Wall Clouds and Wild Roses
The Great American Desert, that’s what some of the early pioneers and explorers termed the Great Plains. An endless sea of grass, wild and untamed. The prairie is a special place. I am blessed to live along the banks of the North Platte River, right in the path of what was once the Oregon trail. You can still see the wagon ruts in a few places on the ranch, a permanent scar on the landscape of a time gone by. I can only imagine what those pioneers thought as they crossed this big country. There are those that would argue this is fly over country, a mere inconvenience as they travel from one concrete jungle to the next. In my eyes, this is Gods pure masterpiece.
This time of year is truly when this country is at its most beautiful. The prairie is full of color, wild roses are starting to blossom, the cactus flowers attract the bees, and the soapweeds provide white flowers that are like a candy treat for cattle. Soon we will see the new crop of fawns with their bright white spots, there are baby bunnies lounging in the shade in the yard. Its hard to say, but I think if I would have been one of those pioneers, I might have parked the wagon right here and set up shop. In my eyes there is nothing prettier than seeing green grass waving in the summer breeze. Cattle begin to lose their winter coats and the bright summer hair-coat shines like a diamond in the sun.
Some of the best beauty comes when the storms begin to roll in from the west. The brightest of days begin to darken and clouds stretch high up into the heavens. Thunder booms and bellows like a bass drum. Lightning lights up the night sky and flashes brighter than an arc from a welder. Thunderstorms out here can spark a tornado if the conditions are just right, for as destructive and dangerous as they are, they are truly a sight to see form. Sometimes the lightning sparks a prairie fire, and the glow of flames against a black night sky is a sight that cannot be described.
It’s a special kind of people that call the high plains home. We rely on one another. We help each other when the need arises, and you are almost always greeted with a friendly wave when you pass on the highway. I would argue that it is the people that make the Great Plains “great.” Neighbors gather to help brand calves, farmers pool their trucks and combines together to harvest crops, and you can bet Ol’ Glory flies proudly from every light post on main street all summer long.
As spring turns to summer and the green wheat fields turn golden, the beauty of this country takes a different form. Thunderstorms that build in the background of a harvest crew are picture worthy. I can’t describe all the beauty that this country has to offer, and there is a good chance many people will miss it as they travel the interstate on their way to their destination.
Next time you decide to go out for a Sunday drive, take my advice, take the back roads. Drive through the little towns and make friends with someone at the café. You just might get to see some things that make you appreciate all the beauty the prairie has to offer. That’s all for this time, keep praying for rain and be thankful for it when it comes. Keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire and God bless.
Meinzer is a fourth-generation rancher raised on the southeastern plains of Colorado. He and his family live and ranch in Oshkosh, Neb.