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Loretto
The clay hills south of Gothenburg and beyond Farnam have never failed to startle me with their various beauty. On particular days in the early autumn, a softness of their color and texture steals my resolve, makes me dreamy, has me almost stepping out of my skin and into reminiscences of favorite occasions. Under such a spell I am likely to recall, for instance, an early September Sunday afternoon in my fourteenth year when three friends and I rode bicycles through five miles of Platte Valley to the canyons. “Wiggins’ Canyons” we called them and the gravel road that wound through them for a hike. This softness may rob me of a detailed appreciation of the present, adult moment, but I am repaid with a single, almost tangible remembrance of lying on a hillside by myself (I cannot recall where my friends had gone) and gazing at the blue gray cedars patterned on distant hills, then looking up to a wash of clouds rimming a piece of horizon, and finally, directly above, wondering out of time at billowed clouds and sky a depth of blue beyond imagining. The sun warmed me, the earth warmed me; I was solitary and alive. At last it was the chill of late afternoon wind, its moan as sharp edged as its feel, that brought back the facts of Sunday in September and stiffness in my legs and the ride home before dark.

—From “It Comes With the Territory” by Edward M. Uehling

Elgin
The land and the way you work both on it and with it to make a life inexorably shapes you. It gives you hard hands and sometimes steals your fingers. It strengthens your muscles and bends your back. It makes you watch the sky and stand around after church comparing with your neighbors how many hundredths of an inch found their way into your rain-gauge last evening. It makes you cherish a host of smells and aromas, including that of a newly plowed field or freshly cut clover, the fleeting “petrichor,” that earthy scent of rain as it first falls on dry ground, the tool shed’s mingled smells of old wood, gasoline, and oil-soaked soil, and even the inescapable, fragrant odor of manure—the smell of money, as many a farmer has dubbed it. Visual pleasures abound as well, from the
at-attention formation of a healthy cornfield to the fleeting waves a breeze creates on a field of oats ready for harvest. You never forget the sights or the smells, and no matter how far from the farm you eventually wander, dry grass and hard ground tighten your gut into an anxious knot that only an all-day soaker can relieve.

—from “Grown Up Along Flat Waters” by Frederick Niedner

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