They arrived in town a day early, which left them a few spare hours to visit "your beautiful city." Now this could just be a load of flattery; audiences eat that kind of thing up. How easy is it to say "your beautiful city" and "your wonderful museums"? You could talk that way about any city (except East St. Louis and Camden, New Jersey) while holing up in your hotel room and eating from the vending machines.
So I just want to pin them down on this. Which museums and monuments did they see? Which neighborhoods did they wander?
But they're right. Even without hills or a stunning body of water, we look pretty good. And we are a shocking green this year, which is a few shades more brilliant than the ordinary Midwestern green. For sure it's a whole lot more picturesque than, say, Point of the Mountain, or the lonely wastes between Snowville and Burley.
And let me just counter-flatter those choir members and say, "Your Western landscape abounds in dramatic vistas and your sprawling city is eminently walkable."
There. I guess we're even now.
Let's all be glad none of us have to put up with the landscape Jonathan Raban writes about in The Bad Lands. The British Raban visited the eastern end of Montana where the prairie is wide and featureless. He found prairie grass, miles of it, rolling off into the horizon.
He tackled the question, Why did people come here? The railroads turn up as the culprit. As they laid their lines westward, they needed markets to justify their existence. Using weather facts from a few especially wet years, they published leaflets full of glowing promises, luring the land-hungry to the homesteading life. As it turned out, the climate was not really that wet. If the settlers crops didn't fail, then they went crazy from all the prairie grass which, thanks to its vastness and monotony, made humans feel lost.
Funny thing: check a map of neighboring North Dakota (we all remember what maps are, don't we?) and all the little what-for towns are spaced at uncannily even intervals, like somebody planned it that way. Just to, I don't know, fill up their railroad trains with water, maybe? Oh, and unload a few orders from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
A few homesteaders made it work. But a whole lot didn't, adding sad little ruined houses to the landscape, their doors flapping in the wind.
But not to leave you on a total downer, some people find ways to be happy on their lonely homesteads. All the Taste of Home recipes I share with you come from real people who live in real towns. We have some lady in Wyoming to thank for:
I made it today and it looked just like the picture.
A hahahahahah! OK, it didn't. My problem was that very melty chocolate frosting. When I spread it on the sides of the cake, the whipped-cream filling, um, got involved. These little accidents have never stopped us before from enjoying chocolate lusciousness, but I still look longingly at the picture and wonder how many cakes it took until they achieved such bake-shop perfection.