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From the Midway: Iowa's bucolic life

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How would I describe life in Iowa to a person who's never been here? I mean to a traveler from a distant land - an Eastern European country for example.

I would begin by telling them that Iowa is a rural state. I live in a village that does not have a gas staiton or much of a night life. In fact, I can't even get a pizza delivered to my house.

My town is by no means isolated. It sits in an ocean of beans and corn and lies on what was once the great prairie. There are no bright lights of the city and every one of the stars in the sky illuminates the night.

Near my village is the valley of the Little Sioux River. Within the flat land of Iowa, there lies an oasis of hills and trees. The river, hills and trees provide a welcome addition to the landscape of the area and a welcome respite.

People around this area always wave to you, for no other reason than just to say "Howdy."

Most people around here are just plain hard workers. Not that they have to be, but they are that way because that's their work ethic.

Culture here centers on agriculture and the lifestyle of farm life. But in the past decade or so, there has been an emergence of an art culture for Northwest Iowa, one in which music, folk-art and photography are all part of our community.

Unlike a bigger metropolitan area, we have cities, bigger towns, small towns, and all the rest are "out in the boondocks."

A lot of the time the small towns that are in the boondocks are never more the 20 or 30 miles apart from each other, and make up a network of a larger community in their own right.

I have often imagined that this area looks much like that of England's famed countryside.

I've always seen Iowa as a modern marvel, in the sense of how the state was laid out. We are bordered between the Mississippi River on the eastern side of the state and the Missouri River on the western side.

Unlike the east coast of the U.S., Iowa was lucky enough to be planned. Legend has it that each county was designed so that no matter where you were in the county, you were no more than a day's horse ride to the county courthouse and back, resulting in 99 counties in the state. It is not often in the history of mankind that we have had a chance to plan the borders by using cartography, rather than by generations of wars and tribal feuds to determine "whose land is whose."

By rule of thumb, roads are about a mile apart. The land is divided into sections, making a grid of roads.

Life in Iowa is never dull. Just when we become complacent, that's when Mother Nature likes to unleash her fury. Thunderstorms, hail, flood and the occasional tornado make life around here very unpredictable. Summer is often hot and humid, and the winter months are like that of the arctic, but we manage despite that.

Spring is often beautiful around here. After a long cold winter, springtime comes with a sense of renewal. Autumn in Iowa is also breathtaking. You can see many tractors in the fields during harvest time, and people scramble to do the last of their yard work and get their homes ready for winter.

Then the cycle of the seasons begins again.

Life in Iowa is sometimes harsh, but most of the time it is extremely tranquil. I do believe that life in Iowa is not for everybody. It takes a certain amount of patience that most Midwesterners have - the type of patience that makes all of us appreciate the people and places that reflect our lives.

Mike Leckband
From the Midway