It's a slow burn carrying an interest from childhood to your mid-20s. One which, when it remains, carries a flame down a fuse until action sparks.
Fort Calhoun native Nathan Schulz's interest is law enforcement, a burn that started from watching cops shows and culminated in his graduation with 13 peers from the Nebraska State Patrol Training Academy on June 21 at the Nebraska State Capitol.
"It was really cool," Schulz said of the graduation ceremony. "They put in a lot of work and effort to that. It's a lot of hard work that paid off when they pin that badge to you. It's relieving at the same time, knowing you made it through."
Schulz said he grew up watching cops shows, becoming interested in the police officer and detective process. But it wasn't until his grandfather's funeral that he took his interest and made it his career.
"He was buried in Arlington (National Cemetery), and seeing that process how the Air Force treated him and that burial, and I could see how other people act and the respect," Schulz said.
After graduating from Fort Calhoun High School in 2011 and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015, Schulz said he worked a few jobs around his home area. He was a personal trainer,worked at Cabela's and drove a truck for the Armored Knights.
Something struck him at his grandfather's funeral, though. He saw the respect his grandfather received, the rifle salute. He saw respect for serving. Then, Schulz said, he thought of the respect he'd seen given to Nebraska State Patrol and the chance to serve his community himself.
"The professionalism, the way people treat (the state patrol), and the way the state patrol carries themselves was part of it," he said. "And helping people, serving the community."
Schulz said he applied for the state patrol in June 2018. He went through several months of applications, physical tests, background checks and even a polygraph test before his final interview with command staff in December.
"The polygraph is probably the most intimidating," Schulz said of the application process. "You're hooked up to the machine, and you didn't know what kinds of questions they'd ask. You have an idea, but you don't know exactly."
By January, Schulz was in the academy, part of the 60th camp, for 22 weeks of training. It was a Monday through Friday training schedule, he said. During the five training days, recruits stayed on base rooming with peers on a rotating basis.
"It was kind of a dorm room style just without all the freedom," Schulz joked. "You had a roommate, and we'd switch roommates every once in a while to get to know the other recruits."
Schulz said he learned a lot. The graduation ceremony in June, attended by his parents and grandparents, was a fulfilling moment, he said, and now he's ready to put his new knowledge and skills into action.
It's been two weeks since Schulz started at his post in Ogalala. Right now, he said, he's doing mid-afternoon to early-morning field training with experienced officers. He's picking up tips before he gradually takes the steering wheel.
"It's pretty exciting to get out there and put the things you learn in camp and put it into real situations," Schulz said. "I'm kind of learning how they do things and how everything goes."
Schulz said he's getting to know the community. He frequents restaurants, responds to calls and helped with another officer at a youth fishing event in Ogalala.
Schulz said he expects to remain in Ogalala for some time.
"I wanted to come out west, be in some smaller communities," he said. "I think I'll be here for awhile."