It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20

Sure, there’s Route 66, but if you’re looking for an unforgettable road trip, one of the most unique–and the longest–coast-to-coast routes is historic Highway 20, which is finally complete as a four-lane thoroughfare across Iowa.

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Historic Highway 20 postcard

DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family

While the remains of Bernard Doyle, a 19-year-old sailor who was killed in action at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, been classified as non-recoverable, a new chapter in his story is being written, thanks to advances in DNA technology that allowed his …

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World War 2 sailor Pearl Harbor

How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!  

Every community has a wealth of interesting stories to tell. What makes your town unique? More importantly, how can you share those stories to drive tourism, welcome new businesses and residents and put your community on the map in a whole new way? I…

Read more

Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens of Jefferson

What comes to mind with the name Thomas Jefferson? President, perhaps? Avid agriculturist and gardener also fit, especially in Jefferson, where locals are quick to share this rich history.

Read more

Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa

What would attract a young entrepreneur to an area like Calhoun County, Iowa, which has lost population for decades? I asked Dr. Jeff Redenius, who runs a chiropractic clinic and fitness center in Lake City. His answers may surprise you.

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Dr. Jeff Redenius, chiropractor and entrepreneur in Lake City, Iowa

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It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20

It’s a quest that’s decades in the making. When hundreds of people gathered in Holstein on October 19, 2018, for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the completion of U.S. Highway 20 as a four-lane thoroughfare across Iowa, the focus on the future was intertwined with the history of this remarkable road–which offers the perfect route for a road trip.

“Highway 20 is the longest highway in America, spanning 3,365 miles from Boston, Massachusetts, to Newport, Oregon,” said Bryan Farr, founder and president of non-profit Historic US Route 20 Association, which promotes travel along the original 1926 alignment of US Route 20. “Modern travelers aren’t always aware of Highway 20. We want to make it a tourist destination like Route 66.”

Highway 20 passes through 12 states, including Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. “A lot of interesting things have happened along the highway, from Puritan New England to the Wild West,” said Farr, who shared stories of history, presidents, natural wonders, quirky roadside attractions and more connected to Highway 20 during his program “Historic U.S. Route 20: A Journey Across America’s Longest Highway” on Oct. 14 to a large crowd at the Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center.

But first things first—is 20 a highway or a route?

“It depends on where you’re from,” said Farr, who grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York state and now lives in Chester, Massachusetts. “If you’re from Massachusetts, New York or Pennsylvania, you pronounce it ‘Root’ 20. If you’re from Ohio, Indiana or Illinois you say, ‘Route 20.’ If you’re west of the Mississippi River, it’s Highway 20.”

Bryan Farr, founder and president of non-profit Historic US Route 20 Association

Bryan Farr is the founder and president of non-profit Historic US Route 20 Association, which promotes travel along the original 1926 alignment of US Route 20.

History happened here
The remarkable history of Highway 20 started with the passing of the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which appropriated $75 million for road construction throughout the country. The roads that would become Highway 20 were officially designated during the summer of 1925, with the original alignment of the highway taking shape in 1926.

Creating the modern, efficient, paved, four-lane highway travelers enjoy across Iowa today, however, took decades to create, Farr said. The road was often re-aligned throughout its history, and much of it was gravel for part of the highway’s history. “There are still little sections of the 1926 alignment of Highway 20 outside of Early and Fort Dodge that still are gravel,” Farr noted.

Speaking of Fort Dodge, this Highway 20 city has an unforgettable connection to Cardiff, New York, another Highway 20 town where one of the greatest hoaxes of the nineteenth century took place.

It all started when Stubb Newell of Cardiff, New York, needed a new well. On Oct. 16, 1869, Newell directed two well diggers to a spot he selected behind his barn. The men dug 3 feet and hit something solid. They uncovered a huge stone foot. As they dug more, an entire body of a man emerged. Two days later, a large tent was placed over the 10-foot stone man and crowds of nearly 200 to 500 people a day paid 50 cents to see this giant. Scientists, philosophers and the clergy attended and were challenged in their beliefs, noted the Historic US Route 20 Association website.

Legendary showman P.T. Barnum offered $60,000 for the giant but was turned down. Soon, however, the hoax came to light when people recalled a man named George Hull (a cousin of Newell) had visited a gypsum mine at Fort Dodge in 1868. He commissioned a 5-ton block to be used to carve a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The block of gypsum was shipped to Chicago and carved into this giant man. The carving’s surface was treated with acids and picked at with needles to give it an antiquated look. It was then shipped and buried in New York.

