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Sandhillers

You might have deduced from my previous blog post that I made a quick trip “out west” a week or so ago.  There is something else that happened on that little adventure that I have had on my mind since then. . . .

I had some car problems on the trip home.  There is more to that story, but let’s just say I ended up having to pull off the highway because my vehicle was over-heating.  It was on a stretch of sandhills highway, not another vehicle to be seen.  I pulled over to let the car cool and think about my options.

In a few minutes a pickup came down the highway, a white one.  A couple traveling in it.  They pulled up beside me and stopped, right in the middle of the highway.  There wasn’t any other traffic coming from either direction.  We started the conversation about the obvious, what my problem was, how they could help.  However, in a few minutes the talk “traveled” on from that.  In typical Nebraska fashion we figured out we knew someone in common.

They offered whatever aid I might need, but I told them I should be able to limp back to the nearest town once the engine cooled.  Again they offered to wait and follow me.  It wasn’t far, and I figured I would be fine, I did not want to waste their time.  Before they drove on, they offered to leave me their cell phone number in case I needed someone to come back to help.

In the span of minutes, on the middle of a sandhills highway, we knew where each other was from, knew some people in common, what our business was, where we were going, and what to do if we needed to get in contact with each other again.  We stopped short of invitations for next Christmas, but just short of that.

The engine cooled, I made the turn back towards the nearest town.  There was a gas station and shop there.  I figured there would be a mechanic there.  No, probably not a mechanic certified to work on the vehicle that I was driving, but at least someone with more tools and more mechanically inclined than I (believe me that does not take a lot).  I coasted up, walked inside and asked for a mechanic.  One walked in the office and was directed my way.

He was a kid, quiet, calm, laid back, spoke slow.  He reminded me of one of my nephews, one that can fix about anything.  Considering where I was and who was helping me, I figured I was in good hands, really good hands.

I told him my problems and we started looking at the vehicle.  Afterwards I got to thinking that “kid” knew some really good lessons:  First, don’t make things worse.  The engine was overheating apparently because it had run out of coolant.  Yes, that probably meant a leak someplace, but don’t go poking and pulling things around and make it worse.

Second, start with the obvious.  He got a gallon of coolant and we poured it in.  Yes, it was low.

We filled it up, and then the leaks were obvious.  You see a deer had jumped out in front of me the evening before.  Oh, I knew there was damage, but the vehicle still ran, I saw no puddles of coolant anywhere, and at least for a while it ran without any problems.  Come to find out there were a couple of leaks in the top of the radiator, not where one would expect it, but leaks where the radiator had busted loose from its mounts.

Lastly, and in typical sandhills fashion, bailing wire, duct tape and JB Weld can fix anything.  The kid got some JB Weld, dried things off, mixed it up with an old screwdriver, and carefully, meticulously, filled in the holes.  We waited for it to dry.  I bought an extra gallon of coolant, settled up the relatively inexpensive bill, and was on my way.  I never had to add another drop of coolant the rest of the way home or since.

If you have read my blog for a while you know I love Nebraska’s sandhills.  I will continue to tell you that.  Knowing me, you also know it is all about the fishing.  I love the fish and wildlife of the sandhills; the miles and miles of those beautiful, rolling hills, the lakes, wetlands, rivers and streams.  Those hills, that “eco-region” and its flora and fauna are uniquely Nebraska.  In my opinion, they are genuine Nebraska.

I will tell you something else that is unique and genuine about those parts, something I have thought about writing before, am finally doing it now.  The people are unique and genuine Nebraska.

Many would consider the “middle of nowhere” on a Nebraska sandhill highway to be the worst place to experience car problems.  That might be so.  But, in my experience, I am pretty sure there is no place I would rather be.

And I love it even more.

HighwayCameraNDOT

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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