View from our room at Estes Park

View from our room at Estes Park

Leaving the relative prosperity of Phillipsburg, KS, we headed down the highway wrapped in the ribbon of green and blue surrounding us. The expectation that the breadbasket of America would be rolling green pastures dotted with well-maintained farmhouses soon dissipated into alarm at the poverty we saw. While the farms seemed to be productive for the most part, the astounding number of dilapidated homes, falling down barns and silos, and other signs of abandonment, were only pointers to the towns we went through: closed and boarded shops, gas stations long ago deserted, empty streets. At times, driving through Nebraska, we wondered if we were truly in America. This was not the United States I was led to believe I live in.

Further despair was triggered when we passed a feed lot. Due to my love of anything western, and the cowboy way of life, if I eat beef it has to be grass fed. Having seen and smelled the feed lots, there is now no way I’d eat beef without the label of ‘grass-fed.’ The Yuma feed lot, in particular, which lasts for about two and a half miles, had us gasping for air and on the point of regurgitation. I cannot get across how thoroughly disgusted we felt.

IMG_0385This led to elation as we crossed into Colorado. In no time, The Rockies were in sight and I write to you now from Estes Park. There’s a feeling almost as if we’ve come home at last.IMG_0382



  1. Love the photos! Amazing what unfolds when traveling cross-country by vehicle…


  2. Glad you’re in beautiful Estes Park. Sorry you were disappointed in the landscapes of KS and NE , and I agree those feed lots are awful. I read your blog to Ron. He was in India on a Rotary Group Study Exchange in 1976. The year before, a corresponding team from India visited several counties in our area. One day Ron was asked by a member of the group who had come to Kansas if there was anything they’d like to see that they had not seen as yet. Ron told him it seemed that all they had seen so far were temples . The man smiled and said, “Now you know how we felt about feed lots in Kansas.” Many of the dilapidated houses, barns, etc. are remnants of the days when every section might have a farm on each corner, all a farmer could handle with horse and plow. Machinery grew bigger farms and also many kids now with education possible decided to become doctors and lawyers and merchants and the old folks died off and the farmer next door bought that land, but rarely bulldozed the buildings. Funny how we “out here” never thought about how those old abandoned places looked… Maybe because we know it is only the buildings abandoned, not the land itself, which is still growing wheat and raising cattle, which reminds me, we in Phillips County have no feedlots, so our meat, if we buy locally is grass fed. The small towns abandoned, buildings boarded up, or the empty eyes of glassless windows, aren’t inhabited because the farms grew bigger, machinery did away with farm labors, and many kids with more options than in the old days, have decided to move away…. Some to New York City. “Big Smile” By the way, I forgot to show you and Cristal a grain elevator up close and personal.
    Remember our dinky little airport that will take a small jet, but no jumbos, and I said a couple of people here have private planes. One of those who owned a plane, is a farmer. So, I’d say, probably the percentage of those living in poverty in Kansas and Nebraska is no greater, and probably less proportionally than in many of our cities. Interesting how another sees our world. I know I would not see the world where you live the same way you do, but I hope I get a chance to find out. I enjoyed being with you two so much. Wish you could have stayed at least another day. So glad you commented. Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog.


    • Eunie, I think I probably didn’t express myself too well in this post and I apologize. When we were driving towards Nicodemus, Cristal asked me about so many abandoned buildings and I told her it was probably because the farms had been taken over. But it’s the picture this makes, as you so well point out, to our city eyes, that distressed me. I also understand about the children moving on and deciding to do other things. I almost included in the post the question as to how many members there are currently of 4H Club and FFA compared to, say, the 1950s. It’s a changing world; I so well remember driving with my parents as a child and seeing the beautiful farmhouses and (as I imagine them) bright red silos, I wanted that America back. You’re definitely correct, however, that the percentage of those living in real poverty is far greater in cities than in rural areas. Maybe America ain’t what it’s cracked up to be?


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