Today, the giant rests at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York. In 1969, a replica was created from the same gypsum quarry and is on display at the Fort Museum in Fort Dodge.
These types of stories offer a unique perspective of Highway 20, which Farr has traveled from coast to coast. “I want to bring people back into small town America, to shop locally and support local businesses to boost economic development in communities that may be bypassed by interstate highways or other more popular routes.”

Gaining a new perspective of Highway 20
Highway 20 is also distinguished by a number of other noteworthy distinctions, including:

• Ties to some of America’s major and mid-sized cities. Highway 20 includes Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Boise.

• A connection to five presidents. “Highway 20 is a presidential route,” said Farr, citing George Washington as well as Abraham Lincoln, whose famous debates with political rival Stephen Douglas took place in Freeport, Illinois. Highway 20 is also connected Galena, Illinois, where President Ulysses S. Grant had a home. In northern Ohio, Highway 20 passes through Freemont, home of President Rutherford B. Hayes, who served from 1877 to 1881, oversaw the end of Reconstruction and attempted to reconcile the divisions left from the Civil War. Cleveland, Ohio, honors President James Garfield, who was elected president in 1881 but whose service was cut short after 200 days in office when he was assassinated and later died on September 19, 1881.

• The women’s movement organized along the future Highway 20. The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women’s rights convention in the United States. Held in July 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, the meeting launched the women’s suffrage movement, which more than seven decades later ensured women the right to vote.

• Highway 20 name is more than just name. In 1925, a system of numbered highways debuted in America to replace the jumbled, confusing mess of named auto trails. “Routes with a zero at the end, like Route 20, were transcontinental routes,” said Farr, author of the book “Historic Route 20: A Journey Across America’s Longest Highway.” “Also, east-west routes have even numbers, while north-south routes have odd numbers.”

• Iowa attractions abound along Highway 20. Spanning roughly 330 miles across Iowa from Dubuque to Sioux City, Highway 20 offers plenty to see and do, Farr said. A few options include Dyersville, home of the famous Field of Dreams movie site, the National Farm Toy Museum and the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier; Independence, home of the Heartland Acres Agribition Center, which connects visitors to the past, present and future of Iowa agriculture; Sac County, with its famous barn quilt trail and world’s largest popcorn ball in Sac City and Sioux City, with its rich history related to the journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition nearly 250 years ago.

Historic Route 20 sign near Cushing, Iowa

While the first Historic Route 20 sign was placed in Painesville, Ohio, in 2014, Cushing became the first Iowa community to display one of the distinctive signs. This sign greets visitors as they enter the small Woodbury County town from the east on the old route of Highway 20.

It’s interesting to note that bypasses started being built along Highway 20 almost from the start, starting in Massachusetts in the late 1920s. By the 1950s, bypasses in Iowa rerouted Highway 20 out of Farley in eastern Iowa. The trend hasn’t stopped since then. In recent years, communities along historic Highway 20 have been installing signs to denote their unique place along the route. While the first Historic Route 20 sign was placed in Painesville, Ohio, in 2014, Cushing became the first Iowa community to display one of the distinctive signs. This sign greets visitors as they enter the small Woodbury County town from the east on the old route of Highway 20.

While efficient transportation has its place, Farr encourages travelers venture off the interstates and four-lane Highway 20, explore the nearby towns and rural areas and see some the best of America. “Highway 20 is like a companion,” said Farr, who is promoting the new slogan “It’s time to be 20 again.” “This road will take you home.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family

It was the telegram no family wanted to received. “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Bernard Vincent Doyle, seaman second class, U.S. Navy, is missing following action in the performance of his duty and in service of his country.”

The telegram, dated December 20, 1941, was sent to Doyle’s father, John. Weeks later it was confirmed that Bernard “Barney” Doyle, a 19-year-old from Red Cloud, Nebraska, had been killed in action while serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The loss still lingers. “My brother was the most caring person I knew,” said Fran Nutter, 94, Doyle’s younger sister who has lived in Lake City since 1947. “He was always happy, and everyone liked him.”

Bernard Doyle, sailor, USS Oklahoma, killed in action at Pearl Harbor

Bernard Doyle, sailor, USS Oklahoma, killed in action at Pearl Harbor

Doyle was buried with full military honors at the Lake City Cemetery around noon on October 13, following a Mass of the Christian burial at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lake City at 11 a.m. High-ranking members of the U.S. Navy attended the services, which were open to the public.

