In the heart of Nebraska, the sun shines brightly on the glorious days of fall. In the early days of football season, Saturday mornings are full of enthusiasm as men, women and children don their Husker work shirts and go about their daily business of putting up hay, and checking pastures, irrigating the corn and prepping for the harvest season. As September rolls into October, the Saturday mornings become crisper and colder, but the enthusiasm never wanes. Combines and tractors roll through the fields, blaring Husker Football on the radio. Families work their cattle, with an old AM/FM radio nearby. Late dinners and suppers are eaten off paper plates in front of the TV’s, boots and work gloves piled by the door. The work goes on for the Husker Nation, but the din of the events in Lincoln never far away.

Such is the life I grew up enjoying. My ranching family had no money to attend Husker games. Maybe once every few years mom and dad would save their hard earned pennies to go to Lincoln for a “date” in between the exhausting labor of fall. We kids never experienced the wonder of memorial stadium in person until our teen years. We all had a Husker shirt. We all listened to the radio on game day, or ate our popcorn in front of the TV when the games were televised. We won lots of games. We lost lots of games. We all read the books by Tom Osborne. We didn’t read statistics or memorize depth charts. We never criticized players or referees in the day after. We just bled Husker Red.

For some, football is a “religion” or an “obsession.” But not for most. For most, Husker Football (or any Husker sport) is part of our culture. A culture that brings smiles to the faces of those who enjoy it, a piece of conversation that unites any strangers, and a host of dates on calendars that mean good food, good laughs and the gathering of family and friends in a shared fellowship that brings people close together, if only for a couple of hours.

Husker flags fly across the heartland. Old timers climb off their horses or out of their tractors wearing their red with pride. They perk up when someone throws a great pass or runs in for the TD. They walk a little faster when the tunnel walk is played, and they all stop to tell you the stories of the “greats” in history. The warm feeling that is Husker Nation can never be summarized in words or pictures. It is a feeling deep inside, one that never goes away…regardless of the final season record.

In college, I joined the ranks of Air Force ROTC and got to see Husker Football from another perspective. That of an usher who helped the folks in east stadium find their seats, that helped lost children find their mothers, and that joined with other cadets to clean the stadium on Sunday mornings. The most games I have ever attended in person, were as a “working” person, and I was so relieved to discover that Husker Nation bled the same red on the inside of the stadium as in greater Nebraska. Maybe some of that has changed in the years since, and maybe it hasn’t. For this girl, and the family of mine, it will never change.

Our flag flies high today over the alfalfa that must come down, and the pastures that need checked. Sloppy Joes are in the crockpot for the late dinner that will come as the game starts and the sweat stained Husker shirts will be just as nice as the fancy gear worn in Lincoln. We hope to win big today, as we do every Saturday. Regardless of the outcome, tonight we will still say…

Go Big Red!


Photo credit: G. Stock via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.