Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Only in Iowa - Seed Corn in Town


Many backyards in Iowa have vegetable gardens that include sweet corn. This display, however, takes the iconic plant to a new level. Where else but in a corn state like Iowa does the homeowner not only plant corn as a decorative crop in the front yard but finishes it off with a seed corn sign, like those found along countless rural roads?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Color in the Neighborhood


Mid-autumn and leaf color has peaked. In fact over the weekend when 1.5 inches of rain fell, most of the fall color is now brown, turning brown and on the ground. At the 42N latitude its been a short color season this fall. However, just a week ago this maple tree displayed its brilliant yellows just five houses away. Those leaves are now done, racked to the curb, and ready for pickup by the city's services. See you next fall.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Preserving Windmills from Iowa's Past

For more than 100 years the Aermotor Company has been manufacturing windmills which are used primarily for pumping water to livestock. These icons of farms and ranches can be seen all over the country especially here in the Midwest. This non-working specimen is located at the Vinton Railroad Depot in Vinton, Iowa. The sails on the wheel are chained in place as to restrict movement and to help prevent long-term damage. The tail shows at least two bullet holes which qualifies it as an authentic and time-tested Aermotor windmill.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Seek American Legion Poppies from Jackson G Nyitrai

On most Labor Day weekends, American Legion Post 305 member Jackson G. Nyitrai positions himself underneath the Mississippi River bridge at Marquette, Iowa. His mission is to offer red paper poppies for a donation to those gathered at the annual flea market. An event that attracts hundreds of people.

This year rain fell for most of the day, making the flea market crowd run for shelter below the overhead structure. Jackson, a retired US Navy service member who worked on ship boilers for many years, collects monetary donations to help fuel the Legion's local scholarships and honor flights to Washington D.C

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

NE Iowa Beauty in the Valleys


This is not the image of Iowa that most people have of the Hawkeye state. NE Iowa was spared from the advancement of glaciers some 12,000 to 14,000 winters ago. Last Sunday following an early evening rain storm, the valleys west of Elkader filled with clouds. True to Iowa form, the 2018 corn crop can be seen in the foreground.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Foxtail in Late Summer

Beauty is all around. Example, here are a few stands of foxtail grass reaching for the late summer sun along the nearby rising Indian Creek. The grasses are quite common around this portion of eastern Iowa. Generally at this time of year the grasses are yellow and brown from lack of moisture. Not this year.

T-6 Awaits for AirVenture 2018 Landing Slot

At the Dubuque, Iowa airport (DBQ) a vintage T-6 waits for the landing slot at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 on July 22nd. Annually, the North American Trainer Association (NATA), made up of T-6 pilots and owners, gather in Dubuque for association business and to practice takeoffs/landings and formation flying for EAA's Airventure in nearby Wisconsin. WWII-era T-6 planes from around the world come to Dubuque for the meeting and are occasionally accompanied by a few P-51 Mustangs and F-4U Corsairs. Watching and listening to the planes as they roar to life, circle overhead and trail smoke in various formations is well worth the trip to Dubuque. The event inside the hangers and on the tarmac is not open to the public except for viewing behind fences. Be sure to stick around after the T-6s takeoff for Airventure - a few minutes later the planes will be in formation, trail smoke and give Dubuque an aerial salute before traveling east over the Mississippi River.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Iowa Flag Still Flies Despite F3 Tornado in Marshalltown


Marshall County's Iowa flag flies above the courthouse square two days after the July 19th tornado. I don't know whether it survived the F3 winds or replaced the one that flew during the storm. One Marshalltown resident told me that the flag was still flying right after the tornado went through downtown.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Watching the Flying Past


A farmer whose land is located near the Dubuque Regional Airport (DBQ) watches 41 T-6s take off to join AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Annually the T-6 Association conducts meetings and practices formations at DBQ in preparation for a week's worth of activities at the EAA event in Oshkosh. The hour and a half flight of T-6s from Dubuque to Oshkosh generally commences sometime between 1:00 PM and 2:30 PM on the third Sunday of July. Stay a bit longer at the airport following the T-6 take offs. You'll see a special salute to the airport and community from these aging warbird trainers.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Factory Damage to Lennox International in Marshalltown, Iowa 7-19-2018


On Thursday, July 19, 2018, a F3 tornado damaged much of downtown Marshalltown, Iowa including the Lennox International factory. This clip shows the north side of the factory along East Main Street traveling west.

Lennox International Factory Damage from a F3 Tornado 7-19-2018


On Thursday afternoon July 19th, a F3 tornado struck Lennox International, severely damaging the Marshalltown, Iowa factory. This clip shows the office portion of the factory on the west side of the property. I'm told these offices were constructed in the 1920s and in later decades. You can see the damage to the offices as well as some of the factory collapse.

As of July 30th Lennox has pledged to rebuild the factory and donate $500,000 to the city of Marshalltown for cleanup and restoration efforts.

