Our visit to Nebraska was pretty much limited to Omaha. After visiting Union Station, and doing some letterboxing in a cemetery, we drove north along the Missouri River, which is the eastern border of the state, crossed the river again, and spent the night in Yankton, South Dakota. The next morning we drove up to Mitchell to see the Corn Palace, which is truly a unique enterprise.
Each year two sides of the huge building that serves the community and region in many ways, are covered in a new pattern of “corn mosaic.” Actually twelve colors of corn, along with rye, sour dock, grasses, and milo, are used to make new murals each year. Inside the building, some of the murals are permanent and some are annual. We learned a lot about corn, and even made some cornmeal by grinding dent corn between millstones. It was a nice visit, and I even got to pose with the town mascot who we called “Corny.”
We actually try not to eat too much corn, especially cornmeal products, unless it’s organically grown. We were more persuaded on that score after visiting corn country, and the Corn Palace. One sign in the palace stated that 80% of the dent corn (which comprises 99% of all corn grown in the US) is engineered to repel either pests (pesticides IN the corn) or weeds (so that they can cover the fields with massive doses of herbicide), or both. Also, a sign that I saw along the highway really made me shudder. It said “Every Grain a Bug Zapper.” Can you imagine what eating that corn does to the beneficial bacterial flora in your gut? Is this one of the reasons why there are so many food allergies and sensitivities today, especially in our children and grandchildren? Much research has shown that this is exactly what happens, but the agribusiness giants in the US, that actually control most of the government agencies that are supposed to monitor and neutralize these threats, make sure that the common person knows nothing of this and that nothing is done to prevent them from continuing to pollute our land and our bodies. OK, sermon over.
As in Iowa and Nebraska, once again we saw miles and miles of nothing but corn and soybeans, with few farmsteads in sight. We did see several “ghost farms” and “ghost towns” though, remnants of a day when family farms and communities were the centers of life in these states. I’m sure the communities still exist in some form, as time has changed them, but we didn’t stop very often, except for our first night of “stealth” camping in the little town of Belvidere, South Dakota. It was late at night, with no Walmart within a hundred miles (or so we thought), so we pulled off US 16 (the “old” highway along which we were driving, that parallels I-90) and parked in the dark near the post office of the little town. Next morning, we toured the village (3 streets and 3 avenues), where we saw many houses that were either abandoned or occupied by very poor people, judging by their condition. In all, we saw perhaps four houses that looked like they were inhabited and cared for, and a building that looks like either a church or town meeting place or both. Remnants of a general store and old post office were on the main street, but there is no business today except a gas station about a half mile away, next to the interstate.
We continue to be amazed at the vastness of the prairie. It has a calming effect, especially when there are few vehicles on the road and the sun is setting in vivid hues of pink and yellow. We are truly blessed to be able to have this experience, and thank God every day for blessing us with His creation.
Next stop: Badlands, SD