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PrairyErth (The Travel Trilogy #2)

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  841 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Robert Penn Warren pronounced Heat-Moon's Blue Highways "a masterpiece." Now Heat-Moon has pulled to the side of the road and set off on foot to take readers on an exploration of time and space, landscape and history in the Flint Hills of central Kansas.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published February 15th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,661)
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Non so perché, circa tre anni fa iniziai improvvisamente a leggere questo libro. Immaginai, sfogliandolo e trovando tra le sue pagine alcune mappe, e quelli che sembravano gli aneddoti di un esploratore, che si trattasse di un libro di viaggio - un genere di narrativa a me molto caro; la presenza delle mappe, poi, alimentava la mia curiosità, infantile quanto basta per lasciarmi attrarre dai disegni, dai colori della copertina, dalle parole in lingue sconosciute. Bene, questo è un libro di viagg ...more
Kate Lawrence
I spent 2-1/2 years reading this amazing book because I didn't want it to end. For an author to devote time over several years visiting and researching every corner of a single Kansas county, walking it, talking to the locals, and writing 622 pages about its landscape, history, and people was an elegant labor of love. His affection for the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills, what he calls the "most easterly piece of the American Far West," permeates every page. Some readers may not like the de ...more
Maybe this is as close to landscape architecture as a writer can get - a "deep map" of Chase County, Kansas that touches on nearly every aspect of the terrain there: the people, the history, the vegetation, the infrastructure, and even a map detailing the watershed of the area. I need to read it several more times before I can determine if it is a five-star book. I enjoyed his "Blue Highways" book more, but I think this book might be more monumental. My favorite chapters were the ones on Osage O ...more
What the hell is it? Travel? Environmental writing? Sociology? If I had to guess, I would say that Least Heat-Moon's response would be that it's all of the above and none of them, that all of these are unnecessary categories imposed on lived experience. And he would be correct. It's so fully integrated and freewheeling that the only thing that unifies it is its profound sense of place. Which happens, weirdly, to be a place I'm very familiar with-- Chase County, Kansas, where I spent some small s ...more
Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps I am weak. But after 500-odd pages of this book (625 total) I really had to drop it and move-on. I need to say that I really enjoyed Blue Highways - I must have read it over a decade ago. And I have to give credit where it is due - the author's writing and style are commendable in this book. The prose is, at times, most beautiful and engaging. It was at times challenging too with a vocabulary that had me reaching for the dictionary at regular intervals. But this micros ...more
Oct 17, 2012 dirt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who are just trying to get through Kansas
Kansas to most people is Kansas as the Avett Brothers describe: as nowhere as I can be. To Least Heat-Moon Kansas is an ancient sea, a prairie sea, the great prairie desert, rivers, county lines, fire, home of the Kaw southwind people, and home of the frontier settlers. The tall prairie plains are a seldom acknowledged part of our history and ecosystem. For most people, me included, Kansas is something to get through, but Least Heat-Moon takes the time to dissect, interject, and inspect what has ...more
Boreal Elizabeth
This was the first Heat Moon book I read and loved it! If you are into minute details of land and maps and people and history and society and have the patience to walk in that landscape one step at a time and can feel the wind move and know it's moving something deep inside without you really wanting it to or knowing what the result may be then this one's for you. HM takes some pretty dry material and enfuses it with deep meaning beyond the surface facts. The steady accretion of details builds t ...more
Lee Trampleasure
An amazing insight into a small rural county. I had the pleasure of visiting Chase County for a few days in 2006, and asked "how true" the book was. I was told that while it has its inaccuracies, the general trend was accurate (of course, the book is now about 20 years old, so things have clearly changed). If you make it to Chase County, be sure to stop by the Emma Chase Cafe in Strong City.
Nov 01, 2007 Jennie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of the landscape and storytelling
Shelves: my-library
One of my favorite books of all time. This book greatly aided me in my transition to living in the vast middle of the United States, and helped me appreciate its beauty and storied history. I visited the region described in this book a number of times during my 5 years in the Midwest, and it was amazing to go there after reading this book. I have read and reread it.
Gregg Bell

Least Heat-Moon is a magician. How anybody could take a county in Kansas and turn it into a fascinating, edifying, educating read is beyond me. But he did. You don't have to look far to get the feel that this book is a work of art. The cover itself is gorgeous. I remember reading the book gingerly because to damage the binding by opening it too wide would be tantamount to desecrating high art.

