The Ark

Whatever floats your boat...


Earlier this year I went to Des Moines, Clive to be exact, to teach a couple of classes. I had never been in that part of the country so I began asking clients about what to do, where to go, points of interest. The resounding theme was, Des Moines is a good place to pass through on the way to somewhere else. I thought, surely there’s something fun to do there. I have a new camera, I’m easy to entertain, I’ll find something.

We arrived on Sunday evening, checked into our hotel, and set about looking for a place for dinner. It was 10:20 p.m. Apparently, with the exception of McDonald’s, the good citizens of Clive, Iowa roll up the sidewalks at dusk. We found a brewery who would be open for another half hour and if pizza was ok, we were more than welcome to come in. It was, we did.

I had been told about one Mexican restaurant that had “The World’s Best Margaritas”. We went. They didn’t. The food was good though.

Originally, the plan was to stay an extra day. Instead, we headed home Tuesday afternoon. So we grabbed some lunch at the clown’s drive through and hit the road. It was sunny, windy and warm. The traffic was light as we started noticing the signs for Winterset. Madison County. It’s claim to fame, not only the bridges, but also birthplace of The Duke.

We detoured and for a couple of hours tooled around Madison County, Winterset, Iowa. We visited several bridges, John Wayne’s birthplace, where for $6 they’ll give you a personal tour of the 4 room house, and got sodas and Blue Bunny ice cream at the Kum and Go. Most of that time, we were on dirt roads although Winterset is home to a most charming “Down Town” which looks like it just fell off the page of a book from 50 years ago.

As we were driving through town, back on asphalt, we stopped at one of the few stop lights in town. Facing us was an old, beat up, beloved, cam-fire-am-ish car being driven by a teenager. A boy who looked to be about 12 walking, said to the boy in the car, “Hey Joe! You  missed it last night. We had a bonfire!” The car kid said something I couldn’t hear and the news was repeated jubilantly. “Yeah! a bonfire! It was awesome!” They both smiled and waved at each other just in time for the light to change. It brought rushing back many memories from my high school years in small Clarksville, Tennessee. Clarksville, even then was bigger than Winterset, but still, bonfires, lazy days fishing at the river, hay rides, all qualified as big news along with high school football games and ridin’ on Friday nights down Madison and Riverside Drive.

I haven’t lived in a small town for a long time. I had forgotten what it’s like to know every one, feel safe leaving doors unlocked, allowing children to play outside while I fixed supper. While I do love the city and all it’s civilized trappings, I think I could be very happy in Winterset. With their dirt roads, bonfire’s; ice cream, soda and gas from the Kum and Go. And of course, the tiny four room birth place of The Duke where I would happily pay $6 to see the inside time and again; Where you see more American flags than foreign language signs directing strangers to the nearest rest room and more trucks than Beamers. Where people smile, wave and offer help before you ask rather than avoid eye contact and hurry on with their busy, important tasks.

Where you see people sitting on their front porches rather than burning rubber out of their drive ways and more kids playing outside, video games saved for rainy days.  With skies clear enough during the day to actually  look blue and night time skies blanketed with stars, far from the 24 hour lights, sights and sounds of the city,  I can almost hear the crickets chirping and the wind rustling the leaves lulling me to peaceful sleep.

Yes. I could be very happy in Winterset.

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Comment by Pypermarru1 on December 29, 2010 at 11:15am

Well said, Dana.  I live in a semi-farming community.  Our local restaurant reminds me of the 'Cheers' bar.  Everyone knows ya and is happy to see ya. 

Still, I like working in the big city - Albuquerque - Not being known is nice too ;0)

Comment by NatureJunkie on January 12, 2011 at 7:54pm
I could be happy in a place like that too, but only some of the time. One thing I envy the rich for is the ability to maintain two homes. It's my fantasy to live the life of both Country Mouse and City Mouse.
Comment by Dana (scribblers sanctuary) on January 12, 2011 at 10:03pm
Pyper & NJ - I'm right there with you. I have always said I enjoy living "out" as long as civilization and the nearest Kohl's is less than a 20 minute drive away. :c )

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