Guest Columnist

There ought to be a song called 'Stay at Home Blues.'

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.

A few days ago I drove in to a nearby town to get some gasoline. In front of me at a traffic light was a huge pickup truck proudly displaying the Trumpian declaration, “Make America Great Again.” It was a dubious message on a couple of levels, most obviously the fact that the truck was a Japanese Toyota. I suppose I could have pointed these things out to the driver but in this rural county where I live fully one-in-four adults have a legal ‘permit to carry,’ which means they holster handguns. It’s bad enough that I’m at risk for the coronavirus, but getting shot is not on my list of things to do.

A small flock of Canadian geese flew over the house this afternoon, winging their way south, honking and chatting the whole time. I enjoy order and want things to be as they have always been, thus I wanted to yell at them, “Turn around! You’re headed in the wrong direction!“

Speaking of order, I’ve taken to using the guest bed (only one guest for one night in more than 20 years out here) as a staging area for any newly laundered and folded clothes. Before the coronavirus I faithfully put each piece in the proper drawer or hung it neatly in a closet. If there isn’t a song called “Stay At Home Blues” there ought to be. Dishes often sit on my counter for a couple of days before being washed. No dishwasher here. I just don’t care any longer. Perhaps you know the feeling.

Our state of Iowa is opening up the economy thanks to a governor who has long provided cover for he-who-must-not-be-named, and the number of dead and dying continues to rise at an alarming rate. It all troubles me greatly. Puts me in mind of a wonderful song from the mid-1960s by ‘Country Joe and the Fish,’ titled “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin-To-Die Rag,” wherein Joe sings, “Well there ain’t no time to wonder why. Whoopie! We’re all gonna die.”

I’ve seen folks die for lack of air in their lungs. There is nothing gentle or peaceful about it. It’s a horrible death. Long after the brain has given up the body continues to gasp for air, and I do wonder if some of our leaders would act differently if they too had seen loved ones die this way. Perhaps I’m naïve.

Outdoor activities make me feel better, so I spend an inordinate amount of time out on my drive doing odd things, like sharpening and re-sharpening my axes and hatchets, all while listening to my long-time resident squirrel yelling at me. She’s really quite cute and over the years has added on to her nest forty feet up in an old cedar tree out back, so now her nest quite large. I like to think she has a flat screen television and a leather sofa up there.

Down in the hollow wild plum trees have blossomed, very pretty, very fragrant and, when ripe, the plums are extraordinarily tart, suck-in-your-cheeks-so-that-for-a-moment-you-look-thinner kind of tart. I know this but every summer I bite into one anyway. Perhaps science can find a way to use wild plums to cure the coronavirus. Makes about as much sense as what we’re getting from our leaders. And let me add that I am uniquely qualified to put forth wild plums as a cure for the coronavirus, as I passed a required college biology class on the second try because my lab mate was pretty, smart, and nice to me, so I actually showed up for class. I don’t recall her name but I hope she is healthy, and I hope you are as well.

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Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press

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