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What's My Line?

Posted Saturday, January 19, 2008, at 8:19 AM

Somewhere in my past, there was a TV game show called What's My Line? The show had a host of course, and panelists Bennet Cerf, Steve Allen, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Arlene Francis were the shows regulars. The show started with a contestant being told to "Enter and sign in please", and they would walk up to a chalk board and sign their name. The contestant would then sit down and the moderator would give some factoid clue to help the panelists determine what the guests occupation or special talent was. and a game similar to 20 questions or hangman followed with the panelists asking questions to figure it out. The "lines" ranged from rocket scientist to hair dresser, and it was fun to guess along with the panelists trying to figure out the puzzle of what the person did.

We've had our own version of What's My Line? here on the farm recently, and I think it's an extension of a phenomenon I have observed meeting several new folks in the region. I'd like to call it The Nebraska General Rule Of Meeting Newcomers. Most folks tend to treat us newcomers rather coldly, at least until they learn a little about us.

Not everyone is effected by this interesting behavior trait, so I guess it's not a rule, just a guideline. I've had a couple folks come to our door and not saying anything, waiting for me to say something like "What can I do for you?" When I was a phone installer, I'd hit the door and say something like "Hi, I'm here to install your phone" and not have them guess why I was there. Now if these visitors had an official company vehicle or uniform or something, it would have been a bit different, but I had no clue whatsoever why they came to my door initially.

It's no big deal, just different than we're accustomed to. Most city folk when you first meet seem to want to know more about you and ask what they want to know. I'm finding that many Nebraskans want to know more, but are not nosey so they tend to wait for you to tell them. I suppose part it is just about everybody knows everybody around here...except us, so people are just being cautious. The best part is that once started, people seem to love to visit a bit, and we've met some really nice people willing to share some good area tips with us as well.

I've mentioned before that people really go out of their way to make us feel welcome around here, we just have to get past the first few awkward moments to feel that way once in a while.


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Dear De-citified Slicker;

What you are encountering with folks int he High Plains is shortage of experience in greeting newcomers to the community.

For all of their lifetimes, since the 1930s, they have only learned to say good-bye.

The region has depopulated steadily.

it has either been watching friends and family drive away to the West Coast, Gulf Coast, Big City of Sun Belt retirement regions -- or be hauled off to the cemetary.

When they have never had a new neighbor move into your area to revitalize one of the original farmsteads -- they don't know how to go about saying hello and welcome.

That lesson has been so unneeded, it dropped out of the High Plains etiquette book.

Back in 1958 I wrote something on the order of;

"We live in the only place where you can stand in mud up to your knees and have dust blow into your eyes. Where it can be 75-85 degrees at 3 p.m. of a March afternoon, and 15 degrees below zero at 3 a.m. -- 100 degree change in 12 hours.

"The main thing that makes it a great place to live is the people. They are the best."

Ask the folks at the Gazette to pull out the files on the March "norther" of '58.

The city, county and state street and road crews were nearly helpless.

All their snow equipment had gone into sheds and storage yards at the foot of the northside bluffs along the Republican -- The snow fell and drifted all the way from the Canada to cover those equipment sheds and yards.

The crews had to hand dig their equipment from the drifts.

Ike Isaacson at Stratton Drugs provided almost the only communications from Hitchcock County via his ham radio gear to Denver and Omaha.

I got around McCook for most of the week on skis. And no one was laughing.

Wauneta with its publicly owned power plant was about the only community with full electrical service.

[By the way, do they still have their incredible Christmas Light display?

-- Posted by bigsurmac on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 3:10 AM

Thanks for the great insight and tidbit of Nebraska history. I hope someone will answer your question about the Christmas light display at Wauneta.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Tue, Jan 22, 2008, at 8:02 AM


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