Friday, February 29, 2008

Geography of Nebraska

Not the natural kind, the human kind. Far more annoying to talk about. The garden blog community is popping up with this geography project, and, not being from Nebraska, I thought: what would I want to see and do if I were a REALLY BORED tourist who'd seen every other state and was starving for a road trip?

Nebraska has corn and cows and ethanol. Yup. Nebraska is flat, unless you go up to the northwest corner near the sandhills of South Dakota--yet another state I said I'd never live in and so, like Nebraska, I figure is next on the list. We've got some rivers, the Platte and the Mizzou. Got a large contingent of migrating birds that stop over here in spring and fall--those sandhill cranes in the middle of the state, and lots of canada geese in the midwest flyway, among others. These migrations attract people from all over the world.

Here's a list of all the OTHER cool things that are human made and so FAR more interesting (sarcasm noted?):

1) Home to the Strategic Air and Space Museum, formally headquarters for the first strike, er, line of defense against them Russians. I wonder how many missile silos ARE out here? Go to the museum, which I would like to do, and see neato weapons of death, including a 1950's era hydrogen bomb "stripped" of its bad bits. Sure.

2) Nebraska, birthplace of Kool Aid.

3) Nebraska, home of the farmer druid sect which immigrated from England in.... eh. Carhenge. We've got Carhenge in the panhandle.

4) Ashfall Fossil Beds in northern Nebraska. 12 million years ago a volcano in Idaho blew burying parts of Nebraska in 2 feet of ash. Lots of rhinos here.

5) We have / had Andy the Footless Goose in Hastings in 1991. Born footless (but not fancy free), Andy's owner made shoes for him so he could walk around. Then, tired of cowtipping, some unknown local nut job kidnapped Andy and chopped his head and wings off, only leaving the body--shoes still on. Andy has a headstone and all. Sorry about #5 everyone.

6) But, to make up for #5, the largest ball of stamps is in Omaha. Eh.

7) LOTS of football fans. My lord. I don't leave the house on Saturdays in the fall. NO JOKE. I also try to say as many anti Husker things as I can while teaching. Hey, it makes them perk up.

8) Lincoln is the state capitol. It has a 400' center, 2nd only to Louisiana's. On top is a figure of a man throwing seeds out of his satchel. We have a nickname for all this. Penis of the Plains, or, The Prairie Penis. Sowing its seed. I don't know--never gets old to me.

9) I hear Lincoln has a nice telephone museum.

10) Lincoln has some bison. I live near a prison which is near the bison. I can hear the guards on the loudspeakers call inmates in from the yard for chow or sleep. It helps pass the time while gardening. What's that... wh wha what's that orange thing behind the cedar? Hello?

11) World's largest time capsule is in Seward. Has a car or two in it.

12) Look, to be honest, the interstate system was created for a reason. Once on I-80, keep going. The nice thing is Nebraskans SEEM to understand, and so we have high speed limits of 75 or 80 or somewhere around there. Either that, or they don't want you stopping, sniffing around, and discovering that the steaks here really ARE some of the best. If you're into that.

Arbor Day was started here in an effort, it seems, to create a forest in a prairie. Glad we didn't have that kind of hubris again pertaining to climate zones.

Hey. Look. A desert. Golf courses would go GREAT there.

Nebraska also had some guy named Audubon, who--if you read Lisa Knopp's The Nature of Home--helped care for birds by shooting and stuffing them. But it's not about the man, right, it's about what kind of legacy develops afterward, right?

I give you Nebrasky. Not a bad place. Not a great place. Just an American place where the car insurance ain't bad, but the phone taxes are.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Chimney Rock, Scott's Bluff, and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. There is also the weird-scape of Toadstool Park, and Nebraska 2 through the Sandhills is quite scenic byway. The Omaha Zoo is an above average zoo I'd say.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of dry humor and you have the best! I laughed till I cried!! Great blog today. I also read about your interest in music--anything with pvc, saws, etc---too funny. Your students must love you, if they don't--they are dead.

Annie in Austin said...

Oh dear Benjamin, we're among the guilty tourists, driving all the way through Nebraska on our way from Chicago to Wyoming, looking out at the irrigation systems and wondering if there was another end to your state. My husband pulled off I80 and drove on the access road in hopes it would keep him awake.
Must be one of those places that you might not want to visit but would want to live there. If one were a football fan. Oops, leaves me out.

Your pos was funny for your readers, anyway ;-]

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Benjamin Vogt said...

Anonymous--Oh come now, don't be anonymous. Yes, I suppose NE has those things, and many others I left out. I was trying to focus on the stranger stuff. The Sunken Gardens in Lincoln are nice, as is Lauritzen in Omaha.
Anna--Well, I'll take a compliment any way I can get it. Thanks. But I honestly DO like pvc pipes and saws and glasses filled with water--kinda neat.
Annie--Funny story! I've always wanted to see Wyoming, not sure why, I also envision maybe living there some day since the population is so small. Having a large spread would be nice. Plus, I don't think Wyoming football is a big deal! Prove me wrong, Wyoming....

