Landscape has a pimple or 2
I may not be a great card player, shower crooner, political analyst, mall shopper or sensitive male but I am a very experienced and determined road warrior. And how did I earn that title? It began early on when, at age 11, I quit poking my father on the shoulder and asking him, "are we there yet?"
Since then my roadway accomplishments have been nearly legendary. For example, I once drove from Rapid City, S.D., to Los Angeles, nonstop, without the aid of caffeine, to get to my son's soccer game on time. I also drove from Portland to Los Angeles nonstop, which is less stupendous, except that I left in the evening, which adds to the challenge. Plus I made two treks from Los Angeles to Denver and back nonstop and rode on the top of a BMW going 65 mph on a Pasadena street, but that's another story for another time.
In addition, I've traveled the bottom, top and mid sections of this country and Canada in every kind of rental car and often times in a pickup truck pulling a 30-foot horse trailer. I was also a weary 300,000-mile-a-year airline frequent flyer card holder who now lapses into a coma whenever he hears seat belt instructions.
But it's been a long time since I sat in the back seat of a mid-sized automobile crossing the Great Plains for as long as it takes Air France to fly from Los Angeles to Paris, like I did last week. And not since I'd flown from Boston to Los Angeles a few years ago, seated next to a woman who was at least three times my size, had I felt so much like a little boy with his mommy.
Piloting and co-piloting the vehicle I was riding in were two young ladies and co-workers still in their 20s who flooded the interior with so many words that there was little room for mine. So I stuffed my ears with IPod earphones and set the heartland scene, passing by my window like an IMAX movie on a big screen, to music.
During the journey I counted 834.6 billion heads of wheat between Sioux Falls, S.D., and Sioux City, Iowa and hundreds of discarded combines, tractors and old cars that probably haven't moved since the Beatles met Ed Sullivan, Mr. Ed talked to Wilber and Barney Fife met Andy. It made me wonder what America looks like to foreign guests who might make the same journey. Because a lot of these farmyards look like whoever threw the party forgot to clean up afterwards and we ought to be just a little bit embarrassed.
I began to wonder if, when a farmer buys land, there is a stipulation in his contract that he must never sell or trade in a piece of farm equipment. Or if, once he wears it out, he must park it for five years next to one he used for 10 years?
In this day and age of mass recycling, there are countless majestic scenes of golden wheat fields and cattle-filled pastures defiled by piles of old tires, plows, cultivators, empty fuel tanks, 10-year-old stacks of hay and cars with missing hoods, doors and windows that need not be there.
And I know that farmers like to have old equipment on hand for replacement parts. But if they haven't used it in the last 50 years do they actually think they're going to use it in the next 10? So let's compromise. If a farmer doesn't want to sell his old equipment for scrap, can we make him dig a big hole and bury it so that we don't have to look at it? Then he'll still know where it is in case he needs it and maybe we can all sing about it at Farm Aid.
Because in 100 years we've trashed the Great Plains like the hippies did Woodstock. And this country, which is but a teenager in the global scheme of things, will look a whole lot better if we don't keep adding pimples to it.
-- Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation