Monday, June 21, 2004


Blogs on my blog-roll have been "dropping like flies," as we say out here. Dammit. Now Denny at Book of Life is calling it quits. He says:

A man may want to do much, but he has only so much time, only so much mental and physical energy. So it is and so it shall be, world without end. Some things get done. Others don't. If my book means so much to me, why had I done other things? How did it happen that posting blogs each day commanded a higher priority?

... Beginning with the first day of summer, I'm simply going to rechannel all my blog-writing energy into book-writing energy.

It was a tough decision for him, but he made it. His posts will be missed. And I'll miss the gentle comments he left at my blog and at other sites I read.

His blog-site will be removed by the end of the month, so if you want to say good-bye, do it soon.

So long, buddy.



I met a fellow Friday morning at coffee with the As the Bladder Fills Club in Smith Center, Kansas, who suggested that W's base is not as solid as perhaps W would like. Smith Center is a solidly Republican community. The fellow I met said "So, you're a writer. You the fellow who has been feeding Bush all that misinformation?" When Ivan reminded us that he and his wife were the only Democrats in town, the fellow confided that "some of us are thinking about changing our affiliation...." So it's not just me who sick and tired of what this administration has done to the country; it appears there are some Republicans in Smith Center, Kansas, who are sick and tired of it too.


SEPTEMBER 14, 2003, cont'd

In September, 2003, I drove down through North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, into Kansas; I drove from Rugby, North Dakota, site of the geographic center of the North American continent, to Smith County, Kansas, home of the geographic center of the lower 48 states; I drove along the western edge of the middle west, staying between the 99th and 100th Meridians. It was mostly backroads I drove, not the highways but the lowways, the by-ways. I wanted to see what the western spine of the middle west looks like. This is the eighth part of my report of the trip, recounting part of the second and final day of the drive.

It is 8:00 a.m.

Today I shall continue south towards the geographic center of the lower 48 states in Smith County, Kansas. I shall pass through Red Cloud, Nebraska, Willa Cather's home when she was a youth. I'll start out on Highway 11 which runs among the eastern sandhills.

A mural on a building along Highway 11 in Butte says: "Every Voice Counts." It says: "Save the Rural Schools." Sometimes the "great fly-over" that is the middle west also becomes the "great expendable." It is easy to dismiss that which you don't know the history of. On the other hand, it is more difficult to tell a fellow whose grandfather you knew that his son can't go to school where he did. I stand by my notion that the township is the ideal size for a governmental unit. Anyone trying to govern from farther away, from the state capitol or Washington, D.C., is too ignorant of local conditions to make good decisions. At the same time, admittedly, we at the local level are sometimes so wrapped up in each others' lives we cannot see the obvious. Yet I think it is always better for us to do for ourselves than to have Big Brother do for us. I AM NOT BEING REPUBLICAN, I AM BEING RADICAL. Would Thoreau say the same thing?

Okay - Tirade Mode: OFF.

I turn south where Highway 11 turns south, just west of Butte. There are fields on both sides of the road where corn has been taken - chopped for silage, I presume. A field of alfalfa. A hen pheasant along the road. Sun comes at me from the left. Cattle beller in a feed lot.

At a farmstead farther on, a great flock of blackbirds.

I love the way the land lays itself out: you can see tomorrow from here. When I top a rise, I see water standing at the bottom of the valley before me, blue as the sky above me. A sign on the bridge says: "Niobrara River." A sign at the other end of the bridge says: "Entering Holt County." I'm climbing away from the Niobrara and my ears pop.

I see working windmills pumping water for cattle. These windmills are common here. They are old-fashioned, the old technology. They work.

In a grove of scrubby trees, a house left unpainted for three generations; it holds its nails together with more desire than wood fiber. The wood is thicker than odor, but not much thicker; it is an after-image, the ghost of what we've lost; it is the physical manifestation of our sadness.

I cross another bridge, Bush Creek far below; I have to downshift to third gear to rise away from it. Near the top of the crest, a dozen wild turkeys in a field to my left.

A woman walks her Black Lab along the highway. Sunday morning happiness for the old dog.

A sudden congregation of meadowlarks in this Sunday morning sky - two hundred of them. I've not seen meadowlarks gather in such numbers before.

To my left, an irrigation rig. Then another in a field of corn that is waiting to be harvested. A third rig visible farther on.

A big old square farm house. A machine shed. A killdeer above the road, flashing on and off.

First it is cornfield across a couple miles, then irrigated soybeans. We're in farm country still. I am dawdling in it. A black pick-up passes me, disappears into the distance, around a curve.

A steel building has been smashed by high wind, apparently - blown against a grove of trees. It has nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be, so this is where it stays. Sometimes we stay for the same reason.

An electrical substation. Some irrigation rigs. A big stand of grain bins; they are scowling at the wind, each of them. This is the Scoular Grasslands Elevator Co., according to the sign. A mile down the road, more grain bins also scowling, no sign.

A sudden greenness in the ditches, a sudden rainbow at the irrigation rig.

This could be Iowa - there are enough grain bins. Though I suppose there are too few farmsteads.

Three Harvestore silos. Feedlots full of cattle. A yard full of farm equipment. Corn and soybeans and prosperity.

A pair of ducks above the road. The fellow in the oncoming pick-up waves a broad hand. A field of hay cut in swaths waits to be taken up for winter.

A rich farmer's big house. Big grain bins like a woman's breasts, like stacks of money. You'll find them just north of Atkinson, Nebraska.

Jewels on green velvet where lawns are being watered in Atkinson. The community holds on - two gas stations doing business, a third one CLOSED and FOR SALE.

I cross the Elkhorn River. Two deer cross the road ahead of me.

There are more trees here along Highway 11 than you'd think Nebraska would have. More trees stand off to the west, too, away from the road.

Where the road curves, three old evergreens. A piece of open ground that used to be a farmstead, I think. The trees are the only memory of it.

To be continued....


JUNE 17, 1998

A little rain last night, a bright and beautiful Wisconsin morning today. Yesterday was warm - mid 80s - and today should be too. Dew on the grass. The pond is calm, with algae floating. A new house going up down the hill from us, where the flood of 1989 had washed out a 30 foot hole in the soil. I'm not particularly pleased to have a house go in there, but what will be will be. If I complained about everything I dislike, I wouldn't have time for the things I like.

There's a very weedy field of corn just north of town. When I was growing up in Iowa, we judged a man's character by how clean he kept his fields. It's a moral thing. Gasoline did not cost so much then.

I have not seen the hawk in a good long while, though I have been watching for him.

Some of the fields of corn are so thick now that you cannot see the soil between the rows. The soy beans are coming along well. The peas are pretty much done blossoming and are making pods.

Corn is finally sprouting in the field that had the large pool of water standing in it much of the spring. Little spikes of corn plants, only, but they are up and green across the entire field.

In Ripon, at the corner of the house where the dog has been chained outside at times during the winter and spring, a circular carpet of grass much greener than the rest of the lawn.

On days like this I sometimes think I am a monster-beast restrained by Germanic convention. It would be a good day to go wild. I go to work instead.

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