'Recently I stood on a wind-sculpted ridge with a friend, a Native American holy man, admiring the surrounding countryside and reflecting on its hypnotic appeal. 'The Sandhills,' he said, 'is the most sacred of all places. It's where our spirit goes to rest when we die.' As we stood there with the wind whipping through our hair and nothing visible but grass, water, and sky, I knew his words were true' - Stephen R. Jones.It is a region that has long captivated and inspired travelers, writers, and artists. Celebrated as one of the most visually stunning of American landscapes, it is the largest remaining relic of the majestic prairies that once extended from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. Now this vast but fragile expanse known as the Nebraska Sandhills comes to life in an unforgettable collection of essays by naturalist and author Stephen R. Jones. Evocative, insightful, and melancholy, the twenty essays in "The Last Prairie" limn the essence of life in the Sandhills.Fascinating descriptions of dancing prairie-chickens, courting fireflies, and the annual migratory flight of a half-million sandhill cranes stand alongside equally vivid accounts of trailblazing homesteaders, range wars, and devastating storms. "The Last Prairie" is both paean and elegy for a place where you can walk for miles through shoulder-high grass or sit on a hill for hours with only the cry of the curlew and the hiss of the wind for company - a place Jones sought for decades and for whose survival he now fears. The author's vast historical canvas lends a rare perspective and urgency to the book's discussion of recent efforts to save the Niobrara River from dams and developers. And in depicting the life of the Plains Indians, including the nature of their cosmology and their doomed resistance to the encroachments of white settlers, Jones speaks eloquently to such timeless themes as humanity's search for community and the ties that bind us with nature.Infused with quiet pathos and vibrant imagery, "The Last Prairie" is a triumph of the essayist's art. In graceful, pitch-perfect language, an award-winning environmentalist renders a startlingly vivid portrait of life in the Nebraska Sandhills.Praise for "The Last Prairie": 'A must-read book' - Jonis Agee, author of "Strange Angels" and "The Weight of Dreams". 'A lovely book, to enjoy and cherish' - Ann H. Zwinger, author of "The Nearsighted Naturalist", "Beyond the Aspen Grove", and "Land Above the Trees". 'From insect to eagle's-eye view, "The Last Prairie" gives us the heartening illuminations of a writer honoring his chosen cut of the continent with loyal affection and full, gifted attention' - Merrill Gilfillan, PEN Martha Award-and Western Book Awardwinning author of "Magpie Rising" and "Chokecherry Places". 'This book is a celebration of place by a man who truly loves it, walks it, and is willing to work hard enough to bring it home to readers and place it in our hearts' - Christina Nealson, author of "Living on the Spine: A Woman's Life in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains".
Reading this book is as pleasant an experience as actually viewing the tall, gently waving prairie grasses and pastoral scenes that Jones (Colorado Nature Almanac, 1998) describes. Library Journal 20000615
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