Two Lane Highway

If I hadn’t been flying down the, smooth as glass, (I suspect built with federal funds) back country state road at 80 mph I might have got the perfect image that describes modern day Kansas. As it was I was 2 miles down the road before it occurred to me. It was one of those cute rustic scenes. On one side of the road there are wheat fields for as far as the eye can see and in Western Kansas there is nothing to block your view so there is a lot for the eye to see. On the other side is the stereotypical Kansas windmill. It could have been erected 100 years ago, still working, still spinning. There is a stock tank at its base with a cow getting a drink. Picture perfect for a post card for Kansas anytime in the last 100 years.
However at the base of the spinning windmill is a solar panel that is really doing the work of pumping the water into the tank.

Kansans like to pretend that the old 19th century windmill is real Kansas and the solar panel doesn’t exist, it is not real.

Driving down US 50 on the way to Dodge City the world is filled with a unique human architecture. It is a square wheat field with a circle of green in the middle. You can see them on google earth but they are better up close, driving down a two lane highway. Then you can see what is growing. You can see the beauty in the contrast between the golden wheat waiting to be harvested and the green of the corn or alfalfa.
A two lane trip through Western Kansas leaves lots of time for thinking.


So why alfalfa hay in wheat country? I wondered. Then I saw a sign, “turn here to the over look point see the Dodge City feed lots.” Feed lots as a tourist attraction. Ha.
If you go to google earth and type in “feed lots, Kansas” you will see that western Kansas is dotted with feedlot operations. Most of the feed lots in Southwestern Kansas supply cattle to the beef packing operations in the Dodge City/Liberal/Garden city area. We are talking over 10,000 jobs in an area of fewer than 100,000 people.
Working in a slaughter house is dirty nasty work, on your feet, working the line, with many repetitive motions. So where do all these operations find their employees? Immigrants. They rely on fresh groups of immigrants to replace those who move on to find less demanding work. The bulk of Western Kansas economy is at the mercy of the US government’s immigration policy. But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the freshman Senator from Kansas, a man from Western Kansas. In addition the economy that is not dependent on immigrants is dependent on world trade.
Get where I am going?
Republican policies are hurting Western Kansas, you would think the Democrats would be making in roads but they aren’t. Why because they aren’t there, they are staying in their little comfortable narrow minded enclaves on the Eastern side of the state. The only Democrats Western Kansans see are on TV, PETA, rioting protestors, AOC and her narrow mind NYC provincialism and so on.
On the other hand, for the Democrats, they aren’t here in Western Kansas so they buy into the quaint windmill myth but don’t see the reality that the solar panel represents. For Western Kansas is full of world players that market their agricultural products world wide. There are innovations coming out the agriculture/food industry world of Western Kansas that are every bit as impressive as anything coming out of Silicon Valley or the bankers of Wall Street

I guess where I’m going. There are opportunities for the Democrats in rural America but that would mean they need to get beyond the myths, stereotypes and prejudices. Get away from the mythic photo ops: the diners, butter sculptures, and stacks of hay bales.

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