Please don't call this fly-over-country. It is real. I am here. It is looking a bit like the worn out sign above, but the words on the sign still ring true - I think.
Here, where . . .
- Where you have to go to the public library to find wireless internet and the librarians speak so loudly to one another that you can hardly read or write.
- Where everybody waves at you.
- Where you get your tall coffee at McDonald's for $1.27 and are told that that price was outrageous because all of the elderly there got theirs for 37cents which included tax and free refills. A large cadre of sharp looking elderly men sit around tables drinking their joe having an enviable time at 10AM.
- Where, in the midst of the land of growing food, what people eat on a daily basis is unhealthy and not grown near here. Obesity is rampant.
- Where the dryland family farm that I grew up on has(d) topsoil many feet thick thanks to the Prairie which preceded it such a short time ago, which doesn't need potash added, no thank you. This rich natural resource is taken for granted by the 70 and 80 year-old farmers who by now are glad to have conquered the land in they and their father's lifetimes.
- Where my request on this visit for local dressed ducks received the response that "no one has ducks on farms anymore, or chickens, or produce eggs, for that matter". I should look in a city grocery store to find my duck.
- Where gasoline is the ultimate God, omnipresent and available to all. Though populations are half of what they were fifty years ago, the roads are many times as busy. It defines the culture here.
- Where the word is "too wet". There was flooding this summer nearby. The average rainfall here is 28 inches per year and this year they've already received 35 inches. Right now the farmers are chomping at the bit to start combining but it's still "too wet". The yields won't be as good this year because it's been "too wet". But, I am told every single year that "it's not going to be as good this year" and after the harvest "it was the biggest crop ever", so I don't pay too much attention. Four springs have appeared on one of the quarters my family farms which haven't been there for the past two decades. What to do? Tile them?
- Where driving between cities reveals a depressing wasteland of industrial agriculture and nothing else. Yet, again, I conclude the fields have gotten bigger, the farm places fewer, and the landscape more desolate. There isn't much to appeal to a younger generation in these areas. Nor are there many home places left to live on. To prove it, the schools have less than half as many students as they did a few decades ago.
- Where, during the Great Depression the folks around here experienced dust and more dust. Grasshoppers and more grasshoppers. And there was no money but always plenty to eat and people got by. And they still remember.
- Where the emotions that I always experience here tear me into a confusion going many scattered directions. There is sympathy, anger, sadness, connection, admiration, regret, appreciation and trepidation plus about everything in between.