From Loveland to the Heartland

When an opportunity falls into your lap, just leap. A fellow writer mentioned the Prairie Writers’ Workshop a year ago.Recently I found the registration information online and made an artist’s date to go there.

Red Cloud,Nebraska, known as the home of Willa Cather, is just four hundred miles east of Loveland,Colorado,but it might as well be four thousand miles. To reach this tiny farming community of less than one thousand tough land owners, you pass fields of crops, rivers that appear flat, sand hills, drilling rigs and wind farms.  Be careful not to fly past this significant crossroad, however. Red Cloud used to be hunting grounds for the Oglala Lakota tribe and is proud to honor one of their leaders. The Republican River Valley produces majestic cottonwood trees and rich farmland. Red Cloud sits on the Divide above the river at 1,716 feet above sea level.

In contrast,Loveland,Colorado is defined by the Big Thompson River, which carves its way through a dramatic chasm as it tumbles downstream fromRockyMountainNational Park.Lovelandalmost reaches 5,000 feet in elevation.

Both communities were settled by pioneers, whom Willa Cather states “should have an imagination.” It’s the Great Plains, however, that test that imagination. Willa Cather once described her feelings of returning to Red Cloud in 1913. “As we drove further and further out into the country, I felt a good deal as if we had come to the end of everything—it was a kind of erasure of personality.”

Loveland and Red Cloud pride themselves on nurturing the arts.Loveland has hundreds of sculptures displayed in two large parks as well as on numerous corners and private land.

Red Cloud has an Opera House built in 1885, a bank turned museum, and homes from the late 1800’s beautifully restored. The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is sixty acres that have never felt the plow. Only the native plant, bird, amphibian, and reptile species can truly appreciate its value, yet I attempt to paint a picture here.

On the Prairie

I see restless rust tufts of grass hovering over invisible stalks,

I hear swallows, red-winged blackbirds, sandpipers, and finches

whistling and shrieking like an orchestra of piccolos,

I taste the bitterness of land, once a beloved home of native beings,

I smell the ancient dust mingled with the swirling grit of an approaching storm,

I feel protected from the burning sun by the caress of dependable breezes.

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