Once-In-A-Lifetime Spectacle

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”-30″ margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]By Patti Wilson, Contributing Editor

We all know about the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. It was the first solar eclipse visible across the entire U.S. in 99 years. Many of our readers, no doubt, were lucky enough to witness the event. My husband and I were twice as lucky, and here’s why: 1.) the direct line of totality ran across one of our pastures, one-half mile south of our house. This is a fact that I was completely unaware of until 2.) A fellow from Iowa, Jerry Grier, contacted us several months preceding the event. Grier seemed hell bent on being in our pasture during the eclipse. In addition, he wanted to bring his entire family along. Forty head. Who was this guy? After an exchange of several emails, Dick and I decided to risk the admittance of a herd of strangers onto the ranch. Lucky again, it was one of the most enjoyable decisions we ever made.

Careful planning

In the months preceding the eclipse, plans were carefully laid. Grier’s care of family members wasn’t only the physical aspect of getting them to the pasture site. He wanted them (and us) to know what was going on in the sky. We received regular emails detailing the astronomical phenomenon. He recommended YouTube videos and sent reminders of dates, times and appropriate gear. Dick and I provided a list of “rules” for all our safety. They included, among others, no smoking, no vehicles in the pasture, no sitting on a cactus plant or falling into a hole. It’s important to note that our list was long, and it was agreed upon by all before we consented to letting the group onto the property.

On Aug. 20, the day before The Big Event, Dick and I met with Grier and fellow Iowan Tom Wagner at the pasture. They set flags marking the direct center eclipse line, scoped out the pasture for badger holes, cactus and ideal lawn-chair placement. Importantly, they checked parking and safety-related issues along the adjacent road. We discussed potential problems that might arise from strangers drifting in (yes, it happened) and how to handle trespassers.

As it turned out, everyone behaved beautifully. Thirty-eight people from several states spent a sunny day lounging and romping on a hill. They were self-contained, bringing all the necessities of a picnic, including a porta potty. The children flew kites and played catch while waiting for the eclipse to begin. I had as much fun watching them as seeing the eclipse.

Near the pasture, on a gravel road, two dozen or so vehicles from nine states lined the road ditches with telescopes set to the sun. These were outsiders who showed up spontaneously. This was a new experience for us Hazard hermits; the roads for miles were jammed with cars. It’s estimated that the population of Nebraska doubled on Aug. 21. The last of the motel rooms in Kearney were reportedly priced at $900.

Who is this Grier guy?

Who is this guy with the foresight to gather a family on a hilltop in Sherman County? Jerry Grier taught commercial photography at Hawkeye Community College at Waterloo, Iowa, for 36 years. His lifelong friend, Tom Wagner, had seen total eclipses worldwide and described them so vividly that Grier added “eclipse” to his bucket list 38 years ago.

Yes, he had been working on this project for nearly 40 years, 17 of them quite seriously. His list of criteria included where to look for a site (distance from home, climate, topography), which landed on Nebraska as his ideal. He then went on a road trip in 2015, traveling the direct line of totality from St. Joe, Mo., northwest to Alliance, Neb.

The retired photographer narrowed his search results and, in 2016, he hit the road again, and found a spot (thanks to gravel roads, Google Earth and plat maps). He contacted one rancher – us. Well, we said yes.

A good family man likes to include everyone. Soon Grier turned his bucket list into a family reunion. They showed up in happy droves.

Takeaway lesson

Plan carefully and do your homework. Enjoy your successes. After traveling the country for CALF News, I have always come to the same conclusion. This country is full of good people. We found many more on Aug. 21.

The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. is April 28, 2024, traveling northeasterly from Texas to Maine.

I think Grier is making plans.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]