Donations honor father's local legacy

Thursday, May 30, 2002
Sen. Ben Nelson, a native of McCook, donates his father's firefighter bunker gear to the Museum of the High Plains.

Memorabilia from Sen. Ben Nelson's family illustrates moments in the history of McCook and Southwest Nebraska and will now tell their stories to visitors to the Museum of the High Plains in McCook.

During a ceremony Wednesday, Sen. Nelson donated his father's bunker gear from the McCook Fire Department and his collection of light meters.

Benjamin "Ben" Nelson was a volunteer firefighter and assistant fire chief. His bunker coat, tall black leather boots and a "Fire Department" license plate will now be displayed at the museum. Sen. Nelson remembers, "I got to ride on the fire truck to fires -- in the days before liability insurance."

Sen. Nelson dedicated the donated items to McCook's firefighters, paramedics and EMTs and to members of McCook's police force -- whom Nelson called "veterans in a new sense, veterans of a different type of war," referring to the United State's war on terrorism.

"Hats off to those who protect us," Nelson said.

Sen. Nelson laughingly challenged everyone to read the obsolete light meters his father collected during his career in public power. "Reading a meter is a bigger trick than you might think," he said. And installing some of the meters was a two-man operation, he said, lifting a heavy meter from the table.

Nelson also donated his father's hard hat and pole hooks. "Dad was an expert at it (climbing poles)," Nelson said. "No noise, and no splinters."

Sen. Nelson admitted that, although shooting power pole insulators was a popular "sport" among his peers when they were young, "I didn't bag any insulators. I knew what my dad would say."

Sen. Nelson said the donated items came to light as he cleans out his family's house. "Cleaning out a home that for so many years had held so many memories," the Senator said, "is not an easy thing to do."

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