116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In the Iowa countryside, farmers' fields, hillocks and streams define the space. Here the small town lifts humanity. Time echoes across the landscape, down the main street of brick and welcome signage; a garage repairs engines, a newspaper office edits a story, a bank offers a mortgage, a library lends a book.
"Have you noticed change here?" the librarian asked from her perch. Of course. The Butterfingers are laid on the front table for the children. But knowledge is shared as the precious commodity it is. In earlier ages, generations of Iowans understood that literacy made our country the world power of the 20th century. The theme of knowledge persists here, the library appears like a beacon, a principled notion that readers are leaders and that literacy brought the modern age. There is wisdom in simplicity, too, and simple things are cherished.
In Iowa country, people wave at strangers as if neighbors are everyone. We sit on our front porch space as trucks and cars pass, strangers wave howdy as if it's expected. After several waving hands from the same red truck, Iowa faith suggests we've been introduced. When we meet someone at the utilities office or we recognize someone from a passing vehicle, we hold a conversation. We talk about neighbors, the changing trees, smells from the fields and each other. We exchange names, a small formality now. For the few months we have been sitting at the front door, since spring, waving back to the fold who headed into town, going to pay a bill, to mail a letter, to stop at the library, we have become familiar with the wave and the smile behind it.
In our Iowa country, invention still holds our imagination. Wagons are still cobbled with parts and engines roar from adjustment and the creative building of horsepower. It is here the first engine was tacked on the first wagon that became a wheeled and powered, functioning vehicle. Here in the corn and the rows, the barns and the homes, people have been tinkering and thinking about a better life, about work and faith, since the early settlers abided the philosophy of risk. In our town, in our small Iowa community, Grant Wood and Chrysler first tinkered with our dreams and carried them to the world. In our Iowa countryside, sport concerns a mantra that success is not final and failure is not fatal.
In our Iowa country, the home on the corner sits under a canopy of trees and as the children chase each other through the changing shadows, no one mentions that the children are Black and white. A facade probably exists here, but the children don't see that, and no one adds to the earlier generations’ lack of acumen with social justice. In our town the natural way of change has made people aware of similarity, grace and the power of skipping rope and keep-away.
In our town, there is no keep-away attuned to the reality of Atticus Finch.
Everyone cares, maybe we need to. Our ocassional smile, the serious glint of our in-group knowledge that this is us as people matters. All of us stay fresh in our hearts. This is revelation and reckoning. Better days may be growing in our Iowa towns.
Tim Trenkle lives in Dubuque and has been an instructor in Iowa community colleges.
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to firstname.lastname@example.org