I 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.