Category Archives: Literature

Nebraska Poems

One of the things that delighted me as I researched Midwest Maize was discovering how much literature, especially poetry, celebrates corn, the people who grew it, and the lands where it grew. Of course, I knew about the Carl Sandburg collection, Cornhuskers. But there were so many more wonderful poems written to the grain that built the Heartland. I start each chapter in the book with a book excerpt, quote, or poem about corn, but there were far too many to put them all in the book. So I thought I’d share a few here.

And since, after I saw the Nebraska State Capitol, I met up with friend Jane and we drove across the state to her childhood home of Arapahoe, I thought this was the perfect place to insert a few poems about Nebraska. These are from a collection called Corn Tassels, published in 1897 by William Reed Dunroy. Most of the poems are about the life events one normally associates with poetry — love, sorrow, beauty — but there are a number of Nebraska poem, and the book itself bears the dedication, “To the state I love, NEBRASKA, and to her people.” And I must say, even today, the Nebraska I saw largely reflected what Dunroy describe in his poems.

The Land of Corn

FAR inland from the raging sea,
And its boom and rush and roar,
There lies a land, wide, wide and green,
As flat as a dancing floor—
‘Tis Nebraska, the land of corn.

The sun just seems to love the land,
For it shines the whole year through,
And the skies smile down upon her plains,
Serenely, calm and blue—
O’er Nebraska, the land of corn.

And the prairies are clad for many a mile
With the tossing plumes of corn,
And the fields of wheat wave like a sea
Of green, on a summer morn—
In Nebraska, the land of corn.

A man may wander far way,
From the old Nebraska home,
But his heart will long by night and day
Wherever he dares to roam—
For Nebraska, the land of corn.

We love that land with fervent love,
All we who tread her soil,
And we pray God’s blessing upon the heads
Of the men who live and toil—
In Nebraska, the land of corn. Continue reading

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Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, History, Literature, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized

Route 66—Atlanta, Illinois

Atlanta, IL, on Route 66

Atlanta, IL, on Route 66

While agriculture was the focus of my research, that didn’t keep me from enjoying all aspects of life, culture, and history that I encountered as I explored. While I roamed about central Illinois, I was delighted to encounter—and even drive on a number of times—pieces of the historic Route 66.

Most Americans have heard of Route 66, the highway that stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, if only from the song that suggests, “Get your kicks on Route 66.” I’d only previously visited the beginning of the road in downtown Chicago and walked along a short stretch in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

While Route 66 was not the first important road in the country, it was one of the first created for motor vehicles. Approved in 1926, it wasn’t entirely constructed and paved until 1938. Route 66 quickly became a key element of America’s love affair with car travel. The highway connected towns, and new towns grew up along the highway as its importance increased.

Drive-in restaurants, fast food, motor inns, and roadside advertising either had their genesis or came of age along Route 66. It became known as the “Mother Road,” a term John Steinbeck used for it in the Grapes of Wrath, as it became an important escape route for those migrating to California from the Dust Bowl states.

Automobile traffic surged following World War II, as prosperity returned to a country recovering from two wars and the Great Depression. The song mentioned above, written by Bobby Troup and recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, became a hit. In 1960, a TV show titled “Route 66” focused on a couple of heroes driving the highway in a Corvette, in search of each week’s adventure. The “Mother Road” was where people wanted to be.

But things change. Small towns slowed down traffic, so highways were routed around those towns—causing considerable hardship for those towns. More traffic, heavier trucks, faster cars called for wider roads and new construction methods that could withstand the onslaught. Today, Route 66 is no longer formally recognized as a U.S. Highway. It is a historic relic cared for by those who value history and the iconic nature of the road. There are segments and stretches that parallel new highways, but they hardly reveal the importance they once had. Still, one is pleased to encounter those segments and stretches—and remember what the highway once meant.

The photo above is of “downtown” Atlanta, Illinois, where Route 66 was once the main street through town. (Note the Route 66 sign on the wall visible over the car’s hood. If you click on the photo, it will enlarge, and the sign will be much clearer.)

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Filed under History, Literature, Midwest, Travel