Plains"? "Great Plains"? Is there a difference? Yes.
Geologically speaking, the "High Plains" is a section of
the Great Plains province. The "High Plains"
section covers (generally) most of Nebraska and a bit of southeast
Wyoming, eastern Colorado and western Kansas, and the panhandles of
Oklahoma and Texas. This Map
of the sections of the Great Plains, from the website "The
Geologic Story of the Great Plains", illustrates its
"THE HIGH PLAINS developed on
sediments that originated in the Rocky Mountains to the west. The Rocky
Mountains were formed by deformations of the earth's crust at intervals
during the last part of the Cretaceous Period and continuing into the
Tertiary Period, which lasted from approximately 66 million to 1.6 million
years ago. By late Tertiary time, just a few million years ago, the
Rockies were being eroded by wind and water. Streams flowing eastward out
of the Rocky Mountains were full of sand, gravel, silt, and other rock
debris. Over millions of years, this mass of eroded material filled the
stream valleys and eventually covered the hills, creating a huge, gently
sloping floodplain. The remnants of that region is the region we call the
High Plains." [From the GeoKansas
See also this Map
of the Great Plains, from The
Plains Folk Home Page ["Plains Folk is the self-syndicated
newspaper column written by Jim
Hoy (Emporia, Kansas) and Tom
Isern (West Fargo, North Dakota) and devoted to life on the Great
Plains of North America. This home page is the entré to web pages that provide
information about Plains Folk, about its authors, and about their
activities and interests"]
plains, whether "High" or "Great", are also a social
and cultural concept. In his article, "These
Great Plains", Robert Sheldon discusses the views of people such
as David Wishart, NU geographer and editor of the forthcoming Encyclopedia
of the Great Plains, who believes that history, culture and social
organization are defining characteristics of the Great Plains. Among
other things, Wishart finds significance in the way that the towns were
laid out in different parts of the plains: towns built before the
railroads came tended to be organized around a central town square, unlike
later-settled towns growing on railroad lines. Wishart
is associated with the Center
For Great Plains Studies, at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
"JULY CAME ON
breathless, brilliant heat which makes the plains of Kansas and Nebraska
the best corn country in the world. It seemed as if we could hear the corn
growing in the night; under the stars one caught a faint crackling in the
dewy, heavy-odoured cornfields where the feathered stalks stood so juicy
and green. If all the great plain from the Missouri to the Rocky Mountains
had been under glass, and the heat regulated by a thermometer, it could
not have been better for the yellow tassels that were ripening and
fertilizing the silk day by day.
The cornfields were far apart in those
times, with miles of wild grazing land between. It took a clear,
meditative eye like my grandfather's to foresee that they would enlarge
and multiply until they would be, not the Shimerdas' cornfields, or Mr.
Bushy's, but the world's cornfields; that their yield would be one of the
great economic facts, like the wheat crop of Russia, which underlie all
the activities of men, in peace or war."
[Ch. XIX, My Antonia,
by Willa Cather - taken from the Project
High plains salvage yard
back from the mountains in 2001, I passed this salvage yard in a little
town in far northeastern Colorado.
It held an amazing collection of
old pickup trucks, in an amazing array of colors.
busses as well . . .
cat" was obviously a regular visitor, if not resident. It lazed on
hoods and roofs in the lot sun, and wandered the yard as if it owned it.
it up to nostalgia if you must, but I think these trucks look a lot better
than modern pickups.
through Joes, Colorado in
2001, I ran across this tractor pull, sponsored by the East Central Colorado
Antique Tractor Association.
Last Chance -
Once, Last Chance, Colorado truly was the
"last chance" for gas, water, or anything else, before a long,
dry, unpopulated shot across the barren plains to Denver, 77 miles to the
warning is not accurate. Highway 36 does continue to the west, straddling
or paralleling the line between Adams County and Arapahoe County, but
while it used to run straight on to Denver without hitting much of
anything, it no longer does so. Only about 35 miles west of
Last Chance, Hwy. 36 suddenly veers south and meets I-70, at Exit
316. From there on to the west, Hwy. 36 stays close to the
Interstate, wandering at most a mile or so away as it runs into Denver.
I was a child, looking out the windows of the family station wagon as we
roared through on our way to our mountain vacations, there was something
vaguely exciting to me about Last Chance. I suppose it was
that suggestion of risk, of adventure, of setting off on a dangerous trek
across a barren, deserted landscape -- would we make it?
As an adult, on the far side of middle age, there is something poignant
to me about it. The "last chances" it speaks of to me now,
are of a different kind.
Like everything else in this world, Last Chance is
For one thing, the signs on Hwy. 36 that announce the name of the place
were moved out, by several hundred yards at least. I suppose people
were flying by so fast, that the name never even registered on them until
they had passed the place. Moving the signs back seemed a kind of,
"Hey! Here we are!" kind of move.
More ominously (at least to me), the Angel
of the Dairy King has disappeared. The Angel was attached to a
telephone pole, above a picnic table just outside the Dairy King (see
photo). I had never been by there at any time other than midday, but
it looked to me like the Angel would have been illuminated at
When a town's angel disappears, what kind of chances does it have left?