Author of Highway 83 history book to speak at University Bookstore

· 2 min read

Author of Highway 83 history book to speak at University Bookstore

Award-winning author Stew Magnuson’s new book, “The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83: Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma,” is a travel-history book that uncovers stories found along the road that bisects the United States from north to south. Magnuson will sign and discuss his book at 6 p.m. May 13 in the University Bookstore.

Descending 1,885 miles straight down the center of the United States, from Westhope, North Dakota, to Brownsville, Texas, is U.S. 83, one of the oldest and longest of the federal highways that have bit been replaced by an interstate.

Magnuson takes readers on a trip through the Nebraska Sandhills, the Smoky River Valley in Kansas and the singular Oklahoma Panhandle. Along the route are the stories of the famous, the infamous and the forgotten. Buffalo Bill Cody hunted these lands, but what about Buffalo Jones, who set out to save the American bison from extinction? This is where the ruthless, but now largely forgotten bank robbers, the Fleagles, committed their most heinous crime; where the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia met George Armstrong Custer and Pussy Cat Nell dispatched the corrupt sheriff “Bushy” Bush with a shotgun blast. What ties president Eisenhower, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and author Truman Capote together? Highway 83, of course.

Magnuson recounts the story of a town called Audacious, the longest-lasting and largest African-American settlement in Nebraska, which lasted 30 years in the depths of the Sandhills. He also tells the story of his grandmother’s struggles during the Great Depression in Stapleton, Nebraska.

Along his journey down U.S. 83, Magnuson marvels at the beauty of the prairie lands, and he finds that the old axiom “everyone has a story” is true. This is a book of true stories connected by a ribbon of concrete that cuts right down the middle of the nation.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Magnuson is the author of “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: and Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns,” which was awarded the Nebraska Center for the Book’s 2009 nonfiction book of the year. He is also the author of “Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding and The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83: The Dakotas.”

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