There are many simple truths to be gleaned from a simple visit to the scene of your childhood. You need every so often to get in touch with where you came from and the roots of who you are. Dows is not the town where I grew up. But we played them in 4-H softball, and we won almost as much as we lost to them. It is a town near enough to my little home town to be a place that impacts who I am.
Day before yesterday we went to Dows for a dinner with relatives. My cousin and her second husband were there. Her parents, my uncle who still lives on Uncle I.C.’s farm place that has been in the family for more than a hundred years, and my aunt who is going bald a bit, were also there. We ate in a totally Pepsi-Cola-themed restaurant and had a Rueben pizza with roast beef and sauerkraut on it (talk about your total cultural potpourri!) The experience taught me a simple lesson. We come from a bizarre mixture of themes and things cooked together in a recipe for life that can never be repeated and cooked again for our children.
We avoided talking about politics because Iowa is very conservative and none of us enjoy yelling at each other about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton using fact-free Fox News talking points and cow poop about how building a wall that Mexico pays for will cure all our economic problems because we all think we know how Hispanics moving into Iowa are ruining our lives. So, instead, we talked about how Eaton’s machine tool manufacturing plant in Belmond is facing more lay-offs.
We talked about businesses that have gone out and not been replaced in the little Iowa towns around us. We talked about how no one walks beans any more, walking the rows of soy beans to pull button weeds and cockle-burrs by hand and chop rogue corn with hoe. We talked about how farming has gone to spraying weed-killing chemicals and factory-farming pigs instead. It is a simple lesson in how ways of life come to an end and are not necessarily replaced with something better.
We constantly remake ourselves as the world changes and ages around us. Nothing lasts forever. Life is a process of growing and withering and regrowing. A simple word for that is “farming”. Who we were impacts who we have become and will affect what comes after. But we learn simple lessons from going to the places we love best and doing our dead-level best to get from there to here and move eventually to someplace beyond. And Dows, Iowa is just one of those places… I guess.