This Is What It Looks Like at the Center of America is a photo portolio by Andrew Moore of some of the most sparsely populated regions west of the 100th meridian. From the New York Times:
Budd’s home lies in an area that old maps once warned held nothing but dust. “An unfit residence for any but a nomad population,” concluded one member of a U.S. government expedition dispatched around 1820 to determine whether the lands that fell roughly to the west of the 100th meridian were places where a person could reasonably expect to make a life. Nearly two centuries later, the territory formerly known as the Great American Desert remains one of the most sparsely populated regions in the country, with the counties of its collective states frequently holding more square miles within their boundaries than residents. And each year, these empty counties — radiating west from the 100th meridian across the Great Plains to the base of the Rocky Mountains — grow emptier still, as the land steadily sheds its few scattered inhabitants.
To fit a life around such absence requires a recalibration of scale, and the effect is such that each small, quiet choice a person makes tends to stand out in sharp relief. In the warm silence of the cab of Budd’s pickup, where worn tools and tangles of cables and a scuffed rifle filled what space remained on the bench seat next to him, he sipped his cocoa and flipped the pages of the day’s newspaper with work-nicked hands, hoping it could reveal something to momentarily dull the low-frequency whine of his worries, which these days tended to pitch him from despair over the state of his barn (“deplorable”) to the condition of some of his fences (“down in disrepair”) to the family’s ever-present debt (“every time we look to be getting a little ahead . . .”) to how little time he seemed to be spending with his girls (“the wife, she said, ‘Oh, Dad, you miss so much,’ and I’ve never forgot that. . . . but if you lose the land . . . how does that help the kids? I just don’t know”).