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By Staff | May 15, 2009

Occasionally parents are allowed to help their children with their school work. Usually we only agree to help if it is a subject or project we like. Otherwise, the answer is “figure it out yourself, because that is why you have schoolwork.”

One of the projects we helped with was their Iowa history books. We had to do them when we were into school, but of course back then our books would have been so very teeny owing to the fact that the state was still in its infancy.

While researching, my daughter and I came upon a book called “Iowa: A Guide to the Hawkeye State.” It is one of the books in our farm library that was published in 1938 as part of the American Guide Series, sponsored by The State Historical Society of Iowa to Commemorate the Centenary of the Organization of the Iowa Territory.

Two men, George Hull ,of Binghamton, N.Y., and H.B. Martin, of Marshalltown, are credited with the Cardiff giant hoax. In July of 1868, these men freighted a slab of gypsum from Fort Dodge to Chicago where they instructed two German stonecutters to carve it into a giant pricking it with a leaden mallet faced with needles to give it a human-looking skin, then bathing the giant in sulfuric acid to give the appearance of a great age.

The stone man, which really was a giant at 10 feet tall and two and half feet wide, weighted 3,000 pounds, was shipped to Union, N.Y., Oct. 12, 1858. From there it went to Cardiff, N.Y. where it was buried. In this well orchestrated plan, Hull’s brother-in-law “discovered” the giant while digging a well. Soon the Cardiff giant was famous as many sculptors, geologist and writers believed him to be a “prehistoric man.”

With comments coming from New York State geologist James Hall who pronounced the giant to be “the most remarkable archeological discovery ever made in this country.” Hiram Powers, sculptor of the Greek Slave, declared, “No chisel could carve such a perfect man.”

The book states that the interest was so widespread that magazines and papers everywhere carried stories about the giant and contemporary encyclopedias mentioned it. The giant was part of P.T. Barnum’s circus where millions of people paid 50 cents to see him. For a period of time the New York Central Rail Road changed its train schedule to permit passengers to stop and see the wonder when it was at Syracuse.

This fascination with the Cardiff giant continued until Professor Othniel Marsh, of Yale University, exposed it as a fake. At the time the book was written the giant was in a private museum of Gardner Cowles Jr., a Des Moines newspaper executive.

Personally I think that there is a new hoax that has been perpetrated in recent years called global warming; perpetrated in much the same way, with books and articles proclaiming that a climate catastrophe is imminent.

I may be wrong. The end result would mean Iowa would have milder winters with a longer growing season. North Dakota land values will rise a hundredfold as they become the major corn-growing state

We can disagree on our views of global warming and that’s okay. But I think we can agree that right now the national debt cannot grow in the way it has of late. Trillions of dollars are impossible for me to vision, but its becoming common coffee shop talk.

With this year’s corn crop in the ground it is a fair crop to consider when trying to envision trillions of dollars. In an average year Iowa produces 2.2 billion bushels of corn, using the price of $4.40 per bushel. It would make this year’s crop worth around $10 billion dollars, an easy number to work with.

Using these figures, accountants have calculated that it would take 100 years of Iowa’s corn crop, at $4.40 a bushel, to equal $1 trillion. What is our federal debt at now? As of Tuesday, at 2:24 p.m. (central time) it is at $11.27 trillion.

Sometimes, the government needs to put things on hold, just as we farmers have to put off purchasing new equipment or making capital improvements.

Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer. Reach her at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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