scotts Bluff County, a lot of visitors drive through our area.

Chasing balloons or bikes or ball players brings a lot of families to our community. What nicer way to greet our visitors than with clean roadsides? This would further show off our beautiful landscape for travelers as well as residents.

If you are interested in picking up some litter on your daily walk, you can check out a litter kit from the Gering Library. Each kit contains a bucket, some bags, gloves, a very fashionable safety vest, a scale, and a litter-picker-upper stick. 

If you would like to make a longer term commitment to a cleaner Scotts Bluff County, you can contact Keep Scottsbluff Gering Beautiful (KSGB) and they will set you up with a highway to keep clean. The director, Cassidy Baum, can be reached at 308-632-4649 for more information. KSGB will even pay you to do it!

A group I belong to recently adopted a highway on the edge of town, and we went out to pick up litter last weekend. We walked half of our designated road before we called it a day. Nine volunteers spent three and a half hours picking up over 400 pounds of litter. It had been a while since this stretch of road was cleaned up, and it was a mess. We picked up tires, an entire set of clothing, home decor, drug paraphernalia and an air-pistol, along with hundreds and hundreds of little shooter alcohol bottles. 

On a side note, I did some research and discovered that most of these tiny bottles of “Fireball” sold in gas stations are not actually Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. They are labeled to mislead people into buying a malt liquor beverage rather than the original distilled spirit. Either way, these companies are making a killing and should be ashamed of the behavior of their consumers.

I grew up in the days of Woodsy Owl, who said “Give a hoot – don’t pollute!” I think it was more the experience of dad making us pick up litter than the spokes-owl, but this weekend reinforced my determination to not contribute to garbage in our ditches. I encourage you to take advantage of our litter pick-up kits and keep Scotts Bluff County beautiful.

Libraries are for Everyone

With a lot of help from Captain Jason Rogers

Years ago, I worked in the Scottsbluff library. I remember one winter when a family of children would come in right after school every day and stay until we closed the building. They would head off into the dark on foot when we locked the doors at 7:00. I think there were about four of them, the oldest being middle school aged. They were nice kids, and well-behaved. 

Suddenly, those kids quit closing down the library every day. In fact, they quit coming in altogether. Shortly after this I remember reading in the paper that a woman had died and left behind four children with the same names as these kids. I don’t know how the kids were spending their nights, but they spent their evenings through supper-time in the warmth of the library.

People use libraries in different ways. Some people are here to check out items to use at home, others come to use the wifi or printing equipment, and some to read the newspaper. Others use libraries as a means to keep in touch with what is going on around them. Some people come to the library because they feel it’s a safe space, and others because it’s temperature controlled, and out of the elements.

People find themselves without a home for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may make sense to us, and other reasons may leave us scratching our heads. Economic changes, abusive home situations, substance abuse, and untreated mental health illness are common circumstances that lead a person to become homeless. According to statistics from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on any given night over 2,200 Nebraskans are homeless. If you look further into these numbers, you will see that 6% are veterans, and 5% are people under age 25.  

These numbers don’t account for the many people who have insecure housing, or live in their vehicles. Examples of insecure housing are a person living in a camper on another person’s property or frequently staying at different people’s homes (commonly referred to as couch surfing). 

When it comes to people who are experiencing homelessness, Scottsbluff and Gering have the same problems that larger cities do. The lack of housing and homeless shelters in our area exacerbates the stress homeless people experience.

Hunger is another issue many people in the area face. Every day of the week a different church hosts a free meal for those who can’t afford to buy food. Unless people know this information, they could go long periods of time without any nutrition. 

Untreated mental illness is often a driving factor for homelessness. Mental illness increases the difficulty the homeless have of accessing resources. It also complicates implementing life-changing treatments. All of these issues can, and do, drive the homeless to commit crimes that they might not otherwise commit. 

They are simply trying to survive. 

Libraries are for everyone, and many different demographics of people take advantage of our services. Folks may find themselves beside someone they would not otherwise encounter in their daily routine. It’s a good reminder that we are all in different places in our lives. We don’t what to forget that sometimes kids experience housing insecurity too. 

Public libraries are one of the few places people can hang out without the expectation of a purchase. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The public part means everyone is welcome. 

Oregon Trail Days

One Friday in the 1980s I remember dad putting an antique side-saddle on my horse. He announced that I would be riding side-saddle in the Oregon Trail Days Parade the next day. Ginger, my horse, and I were both unimpressed at this news.

This year Oregon Trail Days is celebrating 101 years. Gering was founded in 1887, and by 1921 its citizens wanted to celebrate. We call it Nebraska’s oldest continuous celebration. North Loup claims its Popcorn Days is Nebraska’s oldest continuous “festival” at 121 years. I am not clear about the difference between a celebration and a festival. Maybe it’s an opportunity for both communities to claim the oldest continuous party in Nebraska. As I was searching for Oregon Trail Days, I discovered that Tenino, Washington also has an Oregon Trail Days celebration as well.

In any event, Gering’s celebration is a chance to gather and share the best parts of our community. With parades, food, dances, cars, concerts, carnivals and all sorts of contests, there’s something for everyone to love about Oregon Trail Days. My favorite part of OT Days is the newly renamed Vera Dulaney Memorial Art Show & Sale. I look forward to the opportunity to wander through the displays and admire the art. Miss Vera was an art lover and could always be found  behind a table, calculator in hand, ready to ring up your purchases at the show.

If you want to learn about the beginnings of our fair city, the library has a book for that (actually a couple of books). “History of Gering, Nebraska: the first 100 years” was written by the Gering Centennial Committee, and published in 1989. It weighs in at 566 pages and is filled with biographies of pioneer families as well as information about early businesses, churches. It also includes a necessary part of any good book, maps.

In 2009 the North Platte Valley Museum (which is now part of the Legacy of the Plains Museum) published a book called “Images of America: Gering, Scottsbluff and Terrytown.”  This book is much shorter but filled with historical photos of people, places and events.  

Two other great places to learn about the history of our area are the Legacy of the Plains Museum and the Scotts Bluff National Monument. The LOP is always highlighting something different from their collection. The National Park Service recently remodeled their museum, so it has likely been updated since the last time you visited. Both are located just west of Gering on Old Oregon Trail Road.  

My side-saddle parade ride ended up like you might expect. I was not very confident perched sideways on my horse after an hour or so of practice. Local parade legend Charlie Horne rescued me and led my horse through the Oregon Trail Days Parade. It was embarrassing to be led through the parade, but not as embarrassing as falling off my horse during the parade would have been. 

All things considered, I recommend taking part in some of the activities during Oregon Trail Days this weekend. It’s fun for the whole family- whether you ride side-saddle in the parade or watch it from the sidewalk.