PrairyErth, a Deep Map

PrairyErth, a Deep Map

by William Least Heat-Moon


$15.26 $16.95 Save 10% Current price is $15.26, Original price is $16.95. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions


Bill McKibben has called this book "the deepest map anyone ever made of an American place"--a majestic survey of land and time and people in a single county of the Kansas plains. It takes the author--by car, on foot, and in mind--into the core of our continent and backward and forward through a brilliant spectrum of time and place. There is no other book like it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780395637524
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/08/1992
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 648
Product dimensions: 5.99(w) x 9.25(h) x 2.19(d)

About the Author

Under the name of William Least Heat-Moon, William Trogdon is the author of two best-selling classics BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH. His newest book is RIVER-HORSE: A VOYAGE ACR0SS AMERICA. He lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Read an Excerpt

Along this fossil highway, even though it lies in the bottomlands that have always belonged mostly to the trees, I am walking in the time of the birth of the tallgrass prairie, that epoch when turfy perennials - bluestems and gramas, panicums and ryes - began covering the American interior as the old sea, now turned to a limestone anchor, once did. Down in here, the rock is the worn concrete, yet, as hard as it is, the cement road is nevertheless a fissured seedbed, a string of a glade full of brand-new prairie, an extinct highway giving birth to grassland.

Now: I've walked half this remnant, and I've found big bluestem and little bluestem, silvery bluestem, cord grass, wild rye, sunflower, bundle flower, catclaw sensitive briar, and also plants of the woodlands, including a clump of garden iris from I don't know where. But this strip is not a relict Pleistocene prairie because there probably never was much grass in this low spot in the bottoms: a vestigial highway, yes, but a new prairie. The native forbs and grasses have come in on the wind and maybe on the floods, and now they have roots under the pavement, and soon the prairie plants will need fire to clear away the shading and moisture-sucking trees, and until then the infant prairie can do little more than begin.

Prairie birth: in an earlier time, men believed the grasslands came as a consequence of infertile ground, or an absence of coarse soil material, or from glaciation, from bison trampling, lightning fires, Indian fires, from persistent wind, drought, temperature extremes.

But Chase County has good soil of various composition, the ice sheets did not reach here, and the temperature range and rainfall differ only a little from the woodlands of Missouri. The other "reasons" - fire, wind, grazing - contribute less to the birth of prairie than to its maintenance. No: the source of the prairie is its midcontinental position, far from tempering seas, where it lies under an eolian cleavage zone that mixes westerlies, wrung dry by the Rocky Mountains, with humid air from the Gulf: here, inches of evaporation and precipitation are nearly equal, and here, above my head, the rain- shadow of the Rockies meets in commensurate strength the humid Gulf fronts so that this land can grow ten-foot grasses and ninety-foot sycamores, and which one prevails depends mostly on one thing: fire. In the last half-century, the balance has careened toward trees because white men have suppressed the keeper of the grasses. To the prairie, the voice of the Great Mysterious speaks in three tongues: water, wind, flame. This glade beginning in the abandoned highway has heard the first two, and now this slender quarter mile of incipient prairie could use a tossed cigarette from a Santa Fe trackman so that the highway can flourish as never before.

