There are no trees.
Well, that's a lie. There are a few, but they're mostly planted by people in straight lines that run east to west, west to east.
There are few trees, and there's a lot of topsoil not being held down by root systems. When there's a drought, the soil blows around in dust storms that can last hours, days, weeks, all because of a lack o' rain.
A lack o' rain, for Christ's sake.
And because of the lack o' rain, windmills scatter across the landscape, pumping water up from the aquifer.
The freakin' cattle, of course. There's more cattle than people out here, but they're as trapped as we are; miles and miles of fences cut boundaries into the acres of rolling green hills.
Cut boundaries, cut boundaries, cut boundaries.
More boundaries are shaped by the railroad and the highway system (Thank you, President Eisenhower), but they also link the small towns dotting the landscape.
Towns. Not cities. Towns of five hundred people or less. More often less than not. (Villages?)
Everything here is old. Worn, not by use, but by being there, by being beat down on by the wind, and the sun, and years and decades of weather.
"Washed out" isn't the right wording. "Tired" is more like it.
And predominately white.
(Sorry, Native Americans. We kind of kicked you out and treated you like you were the invaders.)
Ruddy skin. Scarred arms. Calloused hands.
Tattered clothes covering hardened skin.
Even the kids are like that. Lookin' like they're ten years older than they really are.
There are two types of people here.
The first type is rooted here. The family's been there for decades, the farm-ground's been owned for longer. (Depression-era, you understand.)
(I was born in this house, I will die in this house.)
The second type is driven by the desire to get out, get out, get out. But get out of what?
(Fences, you understand, are not only physical, and all fences out here are made from barbed wire.)
(Barbed wire hurts. Wear leather gloves when you're fencing.)
The people technologically advanced, but in the ways that work best for working hard and earning money. Tractors. Combines. Medicine for the livestock.
Sure, you ain't got cell service half the time, but who needs that?
And who wants to listen to anything but the country radio station that plays ads half the time, the only station that comes in?
When it snows, nobody waits for the maintainer. (Snow plow on steroids, for the city folk.) They put the loader on the heaviest tractor they have and hope they don't get stuck.
There's a lot of hoping that happens here.
Hope that it rains. Hope that nobody gets sick, because most can't afford to be. Hope the gamble they took pays off. Hope they don't get stuck. Hope that the kids don't get in a wreck in a place with no cell service.
Football's a weirdly big thing here.
Every fall Friday night, if someone doesn't show up at the field to watch the game, they're either sick or drunk off their *** and banned from the school grounds.
(Sorry, there's swear words embedded in my blood. It's part of the dangers of living here.)
And if someone's not in sports, they're looked down upon.
The internet is a good escape. (If you've got it.)
So is television. (If you're into it.)
So is drugs and alcohol. (If you're legal or ballsy enough to do it.)
But there's a certain sense of freedom that crashes through your veins when you're riding ******* across an empty pasture, the horse sweating and huffing and puffing below you like a train, your arms outstretched like your free, free, free.
But you're not and you've got chores to do and by the time you've put the horse away and fed them and checked cattle and told your boss (your grandpa or dad) that you've taken care of everything, it's dark.
So you drag your tired, sore self home and shower, letting the water wash away the sweat and the mud and the dirt (and sometimes the blood) from your aching body and change into a baggy shirt and pants and crash onto your bed.
(With two blankets - a jean blanket made by family and a quilt also made by family.)
And you sleep
and you do it all again tomorrow
with the tired people and the tired animals and the landscape that calls to you, no matter who you are.
Perks of living in the midwest. (Perks? Are there any?)