Monday, December 31, 2012
President James Polk signed a piece of paper proclaiming Iowa as the nation's 29th state on December 28, 1846. As today ends 2012, Iowa marks 166 years and three days old. Special flags have been erected on Old Capitol located at the site of the state's first capitol location in Iowa City. The building (built in 1840 as a territorial capitol) is the centerpiece of the University of Iowa and is generally used as the icon for the university. When the capitol moved to Des Moines in 1857 the building was deeded to the University of Iowa where it serves now as a museum and cultural center. Happy birthday Iowa.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
A growing college here in Cedar Rapids is named Kirkwood Community College. Part of their expansive curriculum is a two year degree in Agriculture Production Management. Several acres near campus house classrooms, conference rooms and protective shelter for about 300 head of cattle including heated concrete pads. At Kirkwood's Tippie Beef Education Center students learn the latest production methods and technology through hands-on learning at the student-run college farm. Many Kirkwood graduates take that knowledge back to family farms or continue their education in ag-sciences at other universities like Iowa State in Ames. Besides, the junior member of 42N is quick to point out that her photos of range cattle exceed those of the author - I beg to differ.
As long as people have been decorating homes with Christmas themed ware the question exists - when to take it all down. Some people leave outdoor holiday bright lights up all year round. Others take down both their indoor and outdoor displays shortly after January 1st. Perhaps it really doesn't matter as long as you enjoy the decorations. However when the calendar goes into February the Christmas bulbs tend to look out of place. But worry not. November will be here in 11 months and you may display it all again - or wait until December.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Antique stores, like Grapevine Antiques in
offer glimpses into the past and what is currently popular with collectors. For
some collectors it may be certain glassware types, others want to recreate what
they had as a child. Still others collect for resale if the price is right. Amana, Iowa
Another feature of local antiques stores is historical local items. At Grapevine the regional reach of material can span from the Amana area to
Cedar Rapids and Iowa City plus other sections of the state. A
recent stop in Davenport and Moline
offered another element to the regional mix – that of the Mississippi
River and local rail road headquarters.
Today Grapevine highlighted a ball and claw table foot for $35, a set of old time children’s books from the 1940s and ‘50s, and the ever popular pocket knives.
Collectors look for things to start or expand their collection. However sometimes an item sells because of an emotional connection with the purchaser, but not in all cases.
A few weeks ago a women came to the store looking for a 1940s era radio for her business’ new historical display. She mentioned that the radio did not have to be functioning because she would gut it and place modern speakers in the shell to broadcast the company’s history in the display she was creating. A quick search of the store turned up no radio candidates.
My own collection of radios may have helped but I couldn't let a fully functioning tube radio become stripped for a display.
Friday, December 28, 2012
A late afternoon photo of local Indian Creek produced this non-Photoshoped pink tint on the rippling water. Maybe it was a lens abbreviation or some sort of algae bloom. When the photo was taken I did not see any pinkish flashes. Regardless of the cause the effect is striking and unexpected.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
What to do when winter arrives and weather turns cold? Go to Vinton, Iowa of course. The town’s non-functioning train station (except for special occasions) features a look of what rail transportation was like in eastern Iowa many decades ago. On property is a 1950s era Rock Island Line red caboose to inspect. The building in need of much repair also houses a historical society while the grounds host special events throughout the year including periodic special theme passenger rail service.
Did Rock Island Rockets use the Vinton route? Perhaps, but I don’t know for sure. I bet the people of Vinton could answer that question plus point out the historical stop of the Ingalls family when young Mary and parents came to town to enroll in the Iowa School of the Blind. She was the sister of Laura who later wrote the Little House books. Mary's travels to Vinton and her stay at the school were also featured in the book series.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ducks, geese and swans on an artificial pond in Cedar Rapids, Iowa appear to huddle for warmth as their water freezes. Actually the pond is regulated with a filter and pump to allow the fowl to remain on site year round. Attempts to feed the flock were disregarded by the masses of ducks in return for bunching together. No amount of bread crumbs enticed the birds to venture near. There loss. Maybe the omni present squirrels will find the food.
