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I stumble into a posse of storm chasers in the Nebraska Sand Hills.

Emblematic of a post-pandemic thirst for adventure, Americans are chasing extreme weather, though underneath all disaster tourism is a subconscious cosplay for a future cataclysm.

When Crius and I first ran up on them at a Sand Hills gas station, we figured they were an itinerant band of Pentecostals. The two white vans and the way the diverse assemblage politely gathered inside the filling station suggested as much. It turns out that they were a posse of storm chasers led to western Nebraska by an Arlington, Texas, outfit called Tempest Tours. To my reckoning, this kindly gathering was emblematic of a post-pandemic trend: finding fulfillment back in the natural world after so many years in front of screens.

Bicoastal elites say Nebraskans are boring. But what they unwittingly mean is that we are––except for the Cubby’s late-night meth mart in Downtown O––sane, dependable, and regular. While lifelong Nebraskans don’t grasp most of my cultural references, antics, or wordplay, they do not lack humor. At its best, their singularly dry wit––best exemplified by Johnny Carson––is refreshingly suspicious of authority and artifice, born of long-ago battles with epic, life-altering nature and preposterous swells from outside the Heartland. At its worst, their humor is cynical, mean, and dismissive of those with passion, goodness, and originality, as we all saw in the gratuitously cruel, provincial, and shallow LA Fortenberry trial “reporting” from resident Omaha World-Herald jackass Todd Cooper.

Visitors praise Nebraska’s gorgeous sunsets. But Nebraskans know that a sunset can turn ominous in a flash. Our thunderstorms are not like those in the rest of America. Our cloud formations are massive, towering, and otherworldly, delivering mythological-sized tornadoes and thunderbolts. As some of you saw in my Crotty Farm Report on a recent tornado that touched down a few miles from my home, the weather here is far from boring. It can be downright terrifying.

Unknown to their conscious brains, the Tempest disaster tourists were chasing that monumental Nebraska weather that shaped and inspired Cather, Neidhart, and Sandoz. I don’t blame them.

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