Tag Archives: freedom

Mayhew Cabin

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To speak in archetypal clichés—without knowing where you came from, it can be difficult to understand where you are going. Nestled just south of Omaha in Nebraska City lies a piece of history that offers a window into the American love affair with slavery, and the fight for its abolition.

Built in 1855, Mayhew Cabin was once a stop on the famous Underground Railroad. Back then the cabin may have been inconspicuous, but as you drive through what is now Nebraska City, the small cottage sticks out like a sore thumb.


Cathy Briley is the vice president of the board of directors for Mayhew Cabin. She says the relationship between slavery, racism, and present day prejudice makes Mayhew Cabin a valuable teaching tool in educating children about this segment of American history.

“Racism in all forms is wrong,” Briley says. “Slavery was abolished, so why does our museum matter? It matters because unfortunately, people of several colors still face racism today.”

MayhewCabin2Walking around the different displays and artifacts in the Mayhew welcome center, Bill Hayes could go on for hours explaining every detail regarding the rich history of the abolitionist movement. He has a master’s degree in history, and volunteering at the museum is a hobby. 

“The site (Mayhew Cabin) was privately owned from the late 1930s until 2002,” Hayes says. “What we want to do is try to focus on the history of slavery, and how you have the movement of people being opposed to it.”

Hayes says the geographical placement of Mayhew Cabin makes it a critical stop on the
Underground Railroad.

“Nebraska City was an important stopping point because across the river is Iowa, and any more south you would cross back into Missouri (a pro-slavery state).”

Walking into the cabin, the air seems inundated with mixed feelings of hope, fear, and freedom—emitted by those who sought safe harbor there. The furnishings are basic: two rocking chairs, a trunk, and a small bed in the loft upstairs. In the cellar below there is a shocking surprise. A tunnel, now accessible to the public, once led escaped slaves from the ravine 40 yards away right into the cellar itself.

Briley says the museum focuses less on the horrors of slavery, and more on the stories of those who risked their lives to aid in the freedom of slaves.

MayhewCabin4“John Kagi, our hero at the museum, sacrificed his life fighting for the freedom of others,” Briley says. “He gave so much. He was jailed, beaten, shot, hunted, and eventually killed for his involvement in the abolitionist cause.”

According to Hayes, Mayhew Cabin represents an ongoing legacy that needs to be part of American culture.

“We talk about equality, freedom, and justice,” Hayes says. “Those may not be very many letters, but those are big words. They’re big ideas, and that’s what this country has always thought of itself representing.”

Visit mayhewcabin.org for more information. Omaha Magazine


Driver’s Ed—For Both of Us

January 14, 2014 by

My life as a mother is entering a whole new level of scary.

I’ve dealt with the baby turning blue, the disappearing toddler, and the fear of football injuries. But now, I’m getting ready to deal with the really frightening part of being a parent.

My oldest is getting his driver’s license in January.

It’s not that he won’t be a good driver. I truly believe he will be very focused and conscientious behind the wheel. I have to believe that. His father and I have invested in the teen driver training offered through the National Safety Council, so I know he’s getting the very best training possible.

He’ll be in class for twenty hours and behind the wheel with a certified instructor for another five. I take comfort in believing in this highly regarded program. I believe its coaches will remember all of the important things that I might forget to teach about the rules of the road. I mean, I’ve been driving for decades, and sure, I could show him how to operate a vehicle. But I don’t remember all those rules that I could once recite verbatim. So, I trust the experts on this one.

They tell me that teens who take driver’s education are less likely to be involved in an accident or get a ticket. So, the mom in me hangs on to that too. Because unlike the courage that it took for me to drop him off at daycare the first time, or to let him ride his bike alone, or later—to allow him to walk to the mall with friends—this is different. This is life or death stuff.

While I have confidence that he will learn how to be a good driver, I’m more concerned about him being a good defensive driver. I want him to know he really needs to watch out for the other guy. Because it could be the other guy that’s the real danger.

There will be other people out there driving who maybe aren’t as focused and conscientious as I hope he will be. They might be daydreaming. Or on the phone fighting with their girlfriend. Or, Lord help me, texting. And all it takes is one fraction of a second for a mistake to take away someone who means more to me than life itself.

The National Safety Council says that in 2012, teenage drivers accounted for almost one out of every four crashes in the state—and over 10 percent of all traffic deaths. Ten percent! And only six percent of Nebraska’s drivers are teens. That’s a lot of moms, dads, and family members with devastated, broken hearts. Every time I hear of another teen killed or hurt, it breaks my heart too. I just can’t grasp the pain that family is experiencing.

But now, it’s my turn to hand over the keys to my child. He’s excited about new freedoms he sees coming his way. And his pattern of being responsible and making good choices makes me feel encouraged about the kind of driver he will become. But still, there’s that nagging concern about statistical odds and life-changing moments. I guess that’s just the next step of parenting worry.

So let’s all be careful out there. I’ll keep an eye out for your kids, if you’ll keep an eye out for mine. Thanks.


June 20, 2013 by

Curfew establishes freedom and trust. It’s one of the many building blocks to adulthood. Getting that taste of freedom is what every teenager craves. It’s a huge responsibility, but that is what makes freedom so worth it.

As for my own curfew, my parents are very laidback. They don’t have a set time for me to be home. The important thing to them is that they know where I am at all times. My parents have placed a tremendous amount of trust in me, and I would never disobey them. I enjoy having the freedom of no curfew with few exceptions, and I don’t want that privilege to be revoked.

Of course, on school nights, there is a curfew. My parents don’t want me to stay out late on a school night, unless it is for a school event. During the summer, they don’t mind me being out as long as, again, they know what I am doing at all times.

I think it’s important for teenagers to have some freedom with friends. It gives them a taste of what it would be like to live on their own. They also have to manage that responsibility of earning or building on the trust of their parents.

Curfew is important, especially for teenagers. It’s another responsibility to manage, but it’s a stepping-stone to adulthood and making bigger, independent choices in life. Having some rules set in place as the foundation and building trust is a good idea. Freedom is important to teenagers, and it prepares them for the future.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.