The landscape spreads to the horizon.
My own adoptive home is somewhat to the south and west of yours, here on the precise crossroads of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles (literally, the State line goes right through the middle of town and folks on both sides just think of themselves as “from Texhoma.”) When I first moved here nearly nine years ago, I had lived in the Rocky Mountain west for most of thirty years, in Colorado and later in New Mexico, and used to think I could never again stand to live in any place so “flatland” as the Great Plains.
But the country has grown on me, and I can’t probably say exactly why in such eloquent terms as you have above about Iowa. Summers can be excruciatingly hot and dry, but often enough like the past two years, we get a lot of rain throughout the otherwise potentially hottest months of July and August, and then the country gets all green and lovely, making just everyday life but especially any drive through the countryside a pure joy. This is just about dead center of the former “dust bowl” which occurred nearly a century ago, purely owing to bad and misinformed agricultural practices which have long since been upgraded. But we did have two very hot and dry summers since I came that had the older farm folks openly expressing dread for their futures in the industry, so I do have some idea of what it is like to look out across the landscape and see nothing but brown.
Winters are mostly dull, nondescript affairs around here: we get a steady repetition for months on end of moderate-to-chilly sunny days followed by cold-ish nights, like last night which got us down into the teens under a clear moonlit sky. But we do get the occasional blizzard, along with a routine of a few mild snowstorms a year which seldom yield more than a few inches of snow and it doesn’t stay long since most of the winter’s days are clear and sunny. I’ve also seen oddities like the mercury hitting near-90 in November or March, and for some reason the worst blizzards seem to take place when it is supposed to be spring, like the big one in April of ’09 which had the old folks reminiscing about the big, Big One back in ’57. But three days later in ’09, the birds were singing, flowers blooming and in a week we had dust on the dirt roads again. Go figure.
The worst things around here, are wind and dust, or else an alarmingly persistent fly population, oddly enough seen most prolifically in the cooling period of October and November. But this year the flies held off throughout October, to make way for more yellowjackets than anybody could ever remember seeing. People had to avoid going into their shops and outbuildings for weeks unless they were armed with knockdown spray (brake cleaner also works extraordinarily well, I learned this year), and even farmers during corn harvest would say that the damn things were getting into their tractor cabs out in the giant fields miles away from any buildings.
We also had one year when the mosquitoes got so bad during June that they had to cancel summer school at the elementary for several days while they sprayed the yards, but then we get other summers when you never see a single one all year, even during rainy summers like this year and last year.
The climate around here makes little sense and does weird things at weird times, but mostly your typical day is clear and still, or sometimes a day or two comes along when the wind just howls nonstop. The land is relatively featureless and the only trees to be found for the most part are in the towns. But then I’ve also found, as a lifelong wood-burner for a primary heat source, that nowhere I have ever lived is easier for me to have all the firewood I need each year, which is plenty. This is just because here in oil-and-gas country, burning wood for everyday heat just never caught on the way it has been all along in most mountain country I’ve lived in.
Mostly, though, what keeps me here and loving it, is the people. Well-mannered and self-respecting farm folks for the most part, of a sort with whom you’d have to go looking pretty hard for trouble to find it, and even then find that folks can handle themselves pretty well to stop things from ever becoming petty or stupid the way city life seems to me to be every single day. You can keep for yourself all the scenery and natural majestic splendor in the world, if living with it also means that one is surrounded with shallow, rude, sarcastic and confrontational people, which I’ve often found was the case: the more scenic a place, the more intolerable the people in it. I could never figure that one out.