20 great things about the Great Plains
By Louise Lynch, Great Plains Graduate Fellow, Entomology
I am a New Yorker. Since moving out here, I’ve become acutely aware of the flyover bias that people sometimes have of this area. During my time here, I quickly found many things that I love about the Great Plains (and Nebraska specifically):
1. Mountains made from clouds: I thought I would miss my mountains back home. Little did I know that mountains can block your view of the clouds. Here, the clouds have enough room to make their own range.
2. Perspective: Some of the flattest land I’ve ever seen has been in Nebraska. I find it easy to get lost in the landscape. Flat lands are not boring. They are distance, possibility, an unseen horizon.
3. Wind: Here, the wind is a constant companion. And it has its moods, just like everyone else.
4. Nauseous skies: I had never experienced a tornado before coming to Nebraska. Although I never actually saw one, I’ve seen the sky get sick, like I’ve never seen it before. I’ve felt the wind oscillate between warm and chilly gusts of wind, turn green, and illuminate from within. To my surprise, while I’m wondering where I can take cover, this never seems to alarm Nebraskans.
5. Cold: I have braved Gdansk, Poland in January, getting hit by the coldest Baltic winds I had ever experienced… And then I moved to Nebraska.
6. Temperature Ping Pong: It’s incredible how much the temperature varies out here, between the seasons and within a day.
7. Precious drops: Coming from the East Coast, I had never come across the idea of water rights. While out here, I’ve come to appreciate just how precious this resource is.
8. Tides of grass: Although Nebraska is landlocked, go out to any prairie and you can watch the waves come in as the winds move through the grass.
9. Winter gold: Despite the icy bite of winter winds, I always enjoy the warm, pink winter gold of prairie grasses. It helps ward off some winter chills.
10. Big, blue skies: At first, the sky can almost be overwhelming. Back home it is tempered by trees and mountains. Here, nothing holds it back. For the first time, I was able to fully see the arc of our sky, a gigantic lens between Earth and space.
11. Photosynthetic: this adjective has become synonymous with driving along crop fields. Surrounded by rows and rows of green, one can almost hear the photosynthesis happening.
12. Family: I quickly learned that Nebraskans value family. Nebraska is where my husband and I started our own family. No matter where our family ends up, our son will always be a Nebraskan at heart.
13. “Get off 80”: As well traveled as the interstate might be, I quickly learned the relevance of this local adage. There is a lot to explore in this state.
14. Undiscovered: As an entomologist, one of the most surprising things I’ve learned in Nebraska is that the unique habitats of western Nebraska are likely home to many undiscovered or undescribed bee species. With all the work we do to conserve our pollinators, we are still learning with whom we share our home.
15. Grasshopper fireworks: In addition to their hums and songs, every step in a tall grass prairie is met with a firework of grasshoppers, with flashes of yellow and red-colored legs and wings.
16. Diversity: I quickly learned that there are many cultures and people here in Nebraska. It is a mixing pot in its own right.
17. July 4th: My first July 4th in Nebraska started out with my trying to track down where the show would be held. That night, I understood why there was no July 4th show as there is back home. EVERYONE celebrates!
18. Dust trails: Maybe it’s because I’ve only seen it happen in movies, but watching a vehicle create a dust trail off in the distance will never get old!
19. Trains: Nebraska is full of tracks! There is so much motion, moving commodities in and out of this state.
20. V is for migration: What a pleasure it was to learn that Nebraska is a significant migration route stop for many migratory birds! The spring skies are filled with Vs.