Where the West Begins

cowboy.jpgI was talking to a friend “back East” about where the West truly begins. At one time, Nebraska was the frontier, and a famed Nebraskan created a show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” celebrating it. Now, it’s hard to be exact about where the Midwest ends and the West begins. The true cut-off line (if there is one) is debatable. The amount of rainfall each year plays a big part. Official lines that have been cited are the 98th or 100th meridians in the middle of Nebraska — everything beyond them is “The West.” 

For me personally, all I can say is the feeling I get about it. Lincoln seems  midwestern with the sounds of lawn mowers cutting green grass in front of suburban split foyers. I really don’t get much of a “western” feel here.

As you head west down Interstate 80, by the time you reach Grand Island, you begin to see road signs about western stuff. I have a G.I. friend who was a rodeo queen (you know who you are, Sherry!) The land seems to get a little drier. By the time you reach Gothenburg, you’re seeing a sod house by the side of the road and hearing about the Pony Express. At North Platte, the river divides, running south into Colorado or north into Wyoming. I normally end up going south to Denver. As soon as I cross the state line, I’m suddenly into the dry plains of Colorado, feeling like a “rider of the purple sage.”

So where, exactly does the West begin? It’s just a feeling. When my daughter moved back here from out west (Albuquerque), she said the first thing that made her feel like she’d come home was the sound of lawnmowers whirring on the grass. 

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5 thoughts on “Where the West Begins

  1. Because I’m Canadian, west means anything this side of Saskatchewan, but then again, once you hit Vancouver, it doesn’t feel like the west at all. I agree that it’s a state of mind.

  2. As a veteran of many cross-country road trips, I’d say Nebraska changes more abruptly than most as you travel out the Platte River. From grassy green corn farms to mesas and dry prairie (‘The Great American Desert’) in less than 300 miles. Doesn’t happen in Kansas to south, the change is more gradual, and it doesn’t happen to the north because other things are changing (its getting colder).
    To Robin — it’s all a state of mind. follow your logic to its extreme: if you go far enough west you complete the circle and be coming back into Omaha.

    “The East Coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear…” [we all know where this is going.]

  3. I grew up in Illinois. Except for a short stint in northern Texas, I’ve never lived or even traveled west of the Mississippi (exception: California, but nothing in between). My view of where West starts is a bit unfocused in comparison to you all.

    When I think of “The West” I think of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah…it’s all West to me!

    I even think of my years in the Philippines as having been a move to the west, though of course that’s the Far East. I flew west to get there!

    Looking at the map, Nebraska *looks* Midwestern.

    But clearly there’s more to the matter than looks. And clearly, I need to get my butt out that way and see for myself!

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