Category Archives: farming

Speaking in Iowegian

“We’re from Ioway…Ioway!

State of all the land…

Joy on every hand…

We’re from Ioway…Ioway!

That’s where the tall corn grows!”

Yep, I was an Iowa boy.  I sang that stupid song with pride, though we never once called our home State “Ioway” outside of that song.  I have driven a tractor, made money for pulling buttonweeds out of soybean fields with my own two hands, watched the wind ripple the leaves in the cornfields like waves on bright green ocean water, and hid in the basement when we believed a tornado might come and destroy our house.  Life in Iowa is made up of these things and many more, don’t ya know.

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And of course, I learned to tell corny jokes along the way.  That’s a must for a quick-wit-hick from the sticks.  Pepsi and Coke and Mountain Dew are “pop”, and when you have to “run down to the store” you get in your car.  You don’t have to do it by foot.  And other Iowans know this.  You don’t even get the raised eyebrows and funny stares that those things evoke when said aloud in Carrollton, Texas.  You have to explain to Texans that “you guys” is how Iowegian speakers say “y’all”.  Language is plain and simple when you speak Iowegian.  You have to follow the rule of “Only speak when you’re spoken to”.  Iowans are suspicious when somebody talks first, especially if you haven’t known that somebody for their entire life.  That’s what an Iowan calls a “stranger” .  “Frank is from Iowa Falls, and he’s only lived here for twelve years, so he’s still a stranger around here.”   So large portions of Iowegian conversations are made up of grunts and nods.  Two Iowegians can talk for hours saying only like ten words the entire time.  “Yep.  You bet.”

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But that only applies when you are outside the confines of the local cafe or restaurant or beanery or eatery or other nesting places for the Iowegian gossiping hens and strutting roosters.   Inside these wordy-walled exchanges for farm lore and lies there is no end to to the talking.  And because the mouths are already in motion anyway, there is also no end to the eating.  You are not too likely to see skinny farmers.  But farms and farmers definitely affect the quality of conversations.  In Iowa you have to learn how to stuff good grub in your pie hole in spite of the fact that farmers have decided to compare in detail the aromas associated with putting cow poop in the manure spreader (back in the day, of course) and mucking out a layer of toxic chicken whitewash from the chicken coop.  Perfect topic to accompany that piece of lemon meringue pie (which is the perfect color to illustrate the chicken side of the argument).  And, of course, if you have a family of health-care and service professionals like mine (mother was a registered nurse for forty years), you get to add to that discussions of perforated gall bladders, kidney resections, and mean old biddies that have to be helped on and off the bedpans.  You must develop a strong tolerance and an even stronger stomach, or you are doomed to be skinny and underfed.

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And since Iowegian is a language that is very simple, direct, and mostly about poop, they practically all voted for Trump.  Like him they never use transitions more than starting sentences with “And” or “But”, so they understand him mostly, even though there is no chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that he understands them.   It’s what allowed them to elect a mouth-breathing troglodyte like Steve King to the House of Representatives, and I can say that because they have no idea what “troglodyte” means, and will probably think it is a complement because it has so many syllables.  Insults have four letters.  Politics in Iowa is simple and direct too.  Basically, if you are not a Republican you are wrong.  Of course, somehow the State managed to go for Obama over Romney, but that was probably because, to an Iowan, neither one was right, and Mormons are wrong-er than anybody.

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So there’s my brief and beautiful bouquet of Iowegian words and their explanatory weegification.  I know there is a lot more to say about how Iowegians talk.  But I can’t say it here because my short Iowegian attention span is already wandering.  So let me wrap it up with one final weegification (yes, that is a made-up word, not a one-time typo mistake).

 

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Filed under autobiography, family, farm boy, farming, humor, red States, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, wordplay

Stardusters… Canto 29

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Canto Twenty-Nine – In the Bio-Dome

Being naked was almost more than an Iowa Boy who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s could take.  It was immoral, wasn’t it?  And those feelings that boys get when they are around even the idea of naked girls?  They were back with such force that it practically knocked him on his behind with the sheer power of desire.  Alden Morrell was lost and afraid.  As he stood in the arboretum amongst dying alien trees and dying alien field crops, he tried to hug himself calm.  It really wasn’t an inappropriate desire, was it?  He did not feel urges towards the lizard girl or the naked Telleron girls.  He knew, they weren’t human, after all.  Sure they were pretty, but… and the only girl he really desired so strongly was, after all, his wife… by law.

