Back Roads of the Great Plains
Title: Back Roads of the Great Plains: Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas
Published by: Schiffer Books
Release Date: July 2021
Did you know that North Dakota is the bison state? I grew up in the Buckeye State. All They were good for was pelting guys with them on the way to school. I might still have some bruises. When we go to the Midwest together, I promise I will try to get a good shot of a buckeye tree in Ohio. For now, I hope you will enjoy all of the bison that are salted throughout this book. They’re not all from North Dakota, bison still roam all over the Great Plains. Once upon a time there were millions of them and they covered enormous areas as large as entire states. Sadly, they were slaughtered almost to extinction by thoughtless people. American bison are fairly safe now, but their numbers are but a small fraction of their original magnitude.
This is a true story: I stopped in a tiny store to pick up a bag of ice in a sweet little tiny town called Protection, Kansas. (You can’t make that up.) There was a guy in there who started talking to me about Bob (the truck). He told me that F O R D didn't stand for Found On the Road Dead but instead for First On Race Day. Nice guy. When he heard I was photographing the area, he offered to lead me to his farm where they were cutting the sorghum. Although I had no idea what sorghum was, I accepted happily. We jumped into our pick-ups and he led me along dirt roads after dirt roads taking me about 15 miles off the main road which itself was a gray road off a back road to his farm where they were in fact cutting the sorghum, (turns out to be a grain of sorts). I took several photographs which appear in this book. How great is that? The man's name is Mitch. Timing is everything. Talking to people is never a mistake. Trusting people is not always a mistake. What a great day.
They talk of Southern hospitality and it’s a real thing. I’ve been the happy recipient. The Great Plains is full of a different kind of hospitality. It’s a genuine “what can I do for you?” kind of thing. This happened too: I was driving down a dirt road between farms in North Dakota. I saw a farmer by the side of the road just sitting there looking…… glum. After a mile or so, it got to me and I went back to see if he was ok. Jim Olsen’s sprayer had broken down and he was waiting for his nephew to bring him the part he needed to get it going. We talked and I mentioned that his sprayer, even broke down, looked cool to me and that I’d like to photograph it. I explained briefly about panoramic photos and he insisted on opening out the arms for me so the shot would be better. They opened out to like 100 feet!!! It made the shot! You can see for yourself towards the end of the book.
I had a great experience in Atchison, Kansas as well. It turned out that the owner of the motel I was staying in was himself an amateur photographer. He knew of a really cool bridge that he had wanted to shoot but hadn’t yet. That evening we went together. It’s one of the most interesting reflections I’ve ever photographed. Look for the Amelia Earhart Bridge in the Kansas section and you’ll see what I mean. I have Great Plains niceness and Paresh Pakhare to thank for it!
All of my books are full of similar stories. It’s what keeps me wanting to be on the road. Although I travel mostly alone, I am neve lonely. We may be divided by politics and religion but we all love our country and want to show it off. Ready to spend some time on the back roads of the Great Plains? Let’s go!!