I live and work in central Indiana. One of my many Hoosier delights is driving along I-69 enjoying the miles and miles of farm fields as far as the eye can see. During planting season, the ground is opened by plows. The earth takes on deep, dark, brown tones. The richness of brown is a marker of another crop, another phase of the year. As I take the back roads from time to time, I see a farmer in his pickup or high up on his tractor. I always take the opportunity to wave; a small ‘thank you’ for all the work that goes into farming.
But I often have another view of American farms; from 6 miles up. Planes carry me and others over the vast stretches of brown ground called “middle America.” The views are spectacular. Sometimes I wonder if farmers take a plane ride to organize their fields. From the air, farm country often appears as if it has been planned from above. Patches of color—green, gold, and brown—construct a perfect, earthen jig saw puzzle. Around where I live in Indiana, the farm fields are square. Flying over Colorado farmers have created huge circles of land, cultivated for their crops.
It seems Thomas Jefferson is to thank for the user friendly way plots of land are laid out. Jefferson invented a grid for the Land Ordinance of 1785. Later the Homestead Act of 1862 extended the grid, west of the Mississippi River. Today geographers refer to Jefferson’s geometrical grid as the Public Land Survey System. Jefferson’s idea was to organize the sale of land in one mile square plots. Jefferson desired to make land available to as many people as possible, as easily as possible. Jefferson’s skills as an architect made farmland the way it looks now from 30,000 feet.
So it should come as no surprise to discover that I love Jason Aldean’s song “Fly Over States.”
I’m listening as I type some of the lyrics:
Just a bunch of square cornfields and wheat farms
Man, it all looks the same
Miles and miles of back roads and highways
Connecting little towns with funny names
Who’d want to live down there, in the middle of nowhere
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
So the next time you’re driving through the country—interstate or back roads—remember there is more to America than just East and West. Those fly over states are the breadbasket of our country and the people there are the backbone of our way of life. For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.
Mark loves country music and his country; his students at Crossroads Bible College hear it all the time. Dr. Mark Eckel is V. P. of Academic Affairs and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies. This essay will air on Moody Radio in September, 2012.