CROSSING NEBRASKA'S PANHANDLE on the Lincoln Highway is a repetitive experience: passing through a series of sleepy little towns, then across fields planted with grain, only to find another small settlement ahead. And like pearls on a string, the tiny towns are similar but charming, each with its own grain elevator, storage silo, water tower, and a substantial grove of trees. (Remember those Arbor Days?) The grassy fields supported no livestock -- only the occasional tractor, railroad cars, and farming equipment.
This town-field-town recurrence was interrupted when I came to Sidney, a lively Nebraskan community of 7000, named for Union Pacific Railroad President Sidney Dillon who played a large part in building the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. In fact, he took part in the Golden Spike ceremonies and received one of the commemorative silver spikes used to complete the project.
I soon discovered the reason for Sidney's popularity. This is home to Cabela's sporting goods promoted as the "World's Foremost Sports Outfitters." I had unexpectedly stumbled on the flagship store, a travel center, and world corporate headquarters! Although unknown in California, it happens there are nearly a hundred retail outlets throughout the USA and Canada.
The Sidney store was typical of all their stores -- overwhelmingly huge, full of sports merchandise of every kind, a restaurant, and complete with a museum of trophy animal displays. A regular sportsman's paradise!
The company grew from a meager fishing ad in 1961 that read, "FREE Introductory offer! 5 hand tied Fies....25c Postage....Handling" placed in national outdoor magazines. Through direct-mail, catalogues, unlimited vision and hard work, the Cabela brothers made it a successful business. I believe that their family support and placing the customer first were two important ingredients to their success.
But why is a major sporting store located here in the middle of the Nebraska cornfields? It turns out that the Cabela family lives just a few miles away... This is where those original fishing flies were tied and marketed to the world.
Week 17, Miles 1323