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.
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.
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.
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.