I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than to get out of town. Exit the Interstate highway, drive onto a farm-to-market road … and enjoy the scenery.
You don’t have to go far. Head west, or east, or north, or south out of Dallas, and things begin to open up within 40 minutes or so
Look for freshly plowed fields and machinery moving up and down rows laid out as straight as lines on graph paper. You might even catch a few farmers planting summer crops. Wheat fields should be about to turn from a deep green to a tinge of light brown on the heads, which should be about full by now, heavy with kernels, prompting the stalk to bow just a little. Listen to the wind as it moves across the field, creating a slight clicking sound as the grain heads bump together.
To the south, corn and grain sorghum should be out of the ground, small spears of green uniformly spaced down parallel rows extending as far as you can see.
Green expanses of pasture and rangeland, interspersed with prickly pear, red cedar, and the ubiquitous mesquite, teem with cattle herds.
Notice the farmsteads: often modest, but comfortable homes, barns, equipment sheds, and big green or red equipment parked in the back. Expect a yard dog or two, and a saddle horse grazing in a paddock near the house.
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If it’s not too late, notice the brilliant hues of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Mexican blanket, and other wildflowers I’ve never been able to identify. If you’re lucky, you might drive by a field of canola still in bloom — a startling yellow expanse that disappears into the blue of a cloudless sky. A few redbuds may still add a vivid splash of color to ditchbanks and hillsides. Back to the northeast, up in Fannin or Grayson counties, you might spot a few dogwoods among the hardwoods and pine trees.
If you get behind a spray rig, a tractor, or other piece of large farm machinery on these narrow roads, be patient. The driver has work to do, and needs to move to the next field as quickly as possible. He’ll pull out of your way as soon as he finds a wide spot. While you’re creeping along behind, take time to appreciate the engineering that went into that machine, and think about the skill it takes to operate it safely and efficiently.
If you see a pickup truck parked at a field edge, you might stop and see if anyone’s close by. Could be a farmer is checking on planting progress, and if you’re nice, polite, and inquisitive, he’ll probably spare a few minutes to explain what he’s doing.
It’s pretty simple, really: he’s feeding you, maybe making fiber for your clothes, or raising livestock that provide leather for your shoes and the steaks or burgers you might eat on your way back to your suburban home.
Before you leave, shake his hand. Tell him thanks for all he does. He doesn’t hear that often enough. Tell him you’re celebrating Earth Day. He’ll understand — he celebrates it every day.