Current weather conditions

Click for Dexter, Iowa Forecast

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."



     This is one of those weeks that find me sitting at the computer trying to do anything possible to put off writing a column. It is that I don’t enjoy these short visits every week, but this week the words just don’t seem to want to flow very well. Most of the time when I get to the point of firing up the computer and banging around the keys I’ve got one main theme in my mind, and if there isn’t a main theme I can usually pull off a few random thoughts. But this week is a little different. It seems as though I’ve spent all my thinking time this weekend and suddenly draw a blank when it comes time to write.

     I spent an amazing day in southern Iowa this weekend. I didn’t want to be one of those people who lives close to the “Best Burger in Iowa” and think that there wasn’t any reason to ever eat at home again or anywhere else for that matter. No, sometimes you have to live a little and step outside your shell so I charted a course for Ringgold County to spend a little time with a few ghost towns I remembered from long ago.

     In Mt. Ayr I had the opportunity to try the “special” cheeseburger and fries at a 50s themed dinner named Peggy Sue’s. Great atmosphere and amazing fries made up for the cheeseburger, which although it was served on a pleasantly surprising bun, was certainly nothing to write home about. I will say one thing for the staff there, they didn’t leave me or my traveling partner alone for long and I’ve made a point of storing in my memory bank the fact that three and a half glasses of ice tea at noon probably isn’t such a good idea when driving through sparsely populated Iowa.

     The Mt. Ayr downtown is much as I remember it, clean and smart looking even though it is saddled with what is one of the plainest looking courthouses in the state. Off west we traveled, using the GPS as a guide although it doesn’t really let you know if the Level B road you’ve gone down really leads anywhere.

     At Delphos we found a few homes, the city jail- used until 1987 and a strange sign warning us of a teeter-totter crossing although it looked as though it had crossed the street and run away long ago.

     Pulling into Malloy, population 28 we were surprised by how pretty that little town is, although there isn’t much to look at anymore. We did cruise around the former Catholic church there for a bit, and in my memory bank I remembered reading that it was owned by the father of the actress Hillary Swank. Although we didn’t stop to visit and didn’t see any famous people it seemed like a nice place to call home.

     We traveled on into the small town of Blockton. It was here that my love of trains was sparked again with the sighting of a red caboose in the city park. After being suspicious of it’s heritage masked by red paint with a Chicago NorthWestern Lines decal affixed to it, I discovered that not only was it a former Rock Island caboose, but one that the official historical society of the Railroad hadn’t documented.

     We skipped driving down to Redding only because we noticed that they are holding the National Cattle Dog Trial Memorial Day weekend, and thought maybe I could sneak away for that and take a tour of the town. Instead we had, well…I had… my sights set on Athelstan, one of the last cities to unincorporated in the state.

     You know when gravel roads are the only way into a town that there can’t be much to it, and after stopping at the side of the road to look at the mysterious parking of another former Rock Island grain car (far from any railroad tracks) we came upon the town that was so non descript that none of the downtown buildings still standing gave a clue as to the name of the place. In fact, if one didn’t know where they were, you would not even know what it was called. It seemed to me that the town was a Mecca for groves of antique cars and iron that should be making someone rich with the price of scrap right now.

     There were a few other stops, and a few more sights seen on that fun Saturday spent wandering around the state. As I’ve reflected back on the places we visited I wonder about the empty buildings and what their stories were. I wondered about the people who called those places home, and what kind of work they do to survive. For as curious as I was to see the outside world and marvel at the brick and wood structures fighting time to stay standing it was also nice to come back home. It makes me appreciate the place I call home, even if sometimes I wish it was a little more lively. When it all boils down to it, it isn’t about how much you have, and in some ways it isn’t really about where you are now, but it reminded me that we must always look where we have been, and plan ahead for where we hope to be.

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