The country's best popcorn

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big hurricane Isaac is nearing the Gulf Coast as I write. Reminds me of the early sixties when we were stationed on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Cape of course juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and on occasion catches a hurricane arching up the east coast.

Several times I was called to the Squadron to crew a KC-97 on a hurricane evacuation mission. Watching the news, one notes that the military has flown all the aircraft possible away from the projected path of the hurricane. It is a best guess where the hurricane is going to coast in and how strong it is going to be, so prudence dictates flying the aircraft away before the storm hits. Go too early and the storm misses your base, the commander has wasted time and money, but wait too late and the weather gets really terrible, the commander has endangered his aircraft and crews.

One time we waited a bit too long as night came and we launched into gusty hard driving rain. The storm was getting too close. All our aircraft that could fly made it off just fine and we flew to Syracuse, New York for safety. Then it was party time for the crews until the storm passed and we could return to base in sunshine. We flight crews considered it great adventure and were glad for the break in our regular routines.

Not so our wives with families who stayed behind to endure the wind and heavy rain. As I remember that storm brought seven inches of rain in a short time. Our house on Otis AFB was built on a low sandy hill and the rain all drained away with no flooding at all. Ann's attitude, and I am sure many of the other left behind wives, was rather bitter having to face the storm alone with no husband. An option to drive 100 miles inland with two young children in our Volkswagen bug didn't hold much appeal either. To this day she considers the whole thing unfair and still gets mad just thinking about it. Women!

During my years operating the family farm, a specialty crop that I produced alongside the usual field corn and soybeans was yellow popcorn. The premium paid at market at the time was well worth the reduced yield in bushels and the need to deliver to market in either Gothenburg or Imperial.

During that time Ann became aware that the community of North Loop, Nebraska held an annual "Popcorn Festival" celebration and has long expressed a desire to attend. Last week the stars aligned, the calendar was clear so we finally checked off another event on GrannieAnnie's bucket list. The drive across central Nebraska was enjoyable on a surprisingly cool overcast day. The "North Loop Popcorn Festival" met our every expectation.

North Loop is a town of 325 residents, down from an early thirties max of some 600. Typically white haired seniors seemed the majority. The village is located on the edge of the Sandhills not surprisingly on the banks of the North Loop River. This was the 111th anniversary of the festival and one of the organizers proudly informed that it is the longest continuous community celebration in Nebraska. Obviously popcorn, locally grown, is the centerpiece of the festival. Bags of the good stuff, even better than in the theatre, were handed out at the fire station, all you can eat and it is all free.

Mr. Wayne Sheldon, about my age and one of the long time festival organizers explained the event schedule as we purchased raffle tickets (oops, "donation" tickets). Wayne's daughter. Carrie, herself a festival mover and shaker. noted that we hailed from McCook asked "Do you know Greg Larson?" "Sure do, worked with him, past school board member, youth sports booster, all round good guy," my reply.

Main Street was blocked off and a carnival set up. The fire hall held a quilt show, other crafts on display, garden vegetables with a "big zucchini" contest plus a booth selling raw North Loop Popcorn by the pound or 50 pound bags. Volunteers were busy and visitors having a good time. There was more. The team penning contest was in full swing with as many fancy horse trailers parked around the grounds as were at the Fairgrounds in McCook this weekend. Other scheduled events included a beer garden and street dance, talent contest, tractor pull and more but best of all was the High School booster club's food stand. Sour cream raisin pie to die for! Great food and small town fun at its best. Good people at play in a wholesome atmosphere of cooperation so typical of small town celebrations. Everyone welcome!

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail

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