It Takes a Bad Ass to Live in the Bad Land


Jonathan Raban's book Bad Land: An American Romance tells the story of the homesteaders that attempted -- with varying degrees of success-- to farm the dry and dusty plains of eastern Montana; this is a swath of bleak and exposed land, with miles of barbed wire fences -- as it takes a lot of prairie grass to support a herd of cattle-- and while it can occasionally turn green, it relies on infrequent rain, and is often brown and desolate . . . to drive across it is endless, as it bleeds into the Dakotas, and while Badlands National Park is a weird and exotic area to visit, with strange rock formations and fields of prairie broken apart by multi-colored sandstone, the rest of this land is not as scenic, and it took especially courageous, intrepid, and industrious folks to make it out there (most of them did not, they continued west, leaving their homes, land, and farm equipment in arrears) but the ones that did survive are uniquely American . . . which includes some resolute and admirable people, but this is also the area where Ted Kaczynski holed up to write his manifesto; I highly recommend the book for people who like this kind of thing, but reading it will probably make you feel rather soft and effete (unless you know how to rope, castrate, and brand a calf . . . even a high school girl can do this sort of thing out west).


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