Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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One's earliest years tend to leave the deepest impressions, and most writers draw upon that stock of primal experience, especially at the start. I found that I could write best about Iowa if! remained physically distant from it, though it was no conscious choice, just the accident of where jobs took me. I always regarded myself as an Iowan who happened to live elsewhere, who returned home as often as he could. The truths one discovers in ...
Picture a House
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Time once again for a visit home, to the Iowa farm forty miles northeast of Sioux City where I grew up. My ailing Uncle Jack, now in his eighties, lives there alone. For thirty or more years I've been making the pilgrimage to my past from various parts of the country, each time telling myself, probably this is the last. ...
Mining the Family Lode
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It's happening: the white china kitchen doorknob is in my adult hand where my child fingers once reached. I am pushing the door in to the same sound of squeaking hinges. To the left is the crank-handle wall phone, black tulip mouthpiece mute to the conversations of decades. It remains hanging there as part of the furnishings, though long ago the line was connected to a dial phone. ...
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The next time I returned, Uncle Jack was approaching his eighty-fifth birthday; he seemed much thinner and shorter. I recalled the big man he had been most of his life, six feet tall and weighing 220 pounds or more. Now in addition to his gaunt physique, he had lost that inner vitality and optimism which kept him young and up to the minute, a keen witness and participant of the day. ...
The Glorious Fourth
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... During the worst Depression years of the early thirties, civil disobedience-and occasional riots-were frequent throughout Iowa because so many were losing their farms. The idea of nationhood seemed to have become so feeble for most people that to have a holiday like the Fourth of July for patriotic reassertion (Armistice Day was another) gave us children the sense of being ...
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Here was a Remsen Bell-Enterprise, carefully saved; was one of us in it? Extra copies of an issue containing a family obituary were often laid away in their brown wrappers by way of reverent memorial. I can seldom resist poring over an old newspaper, but it would be a time consuming diversion leading me away from the task at hand. ...
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Soon after establishing the prairie homestead, Grandfather made use of his carpentry skills by helping to build a white frame church. A mellow-sounding bell, which had been forged in an eastern Iowa foundry, was set in the belfry. But by the late 1930s our minister talked of replacing the edifice with a new house of worship because at present ...
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Under the eaves, where as children Lois and I never penetrated, we now find early rural school readers and exercise books, German language children's tales, a set of etched fingerbowls, a broken double-globed kerosene lamp of the kind antique dealers call "Gone With the Wind," and two diaries by my father's sisters: Elizabeth's covers her first year at ...
Native of the Wild West
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Our family's leavings in the attic, which may have looked like ordinary household junk, still held resonances for me, and our efforts to dislodge it seemed a desecration. Lois's husband, Rex, being an outsider, was best equipped for the task at hand, though he respected what she and I were going through. Indeed, he had done much the same in his ...
This Stranger in Uniform
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In the attic we unearthed several bundles of envelopes neatly tied with household string. All had been franked with "Free" scribbled in the upper right-hand comer. I recognized my childishly open handwriting, knew this was correspondence from my hitch in the Navy. Evidently Mother had saved every single scrap I wrote. ...
Now the Future
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Once the farmhouse is completely emptied, the barren attic, each wing a cavernous A-frame, seems a lot like the hayloft of the barn at winter's end: dusty, bigger than it looked when crammed full. Our voices echo, footsteps sound like the gait of giants. The round metal watertank, now empty of course, dominates as a fixture. Water used to be ...
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Publication Year: 2011