Appreciating the mountains and diversity of Penns Woods

The small jet accelerated, wings grabbed the air, and its tires
left terra firma behind. I was soon looking down upon row after row
of green farmland laid out in exact squares. Each corn-filled
square was neatly separated by a grid of roads — some dirt, some
paved — each parallel to its neighbor, with another set of roads
running perpendicular to the others.

The plane gained altitude and the roadway grid and corresponding
sea of farmland squares stretched into the horizon in all
directions. I was in eastern Iowa — rich farmland, the breadbasket
of America.

It reminded me of a huge green patchwork quilt — each square
basically the same, yet with slight variations. Some of the squares
contained subsections built up with houses — man’s intrusion on
nature. Every now and then I detected a meandering stream and a few
trees — nature’s intrusion on man.

Most of Iowa is broken down into perfectly square townships — six
miles to the side. Everything is flat. These big squares are
divided into 36 square-mile subsections, and each of those is
further divided into four 160-acre squares. I was told that this
system of squares was devised by Thomas Jefferson in the early days
of our country.

It was the fourth time for me to look down on the Midwestern
countryside, and after the novelty wore off, I was struck by the
boring sameness of it all. This is not to diminish the importance
of Iowa. Ninety percent of the state is cultivated — one fifth of
all of the corn raised in the U. S. comes from Iowa. That is all
well and good. We need Iowa’s flatlands, but I’m glad that I don’t
live there.

I’m sure that someone will remind me that Iowa has lots of
pheasants and more than its share of big bucks — no argument
there.

My plane cruised upward through the blanket of puffy white clouds
— cutting off my view of the geometric landscape below. I closed
my eyes and longed for Penn’s Woods — our tree-covered mountains,
meandering ridges and valleys, and the cold trout streams that call
those valleys home.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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