F3 Tornado Damage to Lennox International in Marshalltown, Iowa 7-19-2018


Aftermath of the F3 tornado damage to the Lennox International factory in Marshalltown, Iowa. The tornado struck on Thursday afternoon, July 19. This footage was shot two days later on Saturday, July 21, 2018. 

The clip shows the far eastern portion of the factory and the small brick house across the street. As of July 30th, Lennox has pledged to re-build the factory and has offered $500,000 to the general Marshalltown cleanup effort.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Photo from WWII Okinawa



At a recent estate sale I purchased several World War II-era photos which are attributable to John K. McCormick Jr., a former U.S. Army soldier who was stationed on Okinawa, following the fierce fighting against Japanese forces. Several images show day-to-day army life on the island, with only a few snapshots displaying air power. On the photo's backside, John wrote a sentence or two about the image's subject matter, adding to the overall record of the historic time period. As a Photoshop design experiment, I scanned John's photo and reposted the description content onto an aerial photo (different source) of the WWII Okinawa airfield. The final composite brings John's image into greater historical context. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Marshalltown Iowa Post Tornado Recovery


On Thursday, July 19th a F3 tornado ripped downtown Marshalltown, Iowa. Fortunately there were no deaths or serious injuries associated with the tornado but property damage was extensive including this 1880-era courthouse. It will take months and years before normalcy returns to the town of 26,000.

I took several photos of the devastation and posted them on Facebook. I will post several here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Just in Case You Need N741AC


Outside of static displays such as this, if you see a black and gold aircare helicopter on the scene somewhere in eastern Iowa it is usually serious business for an injured citizen.


On this occasion, the annual Marion (Iowa) fly-in, helicopters from local hospitals make a visit along with several small planes, classic cars and assorted robotics just ahead of the July 4th celebration.


The copter's EMT gives a quick overview of the purpose of the mobile platform based at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.


Many families stand in line to let their kids to see the UI helicopter and have a chance to sit at the controls. This is a 2014 Eurocopter 130 T2.


The Hawkeye logo adorns the rotor tail housing. Go Hawks. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Cherry Hot Dashboard for a '56 Chevy Bel Air


At last weekend's Marion (Iowa) fly-in a selection of classic cars displayed their best chrome and hot paint finishes. This 1956 Chevy Bel Air interior is a show stopper with all its original and modified shine. The guy that owns the car says he has invested a bunch of dollars into some of the latter restoration projects. He hopes that investment will at least keep the car's value up but really doesn't know. He is more proud of the show quality of the half century old Chevy than selling at the moment.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Day at the Museum of Natural History - Macbride Hall


Hidden in plain site on the University of Iowa's main campus is the Museum of Natural History at Macbride Hall located on the pentacrest. The museum occupies sections of three floors. On the third floor's Mammal Hall is home to a collection of large and small mammals from all over the world.


Some of the larger taxidermized animals where prepared over a hundred years ago. If you look closely you can see cracks in the skin from years of heat and light exposure. 


As a active museum students often participate in cleaning and modernizing the displays. Several of the background murals have been retouched or repainted over the years to give the display a fresh look.


Throughout the year and especially in the summer, school age students visit the Mammal Hall, Bird Hall and the Natural History portion of the museum. Text near the displays explain how the natural scenes came together in the early 1900s.


Some of the mammal displays are quite realistic and capture the environment of the natural setting like this otter placed in a scene from northern Minnesota. Always a favorite.


At one end of Mammal Hall is a display of ocean mammals and skeletons. Hanging above is a Right Whale skeleton that washed up on a beach over a hundred years ago. Today you can see it from the comfort of landlocked Iowa - some half a continent away from ocean shores. Access to the museum is free and is open most days except holidays and Mondays. If you are in Iowa City come check it out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

D-Day Type Higgins Boat Under Restoration at Indiana Military Museum

For years I have contemplated traveling to Normandy, France to see firsthand the beaches where Allied forces came ashore on D-Day 1944. While that goal persists, I recently came in contact with an icon of that pivotal day.


This much reproduced photograph (now in public domain) by Robert F Sargent, shows US troops debarking from their landing craft at Normandy's Omaha beach on D-Day. The modern film, Saving Private Ryan opens with this same scene re-imagined for the movie.

The vessel type, known as Higgins Boats by their manufacturer, was designated the Landing Craft, Vehicles and Personnel or LCVP, and was operated by the US Navy. Reports of up to 839 Higgins boats were used to carry US troops and materiel during support of D-Day, June 6th.

Higgins Boats were made of wood and designed to operate in shallow water. LCVPs were powered by 225-250 hp engines, operated by a crew of three, and carried up to 36 soldiers or was reconfigured to haul jeeps and supplies. Higgins Boats were protected with two 30 caliber machine guns.

I thought (incorrectly) that LCVPs used at Normandy were constructed of 100% steel for protection of its contents. Not so. Not even close. See for yourself.


