Is it true, Spoon River,
That in the hall–way of the New Court House
There is a tablet of bronze
Containing the embossed faces
Of Editor Whedon and Thomas Rhodes?
And is it true that my successful labors
In the County Board, without which
Not one stone would have been placed on another,
And the contributions out of my own pocket
To build the temple, are but memories among the people,
Gradually fading away, and soon to descend
With them to this oblivion where I lie?

. . . .

Edgar Lee Master, Spoon River Anthology (1915) (E.C. Culberstson).

I am not sure, but when I die I think I want to be remembered for one thing and that is B-1, an earthen dam and a flood control and water recharge reservoir in the hills northwest of Lexington, Nebraska.* Tangentially, I participated in the building of that structure. Lawyer’s don’t get the opportunity very often to help build a structure that could last several centuries.B.1.jepg

My contribution was small.  I condemned the land where the structure was built. When the dam began to crack because the contractor erred while making the weight-bearing calculations of the soil, I represented the owner, the Central Platte Natural Resources District, in a law suit that resulted in a fix.

B-1 will outlast me. It was built to last.

When I am dust, if my children or their children or their children’s children venture into the hills above the Platte Valley and find a spot at 40°55’00.1″N 99°51’41.4″W perhaps they will remember me. If nothing else, they should stand atop the large earthen dam and, if a drought is not present, they should gauze at the wind rippled waters that back up behind the huge earthen wall. They should luxuriate in the solitude.


I hope one of them utters, “not bad.”


*At the time, the earthen dam itself was the largest of its kind in Nebraska.

8 responses

  1. I take full credit for the Walnut Creek Reservoir in Sarpy County. As a Papio-Missouri River NRD Director I had to vote “aye” twice for the project. The second vote was after the election and if I would have changed my vote, the project would have been dead in the water.

    A lawyer for an opponent said the lake was going to be so small that it would be a “mud puddle” when finished. Since I had enjoyed many “real” lakes in MN over the years I agreed with him. But that wasn’t the standard nor the benefit to the public.

    My son ran cross country races at the park and my nephew was in a band concert there too. A high school classmate performed there as a Frank Sinatra impersonator. He was great!

    No lie.

  2. Cornhead,

    Good for you! For my money, the Nebraska NRDs are one of the best functioning governmental entities around. All the best.


  3. In old age on being asked what he had accomplished on the bench he replied that he had shoveled smoke, you will not be able to use that line since you have dam building. Masters was Darrow’s partner and brief writer, a most apt poetic choice.rof

  4. Judge:
    Yours truly has a simpler hope for an epitaph: if I have helped just one child while I was a lawyer then I will not have lived in vain.

  5. That was my dad’s approach to lawyering, as law prof I can only hope mine says he did not teach much that had to be untaught.

  6. Robert,

    Yours is so much better than mine on just about every level. But vanity has always been just under the surface with me, although I try to hide it.

    All the best.


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