Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Iowa Memoir (Lite)

"I" for Iowa -- the only entry in my County Map Project
in which my county map resembles the state initial.
At least, it seems to be the only one.
As the only member of the Hayes-Bohanan family who has been to Iowa, I decided I should write a bit about my experiences there. "Bit" is the operative word, since I have been there six times in the late 1970s, each just long enough to cross the state the short way (about 200 miles). Of the 99 counties in Iowa, I've managed to be in only 10, despite all those traverses, and since these were all in my high school years about a decade before becoming a geographer, I have to confess that I learned essentially nothing from the experiences.

For the teenage me, Iowa was just a place that needed to be crossed when going from Kansas City, Missouri to Minnesota, which I did for three distinct purposes. The first was to attend a camp at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The camp was sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for which my mother worked in the Kansas City headquarters. I was much more a Christian than an athlete, but a scholarship was arranged for my brother (very much an athlete) and I to attend, so we took a school bus overnight from Kansas City. I remember that some of us tried to ride in the luggage bins, and I remember a rest stop on I-35 in Ankeny, and I remember that the scant accommodations there confirmed our chauvinistic banter about how little the state as a whole had to offer. Of course, that judgment says far more about our teenage selves than it does about Iowa, one way or the other.

The second crossing -- along that same narrow groove of I-35 -- was on a mission trip from Kansas City to the suburbs of St. Paul. A mission trip to the suburbs might seem like an oxymoron, but it reveals something of a different kind of chauvinism. We were young Baptists, after all, called by God to convert the Lutherans and Catholics of the frozen north to Christianity. Again, the experience taught me more about myself than I taught any Minnesotans about God. Iowa was just part of that journey, this time by day and in a church bus.

The third crossing was a bit more quixotic, as it turns out. As our church in Kansas City was developing its connections with a host church in Minnesota, my brother and I were developing connections with a pair of sisters there: the daughters, in fact, of the minister. We somehow convinced a young man in our church to drive us there for a visit in his Monte Carlo. Again, the trip was full of tough lessons, and what I remember about Iowa is that we could not get through it fast enough. I remember encouraging my friend to push that Monte Carlo along as fast as prudence -- and the proliferation of Iowa state troopers -- would allow.

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