While Doyle’s remains had been classified as non-recoverable, a new chapter in his story is being written, thanks to advances in DNA technology that allowed his remains to be identified and returned to his family. Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered that all flags in Iowa fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on October 13 to honor Doyle.

All this support is comforting to Nutter and her family. “I always kept Bernard’s picture on display in my home,” she said. “My family thinks he’s a hero.”

Service and sacrifice
Bernard Doyle was born in Esbon, Kansas, on January 17, 1922, and grew up on a farm with his six brothers and sisters. The family lived in south-central Nebraska, not far from where their grandfather John Doyle homesteaded in Kansas, said Nutter, who remembers the hardships of the Great Depression. “Those were the days when Dad put molasses on tumbleweeds for the cattle to eat.”

After graduating from Red Cloud High School in 1940, Bernard Doyle enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 28, 1940, in Omaha. He was later assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The USS Oklahoma arrived in Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1940, one year and one day before to the fateful attack. The USS Oklahoma was on Battleship Row on the morning of December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. The Japanese used dive–bombers, fighter–bombers and torpedo planes to sink nine ships, including five battleships.

The crew of the USS Oklahoma did everything they could to fight back, according to the official website of the USS Oklahoma. In the first 10 minutes of the battle, though, eight torpedoes hit the USS Oklahoma, and she began to capsize. A ninth torpedo hit her as she sunk in the mud.

More than 2,400 Americans died during the Pearl Harbor attacks, including 429 men on the USS Oklahoma. In the aftermath of the tragedy, however, families back home didn’t know if their loved ones had survived or perished.

“After I heard the news, I had a feeling my brother would be okay,” said Nutter, who was working at an ammunition depot in Denver, Colorado, at the time. “I had no idea how serious things really were.”

Fran Nutter displays her older brother Bernard's picture and his Purple Heart.

Fran Nutter displays her older brother Bernard’s picture and his Purple Heart.

In the weeks following the Pearl Harbor attack, the remains of men lost aboard the USS Oklahoma were recovered, and 35 were identified. Doyle was not among them, though. “For two months, my parents had no word about my brother’s fate,” said Nutter, who has a note her parents wrote to the Navy in February 10, 1942.

John and Mary Ellen Doyle’s pain is clear in the letter, which reads, “Others from Red Cloud, Nebr., whose sons were there have heard concerning them. We ask you to please give the matter your immediate attention.”

“You can almost sense the desperation in my mother’s letter,” Nutter said.

By Feb. 13, 1942, Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs notified the Doyle family that “after an exhaustive search, it has been found impossible to locate your son…and he has therefore been officially declared to have lost his life in the service of his country as of Dec. 7, 1941.”

Doyle and hundreds of other “unknowns” were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii. “My mother accepted that this was God’s way of taking my brother,” Nutter said. “I never thought Bernard would be found, and I wondered what he went through in his last moments.”

All four of Nutter’s brothers, including Johnnie, Bernard, Eugene and Robert, served in various branches of the military during World War 2, including the Army, Navy and Marines. Of the four, only Bernard Doyle never returned.

“I know for a fact that Bernard’s death inspired my brother Eugene to enlist,” said Nutter, who added that Eugene Doyle was a 17-year-old high school student at the time and needed his parents’ consent.

“I thank God”
Memories of Bernard Doyle, who was awarded the Purple Heart, never faded among his family. When Nutter and her late husband, Dean, traveled to Hawaii for their 45th wedding anniversary in the late 1980s, they visited the Punchbowl and saw Bernard Doyle’s name on a memorial. “I didn’t know his name was there, and I started to cry,” Nutter said.

By 2003, the U.S. military started trying to identify individual remains of U.S. service members killed at Pearl Harbor. The process was difficult, however, since DNA technology was not as advanced as it is today. Also, remains of deceased service members were sometimes mixed together. In some cases, the partial remains of more than 100 service members were placed together in one casket.

As DNA technology advanced, the military renewed efforts to identify those killed at Pearl Harbor. In 2015, all remaining caskets at the Punchbowl that were associated with the USS Oklahoma were exhumed. The remains were transferred to laboratories in Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

In 2015, a representative from the military called Nutter to update her and send her a DNA kit. Nutter and various family members, including her daughter Deanne Grantham of Lake City, didn’t hesitate to provide DNA samples. “I thought, ‘Good, we’re on the right track,’” Nutter said.

Deanne Grantham (left) and her sister Pat Albright of Lake City, Iowa, review information supplied about their uncle from the U.S. Navy.

Deanne Grantham (left) and her sister Pat Albright of Lake City, Iowa, review information supplied about their uncle from the U.S. Navy.