There's really no way to classify this book. It is part travelogue. Part interviews. Part anthology (co

Mark Armstrong
One long term side effect from reading this book: you won't be able to just blow through all those small, half-deserted remnants of towns on your road trips, annoyed that you have to slow down for a few seconds before getting back to 55. Now you will wondering, Who ran these stores? Who shopped here? Why a town here? You may find yourself circling back through town again, putting your travel schedule in peril.
A deep and lasting impression of a prairie county halfway along Highway 50, where the west begins, where the author senses a pervading Americana. I love William Least Heat Moon's books, and I took my time with this one - dipping in and out over months. It is so rich and varied - it has everything. Solid and absorbing, he builds a vivid picture of the characters who live in a place like Chase, Kansas, lived there, built it, worked it, farmed it, hunted it, sold it, crashed in it, and just about e ...more
Nick H
What a great way to follow up Blue Highways. I didn't know what to expect going into this "tome" dedicated to a single county in the lackadaisical southeastern Kansas. WLHM grids up the county, and cuts into each piece like it is it's own delicacy. Looking at the history, the geology, local newspapers, animals, plants, roads, railroads, tall tales, stories, name it. On top of all, WLHM's witty sarcasm makes it feel less like homework, and more like a journey you take with him. Hi ...more
Tim Basuino
In the summer of 2014 I read Half-Moon’s “Blue Highways”, right on the heels of our summer road trip (Boston to the Bay Area), so a year later, right before we went on this year’s road trip, I thought it’d be appropriate to read about a county we might possibly go through, Kansas’ Chase County, written by none other than the same author.

While “Blue Highways” offers a macro view of much of the US, “Prairy Erth” is in effect the opposite – a very deep look at one small area. At first the book is i
Mj Harding
At around page 250 I was ready to stop reading the book--the prose seemed to plod along and I figured there was no shame in putting the book down; however, I kept reading and was rewarded later with some wonderful insights. After finishing the book, I can say that it was worth the earlier effort--the later sections deal with memory and dreams and really open up some interesting ways of thinking about place and our connection to it. This book is worth the time and will reward the persistent reade ...more
I took a rest from this one in June, noting then
that it's "several inches thick but curiously enjoyable at a leisurely pace."

I went back to it in October and browsed in it
for a couple of weeks, soaking up the liveliest
mix of geography and history I've ever read, and
it was all about one county in Kansas! Fabulous
combination of archival research, personal inter-
views, and a walking acquaintance with the land.
Nice finding out how his "Blue Highways" came
about, too.
Felix Hayman
In recent years there has been a growing interest in what I would call psychogeography or perhaps you could call it travel with meaning. Yet so many years ago the epitome of this work appeared and subsequently disappeared with so little fanfare. After writers like Sebald, PrairyErth distinguishes itself as a unique analysis of a small part of Kansas, like a geophysical survey of the history and phenomenology of place. It can be said that would make it a seriously difficult work to approach, but ...more
Vittorio Ducoli
Forse troppo lungo il brodo

Sicuramente il libro apre la mente alla conoscenza degli USA "profondi", e della poesia del nulla che caratterizza il midwest.
Forse, però, le stesse cose avrebbero potuto essere dette con qualche centinaio di pagine in meno.
I found this very difficult reading. It was huge and detailed. My kids gave it to me because my family is from Kansas and it was fun to read names and things my father had told stories about. It was informative and interesting but made for a very specific audience.
Apr 30, 2007 catherine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who lives in or drives through Kansas
Shelves: nonfiction
I assigned this as a class text to students when I was teaching in Kansas, it was a way to help them understand that their landscape wasn't empty nothingness but had a character and history all its own. I really enjoyed this, must dig it out and read it again.
Sam Frazier
This is, in it's way, an outstanding book. It's about Chase County, Kansas, which is smack dab in the middle of the United States of America. Heat-Moon takes it all in, quadrangle by quadrangle. 622 pages of flora and fauna and whatever else he finds of interest as he's traversing the county.

