Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 85: "The Governor"

While Rick Hammond may have never been officially elected to political office, he's known to some as "The Governor."

Rick and his daughter met me at a large statewide meeting (which I will be writing about in a forthcoming post) in Albion, Nebraska a few days ago. Eager to help out, they offered me their place south of Central City, and, perhaps, a horse to ride on.

Rick, a proud veteran of the Peace Corp (and "a liberal in a red state," as he put it) had gone on a consulting trip to Russia years ago, where he'd share information about raising cattle. Either because of a miscommunication, or because the Russian company who hired him wanted to exaggerate its importance, they introduced Rick to people as the "ex-Governor of Nebraska."

"I'm just a farmer," Rick would say, bewildered. His guests would always laugh, enchanted with his modesty. He traveled the country with a gang of bodyguards. Toasts of vodka were given to their illustrious guest. Russian dancers sought Rick to have their picture taken with him.

Rick felt guilty about the misunderstanding, and he demanded that his translator stop introducing him as the Governor.

At the end of his trip, at an important meeting with a large group of men, someone asked, "How did you become the governor of Nebraska?" He was being watched by a room full of admiring men--honored to be in the presence of a great American leader. He looked at his translator, and then to the crowd, and said--with a stately firmness--"Hard work and honesty."

After I left Central City, I crossed a bridge over the Platte River and began heading east to meet up with the Pipeline, which goes through some of Rick's property. His daughter saw me in her truck, and asked if I wanted to toss my pack in the bed of her truck. I said sure, and she said Rick would be bringing a pair of horses down the road.

Sure enough, the Governor arrived, and gave me my first-ever horse to ride. (While I'd determined to do the trip on foot, I figured I could make an exception with this other non-oil-powered means of transport.) He took me to his place, where he taught me about cattle, bees, windmills and a hundred other things about running a ranch. I helped him put up his Christmas tree.

Onward to Kansas.

Cindy Myers, an RN and an anti-Keystone activist, who met me about a week ago in Atkinson, NE. She told me about the hearing in Albion, where she'd bring me cookies and a jug of Ogallala water.

I stayed at a Lutheran church in Atkinson, and some very sweet high school-age townspeople left me letters, poetry, and Oreo balls.

I stayed in the kid's room at a Methodist Church in Fullerton, NE.

Dean, another kind Nebraskan, made some calls so I'd have a place to stay in Central City.
The governor.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ken! We're in north central Oklahoma here ... I'm a third-generation oil company employee, and my husband is a pipeliner (not Keystone). If you need any help, get in touch. We're about 7 miles east of the pipeline in Kay County.

Keystone passes about 1 mile west of a large refinery. There are some weird "laws" under homeland security that prohibit photography and access to refineries (post-9/11 stuff). If you plan to walk the perimeter of the plant, we should talk. Also, we can counsel you on Cushing ("the pipeline crossroads of the world").

Also, don't yell at cattle. Just mosey through like the calm countryman you are becoming. You can talk to them in a low voice, quietly ("Hi cows. I'm just passing through. Nothing to worry about."), very calmly. The cattle chased you because: 1) you yelled at them and freaked them out, and/or 2) they thought you had feed and they wanted it. Don't lunge, jerk or make sudden movements. Give them a little room and they'll ignore you.

Bulls can be unpredictable (there should be only one bull per herd), so keep your eye on him, he'll be watching you. His job is to protect his harem. Don't make extended eye contact, just keep moving steadily along.

But please don't yell at cattle and wave your arms. We don't want you to get your *ss kicked by grouchy cattle who couldn't take the yelling any more and decided to make the yelling stop. ;)

Love what you're doing. We've been tracking Keystone's progress ourselves and driving to and through construction sites whenever we were out traveling.

Keep it up!

Josh Spice said...

God, I LOVE the mean bull photo. Ha! No wonder he's mean.
Godspeed, Ken. You're awesome. Loved the radio show and can't wait for your book.

Shopteacher said...

It looks like you had a nice visit with The Governor and his family. I think its really impressive to hear a farmer who sees the big picture.

Really love your blogs!

TexCyn said...

What did the buffalo say to his son when he ventured off on his own?
BiSon ;-) sorry..could not resist...

The Good Luck Duck said...

Love the photo of you hugging - er, HOLDING - the goat.

I appreciate Prairie's cow advice. No matter how Annie explains it, those damn things look sinister to me. Especially crowding up around the Duck with their big, angry eyes and eerie chewing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this. As an inpacted citizen from Battle Creek MI ( where Enbridge Energy spilled 1.1 million gallons of tar sand oil which made it's way 40 miles downriver) I appreciate your walk.... BRAVO

Anonymous said...

I only like cows when I am looking at them through plastic wrap in the grocery store isle. Ken, you're a great writer and story teller. I have laughed out loud many times since I found your blog. Good luck on your adventure.

I was wondering though, what is your equipment list for such an expedition? The other night I accidentally fell asleep in the living room watching TV. I awoke during the night apparently needing a Temperpedic, blankets, comforter and four pillows to make it through the night. I promptly retreated to the bedroom to finish sleeping.

As you can see, I can not conceive what it would take to venture out on a journey like you. I was wondering whatcha got? What are the necessities and what luxury, besides the Ipad, do you allow yourself? What do you eat when there is no one arund to offer pie? How many nights are spent out in the elements? Just wondering.

Las Vegas

Tesaje said...

Steve: read the older posts. Ken has answered all your questions in his past posts on this trip.

Ken, you look like a natural on that horse. Nice you got see some chickens again. That goat must be a pet to let you hug her like that. You found ton of nice people there. Makes up for that obnoxious policeman.

Anonymous said...


Right. I think I was reading the posts backwards from the most recent one and forgot to remember to continue going back toward the front of the journey If you get my meaning. Im am squared away now. The first posts were good info and answered all my questions.