cover image Prairyerth CL

Prairyerth CL

William Least Heat Moon. Houghton Mifflin Co, $24.95 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-395-48602-3

Whereas Blue Highways dealt with Heat-Moon's auto trip across America, PrairyErth (an old term for heartland soils) records a journey mostly on foot across the tallgrass prairies and grasslands of Chase County, Kans. In a great cornucopia of a book, a majestic, healing hymn to America's potential, Heat-Moon attempts to penetrate the spirit of the land, a land which explorer Zebulon Pike and later white settlers stole from the Kansa (Kaw) Indians. There are now only six full-blood Kaw survivors, most of whom live on a reservation in Oklahoma. Heat-Moon writes of a feminist rancher who hires women primarily, of a farm couple swept aloft by a tornado, of abolitionists who wanted slaves free but not equal. He pauses to ponder fence posts, arrowheads and the nesting habits of pack rats. He talks to conservationists and coyote hunters, excerpts pioneer diaries and recreates the 1931 airplane crash that killed football hero Knute Rockne. Each chapter is prefaced by a map and by pages of quotations ranging from Thoreau to Frank Lloyd Wright. First serial to the Atlantic; BOMC selection. (Oct.)