Anonymous said...

I have not been to Nebraska, I never really had a reason. However, Nebraska came to us this Christmas when an obviously confused Sandhill Crane was tagging along with a flock of Canada Geese just spitting distance from the Atlantic. I am not an avid birdwatcher, but I knew what is was. I sent a notice to the Virginia Ornithological Society -- there response was one of incredulity.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Les--Incredulity? That surprise me to say the least! I always hear how such organizations are EAGER beyond words to hear info of this type. I know little about the cranes, but watch enough nat geo and pbs to believe this would happen. We have ultralights that guide both bird populations to nesting sites. We have all kinds of animals acting as surrogates for others. I think it's very fascinating / unique / telling what you saw, in short.

kate said...

Good post - I was quite intrigued by the Carhenge - certainly didn't know it was another crazed football state.

From the sounds of it, you wouldn't much appreciate Saskatchewan either.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Yes, I was bored silly when we drove through Nebraska to get to Colorado from Chicago. Hey, I don't need to leave my own State to see corn. I would like to see Carhenge - it's about as fun as the giant sculpture of impaled cars that used to be near an expressway in Chicago. The palentological site also looks interesting. Even if I had known about these things, my dad would never have stopped anyway. (He wouldn't even stop at Jack Daniels on our way through Tennessee.) And Kool Aid -Oh, yeah! Great post!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kate--Well, actually, I do enjoy the flatness--I have that innate neeed to see things coming at me from miles away, and to prepare myself for them. I'm a midwest boy, always will be, so I guess I'm a bit too hard on Nebraska. Still, there's something better about Minnesota--where I spent half my life--maybe because one part is flat, the other rich forest and lakes.
MMD--Ah, the I-80 stories come out today. I hate driving through Iowa, too. You know, like your dad, I'd never stop either though. Once I'm going, focused, I want to get there and be done with traveling; I'm sure that's both a fault and a benefit. As for Kool Aid, apparently it wasn't here very long--the inventor moved to Chicago where it'd be more lucrative, or something like that.

Tina said...

Just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. My grandparents grew up in North Lop, Nebraska and I returned with them many times when I was younger for Popcorn Days and High School reunions. I loved walking the dirt road out to grandmas homestead (sold several earlier to a pig farmer who ended up bankrupting), climbing the "Happy Jack" hill they did as teens, seeing the chalk mines and also going over the route my grandfather rode to school on his horse,through snow...with newspapers stuffed in the holes in his shoes. (really!!)He was oldest of 9 kids, born in 1910. I just fell in love with Nebraska: the people, the geography and its history and in fact parked myself up in the topmost tower of the town church and poured through old documents of all sorts, neglected and crumbling. I later contacted a society in Ord and hopefully they went up and preserved that history!! I remember driving through Nevada...ugh...Utah...ergh...Montana....huge...only to feel relief when we came over the line and into the corn. We havent been back since 2001 when we took grandmas ashes. Sorry to be long winded, just wanted you to know this Californian appreciates your state.

Tina said...

Ooops, should be North Loup!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Tina--Oh, I'm long winded when I write, so no worries. I think it's cool to hear these kinds of stories--it's amazing to me that, as people, humans, we're so disconnected from each other, the world, ourselves, yet our experiences and perceptions are so richly personal and deep and meaningful. There is always this odd disconnect I feel in this way, and I don't know if it's saddening or heartening. But lastly, let me point out I'm not a Nebraskan, and never will be: I'm a Minnesotan, with some Oklahoman thrown in. In fact, my next writing project is to research family history--Germans settling in OK, and I look forward to rummaging through old pieces of paper. However, there's not much difference from Oklahoma up to North Dakota it seems--at least, until you get to the very local level, but even then.... Many of the same immigrant families / cultures settled this long north south stretch of states.

Tina said...

Well........its ok, I still like you and your! A good friend of mine is from Oklahoma and she is actually quite civilized. (no hate mail, just kidding....)

Unknown said...

Finally got this to load, Benjamin (my internet provider isn't providing well the past few days.) It was well worth the wait, though, because I cracked up and laughed til tears rolled down my cheeks. You're deliciously funny and clever too! I'm really, really glad that you posted for our project. Gold stars for you!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Jodi--Wow, glad you enjoyed it! Tried to do something a bit different than everyone else. Sorry my pics probably slowed yer download speed.

Curmudgeon said...

