A number of ideas, suggestions, and points can be extracted from "Illinois Bus Ride," a passage from Aldo Leopold's collection of essays entitled A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. However, there must be one main thesis that the author is attempting to get through to his audience. Leopold argues that we Americans have manipulated the landscape and ecosystem of the prairie so that it seems to be nothing more that a tool at our disposal. All aspects of what was once a beautiful, untamed frontier have been driven back further and further, until they were trapped in the ditches.
In my generation, I am able to catch what is relatively the tail end of this slow extinction. And to be quite honest, I had not devoted a moment of thought to this phenomenon until I read Leopold's passages. In fact, I am always the first one to compliment a new highway project that saves me five minutes of driving or even a tidy farmstead as I pass. Now, more than ever, my thoughts are in limbo. It was just last week when my dad pointed out an area off the highway that displayed miles of slowly rolling cornfields. His reaction was to the beauty of the countryside. Mine was to question his. I found myself thinking about all of the hard work that created that beauty, and then how much more beautiful it was fifty, a hundred, or even two centuries ago. Only the mind's eye can create this beauty now, and that is exactly why Leopold's concerns are validated.
However, Leopold does not state his point in a traditional manner. He uses subtle, connotative language in his supporting evidence to bring the audience to its own thesis. Early in the ride, he notices that "the field fences threaten to topple into the road cuts" (117). Later, he describes the pigs as "solvent" (119). His recurring references to the sea are also very important. They create a metaphor that allows Leopold to illustrate his views without preaching.
Leopold's mind's eye...