A recent visit to Western North Dakota brought me the realization of change. Western North Dakota has always felt like the essence of flyover country to me. The vistas stretch to the horizon and silhouettes of the antique threshing machines remind me of days not so terribly long ago when the Western Dakota country was settled.
Now the reality of recent changes mark the landscape. There is still the spaciousness that only the prairie country can embody with grasslands and wheat fields that meet the sky and the occasional horseman working the countless cattle. Yet now the landscape is also accented by oil- drilling rigs; huge towers seen for miles, and oil pumps methodically pulling the modern lifeblood from the earth. There is now a new type of feel to the big land, punctuated with flaring wellheads and endless tank trucks hauling the “black gold.” The vast land remains, yet some of the former solitude and welcome emptiness that some crave is diminished. Changes have come to the heart of flyover country and as usual, change is a two-edged sword.