Red Cloud, Nebraska — Willa Cather Childhood Home

Written on December 3, 2008 at 3:19 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Wednesday: Red Cloud, Nebraska is a town just north of the Kansas border with a population just north of 1000.

It’s also the hometown of Willa Cather.

Red Cloud Nebraska -- Hometown of Willa Cather

Thanks to Christa T for the suggestion.

We pulled into Red Cloud at quarter til one, with plenty of time to spare for the 1:30 tour.  There are about seven different sites in Red Cloud on the Willa Cather tour, so we were I was pretty stoked.

Soon we realized three things:

  1. The Willa Cather Foundation was open that day in the AM but closed in the PM.
  2. Red Cloud is a town where an author’s home helps drive the economy.
  3. Everyone knew who we were within four minutes.  And I mean everyone.

We stopped in for questions, coffee, and internet at the Cather & Company Booksellers.  The owner let Susie bring Hazel inside, and was shocked that the foundation was closed.  Apparently, they usually only close for about three days each year.

We picked up a map of all the sites, but grossly overestimated the size of the town.  We drove to Willa Cather’s childhood home, approximately 2/3 of a block away.

Hazel Shakespeare and the Willa Cather Childhood Home

After peeking in the windows, we stopped in Cutter’s Cafe, the best place to eat in Red Cloud.

This time we drove approximately 1/3 of a block to get there.  On our way in, three boys in the front seat of a pickup simultaneously turned 180° to check out Susie and Hazel walking down the street.

When we walked into Cutter’s the manager said, “We were wondering when you’d mosey on in!  I was on the phone with the book store when they let your dog inside.”

The man at the bar next to her said, “And I was at the newspaper office when I saw you walk by with that dog.  I was surprised nobody came out to interview you!”  Celebrities!

We ordered the special–a feast of spaghetti and meatballs–and asked permission to tie Hazel up outside.

Hazel Says Hi at Cutters Cafe

…she has dependency issues.

In the end, I didn’t really mind missing out on seeing the Cather House–we had too much fun getting to know the characters around town.

But what I did miss was talking to the folks at the Willa Cather Foundation to see what it was like to have your author’s home anchor the local tourist industry.  Which, in the words of the Cather and Company Bookstore and Coffeehouse owner, was what kept her business afloat.

Topics Discussed — Toto (the band), Chicago’s Power Ballads, Other Songs on MacGyver’s iPod Shuffle, Toto (the dog)

4 Comments to Red Cloud, Nebraska — Willa Cather Childhood Home

  1. Joe says:

    Wow, when I was a kid our annual family “vacation” to North Dakota passed within 40 miles of there! I bet if they have a newspaper, you’ll be in the next edition 🙂

    That’s some boring driving, you really need old radio shows from the 1940s for that. Anyways, I’m loving this travelogue

  2. christa t says:

    This is darling. Willa Cather is my 14th favorite lesbian writer.

  3. Deb A says:

    Which of course begs the question, who are numbers 1-13?

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