Iowa Writes

TIMOTHY TYSVER
A Place Called Home


A small place in the corner of Iowa is where I call home. My dad moved us there with dreams of a high paying union job and a better life for his family. He soon found out that with higher pay comes sacrifices, some not worth making. Better should never be confused with more, as I would soon learn. This small dot on a map, where a state highway meets a two-lane county road, helped shape my life and the person I have become.   

Pigs to the slaughter. That's what brought us to my hometown. Like so many other Midwestern towns, meat packing was the major employer in the area. I remember like it was yesterday, riding in the back of my dad's old blue pickup truck and hearing the pigs squeal as they were unloaded from the trucks headed for their final hours. The rancid smell, which my dad called "money," hung in the air as I thanked God we lived on the other side of town. My dad worked at the plant for almost nine years, standing in one place for ten hours a day, coming home with soreness and pain but always scrounging up energy to play catch with me. 

We played catch every night until it was too dark to see. Dad was more excited about my first year playing baseball than I was. I was on the "Bees" and couldn't wait to take the field. The Friday before my first game, Dad came home and I sensed something wasn't right. After throwing for a while he knelt down next to me and said that he had been transferred to the night shift. He wouldn't be there to see my first game. I played anyway, had four hits and made several good plays in the field. With my mom's permission, I excitedly woke Dad up to share the triumphs of my first ballgame with him before heading off to school. Dad told me how proud he was and finished by saying that on that last pop fly I should have used two hands. Two hands—how did he know? He wasn't there and Mom didn't know two hands from a double play. I found out later: Dad spent his entire dinner break on the roof of the plant, with binoculars, watching my game. Eleven years later, when I finished my last high school game, my dad still had not missed a single game.

A small place in the corner of Iowa is where I call home. My dad moved us there with dreams of a high paying union job and a better life for his family. He soon found out that with higher pay comes sacrifices, some not worth making. Better should never be confused with more, as I would soon learn. This small dot on a map, where a state highway meets a two-lane county road, helped shape my life and the person I have become.   

Pigs to the slaughter. That's what brought us to my hometown. Like so many other Midwestern towns, meat packing was the major employer in the area. I remember like it was yesterday, riding in the back of my dad's old blue pickup truck and hearing the pigs squeal as they were unloaded from the trucks headed for their final hours. The rancid smell, which my dad called "money," hung in the air as I thanked God we lived on the other side of town. My dad worked at the plant for almost nine years, standing in one place for ten hours a day, coming home with soreness and pain but always scrounging up energy to play catch with me. 

We played catch every night until it was too dark to see. Dad was more excited about my first year playing baseball than I was. I was on the "Bees" and couldn't wait to take the field. The Friday before my first game, Dad came home and I sensed something wasn't right. After throwing for a while he knelt down next to me and said that he had been transferred to the night shift. He wouldn't be there to see my first game. I played anyway, had four hits and made several good plays in the field. With my mom's permission, I excitedly woke Dad up to share the triumphs of my first ballgame with him before heading off to school. Dad told me how proud he was and finished by saying that on that last pop fly I should have used two hands. Two hands—how did he know? He wasn't there and Mom didn't know two hands from a double play. I found out later: Dad spent his entire dinner break on the roof of the plant, with binoculars, watching my game. Eleven years later, when I finished my last high school game, my dad still had not missed a single game.       

In 1976 packinghouse lay-offs hit our town and my family like the Great Depression. The mailman delivered a check every week and my mom would go out and return with "special money" to buy groceries, but not beer or cigarettes. My mom, along with many others in our town, would stand in line at the fire station to get cheese, peanut butter, and assorted dry goods. Things were tough.

When the plant called and told my dad to come back to work, he told them "no thank you." He had decided to take a job as custodian at our high school. Job security and quality time with his family outweighed the higher salaries of the union job. He retired from the school system in 2002 after nearly 25 years of dedicated service. His final salary wasn't much higher than what he was making in 1976 when he left the plant. However, during those 25 years, our family never had "special money" or peanut butter in shiny metal cans again. The plant closed down two years after my dad left to take the custodian job. The high-paying jobs never returned to our town. Hundreds of families were uprooted. My home never moved, not an inch. Our vacations were shorter and closer to home and our new car was a little more used than before but our roots stayed firm in my home town.

I'm a police officer now and my wife teaches school. We own two cars, one of which was made this century. Our roots are deep in our Georgia home and our sons call it their home town. We have many friends who work in the corporate world who are always searching for the next higher-paying job. They are convinced that they need a larger home, fancier car, exotic vacations, and the list goes on.  I hope someday they learn what my dad taught me in my home town: less sometimes means so much more.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


TIMOTHY TYSVER

Tim Tysver writes, "I was born in Sheldon, Iowa, and moved to Storm Lake at a young age. I graduated from Storm Lake High School in 1983 and attended college in Sioux City for two years. I spent five years in the United States Army as a Military Policeman and joined the East Point, Georgia, Police Department in 1990 as a patrol officer. I have spent the last nine years assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta, Georgia. I am married with two sons."

This page was first displayed
on March 04, 2008

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