Mari Sandoz William Allen White - Essay

William Allen White

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Old Jules] is the story of a pioneer in the high plains of the trans-Missouri country—western Nebraska. To understand Old Jules thoroughly and to get the sap out of him, to see him in his rugged beauty, one must understand his habitat. The trans-Mississippi country rises, an inclined plane, from the Father of Waters. In six hundred miles the plane is tilted from five hundred feet above sea level to five thousand feet, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The land along the valley through the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and eastern Kansas is much like that from the Mississippi east to the base of the Alleghenies, rich alluvial soil, loam mostly, where corn grows wherever there is adequate rainfall. There crops are fairly certain. But after the land has risen more than 2500 feet into the thin, dry air, rainfall is never predictable. It is a land of strong contrasts, floods and drouths. Here the buffalo and the horse Indians of the high plains roamed in the sixties and seventies until the late eighties, the last stand of the red man. Here the regular army after the Civil War appeared as a defender of the settler, and the Indian, the soldier, and the pioneer made a unique and colorful civilization. Spread fairly thin, this rather gaudy pattern of American life covered those high plains in the western Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas, eastern Colorado and Wyoming. This was the area which geographers of the first half of the nineteenth century called 'The Great American Desert.' It was then and is still semi-arid, a...

(The entire section is 639 words.)