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Lonely in Lewellen

Instead of finding stories as most reporters do, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman uses a highly sophisticated piece of newsgathering equipment: a dart. He asks a person on the street to throw a dart at a map to help him choose where he'll go next in search of a story. Once there, he picks a subject at random from the phone book. The premise is that "Everybody Has a Story."

Despite his repeated request for someplace warm, the dart chose Nebraska. That's where Robert Johnson told his fairly personal story and Hartman found out another simple truth - that folks everywhere are looking for love.

Johnson lives in Lewellen, Neb., in an old cafe. A carpenter by trade, he makes birdhouses that he sells from a roadside stand.

He desperately wants to get remarried. Yet in the 15 years since his divorce, his longest relationship has been three days.

"They weren't complete days either," he says.

Johnson wants to talk about this because he figures at this point, any publicity is good publicity. Yet eager as he is to rekindle something other than his wood stove, he admits his lonely heart state is to some extent self-inflicted.

Two years ago Johnson moved from the relatively thriving metropolis of North Platte, Neb., with a population of 25,000, to Lewellen, population, 300. At the time he thought since he loves the country, maybe he should meet someone who loves the country, too, he says.

His mistake was not realizing what CBS News discovered when all the middle-aged, unmarried women in town gathered for a group discussion.

"I think it's harder to find somebody here because there's not much to choose from," one woman says.

Still, you can only feel so sorry for Johnson. On the night of the big barn dance, with people visiting from all over the county, he was home watching his bad-reception TV, accompanied by his fish in the tank,

The truth is, most folks around Lewellen do not know him. When people there were asked, they said never heard of him.

"I have been a loner quite a bit of my life. I probably still am," he says.

He can't stand crowds and isn't comfortable approaching women, he says. So he continues to hope that someday a special She will stop by maybe to get a birdhouse, and in the process discover his lonely heart to be everything she dreamed of.

He could, for exampe, "show her how to run the tools without cutting her hands," he says.

What more could a girl ask for?

"Heck of a deal," he says.

Next stop? Seminole County, Okla.

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