Saint Edward, Nebraska, is the only town in the United States by that name and the town‘s populous is proud to tell everyone this fact. We have camped in Saint Edward several times. There is a lovely, small city park just off the main street (Beaver Street) in town, from which you can walk to all the facilities in town. As in previous visits, we arrived on a Saturday afternoon. And just like a previous visit, we arrived in the middle of a large town wedding. The community hall was all decked out for the wedding reception. As we walked along Beaver Street, we were invited to attend the reception just as we were the first time that we visited. We became members of the “bride’s party.” We were also invited to partake in a Midwestern tradition that requires the bridesmaids to kidnap the groom and the groomsmen to kidnap the bride and to try to keep them hidden from each other after the reception.
I don’t know where the bride was kept, but we made sure that the groom was not able to find her for several hours. On the corner of Beaver Street and Second Street is a saddle and boot shop. The shop has been owned and operated by the same family for four generations. I always wondered how saddles were made, so I spent a couple of afternoons watching how leather was worked in the shop. All the sewing machines that were used in the shop were run by treadles. I was told that it was easier to control a treadle machine. Most of the machines were very old. Some of them were the original machines that the current owner’s great-grandfather bought when he started the business in the 1880s. One was made in 1883. The owner said that he had to make his own repair parts. He oiled and greased the machines each time that he used them. He said that oil was cheaper than trying to make or get a repair part.
It was interesting to see that the shop was also an informal meeting place for the farmers in the area. When they brought in a bridle or harness to be repaired they stayed and talked about the news of the town. Town’s people constantly paraded into the shop; stopped and talked; shared a Coke or cigarette; and then left to continue their daily activities, all without interfering with the on-going work on the saddle or other leather article being worked on. There was the proverbial wood stove in the middle of the shop area and several stools and benches set around the area. Even though the horse is no longer the prime moving power on the farms, it still plays a role on the farm and the shop has a constant source of business repairing harnesses and bridles and making other leather goods. Working leather is very difficult. It can take a week just to make the wooden form for a saddle. The leather engraving and embossing can take several weeks to months to complete. Everything about the saddle is custom made to the customer’s requirements. Like most small towns that we visit when people heard that there were “strangers” in town an almost continuous parade of people just happen to stop by the trailer to talk. A basket filled with vegetables was left at our door with a note saying “hope that you enjoy these.”
The town librarian mentioned that a particular medicine that she was taking was very expensive. I mentioned that we’ve bought medicine in Mexico at reduced prices and that maybe other Escapees might know more about the medicine that she was using. We left a question on the Escapees web page and two days later she received an answer. When we were leaving she said that she was thinking about taking a trip south to see about her medicine. After a rainy day the town maintenance people came by and dumped some gravel in front of the trailer so that I wouldn’t get stuck when I pulled out the next day. We are constantly amazed how every town that we visit is always so proud of itself. It seems that no matter what it’s economic future might be the local townspeople are always coming up with reasons why their town is the best place to live and bring up a family.