Art Widner has been to Nebraska.
This fact alone would be reason enough to honor him on his eightieth birthday. Anyone who has been to Nebraska has to be someone of great wisdom and dignity. To have engaged in fanac in Nebraska is even better!
It was in the dim, dark, fannish past of 1941 that he and several other east coast fans traveled cross-country by car to attend Denvention, the first Denver Worldcon. They spent a night in Lincoln at the home of fan Don B. Thompson. From there they took Highways 6 and 34 all the way to Benkelman, in the far southwest corner of the state. As there were no fans living in Benkelman, they took a room in a hotel located near the Burlington Northern railroad tracks. During the night, they were awakened by the thunderous bellaring of a few hundred head of cattle. These eastern city boys bounded out of their beds, fearing for their lives. Were they being attacked? Was a stampede about to overrun the hotel? No, it was merely a livestock train, stopped for a time outside their hotel window, headed east so that all those coastal city-dwellers could sit down to dinner with large juicy chunks of Prime Rib.
Art told that tale in a trip report he pubbed after getting home from the con. He also told it to me one evening while sitting in the Fan Lounge at LACon III. His eyes danced as he relived the event, carrying me, his audience of one, back to the past to become a part of those earlier fannish adventures. Storytelling is one of his most important gifts.
He is also a gentleman. At LoneStarCon2, Art gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received. Being fully aware that I am a pastor, Art told me that I was a "real Christian." He believed this because I attended cons and participated in fandom. He saw my willingness to be with all kinds of people, such as are found in fandom, to be a particular Christ-like quality.
I felt humbled at his compliment, and I will always cherish it. Here, in this public forum, I offer him my thanks. It warmed my heart, and frankly, made my day when he said it!
Happy birthday, Art. I hope you have many more!
Now, back to finishing my article for Yhos.