Iowa Writes

From Letters to a Young Iowan

Dear Young Iowan:

Sometimes it's important to take stock, to count your blessings or count your chickens, though, of course, not before they hatch.

Having lived in Iowa all my life, I think back to my childhood years from time to time and those thoughts bring a smile to my face. I remember how alfalfa smells just after it's baled and how we worked from sunrise to sunset to get it in the barn before the rain came. Several neighbors came to help, and, when the crop filled the barn to bulging, we left the top door open just a crack to let it "breathe," much the same way you loosen your belt after a Thanksgiving feast. We celebrated our haymaking with a late supper, including lemonade made with real lemons and sugar.

In the middle of summer, small-town celebrations like "Sauerkraut Days," "Sweetcorn Days," and "Beef Days" provided a bit of respite from all the farm chores. They offered a chance to see friends, family, and neighbors—those people who are sometimes overly curious about your life but who are always the first to organize a soup supper or benefit auction if someone is sick and needs money for medical bills. These are the same folks who, in the fall, will harvest the crops of an injured farmer or recent widow before they do their own.

Eating establishments in little towns were and still are often family-owned with a lunch special every day featuring mashed potatoes, some type of meat, and pie for dessert. Coffee there is plain coffee—no special flavorings or foam—and it's less than a dollar a cup with free refills. Just help yourself.

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.

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Pat Blank is a senior news producer for Iowa Public Radio's KUNI. She grew up on a farm in north central Iowa with her parents and two brothers. She lives on an acreage just outside Shell Rock with her husband, yellow Lab, five cats, and sixteen pygmy goats.

Editor Zachary Michael Jack compiled Letters to a Young Iowan (Ice Cube Press, 2007) by inviting prominent Iowans to contribute their advice to the next generation.

This page was first displayed
on January 27, 2008

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