At our company meeting a few weeks ago, one of our southern editors said, "You know they ought to just slice off the southern portion of Illinois and give it back to the south."
I got a kick out of the comment. Some of the downstate farmers may be agreeable to such a proposition. I don't know how many comments I've heard about how nice it must be to have "good" soil like those in the central part of the state.
However, I think some southern Illinois farmers carry a secret pride about the fact that they've been profitable all these years without the flat, black square fields of their neighbors to the north. Or, as they put it, they've "survived" all these years.
Is the rest of the state really that different? I think a lot of Illinois residents have a secret pride about something.
Many of the rural voters complain about Chicago politics. "They're too liberal. They don't know what it's like to make a living off the land. They consider anything south of Chicago 'down state.'" I once called a car dealership in the Chicago area. When I told him I was from Decatur, he said, "Oh, that's in the southern part of the state, right?" Not quite.
I lived in the Belleville area for a couple years. I'm fairly certain the residents in St. Clair County are under the impression they live in St. Louis, Mo.
In fact, the St. Louis vs. Chicago dynamic has created a great rivalry in the Cards vs. the Cubs. While fans from both teams carry a sense of team pride, it's anything but secret. As a Cardinals fan, it saddens me to admit this may be the Cubbies' year.
As I visit more and more farms, it's great to see what really drives people. I love it when farmers get excited to tell me something they've been doing on their land that they're proud of, whether it's strip till, no till, yield monitoring, equipment sharing, or alternative fuels.
It's a lot of fun traveling the Land of Lincoln. I've driven through Kansas, North Dakota, Missouri, and many other states. I still find Illinois' variety in topography and attitude the most interesting.