A first-time author goes on walkabout in the Great Plains.
Like countless people, freelance writer Dobson was feeling trapped. In 1995 he was working a dead-end job, and he felt aimless and helpless. The only thing that comforted him was that massive swath of land that stretched for hundreds of miles just west of his hometown of Kansas City, Mo. The Great Plains had been soothing to him as a child, even if he’d only taken in those endless golden oceans from his father’s car window. Dobson wondered if he could enhance that feeling if he enveloped himself in the prairie, so he decided to walk from his front step to Helena, Mont., hoping that the Plains could somehow cure him. It did more than that. This isn’t a book about the author’s personal musings on the road, but rather a chronicle of the folks that, despite a lack of virtually everything except endless space, have decided to live on the prairie. More surprisingly, these people—the former carnival worker in Wyoming, the evangelicals in Kansas, the would-be rock star in Nebraska—were eager to let Dobson into their lives. The prairie, lovingly described by the author, becomes the fabric that holds these people together. Their stories, some as violent and powerful as a Midwestern thunderstorm, others as calm as a breeze, create a captivating narrative, and Dobson finds the common humanity that keeps people struggling against their circumstances and striving to succeed, in whatever form that may take.
Restrained storytelling and a string of charming, relatable characters make the prairie seem like much more than a flyover region.