Stops along Mississippi River towns in the upper Midwest from Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota generally include visits to local antique stores. Its taken a while but a general observation made of these stores' inventories all exhibit the same missing items - riverboat and related industry items. Steam powered side- and stern-wheelers worked these waters from the mid-1800s to roughly the late 1920s. While you occasionally find illustrations (above) and books on river life, like Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi, there are no authentic ship pieces to purchase. No ship's wheel, bells, ropes, dinner ware, doors, hinges, engine parts, planks, etc. are to be found. Several store owners when asked about the lack of steamboat pieces offer the explanation that the boats were salvaged for metal during the World Wars and the wood was generally burned. They suggest that the ship captains may have been offered or took the boat's service, nameplates, wheel and bells as tokens of their work. While some of these items may still be kept in the families through generations other pieces may have been released for sale and quickly purchased.
A recent stop in Clinton, Iowa offered the Delta Queen watercolor print for $32.50. You can generally find this particular print in several stores as it was mass produced near the 1976 Bicentennial when a resurgence in passenger boat interest surged. Other pieces of possible riverboat items can also be found such as wooden and metal pulleys and other work related equipment. While you cannot be sure whether it came off a boat or was used in factory, warehouse or farm you can assume it was used in the area. Just think all these mint condition soft drink bottles (that sell for about $7 each) were filled and distributed locally long after the boats disappeared. Maybe one day they too will be highly sought after beyond what they fetch currently. That will be no mystery.
Monday, December 24, 2012
On Sunday, December 23rd the Mississippi River at Clinton, Iowa moved ice flows south as air temperatures reached 23 F. The region's first major snow of the season closed the river to commercial traffic. A recent concern of barge owners and the U.S. Corp of Engineers is the river's channel depth. Drought conditions over the past year have decreased the river's depth throughout the Upper Mississippi. Channel depth at the nearby Quad Cities measuring station indicated 9.86 feet today and dropping.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Remember the milk campaign of a few years ago showing famous people with a white milk mustache? That was on my mind when in Clinton, Iowa today I spotted this sculpture of a catfish sporting remnants of Thursday's blizzard in its mouth. Each of this downtown block' s corners features different animals of the region - just a block from the Mississippi River. And yes the entire eastern Iowa region still is reeling from the storm that deposited the first measurable snow of Winter 2012-13 in this portion of the state.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Forty years ago today, the last NASA manned mission to the Moon was on its way home. At that time, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans made a one hour six minute space walk to retrieve film cassettes from Apollo 17’s exterior cameras. Those photos captured the crust beneath much of the lunar surface. In mission imagery this photo of Ron outside the service module bay was widely used. It also stands out as the furthest walk in deep space still on the books since no one has returned to the moon or ventured further since December 1972. Evans also holds the record for most time in lunar orbit.
Fifteen years later I wrote to Evans, than a retired astronaut busy with a variety of work. I asked him several questions that he answered and signed several magazine pages of the mission that I had sent him. Ron wrote this spacewalk was the highlight of the mission for him being near the moon’s vicinity on the return to earth. He told me on January 2, 1988 “what a ball this was” to walk in space. Ron Evans died of a heart attack on April 7, 1990.
In 1996 I met Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan when he came to town to help dedicate a portion of the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library. He signed a photo that I had brought him of a very tired looking mission commander inside the lunar module on the moon’s surface after EVA-3.
Apollo 17 also produced a very famous image of the full earth where the continents of Antarctica, Africa, Europe and parts of
Asia can be seen. The photo was long used as the earth
image from 1972 until perhaps a decade ago when more full earth images from
satellites and interplanetary probes were released.
Evans said of the round earth image, “it is truly round.” He also shed some light on which crew member took that famous photo. He wrote me, “I took that one, but Jack (
Schmitt) will also
claim credit. Ha!”
Someday I will contact the third member of the Apollo 17 crew, Jack Schmitt and learn more firsthand about that mission and who took that famous photo.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Warm autumn weather has given Iowa farmers time to finish the harvest and condition their fields. I found this older (some say antique) Moline-brand tractor and rusted pull plough positioned on a field's edge. Together they finished field preparation and await more warmer weather for beginning spring planting in about four months.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
You usually don’t associate the word “fort” with the American Midwest, let alone the upper
they exist, even in Iowa; places like Fort Madison,
and Fort Dodge.
These fortified structures provided a place of safety, collection of a garrison
and exerted regional control over the expanding territory as the United States
pushed over the continent.
We learn about the major events in our country’s history in school but rarely does the material detail the
fortified history. How many of us are better versed in forts associated with
the American Colonies and Old West? Even here in Iowa the historical subject matter of
westward expansion rarely mentions local forts (in school books) and their
importance to the area.
