Is it summer heat lightning?  Pulses and flashes of brightness against the nighttime clouds.  It is the Batman symbol?  Blazened across the Gotham sky, calling forth the caped and capering crime fighters.  Is it Los Angeles at move premier?  With stars and starlets adorned in diamonds and silicone.  Is it an aurora?  Of Borealis or Australis flavor.  Is it the rolling prairie lit aflame and whipped by the treeless wind?

It is none of those things.  Something else is illuminating the snow, topping the North Dakota sky with prickly flakes drifting across this rutted Baaken road.  Flares, flares, everywhere flares.  Broiling roiling and stabbing swords of light as if beckoning the martains and beaconing the 747s, flying as fast as they can over this frozen February tundra.  In every direction, from every vista, down every vale, topping every hill, is a flame, orange and pulsing and blowing at thousands of PSI.

Some flames come from towers.  Some come from trailers.  Some come from rudimentary pits, dug at ground level, distressingly close to the crackling dry prairie awaiting the wayward ember, yet quenchingly dressed in half a foot of snow.  It never stops.  It never darkens.  It just glows with a sinister orange, a dismal yellow, a terrifying red that makes me shudder and clutch my chest and whimper at the waste, gasp at the frivolity, cringe at the scarring and marvel at abnormality.

The North Dakota farmlands will never be the same, never be dark again.  Perhaps this new midnight sun will grow the hay a bit higher, the alfalfa more aromatic, the potatoes more potent and the pumpkins to the size that requires a flatbed truck and a crane to unload them.  Maybe the Baaken will grow succulent strawberries, heavenly huckleberries and lip-smacking lemons off trees so verdant they reminisce of Florida.  Or maybe it’ll still be barren and brown and cold and end-of-the-earth desolate, where nothing in its right mind will grow, except the wallets and the egos of the barons and the lessees.  And all that fuel will just light the sky, instead of lighting the stoves in a million American homes.

Robin Behl, La Cuensista

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