"It must be made possible for the one to live vicariously the life of the many from the beginning." - John Neihardt

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 01/01/2011 - 14:35.

Sign for Gothenburg, Nebraska - "Success Tomorrow Depends on Choices Today - Anonymous"

’Mid glad green miles of tillage
And fields where cattle graze;
A prosy little village,
You drowse away the days.

And yet—a wakeful glory
Clings round you as you doze;
One living, lyric story
Makes music of your prose!

That start and conclusion to The Poet’s Town, penned in 1913 by past Nebraska Poet Laureate John Neihardt (complete poem below), well describes Gothenburg, Nebraska.

I stopped there one winter morning, not long ago, for some wakeful glory away from the drone of the interstate - to find some fresh, local character and better-than-truckstop coffee and donuts.

Located off I-80, the living, lyric story promised by Gothenburg's towering grain elevators and freeway signs is the "Pony Express Capital of Nebraska". Being in the modern-day Pony Express business, delivering communications via the Internet, I thought I'd connect with my roots and find some inspiration there.

Original Pony Express station - log cabin in Gothenburg, Nebraska, circa 1854
Original Pony Express station - log cabin in Gothenburg, Nebraska, circa 1854

Roots I found, in America's Heart-land of yesterday...

... bitter roots, finding the Pony Express Station is dedicated "To all the Pioneers who Passed This Way To Win And Hold The West".

Dedication signs at historic 1854 Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska
Dedication signs at historic 1854 Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Coming to Gothenburg, Nebraska, from the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, in New Mexico, this dedication certainly gave me cause to pause.. and chills that cut deeper than the December Nebraska winds.

Dedicated to "pioneers" who caused genocide, says the plaque at the Gothenburg Pony Express station...

Native American display at Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska
Native American display at Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Are the "pioneers" of our past to be forgiven for committing genocide, as they were poor, and ignorant?

Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska
Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska

"What a breed they were - those sod house settlers. Color, creed, possessions did not matter. Everyone was poor, but none a pauper. Can it be they were richer for having little? Can it be they were wiser for knowing less?"... John G. Neihardt

Sign at Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, Nebraska
Sign at Sod House Museum, Gothenburg, Nebraska... quote attributed to John "Niehardt"...
Actual last name "Neihardt" is mis-spelled - this sign maker was not wiser for knowing less.

Poor and ignorant.

Do WE modern Americans have the same excuse? 

Are WE any better educated today?

On the occasion of being named the Poet Laureate of Nebraska, June 18th, 1921, John Neihardt reflected:

I would say that education is fundamentally a spiritual process. In its proper function it is concerned less with the problem of acquiring the means of life than with the far more difficult one of knowing what to do with life after one is in possession of the means to live. . .

However much a man, as viewed by the envious eyes of his neighbors, may gain in apparent worth by the possession of material things, it remains true that not one jot is added to the real stature of the man by virtue of that possession; for a man can be no other than that which he truly is, as distinguished from what he has. And it is with what a man is - that is to say, with personality - that education must be chiefly concerned. It is the process of making a man rich in the only values that can not be acquired by accident, or theft in any of its many disguises, and that can not be lost by such means. . . And in this sense, it is the prime function of education to make men social beings; to make them, insofar as may be possible, citizens of all time and of all countries; to give them the widest possible comprehension of a man's relation to other men and to his physical environment; to substitute sympathy for prejudice in the list of human motives. In other words, the consciousness of the individual must be extended to include the race consciousness. It must be made possible for the one to live vicariously the life of the many from the beginning.

Today's civilized, "educated" "Americans" certainly don't want to live vicariously the lives of the Native Americans, as they were slaughered at the hands of the White Europeans, who stole this land from the truly free and made it the land of the unfree, "from sea to shining sea".

Perhaps we are best left uneducated.

Daylight Donuts in downtown Gothenburg, Nebraska - December, 2010 
Daylight Donuts in downtown Gothenburg, Nebraska - December, 2010

At Daylight, in 2011, the White Man may still buy donuts in Gothenburg... for the time being.

Gothenburg is clearly changing... aging... Daylight Donuts was full of old, white senior citizens... downtown storefronts are vacant... all the action is up by the Highway.

Time for a new wave of "pioneers"?

Lasso Expresso at I-80 in Gothenburg, Nebraska
Lasso Expresso at I-80 in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Whereas Native Americans respected nature and lived in harmony with the land, the foreign invaders who took America from the natives have destroyed this place, and care little for its future.

Unlike the native perspective of making all decisions today as they will impact the next seven generations, the White Man says "Success Tomorrow Depends on Choices Today" - Anonymous.

Gothenburg Sign

Historically, the choice of pioneers of America has been unapologetic genocide, enslavement and injustice against those different than the "pioneers". That choice has proven to be a poor one, throughout our history.

Small town Americans and global citizens alike must now contemplate the impacts of centuries of "pioneers" on Earth, who really just conquered and displaced native people to steal their wealth and property, ultimately depleting natural resources with increasing greed, inhumanity and inefficiency.

Where is the glory... where is the music... where are the poets in small town America today?

The Poet’s Town
John G. Neihardt


’Mid glad green miles of tillage
And fields where cattle graze,
A prosy little village,
You drowse away the days.

And yet—a wakeful glory
Clings round you as you doze;
One living lyric story
Makes music of your prose.

Here once, returning never,
The feet of song have trod;
And flashed—Oh, once forever!—
The singing Flame of God.


