Autobiography 2: O’Neil

In my last post I described how my parents came to be in O’Neil Nebraska. I realized later that I had not described the town itself.  I never actually lived there myself, but I did spend a lot of time there. My family make the drive from Omaha two or three times a year to visit Grandma B (I’ll attempt to describe her in the next post), and while we were there we would not only visit Grandma, but also visit a lot of my parents friends and relatives from their time in O’Neil.

I’ll start with the boring facts of the town. O’Neil Nebraska, the county seat of Holt County, is a town of  of 3700 people according to the 2000 Census. Those people make up just over 970 families. This is a SMALL town. I mean there are apartment complexes here Memphis that have larger populations.

O’Neil was founded by John O’Neil in the late 1870’s, and is the official Irish Capital of Nebraska. To this day they still have a large Saint Patrick’s Day parade and celebration. The town is located near the eastern limits of what could be described as “North Central Nebraska”‘; roughly four hours drive from Omaha.

This is a town dedicated to agriculture, all the businesses in town are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the agricultural economy.  It is a small, small town, geographically. It is possible, literally to walk from one end of it to the other in a short period of time. Most of the businesses are located on one main street. There is a public highschool and a Catholic high school .  Several small protestant churches, a large Catholic church, a  small hospital,  and the County Court House, and a couple of pubs, and that’s about it.

The most important thing to remember when describing O’Neil is that it is a small town of the High Prairie.  It is located in the Elkhorn River Basin and the town is flat. Very flat. To the west the Sandhills start, but those are long, low, rolling hills. It is possible to see a LONG way down the road. Unlike the the South East, the land is not naturally forested. The only natural tree growth you will find in that part of the country is along streams and rivers.  It is pretty country, but very hard to describe. I’ve been in the south for …..well a lot longer than I would have believed possible, and after all these years I’m still amazed by how claustrophobic I find the land to be. The heavily forested land and frequent hills  of Mississippi, Tennesee , Alabama and Arkansas bring the horizon in way to close. To close for me, anyway. I like to be able to see the sky.

Next time I’ll attempt to describe Grandma Butterfield. What an amazing woman.