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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Glory in the Dust

Updated: Apr 26

Glory In the Dust

When I am alone, driving through Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas, I do a lot of observing and thinking. I can do this with little danger since traffic on Highway 96 is sparse, and keeping my mind active helps me stay awake.

Many people have told me that they hate driving through this part of the country, because it is so “desolate,” forsaken, and boring. They call it “the middle of nowhere.” I beg to differ. A vast prairie wrapping itself around a few trees, ancient rock outcroppings, dry stream beds waiting patiently for spring rains that will bring new life to their banks, all these and much more have stories to tell and secrets to share.

Roads are at times, the only evidence of human presence. The highway, unbending, stretching out to disappear at the horizon and dirt roads veering off the highway, slicing the prairie to also disappear at the horizon.

If you are alert to movement you will see wildlife: both white tail and mule deer, prairie dogs, and maybe an occasional badger. Vultures, crows, brightly colored meadowlarks and possibly even a western tanager, all are easily identified. I try to pay some attention to the road stretching out in front of me, so smaller juncos and finches may go unnoticed. Once when driving this stretch of road, our daughters counted 125 hawks of various varieties: the few Rough Legged, Coopers, and Goshawks were far outnumbered by the Red Tails. Most of them were sitting on old fence posts or abandoned telephone poles scanning the prairie for their next meal.

This land can be harsh to people trying to live here. There are still a few hearty survivors, but as I drive, I notice the decaying evidence of bygone human presence, those who stayed for a few seasons and then moved on: roofless houses, dilapidated barns, sheds, outhouses, and broken down corrals. A couple of school houses that once shared in the rearing of children now stand silent. Old windmills silhouetted against a blue sky, serve as reminders of a time when they brought precious water to the surface to nurture the life of livestock, a human family, and even some visiting wildlife. Rusted implements of work dot the landscape: plows, dump rakes, and wagon wheels which once helped feed families and fill their days with meaningful activity.

No, this is not the land of paved streets, Walmarts, Dollar Stores, and traffic lights. But, desolate?—forsaken?—boring?—“the middle of nowhere?”—Not hardly! This is a place that speaks volumes about life, but only to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. If I do, this land will share its unique beauty, whisper its truth, and invite me into its rich secrets, its past, its mystery. It tells only a little of what it knows. It still leaves me with questions unanswered. However, it is enough. I will come again, I will look and listen, and maybe, I will catch a glimpse of what Augustine called, “Glory in the dust.”

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