It's the amount of time given to the flora that I found oppressive. I found myself slogging through prairie minutiae in order to get to the historical tidbits and the contemporary slice 'o life morsels (Thi
I can't imagine a book that I would be less likely to not only read, but really enjoy, than PrairyErth. Never mind personal rule breaking books like The Book Thief or Gone Girl, but rather a pretty massive book of over 600 pages, which is a "deep map" of a single county in Kansas, of all places. Not too fond of the Midwest, really, but Least Heat-Moon, author of Blue Highways, spins a remarkable tale of history, land, religion, Native Americans, murder, bigotry and more. It kept me turning the p ...more
Started reading this about 5 days ago. This is a huge departure from my usual read. Virtually all of my reads are Novels, Short Stories, and the occasional poetry. The Non-Fiction I read usually is related to my Non-Literary interests, such as Cartoons, Music, and the occasional, but currently infrequent Graphic Novel.

What inspired me to read this? Well, I had heard it mentioned favorably, along with Blue Highways (which I will have to probably get). I saw it at a thrift store for $2:00. I brow
Bob Stocker
PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon is a big book about a small county in the Flint Hills of Kansas. It's divided into twelve main sections, each of which corresponds to one of the twelve US Geological Survey maps required to cover the county. Each section deals with different aspects of life in and history of the county. You learn about life in a flood plain, domestic dogs trained to kill coyotes, the airplane crash that killed Knute Rockne, the appalling treatment of native Kaw Indians, and ...more
Like Heat-Moon's Blue Highways (which I loved), PrairyErth was a bit of a slog (it doesn't usually take me a month to finish a book), but well worth the effort. This is a portrait of Chase County, Kansas, but more than that it is a tribute -- to the prehistoric mountain ranges, the Kaw people, the abolitionists, the old-time farmers and ranchers, the teenagers of rural America, the land itself. Heat-Moon's writing wanders the old trails of the Flint Hills -- and there were definitely a few tange ...more
Finally got a copy of this again after having lost the original given to me by a friend. Funny story that. I had lent that first copy to a co-worker. She put in on her refrigerator, out of the way, for safe-keeping. Never got around to reading it I guess. Wasn't too long after, her house burned down and everything in it. She kinda wanted to blame that on her boyfriend at the time. She lived out in the country then. Prairy Fire.
Years later I ran into the boyfriend. He was the new chef at a new re
PrairyErth by William Least Heat Moon (Houghton Miflin 1991)(917.819). This is Blue Highways exclusively in Kansas. My rating: 7/10, finished 1995.
Robert Maier
A great treatise on living in a small place, and clarifies many nasty aspects of American culture, from cruelty to native Americans and African-Americans, to general closed-mindedness and suspicion of anything different or new, to greed and self-centered psyches, to abuse of everything from religion to the environment. Not that these attributes are solely the province of the praries, but seeing them on a small, isolated scale illuminates one universal truth after another. This is why I live Will ...more
Ralph Estes
Chase Co., Ks. Better than cutesy title would suggest. Ramblings on foot into every corner of county.
Ginny Sharkey
Least Heat-Moon's command of language, history, geology and imagination creates a tour de force with an unlikely subject, Chase County in Kansas. A travelogue through nine quadrants of a seemingly unremarkable locale, PrairyErth is a lesson in deep-seeing, mindfulness, and the wonder that can be uncovered in the ordinary. Like a long, slow, cool drink from a mint-lined creek, this book refreshes and awakens us to the every day phenomena that surround us, by uncovering the meaningful minutia that ...more
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From wikipedia:

William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing.

His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." Born in Kansas City, Missouri, H
More about William Least Heat-Moon...

Other Books in the Series

The Travel Trilogy (3 books)
  • Blue Highways
  • River-Horse

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“Suddenly, over the slope, as if tethered to a cord of air drawing quickly upward, came a Northern Harrier, motionless but for its rising. So still was the bird - wings, tail, head - it might have been a museum specimen. Then, as if atop the wind, it slid down the ridge, tilted a few times, veered, tacked up the hill, its wings hardly shifting. I though, if I could be that hawk for one hour I'd never again be just a man.” 3 likes
“When the Populist congressman "Sockless" Simpson of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, misspelled his hometown while running for office, he said, "I wouldn't give a tinker's durn for a man who can't spell a word more than one way.” 2 likes
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