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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

It's not Oz, but West is chance to reflect

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today's column is coming to you by way of Bullshead City, Ariz., or thereabouts. Putting it mildly, I've taken a trip out West.

There's an isolation to the West that gives you ample time and space to think and ponder the great questions of life.

It's not that I'm partial to the flatlands of southeast Missouri but the mountains make you seem so very small. And then maybe we are.

Truth be told, much of this Western country looks better from 35,000 feet in the air than it does at ground level.

I glanced at a distant plain today and saw a lone cowboy herding cattle along. It would have been straight out of Hollywood except he wore a baseball cap and not a 10-gallon, John Wayne Stetson. So much for Western stereotypes.

I've been struck most by the sameness of the small towns along my path. They all seem to lay claim to something unique but, in reality, they all boast a Main Street and they all share common problems - not enough rain, too much rain, not enough jobs, etc.

It is interesting to note how so many towns are Home To (Fill in the Blank). I've seen billboards proclaiming Home of Astronaut Gordon Cooper, Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rogers and Andy Devine.

I will say this however. No state thus far except our very own can lay claim to interstate mile markers that give you the mileage to the .2 of a mile. I can't help but wonder what travelers must think of our signage.

And let me also state the obvious. Regardless of the posted speed limits, everyone drives at leave five miles faster. That certainly applies here where the legal limit is 75 mph.

Dorothy may have been right when she said "there's no place like home." I assume she was referring to her heart because, in fact, there are countless places virtually "just like home."

Maybe I'll find what I'm looking for when my vehicle heads back East and leaves the West in the sunset.

Perhaps with time I'll come to appreciate the uniqueness of the desolate, barren land that stretches as far as the eye can see.

But until then, I'll continue my brief odyssey across the West in search of the land of rugged individualists and true pioneers.

Of course, it would help great if I spoke Spanish. But that's a subject for another day.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen