Sunday, February 2, 2014

Buckeyes take to the trees


Before Christy and Tim came to Fern Forest, I wasn’t sure where Iowa was located on the map. I got Iowa confused with Indiana. Whose idea was it to line up three states that begin with I?
There’s a highly respected writers’ conference in Iowa City—I do know that much. I’ve heard people talk about running into Kurt Vonnegut at the local grocery store when he wasn’t educating his MFA students about the difference between resonance and resolution. I know writers who earned their MFAs from Iowa and have gone on to publish some impressive works. But other than that, the Midwest for me has been a bit of a blur.
            Tim’s Iowa blood goes back many generations. He grew up in Cascade, a small town near Dubuque. The last of the "spit-ballers," Hall-of-Famer Red Faber is from Cascade. Tim's dad works as a mail carrier there, and I imagine he knows everyone in town. Christy started out in Cedar Rapids and then moved with her family to Iowa City, which is where writers fall out of the trees.  She managed to hold onto a limb and majored in journalism at University of Iowa. She met Tim at the university. He was very shy, he admits, and a mutual friend introduced them. Christy didn’t expect much after their first date, but she must have charmed him because he called for a second date.
            Recently their work in software and mobile app development took them to Boston. When we asked about living in Red Sox territory, their faces looked blank. Boston is fine, they said (Midwesterners never  criticize).
Then we asked about growing up in Iowa. Suddenly a light went on and their eyes sparkled. They wanted to talk about school and sports and family. They wanted to tell us how Iowa is bordered by six other states and is bounded by the Mississippi River on one side and the Missouri on the other and how you can drive to Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee or Kansas City in just a few hours. They wanted us to know that Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids is the largest cereal company in the world. They even wanted to tell us about the best places to eat—like Shores, which has good burgers but, as one might imagine, not good seafood.
They don’t mind Boston but if we mention Grant Wood, they perk up. Christy assures us that in spite of the popularity of his “American Gothic” painting, Wood's landscapes in a Cedar Rapids museum are beautiful as well.
            H did a little research and discovered that Wallace Stegner is from Iowa. How could I not know that? I always associate Stegner with Stanford, where he taught, or even Vermont, where he set his novel Crossing to Safety. Silly me. Not only was Stegner born in Lake Mills, but he earned both his Masters and PhD from University of Iowa.
Cloris Leachman and Johnny Carson are also from Iowa. Do you have to have a sense of humor to grow up there?
Buffalo Bill Cody, the great bison hunter, was born in the Iowa territory just before Iowa was admitted to the Union as a state. There were probably buffalo roaming the prairies back in the mid-nineteenth century.
H was also gratified to see that Nathan Pusey is from Iowa. Mr. Pusey was president of Harvard College while H was a student there.
I remember seeing the David Lynch film "Straight Story" a few years ago about an old guy whose eyesight so poor he lost his driver's license and so drives his lawn mower across Iowa to visit his ailing brother. It was a rather slow moving movie.
But Iowans seem to like things to move slowly.
Christy and Tim are our first Iowans to stay in the Treehouse, and they represented their home state well. They hold the honor of being from the same geography as John Wayne, Herbert Hoover and Mamie Eisenhower.
I’m now gratified to know where Iowa is. If the rest of the citizens of Iowa are as nice as these two, a visit to the Hawkeye State is definitely on my bucket list.

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