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Front Page » March 4, 2008 » Opinion » The Wasatch Behind: This ain't Kansas, Toto
Published 2,236 days ago

The Wasatch Behind: This ain't Kansas, Toto


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By TOM MCCOURT
Guest Contributor

Last week Jeannie and I went on a business trip to Ohio. It was an interesting journey. We hadn't been back east for many years. The trip made us remember why we like living here in eastern Utah.

To start off, going east, everything goes downhill after you cross Loveland Pass in Colorado, if you know what I mean. And when you leave the mountains the country becomes frustratingly flat. The landmarks are temporary and small: groves of trees, grain elevators, a radio tower, nothing permanent that you can see from anywhere like Star Point or Cedar Mountain. And I didn't recognize Denver. It was a big town in the 1960s. Now it's an ocean of subdivisions.

Eastern Colorado isn't too bad. Open plains and grassland with lots of good places to call coyotes. But of course we didn't stop to put any yodel dogs out of their misery. We were in a hurry to get to Ohio.

The great state of Nebraska is okay. More crowded than eastern Colorado, but a friendly, rural type of crowded. Lots of farms and not many big towns until you reach Omaha, and then things change in a hurry. It was in Nebraska when I first noticed that we were fenced in. All of the wide-open spaces were gone. The whole state is one big cultivated field. The only thing that changes between one farm and the next is the fences, houses, and barns.

And then we got to Iowa. A sign said Iowa is the Hawkeye state, but we didn't see any Hawks. I think they all got killed on the freeway. Iowa is a lot like Nebraska, except the farmhouses and fences are closer together. We crossed part of Iowa in the dark and were never out of sight of streetlights. Too much rural clutter for me. Jeannie decided that the best thing about Iowa is the lunar eclipses. They had a doozey the night we were there. Kudos to the chamber of commerce or whoever sponsored the event. It was great.

Iowa runs out at the Mississippi River. There's a big bridge there with a "Welcome to Illinois" sign on the other side. The Mississippi is very impressive to a kid who grew up thinking lower Fish Creek was really something. Uncle Spud says the Mississippi was named after an old Italian lady, Mrs. Sippi. I wanted to get her autograph, but when I asked some locals if they knew where Mrs. Sippi lived, they looked at me like I was stupid. Humorless creatures, those flatlanders.

Illinois is crowded, especially near Chicago. They call it the land of Lincoln because so many ugly people live there. There were gazillions of cars on the freeway and they were all late for work. It was hazardous to our health. I was glad when we finally hit Indiana.

Unfortunately, Indiana is just an extension of Illinois, and it snows there, big time. They were hosting a big ice storm the day we passed through. Indiana calls itself the "Crossroads of America" because that's how they drive. They come across the road sideways, in 180-degree spins, and across the median like unguided missiles. Those people are crazy to drive on ice like that. There were dozens of wrinkled cars in the snow banks along the interstate. Thank goodness for 4-wheel drive. Highway 6 to Provo is nothing after crossing Indiana on I-80.

And then there's Ohio. We went through Toledo and along the shore of Lake Erie all the way to Cleveland. But all we saw of the lake was some ducks and frozen swampland. It was kind of eerie, there by Lake Erie, in the foggy afternoon mists of the big ice storm. Ohio is crowded, too. The state is one continuous suburb. And what can I say about Cleveland? Holy Toledo, what an ant pile.

And then, just like Forrest Gump, we turned around and followed the same road back again. Nothing had changed but the temperature. The country was cold, crowded, flat, featureless, and fenced. It wasn't until we passed Grand Junction, headed west, that I felt like I was home again. I could finally see what Edward Geary called "The Proper Edge of the Sky," that ring of mountain ridges that border our own Castle Valley. Those flatland people live in a different world, poor things.

Dorothy can keep Kansas. I'll stick with the Wasatch Behind.


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