Iowa Writes

VERL LEKWA
Is This Heaven?....Then It's Not Iowa


Iowa looks like hell. And in deep summer, it feels like it, too. I know what Iowa looks like because I'm an expert. (Expert: anyone 25 miles from home.) I've seen every nook and cranny, and I don't even know what a cranny is. But I've seen it. Because I've been in every one of Iowa's cities and towns.

In 2003 when I completed visiting and rating every town on the official Iowa DOT map, my mind went back over 50 years to the first time I went beyond a state bordering Iowa. I loved history and platted a trip that took my family to Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. (Abe Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and Nashville's Parthenon were the major magnets.)

Iowa looks like hell. And in deep summer, it feels like it, too. I know what Iowa looks like because I'm an expert. (Expert: anyone 25 miles from home.) I've seen every nook and cranny, and I don't even know what a cranny is. But I've seen it. Because I've been in every one of Iowa's cities and towns.

In 2003 when I completed visiting and rating every town on the official Iowa DOT map, my mind went back over 50 years to the first time I went beyond a state bordering Iowa. I loved history and platted a trip that took my family to Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. (Abe Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and Nashville's Parthenon were the major magnets.)

We saw poverty, big time. Broken down houses, rusty cars in yards, unpainted sheds, weeds right up to the porch (which often had an old washing machine in a prominent place). A real eye opener for a boy from a small, generally neat Iowa town. But when I took a critical look at Iowa a half century later, I saw way too much of that same disorderliness and ugliness. The South had moved north.

From childhood my interest was history, and I carried that from a small-town eastern Iowa upbringing to the University of Iowa and into 34 years of teaching, mainly in high schools. The military took me to post-war Korea; to visit relatives I have been to Scandanavia twice. I also have lived on the west and east coasts and in the Rocky Mountains. So to view Iowa cities I had the advantage of having lived in various places in this nation and abroad, with the added benefit of viewing differing urban areas.

My trips started innocently enough one October day on my way home from visiting a cousin. I often travel county roads and with each small town I visited, I remarked at the beauty of the season and considered how much of Iowa I hadn't seen. Maybe I should keep a map and cross out each town as I visit it, I thought. And a later thought: why not try to visit them all. And yet later, why not try to rate them for attractiveness. So when I pulled into my driveway, I had a plan. A man, a plan, Iowa (not Panama).

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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


VERL LEKWA

Verl Lekwa of Columbus Junction, Iowa, was raised in Cedar County, graduated from the University of Iowa, taught high school for 34 years, and retired. "Is this Heaven?....Then It's Not Iowa" appeared in the most recent issue (#11) of Wapsipinicon Almanac. Since 1988 the almanac has been edited by Tim Fay and published at his Route 3 Press in rural Anamosa/Monticello. Each issue features a mix of fiction, reviews, essays, poetry, art and homey information, packaged in the format of a folksy, old-time almanac.

This page was first displayed
on July 04, 2006

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