chop hills

Nebraskans use the term chop hills as an alternative to sandhills; both refer to a ridge of sand, or sand dune, in a region containing a series of hills either composed of or covered with sand. Nebraska’s Sand Hills form a body of sandy landforms north and northwest of the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Platte River and include the marshes the hills nourish. The famed sandhill cranes, wading birds averaging four feet in height with gray plumage, a trumpeting call, and elaborately choreographed mating rituals, frequent the chop hills as a way station on their annual migrations. In “Wisconsin: Marshland Elegy,” Aldo Leopold describes the magnificent sandhill cranes as “wildness incarnate,” and writes: “When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”

Donna Seaman