Nebraska Farmer Logo

Footsore farm family goes to Washington

Bow Creek Chronicles: A trip with our son to National History Day offers firsthand opportunities to learn citizenship and patriotism.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

July 5, 2024

16 Slides

My wife’s Fitbit doesn’t lie. One day we walked over 9 miles. Another day, it was 8½ miles. Over five days of walking our nation’s capital, we put on more than 40 miles — an average of 8 miles a day — and my wife tore up one pair of shoes in the process.

That is what you call a firsthand, up-close and personal look at Washington, D.C. It was the first time our son Ben, a soon-to-be eighth grader at St. Rose School in Crofton, Neb., had been to Washington. It was not the first time for my wife and me. But the last time I had walked the National Mall and stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol was nearly 20 years ago.

Ben was an alternate at the state competition of Nebraska’s National History Day contest, writing a historical research paper on the Battle of Khe Sanh in the Vietnam War. The second-place student could not go to the national competition, so Ben was in.

Trip of a lifetime

We hit as much of Washington as we possibly could in the five days we were there. Along with the actual competition for History Day, nearly 6,000 students from every state and several U.S. territories attended a cool opening ceremony at the University of Maryland campus in College Park, where they exchanged state pins with each other.

Ben and another classmate from St. Rose who participated in the individual performance category together gathered nearly every pin available and met students from around the country. During the closing ceremonies four days later, they marched with the other Nebraska state winners — around the Xfinity Center — like an Olympic closing ceremony.

Related:Close calls at calving time

In between, we traveled D.C. on Metro system trains and buses, Lyft rides and even on a cruise up the Potomac River to Mount Vernon. We saw Marine One flying overhead. We spent time searching for two Crofton Vietnam veterans, Roger Bartz and Marlow Loecker, who were killed in action and had their names engraved on the solemn Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

We gazed at the stoic seated figure of Lincoln amid the construction around the Lincoln Memorial. We marveled at the expressions on the faces of the huge soldiers at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and took a quick photo at the granite Nebraska pillar at the World War II Memorial.

What we remember

A highlight for Ben was seeing an X-wing at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and seeing the Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan and Mohammad Ali exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For my wife and I, it was seeing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, along with our walking treks to the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

Every person who goes to D.C. falls in love with something different. As a farmer, I enjoyed seeing, if only from the National Mall, the outside of the impressive USDA building. But I also made note when we passed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency building, understanding how important that structure can be to farm policy.

Perhaps the most surprising memorial we visited during our stay was one we weren’t looking for. It was the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial — the newest memorial on the National Mall — located on Independence Avenue across from the Air and Space Museum.

I had visited Ike’s presidential library, museum and boyhood home in Abilene, Kan., but this impressive national memorial honors his legacy as a soldier, as the 34th president and going back to his Plains roots as a boy in Kansas.

Next time

We didn’t get to visit everything we wanted to. We didn’t get to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, nor were we able to stop by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Island or the Holocaust Museum on this trip. We needed another day or two. But that is what makes such a trip so special. There is always something more to see and a reason to return.

For farmers, the roots of our nation in Washington — and the legacy of our leaders, our veterans and our historic events that have shaped our country — are all honored at our nation’s capital. It is an awe-inspiring adventure, whether you are traveling by plane, bus, train or even on foot.

Click through this slideshow of photos from our footsore farm family trip.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like