WOSTER: A mega-flyover area

Just Friday morning, I figured out that I live not only in flyover country but also in sweep across land. You know what flyover country is, right? Sure, and so do I. Because I'm still an old newspaper reporter at heart, though, I thought I should...

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

Just Friday morning, I figured out that I live not only in flyover country but also in sweep across land.

You know what flyover country is, right? Sure, and so do I. Because I'm still an old newspaper reporter at heart, though, I thought I should check what I think I know. I looked to Wikipedia and found that "Flyover country thus refers to the part of the country that some Americans only view by air and never actually see in person at ground level.''

When you live in flyover country, people in the more populated parts of the United States - people who live in the big cities, to simplify things - never actually see you face-to-face. They get a 30,000-foot view of you, your community, your farm and whatever wonders might exist in the place you've chosen to live. Boy, that describes me and my little town here on the Missouri River in the middle of South Dakota.

Flyover country, obviously, is a dismissive, if not demeaning, phrase. From the window of the first-class section of the jumbo jet carrying the sophisticated air traveler, the land below is so unimportant that it doesn't even deserve a name of its own. When I hear the phrase, I think of someone uttering it with a casual wave of the manicured hand, much as Marie-Antoinette might have waved her hand when, upon being told that the peasants in the land had no bread, she supposedly replied, "Let them eat cake.''

(The fact that she probably never said any such thing in no way makes it less fitting here. As we sometimes say out here in flyover country, "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.'')


I thought of flyover country Friday morning as I watched a national network news program. The topic was weather, in particular a major rain storm out California's way that was sweeping across the country to become a snow, sleet, ice and rain storm in Pennsylvania and New York and on up into the New England states. The weather map contained fancy graphics presented in a variety of bright colors. It looked a lot like lightning struck the Easter Bunny, to quote something a former state senator from Chamberlain once said about a particularly colorful and likely expensive brochure from some state agency.

Well, from where I sat drinking coffee and getting ready for the day, I could see out the back window. Snow piled up on the patio and blew against the window panes. It wasn't a full-blown blizzard, but if a person were out in it, visibility would be limited, drifts would be building in open stretches of road and city intersections would be slippery. Clearly, we were having a winter weather event.

Yet, as the network news camera followed the storm's flashy graphics across the weather map on the screen, no mention was made of Fort Pierre, South Dakota or even the middle of the country. The weather system just swept across from California to the East Coast. Hence, my term "sweep across land." The emptiness of middle America could have been no more clearly denoted had someone scrawled "here be dragons'' over the region.

One online source listed several flyover states, including places like Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho "and the Dakotas.'' We're apparently so flyover that we don't even deserve to be named individually, North Dakota and South Dakota. Perhaps those people who were talking about combining the two states into a thing called MegaKota were on to something. We'd still be flyover, but we'd be Mega flyover.

As an aside, who flies over Alaska? If you're up Alaska way, you're headed for Alaska, aren't you? I've never been to Alaska, but I have to believe if I were in the vicinity, that's the only place I'd be going.

From here by the river, I consider most of the east and west coasts to be flyover country. I've been to New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit, but I never got out of the cities. I barely got out of the airports. I have no idea what the actual states are like.

For all I know, there's nothing but dragons out there.

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