What a day! I made sure to tour the Nebraska State Capitol Building this morning before making my way to Omaha. What a beautiful capitol building. One of the best! I had read quotes saying that it was "a jewel among historical monuments" and I agree. The artwork is everywhere - the floors, the walls, the ceiling. An amazing amount of sunlight pours in making it a beautiful sight in person but impossible to take really good pictures with a so-so camera. I was lucky enough to witness this nation's only unicameral legislature in session this morning. They meet for only 90 days this year and they actually get things done even with the lobbyists hovering like buzzards.
The building itself is known as "the tower of the plains" - the broad base represents the prairie and the tall tower was a landmark to be viewed from miles away. That was true in 1919 when the building was constructed and to some degree it is true today.
At first I thought I would skip stopping in Omaha - it's only an hour and a half away from Lincoln and I thought I would want to put more miles under my belt before stopping for an overnight. Then I thought - what the heck - if it's a good enough town for the Oracle of Omaha to live in I might as well make a visit. Holy cow - was I surprised.
When I came into town, I saw a sign for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trails Headquarters right in front of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge which links Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa. As I came away from the riverfront and drove down a major street I was flabbergasted to see a huge wagon train sculpture on the right hand side of the road. I pulled over and parked and got out of the car to take a closer look. Wow!
I stopped at the Visitor's Center to get the scoop on this and 2 other installations that I was unable to get a parking space close enough to photograph - I will try again tomorrow on my way to the Durham Museum. The installation I saw is entitled Pioneer Courage and was commissioned by the chairman of First National Bank. The sculptor, Brian Buswell, is quoted as saying that "the main objective of Pioneer Courage is to tell the story of hundreds of thousands of pioneers who migrated west - many of whom stood on this very ground ." (one of those migrants was the great grandfather of the chairman of First National).
Boys Town was just down the road . At their Hall of History Museum I learned that in 1916 Father Flanagan, who was a young Irish immigrant priest then, opened a hotel for homeless men. After a couple of years he found that he would clothe and feed the men but didn't change their lives. He decided that boys who had hard lives were young enough to learn moral values and change . He believed that" there are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, and bad thinking." He made helping troubled boys his life's work and soon the judges in Omaha were releasing young delinquents and orphans into his care.
He met with the boys weekly - like a mentor- but soon he came to the conclusion that what they really needed was a home. He borrowed money from a close friend, Henry Monsky,and started Boys Town. The museum is full of pictures, letters, documentation, and even the Oscar that Spencer Tracy won for portraying Father Flanagan in the movie Boys Town. Another incredible story of how children, like those on the Orphan Train, were "saved" .