Food Stamps for Farmers and Other Absurdities

Power, Empire, and the Loss of American Community

A dry snow scouring the Sherman Mountains east of Laramie turned to rain outside Cheyenne and blew in sheets across Interstate 80, from Pine Bluffs to Sidney to Ogallala to North Platte to Kearney to Grand Island to York, Nebraska, and from York south to Geneva, Bruning, and Hebron: 501 miles of deluging rain from a heavy-hanging waterlogged sky.  Just north of the state line, the rain stopped, and I drove the last 41 miles across the rolling Kansas plains, gray from drought when now, in early May, they should show vivid green, or yellow-green.  In Concordia, just before Ed Detrixhe’s shopping center on U.S. 81 came into view, I made a left turn onto Highway 9 and continued 13 miles east toward Ames, following close behind a horse trailer that raised a cloud of dust each time its right wheels drifted into the shoulder.  At the grain elevator, I swung right and drove the last two miles south to the Detrixhe farm.  Though I hadn’t visited Mari and Ed for two years, I had seen the place just 13 days ago—from 37,000 feet on a flight from Denver to Chicago, passing a couple of miles south of the distinctive house fixed indubitably in the rich Kansas soil, which hadn’t seen rain since early April.  Life is unfair—to farmers, in particular.  

Still, Ed’s winter wheat grew brave and green toward the June harvest, and Ed himself remained unfazed by drought as well as by...

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