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In a Nebraska town of one, it's not hard to keep distance
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In a Nebraska town of one, it's not hard to keep distance


Elsie Eiler has been the mayor and only resident of Monowi since her husband, Rudy, died in 2004.

The mayor of Monowi doesn’t have to crack down on crowds of more than 10 in her Boyd County town near the Niobrara.

And she’s not steering clear of other residents on Broad Street, or explaining last week’s state-mandated coronavirus-related restrictions to her community’s business owners.

Because she’d be talking to herself.

Elsie Eiler, 86, has been Monowi’s sole citizen, mayor and proprietor since her longtime husband, Rudy, died in 2004. But the only person in town isn’t used to being so alone.

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Her bar and grill’s guest book has been signed by customers from all 50 states and more than 50 countries. She’s been interviewed by reporters around the world. On a normal Saturday night, she might serve burgers and beer to anywhere from a dozen customers to a full house.

That ended late Wednesday, when Gov. Pete Ricketts added Boyd and 14 others to the list of counties required to follow the state’s directed health measure — forcing bars and restaurants to close their drinking and dining rooms.

The mayor called the sheriff the next day to get the details. Chuck Wrede offered to print out the measure and swing by.

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“When I got there, there were three guys,” the sheriff said. “Two were drinking, and one was getting ready to leave. She explained what was going on, and said, ‘I’ve got to close up.’”

Her customers have been cooperative, Eiler said.

“They’re not giving me any guff or anything at all,” she said.

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The people in her part of the state have common sense, she said, but they also have an independent streak: They’d rather police themselves than have someone tell them what to do.

Still, they’ve been compliant with the governor’s order, Wrede said. To a point.

“I mean, we have a few coffee shop drinkers that maybe like to overreact. But it’s been pretty good.”

Eiler hasn’t closed the Monowi Tavern. She still sells a good amount of Busch Light to go, and if a customer calls ahead or shows up at her door, she’ll make them a meal to take home.

“Some days I do a bit of cooking, and some days I don’t,” she said.

But her dining room will remain empty until at least May 11. No more smallest town Saturday nights. No more intelligence meetings Wrede holds with his Knox County counterpart and officers from other nearby departments.

The sheriff worries about other Boyd County bars and restaurants, but he wasn’t concerned about the future of the Monowi Tavern.

It has a solid past. The mayor has been running the tavern for nearly 50 years.

“Elsie’s will survive. She’ll just keep doing what she wants to do.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter

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