I drove back to my hometown, and back up to Minneapolis, and I took the long way on both occasions. You can’t truly appreciate Iowa until you get off of the Interstate and drive on twisting roads through farms and small towns. On Highway 9, I drove past a fawn standing next to a field of corn. A few miles later, I drove past a pale horse, loose and grazing in the ditch right beside the road. At some point, I even drove by something named North Iowa Boar Semen.
Basically, one drive through Iowa and the stories write themselves.
This is the outside of my elementary school. This is not an exciting or welcoming image, and somehow that always struck me as secretive. Like some sort of fort in the wilderness. It figures into scenes involving a fictitious, lonely principal in my unpublished book Orphans. I just re-read Orphans and think it’s worth publishing.
This park figures prominently in my untitled young adult novel. I’m just re-reading it now, and so far I like what I’m reading.
Seeing the park again, for the first time in 15 years, proved my memory is not to be trusted. I thought the creek ran in the opposite direction, and was half as deep. Also, I thought the bathrooms had wooden privacy shields (where my adolescent main character finds information in the graffiti). I wonder if the wooden privacy shields used to be there. If you lived in Denver, Iowa, let me know if you remember things the way I do.
Finally, this shot outside of Manly, Iowa, reminds me of a short story I’m fond of called “Last Stop.” “Last Stop” is about desperation and rage at a small town gas station. Manly seems a lot nicer than all of that, but there’s something haunting about seeing a gas station surrounded by a sea of corn, where anything could be hiding.
Here’s hoping these pics inspire me to bring everything I feel about these places to the stories.