Jeff Klinzman shares his thoughts on what it means to be an Iowan

We Create Here was an initiative within the Gazette Company to develop evolving narratives and authentic conversations throughout Iowa's Creative Corridor. read more

While driving to Wyndtree Farm near Swisher to do chores early one morning, I was treated to the beauty of Iowa.  Traversing the bridge where Highway 965 crosses the Coralville Reservoir, looking out at open water, I marveled at a low cloudbank touching the ground by Amana Road NW, near the Iowa Division of Natural Resources preserve.

Turning left from northbound 965 onto westbound Amana Road NW, I was soon smothered in the morning fog. The gravel crunched beneath my tires, the lush early June foliage turned from nondescript gray, to verdant green, then back to gray as it disappeared in the fog behind me. Do not think that Iowa lacks grandeur. You learn to appreciate the muted browns of winter, the vivid greens of summer, even the stark white after a snowstorm. The beauty is there, if you choose to see it, and it is not the extravagant beauty of an ocean or snow-capped mountain.

Amana Road NW has taken me to Wyndtree Farm for years, for there, there are horses.  I unlearned my reluctance of driving on gravel. The gravel leads to a farm where riders of both sexes and all ages share a love of riding, of horses, of our own community and refuge. Wyndtree is not a place for dudes, but a working farm. Horses need care, horses make manure; and horses teach us important lessons about ourselves, and become our friends and working companions. Our labor is riding hunter-jumper, horse and rider collaborating as a team, each member bringing his or her own skills to bear. As riders, we plan, and look, and guide our mounts; as mounts, our horses use their strength, skill, stamina and courage. Human and animal, together, we take joy and create in loving labor.

As a child, I would spend time every summer on my maternal grandparents’ farm. Grandma kneaded her homemade bread, canned rhubarb preserves, broke the fresh green beans, shucked the sweet corn, all grown in their garden. Grandpa was up every morning by six, listening to market reports on the radio, following prices of agriculture commodities. My father told stories of his boyhood on the farm, harnessing the horses, or riding the sleigh over snowdrifts after blizzards. My mother talked about that scorching summer of 1936, how their well was one of the few in the neighborhood to not go dry.

To be an Iowan, you need to master the skill of driving on gravel. You need to see the meat you eat, living, on hoof or trotter, and understand the work which goes into raising those animals. You need to drive by the fields of corn and beans, knowing that you are looking at what will, at some point, become your food. You need not give up your home in the suburbs or your city condo, but you need to know your agricultural heritage as an Iowan. Do some work on a farm. Then you will understand.

Many were about the harsh climate and brutal Iowa winters. Some were about Iowan pride and bonding with fellow Iowans across the nation. Others were about a love of working on the land. All the winning essays in We Create Here’s Iowa Summer Essay Series answered this question: “What does it mean to be an Iowan to you?” On July 1, we published the first of ten selected entries over the course of summer. Today’s essay was written by Jeff Klinzman. The tenth essay will be published on September 2. Follow along with the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #BeingIowanMeans and #wecreatehere.Thanks to #IowaBrag and for support of this series.

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