“Alden?  I was looking for you in the living area?  Why are you here in the greenhouse?  What’s wrong?”

Gracie walked toward him, comfortable with her own nudity in ways that Alden simply wasn’t ready to comprehend.  He loved her… but she was a child.   The size and shape of a child.  Wanting her was wrong… wasn’t it?  He was, after all, a child himself.  At least, in this new body he had been given he was.

“I don’t know.  I can’t stand being naked so much.”

“You look good, and I love you for it.”

“But, I…”

“Alden, we are farming folk.  We know about soil and plants.  Can’t we help Sizzahl save her planet?  And those lovely zhar-does?”

Alden looked about him at the withering undergrowth and the soil beneath it.  He was a farmer, wasn’t he.  He picked up a handful of moist black dirt and held it to his nose.

“The soil smells rich with nitrogen, like it had a soybean crop planted in it last season to fix nitrogen in the soil.”

“Do lizard men know about crop rotation?”

“They must to have soil this rich and fertile.  If only we had some good corn and beans.”

“Could we get some on the Telleron space ship?”

“Most of the plants they grow on board the mother ship are ferns and fungus.  They prefer swamp plants mostly.”

“Rice, you suppose?”

“Maybe.  We can ask Xiar if we live long enough to ever see him again.”

“Alden, we are here by a miracle of God.  I was old and dying, and now I’m young and alive again.  You’re younger and more energetic than I’ve ever seen you.  I wish we had grown up together so I could’ve known you when you were like this before.  I would have loved you from the very first time we met and known you for so much longer.”

Alden stopped thinking so much about himself.  It made things easier.  He focused on the problems of Sizzahl and the tadpoles.  Yes, he was a farmer, and this was a farming problem.

“Maybe we can help Sizzahl and all the rest,” he said.  “Maybe we could find leaves and stems among the plant samples that don’t have the disease and try growing some small cuttings into whole plants.  I don’t see any place here where they’ve tried that.  And we can ask the tadpoles about what seeds they have from Telleri.”

“And maybe even Earth,” added Gracie.

“Yeah.  Maybe even Earth.”

*****

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Filed under aliens, farming, finding love, flowers, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction

Dows, Iowa

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Bustling downtown Dows with the grain elevator in the background

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.

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You have no idea what this is, right?

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.

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You don’t order Coke here.

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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.

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The restored and re-purposed Dows’ Rock Island train station.

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.

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There is an artist working on a patriotic project to put one of these in every county in Iowa.

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.

 

 

 

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Butterflies and Blossoms

A Red Admiral butterfly...

A Red Admiral butterfly…

I am temporarily at home in Iowa, visiting the farm where my grandparents and great grandparents have owned the land and raised crops for over 100 years.  My parents live there now in retirement, and while somebody else tends the corn and rents the land, they maintain the yard and grow flowers.  Retirement is hip deep everywhere around the place.  My old retired self and my wife and my kids are all descended upon them just like the butterfly who came to sample the purple flowers on the porch trellis.  Little work gets done.  My wife and eldest son have jobs and contribute to society still, but we retired folks putter and stutter and watch the butterflies flutter.  We watch the kids and the flowers grow.

The Family Farm House

The Family Farm House

Watching stuff grow has always pretty much been what farming-family Iowegians do.  Corn and soybeans, watermelon, pumpkins. cucumbers, string beans, sweet corn, pop corn, strawberries, potatoes… at one point or another I have helped to plant, tend, harvest, and eat all of those things… well, not seed corn and field soybeans… you can’t directly eat those… but you know what I am talking about, making things grow to feed myself and my family.  There is satisfaction in working the land and making things grow… a fundamental feeling of achievement that helps us feel like we are not mere parasites, consuming and wasting and decimating… we build for the future rather than take maximum profit at the present moment.  Farmers are the good guys.

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Only, not so much any more.   For our family farm, with three grandsons (of which I am one) available to do it, none of us have become farmers.  The next generation after us includes no farmers either.  So that fundamental feeling of achievement is basically a memory now.  Only a memory and nothing more.  Feeding the world has become somebody else’s problem now.  We are watching the flowers grow.

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Is there value in old farmers watching the flowers grow?  Of course there is!  The land is still functioning farm land.  Iowa is still the breadbasket of America.  We still feed the world.  And we who own the land are at least providing the flowers and the nectar necessary to feed butterflies.  The beauty, as well as the meaning and the metaphor, is there for anyone who wants to see it.

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