Pumpkin pie never smelled so goodI rode the bus halfway home from Omaha for Thanksgiving the first year I was out of the house and away at college. The bus depot in Omaha wasn’t far from the Creighton University campus, but in the middle of the night it was a long walk for a skinny farm kid carrying a suitcase. The depot was pretty close to what was downtown Omaha back in 1962, but there weren’t many folks moving on the shadowed streets.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I rode the bus halfway home from Omaha for Thanksgiving the first year I was out of the house and away at college.
The bus depot in Omaha wasn’t far from the Creighton University campus, but in the middle of the night it was a long walk for a skinny farm kid carrying a suitcase. The depot was pretty close to what was downtown Omaha back in 1962, but there weren’t many folks moving on the shadowed streets.
The bus from the south arrived at some unbelievably early hour. Afraid to be left behind, I arrived about 60 minutes before that unbelievably early hour. I’d spent a couple of days imagining me standing alone in the middle of that bus depot, having just heard the ticket agent tell me that the Greyhound bus I had a ticket for was gone, somewhere up around River Sioux, Iowa, on its way toward Sioux City and the South Dakota border.
I had made one quick trip home already since hitting the campus in late August, but that was just to hunt pheasants. This was a real college homecoming, you know? I mean, going home for a big family holiday wasn’t at all the same as buzzing in for a day of hunting and hurrying back to campus early Sunday morning because that’s when the ride was heading that way.
I knew the road from Sioux Falls to Omaha wound its way through several small towns, but until I took the bus from Omaha north, I had no idea there were THAT many little burgs scattered along the Nebraska-Iowa border. The interstate system was just being built, so much of the trip was on a two-lane highway, often one of those really old-fashioned roads with a concrete curb at the shoulder-side of each lane.
The ride was bearable in part because a Wessington Springs kid named Gary Schwartz was on the same bus. We’d competed in basketball and hung around some in track, and he was heading home from Kansas State, I think it was, where he was a weight thrower on the track and field team. We talked all the way to Sioux Falls, where my dad picked me up for the trip west to Chamberlain.
(Once in a while I think Schwartz and I rode the bus for Christmas vacation. That isn’t so, though. It was Thanksgiving. I caught a ride with some friends of my folks at Christmas, and one of them sat on my new fedora all the way to Chamberlain. It was such a snazzy little hat, very much the style for a college freshman trying to look like an adult. I believe I bought it at the Brandeis store. It never fit quite the same after that ride.)
I don’t remember much about the drive from Sioux Falls to Chamberlain. I grew impatient after Mitchell, cruising along Highway 16, with its familiar turns and straights. I knew how long it should take to get between each set of towns, and how much trip was left after the big corner at Mount Vernon and after the cemetery at Kimball and when we rounded the curve by the gas station at Pukwana. The downhill drive from the truck stop south of the drive-in theater into town may have been the longest couple of miles of my life.
We pulled up at the curb in front of our house, and I could see my mom through the kitchen windows above the double sink. I got out of the car and waited for my dad to join me on the strip of grass where we never did get around to finishing the sidewalk out to the curb. I didn’t want to appear over-eager to be home. I was a college man.
When I stepped through the porch door and smelled the rich, spicy aroma of pumpkin pie, I almost broke down and bawled. Nothing in my 18 years of living had ever smelled so much like being home. My mom wiped shortening from her hands and blew a strand of flour-coated hair off her forehead. She had tears in her eyes, and so did I. There was nothing to say except, “What’s cooking?”