The McBride family celebrate their rural heritage
They return now and then to the Shady Nook Ranch where they spent their youth. The children of Ollie McBride, (there were eight of them and now there are only seven), remember well their lives northwest of Brewster, Neb., in Blaine County – Nebraska’s German Valley.
Their mom died when they were very young and the “dirty thirties” didn’t always have good memories. Drought and depression made for hard work and they learned how to work long and hard days at a young age.
Mort bought the land from his siblings when their dad died and often when it is his turn to host the family reunion that is his choice of locale. Campfires, sing-a-longs, and even a wagon ride have entertained and helped bring the youngest generations back to the place of their roots.
The trees that they planted for their 4-H projects have grown and provide cover for deer, turkey and the occasional bald eagle. The meadow, though sometimes marshy, and the hills provide grass for longtime neighbor-renter Harry Johnston’s cattle.
No one has lived on the place since the 1950s and the house and garage with the inset marbles depicting the O/H brand are falling down; victims of the many violent storms that roll across the plains. The yard fence and flowers that their mom so enjoyed are now merely memories, as are the sounds of her singing and playing the piano.
Mort still has the old wind charger that provided electricity and the old 1937 John Deere “H” tractor that replaced the teams of horses they used to harvest the hay in the fall. The cistern at the top of the hill is gone, but the milk house below where the cool water kept their milk, butter and other supplies cold is still standing as a reminder to the young ones of how people can do without some of the things we have come to think of as necessities.
The unwelcome sound of a passing jet brings to mind the silence that would have been unbroken “back then.”
This old place has been a part of our family for 108 years, and though the descendents of Malissa McBride, the original homesteader and defender of these 720 acres, have spread out across our country, some of the work ethics and memories of what life was like in the Sandhills go with us in our daily lives. May good work ethics forever be a part of what keeps this country free and strong.