Stories at Eleven by Bill Oliver -- read it first in Oldtime Nebraska
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Stories at Eleven [10 CST/8 PST] 16 January 2000 Vol 4, #03

Good Evening EAGLELARKS, HUSKERS and all ships at sea,

      There are scraps of paper stuffed everywhere, in books as bookmarks, just lying around, or in drawers.  They have a sentence or a paragraph on them with an idea of a story later.  I picked one up today.

      Those who know me well know that I have a most hearty laugh, a roar, even.  I let one go today that shook the house. But, more about that later.  First a few facts about one of my favorite spaces in Nebraska ... Nuckolls county.

      Nuckolls county has a nice history.  Just ten years before [1870] my great great grandparents arrived from Switzerland the population of the county was eight.  The county had its beginning twelve years earlier than that [1858].  It was named for Stephen Nuckolls, a southerner.

      There was a government relay station about a mile and a half [southeast] from the present community of Oaks.  Its name was Oak Grove.  Sixteen miles of the Oregon Trail passed through the county and this station.  The Comstock family ran this station and one other northwest of the Oak Grove station.

      Government wagon trains passed through on this trail, consisting of twenty six wagons, each pulled by six yoke of oxen.  A lot of animal to water and feed.

      The courthouse in Nelson was begun in 1890 under a contract for $28,390.  G. E. McDonald was the architect.  A special election was held to pass on a bond issue worth $35,000. The bond issue carried, but suit was filed to determine the validity of the proceedings which went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

      I don't know if they are still there or not but on the way to the bell tower there are two goddess' of liberty lying prone.  They are made of metal.  There must have been four of them for it was written that they stood at the four gable ends of the roof facing outward, watching the world below go by.  A wonderful trivia question would be which arm is holding the torch.  But, the sharp crew of trivia players we have would immediately recall that our lady of liberty in New York has the torch in her right hand, so why ask the question unless it was different?

      Every time I have visited the courthouse the clock in the clock tower has always registered exactly seventeen minutes after twelve.  I remarked about this a couple of times and received, among snickers, lame excuses which ranged from there wasn't money to fix it or it has never worked since the clock was installed.  Even my cousins laughed at me and gave me similar answers.

      Well, it is funny.  The story goes that the Courthouse officially finished with the installation of the clock at precisely 12:17 o'clock in 1891.  The clock is said to have the distinction of having been correct to the smallest fraction of a second twice a day ever since.

      This would be true if the clock never ran.  So, I asked what made the clock tick??  Dumb ...... I should have known I was stepping into a straight man role for a joke.  On the most close inspection of the clock faces one discovers that the Roman numerals are part of the face as they should be. However, so are the hands.  The clock was intended solely for ornamental purposes ... there are no clock works!

      Have a wonderful week everyone!


-- Bill



Stories at Eleven 1999, 2000, William N. Oliver, all rights reserved