Doyle was positively identified by dental remains and an incomplete skeleton in very good condition, said Chief DeShannon Beaty with the U.S. Navy, who visited Nutter and her family in Lake City in August 2018 to share the findings. “It’s interesting and humbling to be part of this,” said Beaty, who noted that some families like the Nutters embrace this history, while others show little interest in the identification of their ancestor’s remains.

Nutter wonders if Doyle might have become a teacher had he lived. “He was so patient,” she said.

In 2017, the family purchased a headstone for Bernard Doyle. Now he’ll be honored properly during the October 13 ceremony, said Nutter, who has gained a new appreciation for the U.S. military after going through this experience. “I thank God so many times for everyone who helped identify my brother so we could bring him home.”

Darcy’s note: It was an honor to share this story of the Nutter family and Bernard Doyle, since the family members are close friends of mine. This article originally ran in the Fort Dodge Messenger. Thank you to all our servicemen and women who protect America. 

 

 

The funeral for sailor Bernard Doyle, killed at Pearl Harbor, was held Oct. 13, 2018, in Lake City, Iowa, with full military honors.

The funeral for sailor Bernard Doyle, killed at Pearl Harbor, was held Oct. 13, 2018, in Lake City, Iowa, with full military honors.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!  

Every community has a wealth of interesting stories to tell. What makes your town unique? More importantly, how can you share those stories to drive tourism, welcome new businesses and residents and put your community on the map in a whole new way?

I call it “story selling,” and it works.

I first discovered the power of a story to inspire action in 1998 when I was a full-time editor at the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman. I had the chance to write about something interesting close to my home area of Lake City and Yetter (“Everything’s Better in Yetter”—what a town motto!).

The first thing that popped into my mind? The Jake Burger at the Yetter Café.

Now, granted, this was a tasty, thick, juicy burger, but it’s like a lot of other beef burgers. No secret sauce, wild ingredients or anything like that. What made the story come alive, though, was the restaurant owner.

Merlin “Jake” Janssen is one of those local characters who has done a little bit of everything in his life, from trucking to cooking. When he opened a café in an early 1900s-era two story clapboard home on Plum Street in Yetter, his Yetter Café soon developed a loyal following, from the employees at the ag co-op across the railroad tracks to area farmers to locals who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Not one to stick with boring names like “hamburger” or “cheeseburger,” Jake was a marketing wizard of sorts who named his most famous creation the Jake Burger. My story set the stage with all the sensory details, from the cozy feel of the tiny dining room to the savory aroma wafting from the kitchen as Jake fried the burgers. I also shared some of Jake’s backstory along the way, showing what sparked his interest in the restaurant business (I’m a people person!” he exclaimed) and what it’s like to run a café in a town of 35 people.

I described how the Jake Burger came with all the trimmings, from lettuce to tomato to onion. I noted that each culinary creation was prepared by Jake himself. For added spice, I dished about tales of how each Jake Burger was always served with a hearty side of small talk and wise cracks.

After my story and a photo of Jake with his namesake burger ran in the Spokesman, I asked Jake if he got much feedback from that article. “I sure did,” he said. “One guy drove all the way from Nashua to just to try a Jake Burger. Can you believe that?”

To the casual observer, it might seem unbelievable that someone would drive more than 150 miles one way to tiny town to eat a Jake Burger. But that, my friends, is the power of story.

Why does a good story matter?

Imagine a world without stories. If you’re like me, you can listen to a few facts, but not many before you start tuning out. In this hectic, distracted world, true stories well told are incredibly powerful, since they:

  • Capture people’s attention
  • Propel you past the dreaded “sales pitch syndrome” and invite people to relax and listen
  • Put facts in context and make them relevant to your audience
  • Convey complex information in a way that’s easy to understand
  • Add value
  • Build trust
  • Boost your competitive advantage
  • Showcase the quality of life in your community (arts, entertainment, economic development and more)
  • Inspire people to share your content
  • Make your community more memorable
  • Encourage new businesses to locate in your area
  • Attract more grants and investment in your community
  • Help existing businesses grow and retain quality employees
  • Honor the community’s history
  • Enhance community pride
  • Attract new residents
  • Create momentum that translates into economic development

What makes a good story?

The first step is to identify the people and places that make your community unique. Story ideas might come from the new business that came to town in the last few years, or they might be inspired by the factory that’s been in the community for generations.

Good stories can be found at the local cafe that offers foods inspired by the region, or they can reflect the unique public art project that graces your town square. Compelling stories might include the historic highway that runs through your town and how this influenced the town’s growth, or a great story might focus on a must-see item at the local museum run by dedicated volunteers.

