Monday, July 20, 2009

The Plains: Something to Contemplate

We are in a contemplative mood this morning, and nothing is bigger to contemplate than the sheer size and grandeur of the Great Plains of North America. In this spirit I submit the following observation as noted by Kansas folklorist/cowboy eternal Jim Hoy and taken from the book Plains Folk, A Commonplace of the Great Plains, by Jim Hoy and Tom Isern, University of Oklahoma Press, 1987:

“Plains folk take space and openness for granted. It seems that most of the things we think of as typical of the plains -- barbed-wire fences, windmills, wheat fields, grass -- are things we can see through. In fact, if we can't see through something (whether a physical object of somebody's scheme), we get nervous. Most people from outside the plains, if they seek privacy when they are out-of-doors, will look for a tree or a big rock to hide behind. Most plainsmen, on the other hand, will look for the barest, highest spot they can find. That way they can see whether or not anyone is sneaking up on them.

Coronado, we are told, was never more frightened than when he looked through the legs of a bison and could see nothing but horizon. The plains must have looked as endless to him as Interstate 70 does to a westbound easterner -- four lanes into eternity.

Buffalo Bill Cody, on the other hand, thought the plains anything but monotonous. He never got lost, he said, because the plains were so beautiful that every landscape he ever saw was forever emblazoned into his memory. Mountains and trees have their attractions, but to a true plainsmen, nothing is prettier, or more reassuring, than a big sky and some wide-open spaces.”