Sitzmedia: Bill Bryson Nebraska Excerpt

Hi everyone, we’re back with another Bill Bryson quote from The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America …although these quotes can probably be more properly termed “excerpts,” instead of just mere quotes.

Frankly, I’m not sure if this is OK to do. I’ve tried doing a bit of internet research, and I can’t figure out how much of a book or magazine I can excerpt and still be legit. If anyone knows, please feel free to tell me. And if you’re Bill Bryson and you don’t want me putting up so much of your book on my crappy site, feel free to tell me that, too.

In any case, today’s excerpt is about Nebraska. Personally, I really can’t say enough bad things about Nebraska. I know that this is a sticking point with some of my friends, since many of them have relatives who were unlucky enough to be left behind in Nebraska when their families migrated west towards a more promising future in Colorado. And I definitely hate Nebraska’s football team. This is for two reasons: 1) I hate Nebraska and, 2) I hate football teams in general.

As an extra aside, this rabid dislike of Nebraska came to an interesting head when I went to the University of Colorado, because my university’s team routinely played in games against Nebraska. But, you see, I also hated Colorado’s team (see Reason 2 above). This meant that I had to strike a delicate balance and occasionally root for the home team, if only to blow those corn-husking bastards out of the water.

I’ve probably introduced this quote enough, so I’ll let Bryson take over from here:

(From The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, page 207-208):

“I was headed for Nebraska. Now there’s a sentence you don’t want to have to say too often if you can possibly help it. Nebraska must be the most unexciting of all the states. Compared with it, Iowa is paradise. Iowa at least is fertile and green and has a hill. Nebraska is like a 75,000-square-mile bare patch. In the middle of the state is a river called the Platte, which at some times of the year is two or three miles wide. It looks impressive until you realize that it is only about four inches deep. You could cross it in a wheelchair. On a landscape without any contours of depressions to shape it, the Platte just lies there, like a drink spilled across a tabletop. It is the most exciting thing in the state.

“When I was growing up, I used to wonder how Nebraska came to be lived in. I mean to say, the original settlers, creaking across America in their covered wagons, had to have passed through Iowa, which is green and fertile and has, as I say, a hill, but stopped short of Colorado, which is green and fertile and has a mountain range, and settled instead for a place that is flat and brown and full of stubble and prairie dogs. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Do you know what the original settlers made their houses of? Dried mud. And do you know what happened to all those mud houses when the rainy season came every year? That’s correct, they slid straight into the Platte River.

“For a long time I couldn’t decide whether the original settlers in Nebraska were insane or just stupid, and then I saw a stadium full of University of Nebraska football fans in action on a Saturday and realized that they must have been both. I may be a decade or so out of touch here but when I left America, the University of Nebraska didn’t so much play football as in engage in weekly ritual slaughters. They were always racking up scores of 58-3 against hapless opponents. Most schools, when they get a decent lead, will send in a squad of skinny freshmen in unsoiled uniforms to let them run around a bit and get dirty and, above all, to give the losers a sporting chance to make the score respectable. It’s called fair play.

“Not Nebraska. The University of Nebraska would send in flamethrowers if it were allowed. Watching Nebraska play football every week was like watching hyenas tearing open a gazelle. It was unseemly. It was unsporting. And of course the fans could never get enough of it. To sit among them with the score 66-0 and watch them bray for more blood is a distinctly unnerving experience, particularly when you consider that a lot of these people must work at the Strategic Air Command in Omaha. If Iowa State ever upset Nebraska, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they nuked Ames.”

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5 thoughts on “Sitzmedia: Bill Bryson Nebraska Excerpt

  1. Nebraska sucks. You know the joke, right? If you don’t, I’m sure Sitz knows. I wholeheartedly believe this is true. I reason I hate Nebraska is because most of my relatives live in Wisconsin. This doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, we have never decided to take an airplane to visit these nice people, and with I-80 being the quickest way by auto to the state formally known as the Cheese State (now California), I was the lucky boy who won a back-seat trip in my parent’s Mercury to stare out at the lush corn fields adjacent to the highway. Nowadays, I’d rather prove the Quadratic Formula, which isn’t as bad as you’d think. Anyway, since these experiences with Nebraska, I’ve been avoiding the state altogether.