So it’s little wonder that while traveling just outside of
Iowa near Sinsinawa, Wisconsin (an unincorporated community just a few miles
east of ) that this structure sticks out oddly
as does the mound it rests upon. Dubuque, Iowa
consists of rolling prairie hills. Prominent at Sinsinawa is a conical hill
that dramatically rises off the landscape and is topped off by a crown of
Early settlers farmed and raised livestock in the area – much like the practices today. Lead was mined and smelted on the mound. When Sac (Sauk) and Fox factions threatened the well being of settlers a fort was constructed. Local resident, later one of the first two Iowa Senators, George Wallace Jones built this structure.
A display sign at the fort reads, “In the spring of 1832, at the outbreak of the Black Hawk War, I built a log fort or block house for the protection of my family…and neighbors.”
While I have not fully investigated the stone structure, it is obvious that the building was recently preserved with concrete flooring and column supports. The interior displays old lead mining equipment.
I have marked this as a subject to more fully explore. To make it even more fascinating is the fort’s assimilation with the buildings of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary. The site is motherhouse for 600 sisters who conduct educational training and spiritual relationships – just steps outside the fort.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
At a consignment store in Iowa City this afternoon a photo of a World War II era sailor was purchased. There is no information about him except for the Anamosa, Iowa photo studio name. Yesterday was the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Perhaps this sailor enlisted because of that event or was there himself, or served at another time. Maybe you can identify this person? Let me know. Read further about photo detective work with images found at antique stores, auctions, or consignment stores by going to the Forgotten Old Photos blog site.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
A controlled fire southeast of Sandy Hook, Wisconsin brought in several area fire departments in addition to people investigating the tower of smoke. The home was purposely set on fire while crews practiced various spraying methods of containment, then allowed the structure to completely burn. A portion of the second story of the old farmhouse can be seen falling on the left. This is yet another example of keeping a camera with you especially as you tour the 42N latitude.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Travel over the Highway 151 bridge from
to Wisconsin (over the Mississippi River) and take
the first exit in the east to Highway 11.
Along the scenic rolling hills near Sinsinawa is a massive tree topped mound
which served as native, mining, Black Hawk war, and spiritual centers. Save all
of that for a future 42N blog post. Badger
Continue east of the mound about a mile and you will notice a slight rise of a hill on the highway. As you crest the hill (still east bound) you will plunge into an alien world of dinosaurs and an UFO. There’s about eight metal dino sculptures in a pasture greeting you unexpectedly. New to this mixture of creatures is this UFO craft complete with a green faced alien at the controls.
While photographing these objects of art I parked along the shoulder of the busy highway. I walked outside of the guard rail to get closer to the dinosaurs. Not surprisingly the ground was littered with discarded containers of energy drinks, beer, fast food wrappers, and miscellaneous plastics, broken glass and paper. Oddly no cheese wrappers were found despite being within a few miles of curd central, Shullsburg. Friendly Wisconsinites even blew their horns as if I cared to look at them zipping by at 55 mph rather than observing the herd from
, plus one alien. Jurassic
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Oak leaves float along a spring-fed waterway in Iowa's Echo Valley State Park near Fayette. While air temperatures are certainly cold enough for ice and snow formation, the lack of falling precipitation continues to reinforce the year old drought. Last week Iowa's state climatologist actually predicted a worse drought in 2013 based on over a hundred years of state climate records. Hope not.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Near the fringe landscape between rolling farmland and northeast Iowa's driftless area, where the most recent glaciers missed scouring the land, there lies a variety of topography. An example is just north of Fayette, Iowa where this limestone quarry operation carves out some small hills. Notice the relatively thin soil supporting the meadow vegetation. Most of the Hawkeye state is built on sedimentary layers like these from ancient shallow ocean deposits. This is the source of many shell, coral and marine bottom creature fossils found throughout the state. Today this solidified mud and ooze from shallow seas makes great gravel (once ground to size) used for rural roads and paved road shoulders. Take a drive on Iowa roads and you'll now think about where the source material is found.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Cobblestone Alley in
is perhaps as not as famous
as its close neighbor Snake Ally located just a half block away. But a stroll
down the real cobblestone pavement reveals a few home entrances and this
interesting door. Burlington,
Look a little closer at the door knob and discover a Masonic emblem, positioned a third turn to the right. Turns out this alley is the backside of the local Masonic temple. The building’s front faces east with its northeast corner, the traditional cornerstone location receiving the first rays of light each day. That orientation means this weather beaten door receives the last light of the day. And in between, according to the Masons the walls hold enlightenment.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Oelwein, Iowa once was home to a massive railroad maintenance yard. The expansive facility was located just a couple of blocks from downtown. And as with many changing industries, the Oelwein Yard diminished as lines no longer needed the facilities. However in an effort to preserve the past, local train enthusiasts several years ago secured some remaining building structures, rail related equipment and created the Oelwein Railroad Museum, part of the Hub City Heritage Corporation.
