Monday, July 23, 2012

Fly Over States

I love how big our nation is and how many subcultures exist throughout it.  I grew up around the “cowboy culture” wearing western boots, going to rodeos, and learning to two-step.  Now, I know there are a lot of preconceived notions about Texas, some that are true and some that are not.  While many of us do know how to ride horses or own horses, that does not mean we ride them to school and work.  The entire state does not look like West Texas.  The tumble weeds, cactus and foothills are less common than you might think.  We’re not all narrow-minded, Bible-thumping racists. Some are, but most of us try to love our neighbors despite their particular religion, lifestyle, or heritage.  We do have some darn good Mexican food though. 

Moving to another state, I had preconceived notions of my own about what it would be like.  I expected a lot of the “old man farmer” types, cornfields, tractors, windmills.  And outside of Champaign that’s pretty accurate.  The city is actually a really cool, culturally aware, artistic, aesthetically pleasing, social place.  The film/theatre community (yes, there IS one!), the university and the close proximity to Chicago are all contributing factors.  But when you leave the city limits, it gets real country, real quick.

Last week, I was informed that our friend Robert knows from Texas who lives here now had signed us up to be members of the Illinois and Indiana Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club.  My dream come true.  Unlike Robert, these things don’t particularly interest me, but they were having a “Historic Farm Days Event and Tractor Show” this past weekend, so we went.  I don’t think I’d ever seen that many old men with trucker hats, mustaches, and overalls in one place.  It was definitely an experience and a glimpse into the farming culture.

They had a tractor parade that lasted longer than my attention span, but there were some cool old trucks and tractors in it.  After a while, all the yellow MM tractors started looking the same.  There were some really neat exhibits though, like a blacksmith shop, a replica of a traditional log cabin, an actor dressed as Abraham Lincoln (he was my FAVORITE), typical fair food, farm paraphernalia for sale, a steam engine powered saw mill, and golf carts. Everywhere.  Apparently farmers don’t like to walk, so you can rent golf carts or pay a fee to bring your own.  It was bizarre. 

On Saturday, we went out in the evening to watch the Tractor Pull, which is literally tractors pulling a “sled” with a hydraulic pump on the back which adds pressure making the sled harder to pull the farther you went.  Everyone with a tractor (young and old, male and female) wanted to see how their tractor would do.  It was a long event.  Some were quick and exciting; others crawled along slowly but surely.  My favorite was when the tractor would lift up on the front and roll on only the back wheels.  Yes, tractor wheelies.  The winners won $300, I think.  I have no clue who the winners were.

After the tractor pull, they had a sparks show where they would throw sawdust into a steam engine’s burner and tons of sparks would shoot out of the top.  It looked like a moving volcano.  They normally had a fireworks show after that, but because of the dry weather this year, they had to cancel it.  They were lucky to get to have the sparks show. 

It was very interesting being around this culture.  I wore my Western heel cowboy boots, but every other person was wearing work boots.  This is was no rodeo.  Robert made the point that coming to this event was an important learning experience about our nation’s history and diversity.  This country was built on the backs of hard-working farmers.  The rest of the US relies on their crops.  In fact, grocery and gas prices are probably going to go up because of the very low crop this year due to lack of rain.  Sad day. 

The point is that the Midwest is the heartland of this great nation.  The stereotypes may be true, but that’s ok.  Everyone we’ve met so far has been kind and helpful.  The farmers at the show were hard-working and dedicated men and women with strong family values.  Kids are brought up learning about the crops and helping work the land.  There is a science behind all of it, which is why Robert is so fascinated by it.  Those old men in overalls may look simple, but they are very intelligent.  It’s not just tossing seeds in the ground and waiting to see what happens.  There’s much more to it than that.

I’m glad to have the opportunity to live in this part of the country for a while.  It is a vital organ in the body of America, but it is so often overlooked.  Jason Aldean’s song “Fly Over States” comes to mind:
“They've never drove through Indiana,
Met the man who plowed that earth,
Planted that seed, busted his ass for you and me,
Or caught a harvest moon in Kansas,
They'd understand why God made those fly over states.”

Makes sense.  Sometimes I hate Illinois.  It’s hard moving to state you know so little about, with no job or prospects.  But sometimes, and this is becoming more often now, I am glad I am here.  I am glad I am growing, branching out.  I’m slowly making connections, finding opportunities, and learning about a place outside of where I grew up.  There will still be times when I hate it here, like when we have to pay the state taxes or when I can’t be at my niece’s first birthday or when I’m really craving Whataburger.  But they’re not called growing pains for nothing. 
So, I’ll stick it out, and in a few years, I may say this was the best thing we could have done.  After all, I cried alone in my dorm the second day of college, but I wouldn’t change one difficult thing about my wonderful time at Baylor.  Waco became my home away from home, and maybe one day, I’ll call Champaign home, too.  And actually mean it.


  1. Hey lady, I just nominated you for a few blog awards! Just wanted to let you know :)

  2. Aw thanks girl! I've been slacking on posts this week so I need to get with it! :)