I’ve always liked Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University routine. I think it pretty much sums up my college experience, especially my two years of Spanish, and maybe you’ll also be able to relate.
I can sum up my formal education in Nebraska History in even less time. Maybe call it Three Minute Nebraska History, which, on the one hand, isn’t so hard to understand since most of this official book-learnin’ on Nebraska happened in the fourth grade. That’s pretty close to forty years ago. On the other hand, I don’t think our Nebraska Studies class was too rigorous. The highlight was making succotash of lima beans and corn.
Here’s what I know from fourth grade, and pretty much all I knew until I was much older (the three minute university): Pioneers crossed Nebraska in covered wagons. They built houses out of dirt called soddies. William Jennings Bryan (whoever he was), Dick Cavett (guy on TV) and Johnny Carson (another guy on TV) came from Nebraska. Nebraska has a different form of government called a unicameral (how or why this was different nobody knows). Oh, and those pioneers ate lima beans and corn. Every day. The photo at right is sort of my graduation photo from Nebraska studies: taken just before getting on the bus for “Pioneer Day!”
Naturally, I picked up some additional tidbits here and there (Henry Fonda also came from Nebraska), but by the time I left Nebraska for college in South Dakota, I knew that nothing ever happened there.
Now, the depth of my ignorance didn’t present itself all at once. It wasn’t like tumbling down a mine shaft one day. More like, having lived in the mine shaft all my life, I started to see dim hints of light. (Doc Middleton? Moses Kinkaid? Edward Creighton? Who were they? ) When I finally looked up and saw the blue sky so far above, I realized how much climbing there was to do.
The interesting thing about real history is that the more you climb, the more that open blue sky recedes away from you. Instead of leaping ahead and getting closer, you find yourself deliberately putting in additional layers to work through. What initially looked like a daunting climb of a few months, turns into an enjoyable occupation of years, probably decades.
What started as Three Minute Nebraska History, becomes Lifetime Nebraska History.