Some of the rail collection exists outdoors. These locomotives are among the fleet of rail cars which also features an old wooden caboose from the 1910s and restored last year. The outdoor site is also an attraction for photographers.
While I was there a few weeks ago, a family of three arrived and were greeted by a woman with an array of photo gear. She led the young family around to the various trains, posed them and took their portraits. She told me that the family will use these photos as part of their holiday cards. She also said that the family loves trains - especially the preschooler and his Dad. My reaction was, well who wouldn't like these old beauties? Just as long as they don't block your way from point A to B.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Just off the Lincoln Highway in Mechanicsville, Iowa is a tribute to World War I American soldiers. Known as the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" the sculpture was designed by E.M. Viquesney and sold to cities throughout the 1920s and 30s. A detailed story of this design and history including its similarity to the Statue of Liberty can be read here.
Some 300 of these statues may still be found in cemeteries, parks or near government buildings throughout the country as a tribute to the American fighters of World War I. On this day with its genesis as Armistice Day, we remember all veterans and their contribution to American freedom and liberties.
Friday, November 9, 2012
Late autumn reveals interesting tree growing behavior. These rocky cliffs are north facing which does not allow for much direct light on developing trees. As a result stands are generally branch-less until they reach a certain height to create a canopy. Now that the leaves have fallen the nearly vertical trunks can be observed reaching for the sky without impediment.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Animal tracks can be found around water sources. Such is the case with these
and deer tracks through backwaters of the Cedar River at Palisades-Kepler
State Park near .
Given the right weather, geologic conditions and time these now watery tracks
could become hardened fossil tracks. However, even in drought times that
eastern Mount Vernon, Iowa Iowa
has experienced in 2012 it is unlikely that these tracks will survive intact
following the next rainfall let alone the eons of time. But somehow fossil tracks
do show up in the geologic record. We shall see.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
There’s a bridge on
Iron Bridge Road in southeast Jackson County, Iowa.
Yes, its made of iron, some 440 feet of it spanning the mighty . Built in the 1950s the truss
bridge connects hilly topography to the east to a broad plain to the west –
most likely the ancient flood plain. At last count (2009) some 220 vehicles
pass over the structure daily near Spragueville. Maquoketa River
On this day the bridge served as a photography subject and a land connector for the 42N crew. The water level was low but surprisingly clear. The site below the bridge has been added to the fishing spots to try for next season. And unlike the movie, Titanic as referenced in the title, there are no icebergs on the river or encroaching on the land - for now.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Admit it. You pass through a locale zillions of times using the same path. By altering the route just a bit you can often discover things you never knew. Such was the case this month with the remnants of lime producing kilns just north of
Two forces are at work. One is the fact that another
Iowa base blogger,
Jeannelle from Midlfe by Farmlife, posted her discovery of the kilns on October
14th. Her subject matter of the post and its proximity to the 42N HQ
quickly inspired me to find out for myself what I had missed for years. The
other force is personal exploration or finding out how did I miss these
preserved ancient furnaces.
Last week we drove the usual route from
Cedar Rapids to Maquoketa. The town and area
are widely known for the Maquoketa Caves State Park,
the county fairgrounds, antique shops and a few restaurants. It is also a stop
off point from Cedar Rapids to eastern Iowa’s Mississippi River
towns. But veering north just a mile or so on State Highway 61 brings you to
the tiny town of Hurstville.
There along the highway are these stone furnaces that produced lime mortar from
the 1870s to 1920. Read Jeannelle’s write up here and go here for more information.
At the site on a very warm Sunday morning were at least two groups of people taking family and high school senior portraits against the limestone hills and autumn backdrops. My curiosity was to explore the stone structures and remaining wooden buildings. Since 1980 the Jackson County Historical Society maintains the site and has built a picnic shelter near a creek to host visitors.
Traveling 42N back roads does not automatically mean that you’ll discover something unfamiliar. Researching other views, stories and opinions sometimes present previously unknown information. What you do with that information is key to understanding the world better. In this case, thanks to Jeannelle for expanding my understanding of
Iowa history and landmarks.