My schooling occurred far from 1944 Normandy in land-locked Vincennes, Indiana at the home of the Indiana Military Museum last fall. There, in the museum's expansive warehouse is a rare specimen of a surviving Higgins Boat - one of 12 reportedly left in the world.


This Higgins Boat was purchased or donated to the museum from a source in Florida during 2012. I believe the craft was last actively used as a fishing boat. The museum is seeking to restore the Higgins Boat for public display - donations are accepted.



Here are a selection of photos of AG 9-2 in her original Navy colors. Inspect the draft, beam, and propeller section of this incredible and historic boat.


There is no mention at the museum as to the history of this particular Higgins Boat during the war. More research is needed. Regardless of its use, either in the Atlantic or Pacific theaters of war, Higgins Boats are forever tied to the D-Day landing at Normandy beaches 74 years ago today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Exodus over the Mississippi


A recent United Van Lines survey of where Americans are moving from indicated that people are leaving the state of Illinois. That may be so but on Memorial Day weekend 2018, there was practically no traffic on the Mississippi River bridge at Muscatine, Iowa.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

B-17 Aluminum Overcast Visits Burlington, Iowa


Almost annually a WWII warbird visits the Hawkeye state. This year, Aluminum Overcast, one of nine flying B-17s made a three day stop in Burlington situated along the Mississippi River on May 4th through 6th.


Crawling up ladder to the nose of the plane you enter a world from the 1940s. Here in the cockpit is a mix of wartime flight technology from 75 years ago blended with modern avionics for safer travel.


One of the secrets of B-17 longevity in battle was the strength of its fuselage. Notice the rivet pattern of small squares on the aluminum airframe. These assembly points made it possible for the frame to better remain intact during flak bursts or gun fire.


One of four props at rest. Aluminum Overcast, until next time...

Monday, April 30, 2018

Iowa Winds


Spring in Iowa involves changing weather. Fourteen days ago the last snow fall melted in the eastern part of the state. Warm temperatures and wind gusts have been the story ever since the melt. Time to replace the tattered flags.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Evening Glow of Quaker Oats Over the Quiet Cedar River


Just minutes after sunset, the glow of cereal mill Quaker Oats shines brightly over the placid Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Look closely at the base of the main building - you can see a backhoe doing work. The cereal plant continues to make improvements in their floodwall as the city of Cedar Rapids determines what it needs to protect the homes and businesses along the river from future floods. This June will be 10 years since the great flood that severely impacted the city. Compare this April 2018 photo (above) of the plant with the view found at this link. Quaker Oats is located towards the top of the linked photo. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Stacks of Tires


At a local 1/2 mile racetrack called the Hawkeye Downs Speedway, there are several artifacts in storage from past seasons. Stacked with discarded race tires you can find the maintenance facility's stockpile of used or damaged tires.


Perhaps the intended purpose for keeping this amount of rubber on hand is to maintain a supply for various short term needs. Whatever the case, today the tires contain frozen water inside the form, reminding us that winter is still here officially for 10 more days.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Iceberg Right Ahead on Indian Creek


Ice breakup is such a bizarre scene but one that usually occurs during the end of winter on my section of Indian Creek.  Recent rain and warm temperatures help melt snow and fill creek beds. If winter is still present, the rise in water causes ice to break and float downstream. As the water recedes, the mini icebergs rest haphazardly.


Here's a wider view of the ice field. A few days later the frozen masses were all but gone. Fortunately none of these ice chunks struck any vessels, however someone should still stay on watch. The Carpathia is standing by...

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Battle of Nashville Bullets Found


In Livingston, Tennessee an antique dealer sold me these four Civil War bullets. He told me that he had bought them from a 90 year old collector who had dug these with a metal detector near Nashville before the property was commercially developed in the 1970s.


The 90 year old told him that these were most likely part of the Battle of Nashville which was fought on December 15–16, 1864. Union (Federal) troops defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee and marked the end of major Confederate offensives in the Western theater during the Civil War. For now these bullets will reside in Iowa's 42N territory.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Looking for the Jailhouse Keys to Overton County, Tennessee


Back in the day if you found yourself as a guest in the Overton County Jail, chances are you might have seen these keys in action. While now part of the county's history museum in Livingston, these well-worn keys can still seal or open the doors to simulated incarceration or conversely, to freedom. It all depends on your outlook and, of course, bailability.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Holiday Lights of McMinnville, Tennessee


McMinnville, Tennessee is home to the Warren County seat. In the town's square, a running fountain and surrounding displays were decked out with the lights of the season last month.


Despite cold nighttime temperatures in the low teens during the Christmas week, the city display featured a full spectrum of color without a trace of snow.


Main Street's glow was a spectacular sight even for those foolish enough to venture out and photograph the displays in the freezing temperatures.


After seeing me and my tripod gear in or near the street, drivers in passing cars stopped in the middle of the road, rolled down their windows, learned out and snapped photos from their cell phones of the lite landscape. They had the good sense to keep warm and only were exposed for a few moments of the seasonally cold Tennessee weather.