I laughed so hard reading your post I had tears rolling down my face! Nebraska--I have sooooo been there and done that! Lived in Lincoln and taught at one of the U's there. Still have lots of friends and contacts at both schools. Do you really say anti-Husker things to your students? Do you have a death wish or what? If so, I dare you to go grocery shopping at Hyvee, wearing a color other than red, during a football game and demand customer service from the cashiers! Ah yes, Penis of the Prairie--the linguistic acrobatics I would go through to try to tactfully explain that one to my foreign exchange students. But hey it's really beautiful inside with all those mosaics and fleur-de-lys carvings on the ceiling. Thank goodness for those high speed limits on I-80. Trips between Lincoln and the Twin Cities where a big part of my life while I lived in Lincoln. Great post for the Garden Bloggers' Geography Project!

Benjamin Vogt said...

WWA--Yes, I do REALLY say anti Husker things because there ARE more important things in life than a false sense of pride for an abstract and silly thing and people you don't know--i.e. live life with more depth and you'd be happier, we all would be. That all came out wrong and sounds more arrogant than what I mean, however! And I HAVE been to Hyvee wearing my Minnesota Gophers t-shirt on a Saturday. Why not? I tried that at Ohio State once and two big guys came up to me and said "Do you really think you should be wearing that, dude?" That was the day before the football game OSU vs. MN (and MN won actually). Glad you enjoyed the post!

Jenn said...

"yet another state I said I'd never live in and so, like Nebraska, I figure is next on the list. "

Echoes of laughter emerge from Phoenix, a place I might have called 'GARDEN HELL' were I not interested in cactus.

"The Prairie Penis. Sowing its seed."


"Either that, or they don't want you stopping, sniffing around, and discovering that the steaks here really ARE some of the best. If you're into that."

Field grown or factory beasts?

"Hey. Look. A desert. Golf courses would go GREAT there."

More echoes of laughter from Phoenix...

"some guy named Audubon, who--helped care for birds by shooting and stuffing them."

Yes. But taken in context with the times, this was how it was done. AND, Audobon's accurate and detailed illustrations helped generate both interest in and help to identifying birds in the field - See Roger Tory Peterson's book 'All Things Reconsidered' for how the change from collecting to birding occurred. (It's a good read, a collection of essays.)

LOVED your post.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Jenn--Yes, you're right as per Audubon, that WAS how it was done, and I ain't knocking the guy much, just playing the p.c. card. As for the cows here, I don't know the stats as for field or farm grown, that'd be interesting to know. I've been surprised that people have enjoyed this post as much as they have, so thanks for letting me know!

Unknown said...

You guys are killing me with your talk of Wyoming. When my boyfriend and I first started dating, we were mourning the demises of our first marriages... and one of the things we kept saying to cheer each other up was that we were just going to move to Wyoming. (Benjamin, for just the reasons you stated.) And then when I found a "Wyoming" key chain in the parking lot of the bookstore we frequent, we figured it was a sign... :) (And yet somehow we're still here in Cleveland.)

Ah, but this post is about Nebrasky. It certainly does sound like a fine place. (Except for that soulless bastard who killed Andy. But you can't escape those kinds of people anywhere, right?)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kim--I still have romantic feelings toward the emptiness and flatness of Wyoming; I used to REALLY want to live in Montana. Hey, doesn't Harrison Ford live in Wyoming, and he uses his helicopter to rescue stranded hikers or something? And who isn't excited about the 4th Indiana Jones movie? Nothing like an 80 year old leaping cars and fire pits. Oh I'm off topic.

WiseAcre said...

I too had fun reading your post and i'll be leaving a little more enlightened after reading more from your blog. Don't let the corn get you down!

Poor Andy - someone needed to cut the naughty bits off the nut job responsible for his demise.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Nebraska is mostly flat but so is my country but hey being the birthplace of Kool Aid is pretty Kool. LOL

Carhenge! ROTFL

Huskers! Never heard of them. :-)

Fun post, very witty!

Kylee Baumle said...

LOLOLOL! I have a friend that used to live in Lincoln. I'm sending her here. She'll love this, too.
Great stuff!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Wisacre--Corn corn corn. I keep meaning to buy a corn head (like the cheese head, but a cob).
Yolanda--Thanks for stopping by my humble blog! I'm thinking of sponsoring a garden bloggers mecca to carhenge....
Kylee--That's the thing; people USED to live in Lincoln. Ha.

Desert Dweller said...

I was born in Nebraska...barely, at Offutt AFB. I like that except on gameday, their fans are generally nice to us OU alumni folk. I like the state, but it does never end...but neither does Texas, Kansas, etc.

Benjamin Vogt said...

DD--Wow, really? It's growing on me. Did you ever go see the cranes? My Dad is a big OU fan, and I'm an anti Husker fan period just by virtue of how insane it is here. My last state? Ohio. Buckeyes. A whole other level. :)