"Children Barefoot in January," the headline read. No, it's not a news account of l990's mild
weather (at least so far). This tale of an unusually mellow winter, and its surprising
economic results, comes from "way back in '67" --l867, that is.
"'The weather we are having. . .' said Dr. L. J. Abbott, one of the oldest inhabitants of this
part of Nebraska, 'reminds me of the fall and winter of eighteen sixty-seven. That season was
a remarkable one. There was no snow to speak of until March, and all winter, the weather
was warm and comfortable. I remember seeing children playing barefooted in a sand-ridge
on Christmas day.'
"'In those days there was a lawyer living in Fremont who was of a speculative turn of mind,
and he took a contract in the fall to furnish the Union Pacific company a thousand cords of
wood. He didn't have any money, but he bought some timber land over across the Elkhorn on
time, and started a store here, buying the goods in Omaha on credit, and paid the
woodchoppers in goods out of the store.'
"'In ordinary seasons his scheme would have worked, but the winter of l867-68 was against
him. There was no bridge across the Elkhorn and his intention was to cross the river on the
ice. But the Elkhorn didn't freeze over solid enough to cross teams, and when he finally
managed to make a crossing over the river the early spring rains had come and the low
bottoms east of town became simply impassable.'
"'His cordwood was on the other side of the Elkhorn, the $4 or $5 a cord he was to get for it
was in the hands of the railroad company, and the inability of the lawyer to make the two
connect caused his financial ruin. He soon afterward left this part of the country.'"