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078 CATHER COUNTRY - MONARCH BUTTERFLY
South-central Nebraska In a flush of color, a monarch butterfly dances among new summer blooms, drinking the sweet nectar of Indian blanket flower on a prairie pasture near Red Cloud, Nebraska. Red Cloud was home of Plains novelist, Willa Cather, who was greatly influenced in her writings by the shaggy grass country along the Kansas-Nebraska border, and no doubt was inspired by such details in the prairie. Monarch butterflies thrive throughout much of the Great Plains and migrate to Mexico to winter. Similarly, Indian blanket flower extends through the southern Plains and into Mexico. Legend says that Indian blanket flowers were once a vibrant gold and a favorite of the Aztec people. When Cortez came and the Aztec civilization crumbled, the flowers were said to have caught the blood in pity for the innocent inhabitants that perished. Thus the reason the red stains remain on the flower today. It has also been said that some Mexicans believe certain butterflies that dance around the Indian blanket flower in bloom represents the spirit of the Aztecs and their unending gratitude for their favorite flower.