Iowa through a new lens
Maybe I have finally grown up, or maybe it’s because I’m not traveling with bickering children in the car anymore, but a recent trip gave me a whole new perspective on our state.
When my nephew announced he would be married, it was great news. When he announced the wedding would take place in northern Illinois, our trip became a strategic planning session of epic proportion, since swathing, baling-and most likely, extreme cussing -would be in full force by then.
The wedding date was set and we began to make plans to attend. A side note here tells us that middle-age life should help us appreciate all the gifts that life gives us-our health, purposeful work, friends and family, a place to call home, food to sustain us-all the things that make life worth living.
That is, until you plan to go to a Saturday wedding that’s actually on Friday.
Our middle-aged memories forgot the wedding was on a Friday night, and my husband had hay down that needed to be raked and baled. (Insert extreme cussing here.) It meant not only that he couldn’t attend, but it also meant I would be making the seven-hour trip alone.
I began praying immediately for the travel gods to give me some sense of direction.
But I have to say that as I left our humble abode in Northwest Iowa and traveled east across our rural state, I saw with different eyes the beauty of what was all around me.
I saw corn fields just on the verge of tasseling-and from Iowa well into northern Illinois, I saw that our corn growers do a great job of planting that commodity that sustains life. Our brothers in agriculture learned so much of what they do from all who farmed before them – some of them on or behind horses; but they’re still doing it, and are doing a great job.
I saw the rolling hills of eastern Iowa with its red barns and lush row crops, and hay that was also cut and lying in wait for someone to come and bale it. I saw irrigation systems running, because our state has been dry this summer. When God isn’t sending the rain, a farmer will try.
I saw potash cars on a train that went on forever, complete with all the graffiti that rail cars attract. The tracks curved beautifully around the Iowa countryside.
There is something striking about a grain elevator standing watch over its community at dusk-its silhouette standing tall and proud, and reminding us that we all came from agriculture, and without it, we would have nothing.
I drove in some of the most beautiful country near Anamosa, and that beauty was paralleled by the irony of the state penitentiary that exists there, with row upon row of windows with bars over them, and signs telling us to lock our car doors. I was free.
When I crossed the enormous Mississippi River, I thought about all the history and mystery it held-and even about those whose lives it had taken. If only that river could talk.
I saw signs for towns we had heard of so many times at the state wrestling tournament, and names of towns who had suffered tremendous losses, such as Applington and Parkersburg, whose beloved football coach lives now only in their hearts and in bittersweet memories.
Every state has stories of its own triumph and tragedy, and its own beauty. As I drove through Iowa-alone in the car-I felt a new pride in knowing this was my state…my home.
I appreciated it more than the year Dad, an Iowa farm boy all of his life, had the gutsy idea for our family of nine vacation in Iowa via a pull-behind, pop-up camper.
I have to say, though, the peace and beauty of an Iowa corn field can’t compare to a grumpy father of seven on a family camping trip – everyone packed into a 1967 station wagon, with a wife who wasn’t necessarily happy about having to do her home job on the road and calling it a vacation.
I’m pretty sure Dad invented moxie.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.karenschwaller.com.
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