These were his fields Elysian:
With mystic eyes he saw
The sowers planting vision,
The reapers gleaning awe.

Serfs to a sordid duty,
He saw them with his heart,
Priests of the Ultimate Beauty,
Feeding the flame of art.

The weird, untempled Makers
Pulsed in the things he saw;
The wheat through its virile acres
Billowed the Song of Law.

The epic roll of the furrow
Flung from the writing plow,
The dactyl phrase of the green-rowed maize
Measured the music of Now.


Sipper of ancient flagons,
Often the lonesome boy
Saw in the farmers’ wagons
The chariots hurled at Troy.

Trundling in dust and thunder
They rumbled up and down,
Laden with princely plunder,
Loot of the tragic Town.

And once when the rich man’s daughter
Smiled on the boy at play,
Sword-storms, giddy with slaughter,
Swept back the ancient day!

War steeds shrieked in the quiet,
Far and hoarse were the cries;
And Oh, through the din and the riot,
The music of Helen’s eyes!

Stabbed with the olden Sorrow,
He slunk away from the play,
For the Past and the vast To-morrow
Were wedded in his To-day.


Rich with the dreamer’s pillage,
An idle and worthless lad,
Least in a prosy village,
And prince in Allahabad;

Lover of golden apples,
Munching a daily crust;
Haunter of dream-built chapels,
Worshipping in the dust;

Dull to the worldly duty,
Less to the town he grew,
And more to the God of Beauty
Than even the grocer knew!


Corn for the buyers, and cattle—
But what could the dreamer sell?
Echoes of cloudy battle?
Music from heaven and hell?

Spices and bales of plunder
Argosied over the sea?
Tapestry woven of wonder,
And myrrh from Araby?

None of your dream-stuffs, Fellow,
Looter of Samarcand!
Gold is heavy and yellow,
And value is weighed in the hand!


And yet, when the years had humbled
The Kings in the Realm of the Boy,
Song-built bastions crumbled,
Ash-heaps smothering Troy;

Thirsting for shattered flagons,
Quaffing a brackish cup,
With all of his chariots, wagons—
He never could quite grow up.

The debt to the ogre, To-morrow,
He never could comprehend:
Why should the borrowers borrow?
Why should the lenders lend?

Never an oak tree borrowed,
But took for its needs—and gave.
Never an oak tree sorrowed;
Debt was the mark of the slave.

Grass in the priceless weather
Sucked from the paps of the Earth,
And the hills that were lean it fleshed with green—
Oh, what is a lesson worth?

But still did the buyers barter
And the sellers squint at the scales;
And price was the stake of the martyr,
And cost was the lock of the jails.


Windflowers herald the Maytide,
Rendering worth for worth;
Ragweeds gladden the wayside,
Biting the dugs of the Earth;

Violets, scattering glories,
Feed from the dewy gem:
But dreamers are fed by the living and dead—
And what is the gift from them?


Never a stalk of the Summer
Dreams of its mission and doom:
Only to hasten the Comer—
Martyrdom unto the Bloom.

Ever the Mighty Chooser
Plucks when the fruit is ripe,
Scorning the mass and letting it pass,
Keen for the cryptic type.

Greece in her growing season
Troubled the lands and seas,
Plotted and fought and suffered and wrought—
Building a Sophocles!

Only a faultless temple
Stands for the vassal’s groan;
The harlot’s strife and the faith of the wife
Blend in a graven stone.

Ne’er do the stern gods cherish
The hope of the million lives;
Always the Fact shall perish
And only the Truth survives.

Gardens of roses wither,
Shaping the perfect rose:
And the poet’s song shall live for the long,
Dumb, aching years of prose.


King of a Realm of Magic,
He was the fool of the town,
Hiding the ache of the tragic
Under the grin of the clown.

Worn with the vain endeavor
To fit in the sordid plan;
Doomed to be poet forever,
He longed to be only a man;

To be freed from the god’s enthralling,
Back with the reeds of the stream;
Deaf to the Vision calling,
And dead to the lash of the Dream.


But still did the Mighty Makers
Stir in the common sod;
The corn through its awful acres
Trembled and thrilled with God!

More than a man was the sower,
Lured by a man’s desire,
For a triune Bride walked close at his side—
Dew and Dust and Fire!

More than a man was the plowman,
Shouting his gee and haw;
For a something dim kept pace with him,
And ever the poet saw;

Till the winds of the cosmic struggle
Made of his flesh a flute,
To echo the tune of a whirlwind rune
Unto the million mute.


Son of the Mother of mothers,
The womb and the tomb of Life,
With Fire and Air for brothers
And a clinging Dream for a wife;

Ever the soul of the dreamer
Strove with its mortal mesh,
And the lean flame grew till it fretted through
The last thin links of flesh.

Oh, rending the veil asunder,
He fled to mingle again
With the dred Orestean thunder,
The Lear of the driven rain!


Once in a cycle the comet
Doubles its lonesome track.
Enriched with the tears of a thousand years,
Æschylus wanders back.

Ever inweaving, returning,
The near grows out of the far;
And Homer shall sing once more in a swing
Of the austere Polar Star.

Then what of the lonesome dreamer
With the lean blue flame in his breast?
And who was your clown for a day, O Town,
The strange, unbidden guest?


’Mid glad green miles of tillage
And fields where cattle graze;
A prosy little village,
You drowse away the days.

And yet—a wakeful glory
Clings round you as you doze;
One living, lyric story
Makes music of your prose!

From The Little Book of Modern Verse | 1913


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