    However, and coincidentally, I had a conversation about Nebraska today with a colleague. I said, “Nebraska sucks.” He rejoined with, “You’ve just visited the wrong parts.” I then pronounced, “…whatever.” Apparently, the northern border near South Dakota is rather “butte-ful”, if you catch my meaning. My colleague told me that a small part of northern Nebraska is rather hilly or semi-hilly. Who knew?

    Well, Britney Spears’ new single “Womanizer” is pretty good, but you don’t see me rushing to Best Buy to purchase her whole collection.

    I would like to compare this to going to my 4th favorite Mexican restaurant, Tres Margaritas. I don’t order anything except the Deluxe Burrito with shredded beef. I never order anything else. Why would I when this entrée is so delightfully yummy on a consistent basis? Rather, why would I travel to Nebraska to experience this pack of hills when I know that I can just go around it? There are plenty of good states near or around Nebraska, right? Well, I’ve never been to Kansas, but I hear it sucks just as bad.

    Today’s lesson: Apparently Nebraska doesn’t suck, but Nebraska still sucks.

  2. The only experience I remember having in Nebraska was when I went there for a football camp back in high school. This was right after I had broken my tailbone, so the already long and excruciating ride was made even more so by the fact that the entire time I was sitting on a broken ass.

    I didn’t get to practice with the rest of the team, which was probably good anyways because it was constantly pushing 100 degrees, and instead I got to film the scrimmages from on top of a massive tower. This is probably how I began to like film, but it might also have been fueled by the fact that I spent most of the time videotaping the trainer’s daughter who was the best looking thing in the land.

    Then, at night we all sat around and told every extremely racist joke we knew. It was all ok though since the room was packed full of whites, blacks and hispanics, and most of the jokes we told made fun of our own race. Funny, ain’t it?

    So that’s my Nebraska experience. It’s one of those places where people say “there’s tons of things to do here… you just need to use your imagination!” And then you know you’re screwed.

    By the way, as long as you give credit to Bryson, it should be good, and you’re linking to his products so I wouldn’t see anyone complaining. We’re living in the world where nothing belongs to anyone anymore.

  3. Glad to see the repressed Nebraska hate flowing from you both. (In Emperor Palpatine voice): Good! Goooouud!

    Deuce: I’ve been to southern South Dakota (Yankton, at least), and it sucked just as much as Nebraska, if not more. Don’t believe the hype.
    ALSO! I never thought that it would be ME trying to shoot down a girlypop song that YOU like, but I don’t like Womanizer. Kinda blows. Give me my Atomic Kitten or JEM any day. Wow, how the tables have turned. Next thing we know, I’ll be giving you advice on punk albums!

    Paul: I’m disappointed to hear that you had to go to Nebraska on such a cliché mission as attending a football camp, but I’ll forgive it since you pulled an American Beauty with the coach’s daughter, instead of filming some lame plastic bag floating in the wind (and keep in mind that if there are two things Nebraska DOES have, it’s trashed plastic bags and shitloads of wind to blow them all over).

    As an aside, I’m thoroughly pleased that you two at least have left some nice, big comments. I actually feel like we ARE having a conversation, and I thank you both while encouraging you to keep it up!

    -Sitzman The Elder (But Not Dad)

  4. Deuce,
    PS, you hear correctly, Kansas is bad, too. Not AS BAD as Nebraska, though. And the Kansas depicted on Smallville is infinitely better than both states, but that’s probably cause Smallville’s filmed outside Vancouver.

  5. I can’t wait for the next SitzMedia. I had fun writing. I hope I have more to say on your next topic!

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