The Nebraska Project Continues / by Bill Frakes

From the only in Nebraska department. On our way to Gibbon Sunday night we stopped for coffee. I was paying when I heard Laura exclaim. “Katie Morrow!!!”

I figured she was getting a call from the lovely Katie, but when I turned – carefully so as to not spill the coffee – there in the doorway was Katie her own self.

Right behind Katie was Kevin, resplendent in one of our Nebraska Project T-shirts.

They were headed home to O’Neill from Seward, a distance of about 4 hours.

I know it’s rural out here, and while I realize there aren’t that many coffee shops, there are a few, and so this was a very chance meeting.

K&K are a force. One of them always has the answer for my esoteric Nebraska centric requests. So when I mentioned off hand last summer I needed a song about small town life in the state Kevin looked up from the delicious bbq we were consuming and said “I’ll bet Rachel could do it.”

Two phone calls later a grass covered, well-tanned young woman showed up at the Morrows from cutting the lawn at a town park and well, we knew instantly Rachel Price was perfect.

We soon shot a music video in a meadow outside O’Neill that Kevin arranged for us to use.

That video went viral immediately.

Rachel composed and performed the song.

Back to the coffee shop encounter. Katie casually mentioned Rachel was in Nebraska on part two of her current tour, only 175 miles distant.

After a quick online chat with Rachel—I love technology—we secured tickets to the show, to see her perform l at the Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk, NE.

We started at our usual time of 430 am, spent 4 hours on the Platte, photographing the crane migration.


I spoke at the Grand Island Rotary club, especially fun because in the crowd of 300 was my aunt Elsie who just celebrated her 70th wedding anniversary with my uncle Allen.  She waited until after the speech to ask me the tough questions, fortunately.

The crowd was great, these are my people and I owe them a lot collectively.

After I finished I was talking with a group of folks one of the ladies took my hand and said I remember you when you were that 8-year-old boy you mentioned in your talk.

Sure enough she had been a neighbor and had taught with my mom. That was about 50 years ago, and I remembered her as taller—then again maybe that’s because when I met her I wasn’t yet five feet tall and now I’m 6’4. Funny how that works.

Laura finally pulled me away, I’ll talk with Nebraskans all day long.  And we headed out.

It was a very pleasant drive north, farmers prepping their fields, that annual renewal of turning the frozen earth into bountiful fields bringing food to the world.  When you grow up in a farm community there is a special symmetry to this part of the year, a resignation that things are about to get really tough physically and very rewarding spiritually, knowing the importance of how the process works. We rolled up to the BCFP—where I sadly learned there were no t-shirts available to commemorate our visit. Seriously, how can the name of the place be so awesome and…….well, I digress.

So we’re sitting at Rachel Price’s most excellent concert tonight —the woman can not only sing but she is a fine writer—and halfway through Rachel’s show her father Chuck leans across the table and said “Hey Katie Morrow, did I hear you on NPR today?”

She quietly said, “Yes, you did”

Small town Nebraska. How can you not love it?

Then yesterday we learned that the NPPA had chosen the Nebraska Project has the Second Place winner in Documentary Multimedia Package. We are honored and owe the success of the project to the people of Nebraska, and look forward to continuing the Nebraska Project this year and next.