Copyright (C)1992 by William Least Heat-Moon. Reprinted by permission by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Table of Contents,
From the Commonplace Book: Crossings,
On Roniger Hill,
From the Commonplace Book: Saffordville,
In the Quadrangle: Saffordville,
Upon the First Terrace,
Under Old Nell's Skirt,
Along the Ghost Highway,
On the Town: Cottonwood Falls,
From the Commonplace Book: Gladstone,
In the Quadrangle: Gladstone,
Between Pommel and Cantle,
About the Red Buffalo,
Atop the Mound,
On the Town: Courthouse,
From the Commonplace Book: Thrall–Northwest,
In the Quadrangle: Thrall-Northwest,
Of Recharging the System,
Down in the Hollow,
By Way of Spelling Kansas,
On the Town: The Emma Chase,
From the Commonplace Book: Fox Creek,
In the Quadrangle: Fox Creek,
After the Sixteen-Sixty-Six Beast,
Above the Crystalline Basement,
Outside the Z Bar,
On the Town: Gabriel's Inventory,
From the Commonplace Book: Bazaar,
In the Quadrangle: Bazaar,
In Ecstasy,
Beneath a Thirty-Six-Square Grid,
Within Her Pages,
On the Town: A Night at Darla's,
From the Commonplace Book: Matfield Green,
In the Quadrangle: Matfield Green,
En las Casitas,
Ex Radice,
Via the Short Line to China,
On the Town: Versus Harry B. (I),
From the Commonplace Book: Hymer,
In the Quadrangle: Hymer,
Underneath the Overburden,
With the Grain of the Grid,
Around Half Past,
On the Town: Versus Harry B. (II),
From the Commonplace Book: Elmdale,
In the Quadrangle: Elmdale,
Up Dead-End Dirt Roads,
In Kit Form: The Cottonwood Chapter,
Across Osage Hill,
On the Town: Versus Harry B. (III),
From the Commonplace Book: Homestead,
In the Quadrangle: Homestead,
Beyond the Teeth of the Dragon,
Amidst the Drummers Desirous,
Regarding Fokker Niner-Niner-Easy,
On the Town: From the Life and Opinions of Sam Wood, with Commentary (I),
From the Commonplace Book: Elk,
In the Quadrangle: Elk,
Among the Hic Jacets,
Out of the Totem Hawk Lexicon,
At the Diamond of the Plain,
On the Town: From the Life and Opinions of Sam Wood, with Commentary (II),
From the Commonplace Book: Cedar Point,
In the Quadrangle: Cedar Point,
To Consult the Genius of the Place in All,
Concerning the Glitter Weaver,
According to the Leader,
On the Town: From the Life and Opinions of Sam Wood, with Commentary (III),
From the Commonplace Book: Wonsevu,
In the Quadrangle: Wonsevu,
Toward a Kaw Hornbook,
Beside Coming Morning,
Below the Turf,
Until Black Hole XTK Yields Its Light,
From the Commonplace Book: Circlings,
Over the Kaw Track,
In Thanks,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

PrairyErth, a Deep Map 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
anterastilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm claiming temporary defeat.I love, love, love Least Heat-Moon's other two books with a reckless passion. Blue Highways blew my mind and I consider it to be one of my favorite books, certainly my favorite Travel book. River-Horse was a joy to read. I read it while in Prague: for a while, I was more involved with the waterways of the United States than I was with the centuries-old city that surrounded me.But PrairyErth. William Least Heat-Moon wrote in this book a "Deep Map": a thorough map of one county in Kansas. History, geography, geology, sociology, religion, everything. About Chase County, home to some of the last tallgrass prairie in the United States.This book is enormous, at least twice the size of his other two books, but covering a much smaller space. If it were not for his beautiful writing style, I would have put it down long before now. The beginning was quite fascinating - descriptions of what the tallgrass prairie looked like before agriculture and settlements flattened it: grasses so tall that the Indians would have to stand on their horses to see over the waves. Can you imagine that? Doesn't that just level the playing field - animal, human, predator, insect...all hidden from each other in a virtual sea of grass? I found that concept particularly appealing, and I read the first part of the book with this in mind.But as time wore on and the book wore on and on...I had to come to grips with the fact that I would not be able to finish it. At least not right now. It was in no way torturesome to read, but it kind of reminded me of watching baseball on television: it's engaging, but minimally so. It doesn't require much brain activity. It was lyrical and easy, a minor stimulation. Like listening to one of those 'atmospheric' recordings that is meant to be meditated to, not enjoyed on it's own.Listen to me make excuses. Can you tell that I had a hard time deciding to put this book down? I'm going to do it and move on to something different - and will come back to it later.