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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     It’s just a wide spot in the road these days. Places without activity and commotion that stand alongside our paths as we jaunt back and forth by them at lightning speed not paying much attention to them because they are just there. Perhaps there’s an old dilapidated church or a clump of empty buildings fighting against the change in the seasons to remain standing and praying that someone will remember them. Our fair state is dotted with these kind of places. “Used to be” places with names like Pitzer and Norway Center, Skullyville and Angus.

     It was on a drive killing a little time last week that I drove through one of those wide spots. I was instantly drawn to that little place as I slowed down to look at the buildings and wonder about the stories inside of them. The people that had crossed the doorways into them over the years, the sounds of trade taking place, or of pleasantries being exchanged within their walls. In a way it’s sad that we don’t have places like them anymore.

     I asked a friend about the hamlet I had been through and she told me that her Dad had talked about the school bus stopping there to let the kids buy candy. It made me picture that in my mind and wonder about those places that I remembered growing up that are slowly being lost to time.

     Those gathering spots that lived because they were just far enough from a well established town that they continued to draw in the local farm crowd, and yet in the same token died when the farming community dried up and moved to town. No one today would think about driving five or six miles or even ten just to go to town for groceries or gas or to eat. Maybe we have lost a sense of who we are as rural people by the death of these small out of the way places that stayed open, not because they made money, but because they made communities.

     There used to be a small store in the country that I would stop at on trips to Okoboji when I was in high school. I remember the feel of the Wonder Bread door pull on the old screen door. I remember the way the floors creaked as you walked across them, the sight of the old retired guys hanging out in the corner playing cards and drinking soda pop out of short stubby bottles that came from the machine where you had to yank the bottles out. I remember the shelves that seemed to grow smaller and more sparse every time I stopped there. The old cat that hung out on the porch, and the strange look that I got from the locals every single time I walked in there. I would chuckle as one of the locals would offer to help right away with directions back to the nearest “paved road”. Mostly I remember how kind the store keeper was to me every time I stopped. He was always friendly and helpful and always made sure to remind me to stop on my way back home.

     I would go out of my way to stop there and although I’ll admit the first time I stumbled across that place I was completely lost in the twisting winding roads of northwest Iowa, it wasn’t that I had anywhere to go. I guess in a way it was me spending a little time, when gas was much more affordable, to have a Robert Frost moment and travel the path less taken.

     Twenty-Five years later that store is gone. The place where it stood just an empty corn field now, the only indication of a past is found in the strange “Y” shaped driveway leading into the field. Even the name of the place escapes me. I’m sure it’s not really all that important a thing to remember. Really, if you are old enough, I’m sure you can remember a wide spot in the road like it from when you were growing up. A place where you could get a stick of peppermint candy for a nickel, a Snickers bar for a quarter, and a bottle of Orange Pop for fifty cents; but more importantly a place that made a community.

     See you next week…Remember, we’re all in this together.