My father wasn’t much of an outdoorsman. Instead of hunting, he liked to take long drives across my home state of South Dakota, passing many an I-90 billboard painted with images of pheasants, fish and white tailed deer. We’d crisscross our way back home taking country roads, and he’d point to fields of beans, corn, wheat and prairie grasses with repeated admiration, Isn’t that the most beautiful sight?
Now, living 120 miles south of the Mount Rushmore State, I find myself echoing a similar admiration for Nebraska’s landscape. The Cornhusker State is, indeed, a beautiful sight – especially in the fall. I am warmed by its rich gold hues, layered between sapphire streams and azure skies and textured by trees, transmission lines, and small town water towers. Other locations have their appeal, but there is something special about Nebraska.
Initially a teacher, I didn’t see much of the state until I started working for the Nebraska Public Power District. As a communicator for the utility, I was assigned to write stories about our employees and what they did to serve customers. I met the water and canal specialist from North Platte who worked off the clock as a deputy sheriff; the coal handler from Sheldon Station who could craft a sophisticated lazy Susan out of a piece of oak; and the district manager from Ogallala who refused to let breast cancer win.
Now, you may say, What’s so special about them? Others do the same.
That is true, but that’s also the point. The employees who work for NPPD are just like the people they serve. They are Nebraskans serving Nebraskans. They love their jobs and they love this state. And they enjoy being part of something bigger than themselves. Making electricity, reading meters, and restoring service when a storm blows through may not sound very exciting, but it’s what we do and we know why we do it.
Making electricity, reading meters, and restoring service when a storm blows through may not sound very exciting, but it’s what we do and we know why we do it.
Nebraska’s public power system was created because private companies were too exclusive in their investments, and our state legislators believed rural areas needed electricity just as much as cities. The transmission lines you see stretching across thousands of miles symbolize everyone depends upon electricity; and you will often note other lines nearby to ensure if one malfunctions, another power line can still deliver.
The state’s economy survives on thousands of miles of conductor, strung by utility line crews whose goal it is to ensure everyone has electricity whenever they need it.
Manufacturing plants and industrial facilities employ thousands of Nebraskans. Distribution lines deliver electricity to convenience stores, churches and restaurants. Farmers run electric pivots to grow corn. Schools and homes are filled with light for children to read, play, and grow. And there are hundreds of cell phones recharging at electrical outlets this very moment.
Electricity should always be there when you need it, and though there are times when Mother Nature takes it away, NPPD employees work hard to get it back.
A lineman once told me the satisfaction he had when responding to an outage one cold, winter night. He had left his home and drove out to a substation on a hill in order to manually switch a breaker and restore service to an entire community without power.
He couldn’t see anything, he said. The town was completely dark, nestled in the valley below him. But, when he switched the breaker, the lights in the homes and businesses appeared like stars, stars in a valley. He was so proud to have helped the community that way. The image left a powerful impression.
And I have a feeling he said to himself, Isn’t that the most beautiful sight?