As crazy as it sounds, we circled through Nebraska prior to heading to the Pacific Northwest. Ever since my husband Mark read that Cherry County, Nebraska was the least densely populated county in the contiguous United States, he has been hot to see it for himself. To understand his motivation, a little background for those who are unfamiliar with our hometown of Westcliffe, Colorado a town of 600 which is an hour’s drive from any town approximating a shopping mecca.
Come summer, when the number of tourists and second-home, flatland homeowners swell Westcliffe’s population, the full-timers start to moan about the traffic and the congestion. Fast lane, city folk are pretty tense, and they bring that tension with them. The other day, standing in line at the grocery… standing three customers in front of a tourist with a single bag of chips, I turned to see her gritting her teeth. (Westcliffe has neither have a five-items-or-less lane nor a self-checkout, and I thought that she was going to have a melt-down.) Turning my attention to the gal manning the cash register, I saw her wink. Smiling she said, “I can feel the vibration from here.”
Yes, you can feel the vibration. City slickers bring their intensity with them, and so I quite understood Mark’s need to chill-out by driving through the least densely populated county prior to going on vacation. And I must say that Cherry County, Nebraska is wonderful. The sign reading “70 miles to the next gas station” said it all. The fields were Garden of Eden lush with agriculture. Corn, of course. Planted so closely together that if you wanted to walk between the rows, you would need a machete to make your way.
Looking both north and south from highway 2, you can only see a golf course perfect landscape – endless thousand-acre ‘fields’ patchworked in shades of green, tan, and burnished gold.
Despite the beauty of industrial-scale farming, I found myself thinking about the amount of water and fertilizer necessary to make this picture-perfect, bread-basket world. The water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, and the water is sprayed on the crops by hump-backed, irrigating machines that look like walking sticks on wheels. But the water is a finite resource. Just what, I wondered, is the status of the aquifer?
It is not good. But rather than write about it now, I refer you to an Scientific American article, “The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital United States Water Source” by Jane Braxton Little and published March 1, 2009. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ogallala-aquifer.
Cherry County is definitely worth a trip. But time was passing. As we turned west heading towards our ultimate destination of British Columbia, we stopped in Alliance Nebraska to see Carhenge built by Jim Reinders, who fell for Stonehenge when working in England as a petroleum engineer. His installation is fun – quirky.
Enough! Enough fun. West to the Tetons where rain and mist heightened the atmospheric experience.