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The Great Nebraska Sea

Words and music copyright ©2000 by Blake Hodgetts
(Inspired by Allan Danzig's 1963 story by the same name.)

Come and gather round, my children, come and listen to a tale
     of the shifting of a large tectonic plate
Though it may seem full of terror there is beauty in its wake
     and it's part of what has made our nation great

It's an epitaph for those who went to glory for its sake
     and a chapter in our nation's history
For the proof of nature's power, sure, there's nothing can compare
     to the forming of the Great Nebraska Sea

And the land sank down and the ocean hurried in
     and we lost a fifth of our geography
More than 14 million souls found their ways to heaven's rolls
     with the coming of the Great Nebraska Sea

Twenty miles east of Denver ran the old Kiowa fault
     North to Canada and south to Mexico
No-one'd ever taken notice, with no reason to suppose
     that the land might take a mind to up and go

Nineteen-seventy three it was, an August hot and dry,
     when a cloud of dust appeared above the plain
But scarce a man could see it for the augury it was
     of the changes that our country would sustain


Soon the tremors started shaking Colorado with a will
     and geologists converged upon the scene
and they found that old Kiowa was the one who was at fault
     with a subsidence like none there'd ever been.

As the eastward earth sank lower, to the west great cliffs appeared,
     and many were of house and home bereft.
"Get out quick!" the leaders cried, "there'll be far worse yet to come,
     "When it's over you can find whatever's left."


By September 23rd it reached Wyoming to the North,
     and to Kansas and Nebraska to the east.
South of Masters, Colorado, the Platte River glittered forth,
     now a waterfall of sixty feet at least.

On October 4, North Platte, Nebraska plummeted eight feet,
     and the governor claimed help was on the way,
But his optimistic attitude could hardly save his state
     Which was averaging, straight down, one foot per day.


Soon the great Missouri River found it had no place to run
     and across the muddy fields it gently flowed
and the refugees made chaos as they hastened to escape
     and were mired by the millions on the road

And all through that dread October ran that exodus from Hell
     and one might have thought they couldn't take much more
There was rioting and looting and the troops were all called out,
     but that was nothing next to what still lay in store.


On the twenty-first October, Lubbock, Texas heard the roar
     of the fractured earth's substrata giving way
And the state of Oklahoma started sinking through the crust
     every hour six feet closer to Cathay.

On the southern coast, the shoreline disappeared into the gulf
     and a tidal wave swept in upon the earth
and the swath of devastation that was launched with that event
     was like nothing ever seen since Eden's birth


From Montgomery the Alabama governor proclaimed
     That the Southland would forever stand its ground
But he had to eat his words as he fled the coming flood
     And anyone remaining there was drowned.

Still the land it kept subsiding as the waters rushed along,
     With their load of wreckage, mud, debris and silt,
And though Memphis would be spared, it tipped west nearly three degrees:
     that's the reason for that famous "Memphis tilt".


Most of Arkansas went under, Mississippi sank as well,
     and the panhandle of Texas disappeared,
And those who hoped the Ozarks might hold back the ocean's rage
     Found the situation worse than they had feared

As the surf crashed in New Mexico and washed Nebraska down,
     And cast doomed Oklahoma to its fate,
So Lawrence and Topeka ceased to be as Kansas towns,
     And the governor, he went down with his state


At last the waters settled as their energy was spent
     and they came to rest upon a ragged shore
Having laid eight states to rest a thousand feet below the waves,
     At a cost of human life far worse than war

There were tales of daring rescues, of miraculous escapes,
     and of strength that made us smile through our pain
And as years went by we proved that we could rise above our woes
     And America would triumph once again


Looking back now from our vantage of a hundred years or so,
     It's a challenge to recall those bygone days
To imagine Minnesota having been an arctic clime,
     or Montana as an arid, empty place.

From the beaches of Wyoming to the ports of Tennessee
     With the islands of the Ozarks floating free
Here's to our internal ocean as it warms our nation's heart
     from sea to shining sea to shining sea