The idea for Little Brown Box tours just came to Pat Coldiron of Seward.
Coldiron, proprietor of Liberty House Bed and Breakfast, Antiques and Gifts, has spent hours researching the history of Seward County. She’s worked with the Nebraska Department of Tourism and the Seward County Visitors Committee.
With the pandemic, she said, large groups can’t get together currently. These tours give families an opportunity to reconnect with each other.
“It gives you a moment to stop and smell the goldenrod,” Coldiron said with a laugh. “Or the wild roses.”
About 20 years ago, she discovered Ridge Road, which runs through the Bohemian Alps north of Garland. She created a map and encouraged people to explore the area themselves.
Two years ago, she said, she was parked along Ridge Road when she got a phone call from a friend in France. The friend was raving about the beautiful countryside she was looking at.
Coldiron had her own view.
“It was golden. Everything was green and verdant,” she said. “There’s no comparison.”
The boxes, which are approximately 12 inches by eight inches by two inches, contain everything you need for your drive, she said.
Brochures from Nebraska Game and Parks provide information on the flora and fauna (plants and animals) visitors may come across. Cornell University contributed a bird watching list. A bingo card gives kids something to do in the back seat, Coldiron said.
Local businesses donated items like koozies, corks and journals, all of which fit in the box.
While places like the Greenhorn Limestone Quarry don’t exist any more, the limestone strata is still there. Coldiron said fossilized parts of a plesiosaur were discovered in the limestone.
“It’s amazing when you open your eyes and listen,” Coldiron said.
The Little Brown Box Tours are part of Tall Grass Prairie Tours, which Coldiron also operates. Her YouTube channel, Tall Grass Prairie Stories, includes interviews with Virginia Cattle, Jack and Glennie Duensing, Tony and Elaine Vrana, Marvin and Marilyn Schultz and Al Sheehan. Coldiron also has audio interviews with Jane Graff, Willard Kilzer, Ted Kooser and Bill Hartmann, all talking about the history of Seward County.
Coldiron is working on a couple more brown box tours. One will feature the county’s cemeteries, legends and ghost stories. Another will focus on the seven historical markers found in Seward County.
She said a tour could take two to three hours, and, especially along Ridge Road, she encouraged visitors to stop.
“Take a moment, be still and listen,” she said.
You don’t even have to plan ahead. If you decide on the spur of the moment to take a tour, just call or text Coldiron at (402) 643-2555 to make arrangements to get a box.
The tour will provide a reality check, and it’s not virtual reality, Coldiron said.
“We don’t have oceans. We don’t have mountains,” Coldiron said. “But we have a story, and it’s epic.”