Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iowa Trip

Danish Windmill in Elkhorn, Iowa

One of the Bridges of Madison County, Iowa.

"Land, freedom, and hope. In the narrow stony valleys of Norway and the heavily taxed towns of Saxony and Westphalia, in Ukrainian villages bled by the recruiting officers of the czars and Bohemian farms that had been owned and tilled for generations by the same families; land, freedom, and hope meant much the same thing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century: America.
(all quotes in this blog from "The Children's Blizzard" by David Laskin)
John Wayne's Birthplace in Winterset, Iowa
And so they came as steerage passengers, packed into unventilated bunk rooms below decks where they slept on boards side by side with 650 other immigrants, all dreaming of a new life in the mid-west and the plains of America. Evidence of their courage, imagination, and ambition is present everywhere we traveled. In towns like Winterset, Keota, Elkhorn, and Villisca where Mary's mother lives. In the countryside one sees vast fields and rooster tails of dust as farmers hurry to till and plant before the Spring rains make it impossible to get into the fields. Many are working the same land that their great grandparents settled in the 19th century.
Postoffice in Nodaway, Iowa
"The Homestead Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, was the first color-blind, sex-blind equal opportunity piece of legislation on the American books. White or black, male or female, foreign born or native born, it made no difference. As long as you were twenty-one or older, could muster $18 for the filing fee, and lived on the land and farmed it for five years, 160 acres was yours. "
Mary, John, and I flew into Chicago on April 18th and then drove across Iowa to Villisca where she grew up and where her mother, Bette, 80, still resides. We saw freshly planted fields, budding trees, and blooming flowers. We accompanied Bette to the Senior center where she serves lunch daily, to the Nursing home where she serves the afternoon snack, and to church on Sunday morning followed by a community dinner at the community center. John was invited to play piano and harmonica and sing at each of the venues. It was wonderful to see how proud Grandma was of her talented Grandson. We ate to much, sat on the front step and waved to everyone who went by (that's what you do in small town, USA), read, went for walks in the evening, attended the "walk-in" for the High school prom, and I even got in an afternoon of fishing at a farm pond filled with hungry bass. We drove to Keota on the 24th to visit Mary's brother and then on to Chicago to fly home on the 25th. I really enjoyed taking "blue highways" across the state and visiting the small towns. Enjoy the photos.John entertaining at Nursing HomeMary and John at "R's Place" in Western IllinoisCatching a big one in a farm pond

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