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My Excuse To Bring Up the Expanse

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR. The book is “That Old Ace in the Hole” by Annie Proulx.

I have been wanting an excuse to bring up what I call “The Expanse.” My first time driving to Hays, Kansas, that was the label which found itself on my lips.

“The Expanse” just seemed appropriate, even though my reference was from Star Trek: Enterprise and involved, after the Borg, yet another interstellar species, menacing Earth, the Xindi, and time wars and other complications.

Western Kansas has no Xindi’s or space beams incinerating millions of humans in a single pass, at least as far as I know. Could be hiding out in Russell. Haven’t looked, though.

I suspect that Annie Proulx’s Global Pork Rind is as close as we are going to get to incinerating space beams in the Texas panhandle. And Bob Dollar driving into the Panhandle, would have the role of the Xindi scientist developing the killer weapon, because that is his job, who looks vaguely lion like, a bit like an update on Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion costume in Wizard of Oz.

Anyway, back to my own “Expanse.” After the Air Force, I joined up with a squadron buddy, in Auburn, New York. Auburn is in the Finger Lakes, the middle of Upstate, where large north to south lakes were scoured out by glaciers during the Ice Age, some as deep as 700 feet. It is wine country, farm country and small-town country. Some of those dots on the map would make the fictional Mayberry look like a metropolis. I spent three years there, most of them as a reporter, getting used to the sense of space in that land where most dots on the map are only 3-6-10 miles apart. I returned in 1976, heading for Lawrence, Kansas, meaning to complete a university degree.

Driving back to the Midwest, I remember how the sense of space grew. Dots on the map became farther apart, from 5 or 6 miles to 40 or 50 miles. And with it a sense of elbow room and the freedom to turn around.

Then, just a few years ago, the move to Hays. Previously only known to me from Gunsmoke as Hays City, every time Matt takes a prisoner for – well - you know. That was about as ignorant of me as Easterners hearing Kansas City, Missouri and, only hearing “Kansas” after which come “clever” Toto cracks. Ar-r-rgh!

Heading west from Kansas City I begin clearing my brain, until west of Topeka, especially west of Salina on I-70. The rolling hills and sun and clouds, or stars. I pull over the vehicle, sometimes at several stops, just to get out and look westward. I’m a photographer, a good one, and I can’t imagine any picture that can give you the same sensation.

You just have to stand under that sky, that horizon-to-horizon extension, and let the sense of that space ooze into you. No mountains, no forests, no skyscrapers, in the way. Just space, and something beyond mere elbow room, energizing, replenishing, recharging, a clarity.

Then hitting that north-south band of windmills crossing I-70, graceful, stately white ghosts waving in circles. From there, westward, we drop into near total flatness and more sky, small towns. Sometimes it seems the smaller the town the more aware of the fullness of “The Expanse” and the more connected it is.

An elemental power. Some giant machine you can’t see but from which you can feel vibrations and hear a constant hum. Even as those dots on the map are farther apart out here, the giant machine seems to keep everyone closer together. Western Kansas. Texas Panhandle.

This is Mike Strong, in Hays, for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club

Ref: The Star Trek: Enterprise: The Expanse - Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Enterprise-Expanse-ebook/dp/B000FC0O5E

Fall Read 2022: Rural Life Revisited 2022 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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