Jack's Insights: Traveling and lessons learned

 Jack Whittier, director UNL Panhandle Extension District and Panhandle Research and Extension Center

In the early 1990s I had the opportunity to visit England with my parents and visit the village where my great-great-grandfather, Eli Whitear, (the spelling was changed to Whittier by subsequent generations) was born and raised prior to immigrating to the United States and on to Utah, where I was born and raised.

Since I was travelling on a different itinerary than Mother and Dad, I had a day following their departure to visit a few places in London before I flew back home. One of the places I frankly “stumbled onto” was the Churchill War Rooms. The current website for this place describes what I found: “Discover the secrets hidden beneath the streets of Westminster in the underground nerve centre where Winston Churchill and his inner circle directed the Second World War.” 

My visit was both amazing and instructive. I rented headphones and took the self-guided audio tour of these war rooms. One of the things I particularly remember about my visit was a quote from Churchill which illustrated his tenacity and the expectation he had for those serving with him. The quote was, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Churchill’s tenacity was a major factor in the outcome of WWII, and I thank him for that.

My experience in the war rooms came to my mind this week with continued news and updates of the determination of so many to get water flowing once again in the Gering-Fort Laramie irrigation canal. As I write this column on Thursday, Aug. 29, water is in fact flowing down the canal once again. It was turned on this morning at 6:00 a.m. and is now winding its way through the elaborate and brilliant system of diversions, head gates, and ditches to attempt to rescue the crops impacted by the catastrophe of the tunnel collapse in mid-July.

The tenacity of the contractor, the neighboring irrigation districts, their directors and boards of directors, the policy makers at local, state and federal levels, and many others, to “never, never, never, never give in” has been a model for me and probably for many of you as well. We are fortunate to live in a region and among a group of people where resiliency is evident at every turn. I have also admired the tenacity and efforts by personnel who work at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center who have rallied in support of this situation.

I also remembered the words of the early writers who spoke of “faith to move mountains” as I saw pictures in the news and online of the tremendous earth work taking place above the tunnel collapse.  Moving a mountain literally took place to allow reinforcement boxes to be placed over the break in the tunnel structure to provide adequate safety for the workers to finish the job and never, never give in until water would flow again.

I had the opportunity to sit on a bench atop the Scotts Bluff National Monument Wednesday and look over the valley, which stretches for miles both east and west from that vantage point. I had gone there for some needed private time to ponder and reflect on a few things that were troubling me. As I sat there looking at the valley where great-great-grandfather Eli Whitear traveled through on his journey, I reflected on the resilience and tenacity of those who reside in the North Platte Valley today. I also reflected on my own current journey and role in this valley. Churchill’s words were also on my mind, for which I am grateful. I gained insight from the canal tunnel collapse and reflections on those who have gone before to “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty.”

I hope my insight may be helpful to those who have and will suffer going forward. Whether that suffering results from farming and irrigation, from hail damage to your home or car, or from any other “great or small, large or petty” events that have and will happen. Have a good month!  

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