February 5, 2015

Where the long grass blows

I spent my teen years reading Louis L'Amour and Max Brand and Zane Grey.  My Great-Great Grandfather served in the famed 7th Iowa cavalry during the Civil War years campaigning against recalcitrant Indians in The Great Plains. Thus it is always a minor thrill when I find myself driving the highways of Kansas, whipping through fabled cow towns like Emporia, Wichita, or Dodge City.

When I look out the windshield at the bleak nothingness I see beauty. I also marvel at the sturdy pioneers that managed to cross the vast American Dessert without a paved road, a GPS, a reliable map. The way west was fraught with peril. Miss your route out of Independence by a mere tenth of a degree and you are hundreds of miles from your intended destination. Sure the Smoky Hill or Arkansas Rivers were reliable landmarks, but are you upstream or downstream from your intended crossing point?

The American pioneer was made from strong stuff. I reflect on the panic throughout the east coast last week over the mere forecast of snow and wonder what the intrepid farmer or plainsman would think as he huddled in his sod house out on the prairie, burning buffalo shit to keep warm.  Now we need the Mayor of New York to remind us to wear a coat.

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