Crossing the Platte River into Indian country without a license

25 U.S.C. § 264 (“Any person other than an Indian of the full blood who shall attempt to reside in the Indian country . . . as a trader, or to introduce goods, or to trade therein, without such license, shall forfeit all merchandise offered for sale to the Indians or found in his possession, and shall moreover be liable to a penalty of $500 . . . .)

The South Platte River joins the North Platte River at about North Platte, Nebraska. There the two become one and the name changes to the Platte River. The name is derived from a transliteration of the name given by the Otoe people, and the translation of the name is “flat water.” Famously known for being “a mile wide at the mouth, but only six inches deep” (the saying was also used as a smear against William Jennings Bryan), the Platte is very important to me for a variety of reasons. When I die, I intend to have my ashes dumped into the Platte. But that happy event is not what I am writing about.

In the middle of the state, I practiced law in Lexington, Nebraska from 1974 to 1987. Lexington is on one side of the river (north). For some reason, every time I crossed over the bridge to go south to McCook or Elwood or Beaver City or Stockville or one of those county seat towns, I felt a twinge of anxiety. It was as if I was entering Indian country without a license. I don’t know why, but the judges, lawyers, and legal customs seemed slightly different. Not bad. Just different.

Photo credit: Jetuusp per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  The Platte River in Central Nebraska near where I used to cross the bridge at Lexington.

Photo credit: Jetuusp per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The Platte River in Central Nebraska near where I used to cross the bridge at Lexington looks like this in the fall after irrigation season.

Yesterday, I drove the sixty miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to Omaha, Nebraska to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lincoln, where I live, is south of the Platte. I had to cross the Platte as I headed north and east into Omaha. Once again, driving over the Platte evoked the same anxiety I previously experienced in Lexington. It was as if I was entering Indian country without a license. The judges, lawyers, and legal customs are slightly different. Not bad. Just different.

Photo credit: Babymestizo per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo is taken from one of the bluffs along the river and quite close to the bridge I crossed on my journey from Lincoln to Omaha.

Photo credit: Babymestizo per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo was taken from one of the bluffs along the river and quite close to the bridge I crossed on my journey from Lincoln to Omaha. It was taken in July.  In this stretch, the Platte has received additional waters from the Loops and Elkhorn rivers.

Why do I feel a twinge of anxiety when I cross the Platte from where I live to some city on the other side to pursue legal work? Why do I feel as if I am entering Indian country without a license? I don’t know why, but I do.

RGK

PS Yesterday, I stopped on the I-80 bridge which is a “big no-no.” I took the following photographs. I took one driving to Omaha. I took the other driving back to Lincoln. I have been wanting to do this for nearly 25 years. I am not sure why the spirit moved me yesterday.

RGK's photo (May 14, 2014).  The Platte river looking south and east from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.

RGK’s photo (May 14, 2014 at about 11:00 A.M.). The subject and perspective is the Platte River looking south and east from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. The elevation is roughly 20 feet above the river surface.

RGK's photo (May 14, 2014).  The Platte river looking north and west from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraksa.

RGK’s photo (May 14, 2014 at about 3:00 P.M.). The subject and perspective is the Platte River looking north and west from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. The elevation is roughly 20 feet above the river surface.

6 responses

  1. Why do I feel a twinge of anxiety when I cross the Platte from where I live to some city on the other side to pursue legal work? Why do I feel as if I am entering Indian country without a license?

    Rivers, railroad tracks. They’re all the same.

    Eric Hines

  2. E,

    You can’t drown on (in) a railroad track. On second thought, most of the time, you can’t drown in the Platte either.

    All the best.

    RGK

  3. As someone who grew up in Indiana and has spent time close to the Ohio River, I really appreciated these river photos. Hope you are a good swimmer, because it looks like that river is pretty close to you. Glad you let the spirit move you to take these photos!

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