Above all, unforgettable stories revolve around people. Always humanize your stories to help them resonate with your audience.

How do I tell a good story?

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • Do train your brain to always be looking for potential stories you can share.
  • Don’t just rattle off lists of facts or opinions (our town has 2,500 people, we have 20 businesses in town, we are a progressive community, etc.). This information is important, but it’s not a story.
  • Do learn what defines a story. Some of the best stories take a problem/solution format, almost like a case study. In my hometown of Lake City, Iowa, I think of Opportunity Living, a home for handicapped people. In a nutshell, the story is a classic problem/solution story that goes like this:
    • “For generations, Lake City, Iowa, was a vibrant rural community and economic hub, but the 1980s Farm Crisis devastated the local area and led to the demise of many long-time businesses like Snyder Implement. Community leaders knew something needed to change, so they envisioned new possibilities for the large, vacant implement business on the east edge of town. Through their hard work, Opportunity Living took shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now provides homes throughout Lake City and Rockwell City for people with special needs. This dynamic organization also provides many jobs for local people and helps enhance the quality of life in the community.”
  • Do use stories to show how people of all ages are making a positive difference in your community.
  • Don’t forget to find partners throughout the community who can help you identify and share stories. Partner with the school, local businesses, volunteers, civic groups, church groups and others.
  • Do choose your words carefully. Community leaders in Jefferson, Iowa, for example, doesn’t refer to vacant buildings as “empty buildings.” They call them “available buildings.”

How can I use my story to promote my community?

Here are some stories I’ve written about local entrepreneurs and tourism destinations:

Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa

Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa 

Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens

People are listening! 
I received this wonderful note from Mary Weaver after I wrote the story about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens: 

“On a very pleasant note, we are getting visitors because of the articles. We have, that we are aware of, three different sets of visitors from Humboldt. It is the type of visitor story we will tell the City Council when we report to them in September.

The best anecdote was a woman who was part of an assisted living bus tour that was coming to Jefferson from Humboldt, but the destination was the casino. She persuaded the driver her to bring her to TJG rather than the casino and she stayed the entire length of time the others were gambling.

The second was a couple I met yesterday during Tuesday Talks. It was their second visit for a “Tuesday Talk,” they ate at a local restaurant, went shopping at the quilt and antique store.

Certainly is the type of economic/tourism development we have been hoping to create. Thank you Darcy for your splendid articles about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens”

How can I use my story over and over?

Repurposing your stories is one of the smartest marketing moves you can make. Stories can take many forms, including blog posts, press releases, newspaper or magazine articles, videos, social media posts (for mini stories or links to your stories online), podcasts, speeches, photographs, advertisements and more. The key is to meet your audience where they’re at and use various marketing channels to spread the word.

Remember, if you don’t tell your story, who will? It’s a fun journey, and you stand so much to gain.

 

What if I don’t know where to start, or I just don’t have enough time to write my community’s stories?

If your budget allows, you might want to hire a professional storyteller. I understand the power of storytelling, because I’ve lived it and use it to grow my own business. As a trained journalist, book author, business owner, entrepreneur, marketer, historian and farmer, I offer you a writer’s skill, a storyteller’s artistry, an entrepreneur’s insight, a historian’s knowledge, and a farmer’s practicality.

My formal education includes bachelor’s degrees in journalism/mass communication and history from Iowa State University (ISU), along with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with an emphasis in marketing from ISU, but that’s just part of the story.

I also bring 20+ years of professional storytelling, writing and marketing experience and have served clients of all sizes, from local mom-and-pop businesses to multi-national corporations like Syngenta, help share their stories. I’m “bilingual” in terms of my ability to speak your language and the language that resonates with your clients and prospects.

When I started my writing/marketing business (Darcy Maulsby & Co.) in 2002, I learned the hard way that I can’t be everything to everybody. I’m not an expert in video production. I don’t like managing other people’s social media pages. I do specialize in storytelling, though, and am ready to put this powerful marketing tool to work for you.

I look forward to visiting with you to find out what makes your organization tick. Let’s discover those specific details and pivotal moments that make your stories relevant, relatable and unforgettable. Then I’ll show you how we can shape this raw material into stories that speak to the hearts and minds of your audience.

I invite you to connect with me at www.darcycmaulsby.com and on social media (I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). I look forward to staying in touch.

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa

What comes to mind with the name Thomas Jefferson? President, perhaps? Avid agriculturist and gardener also fit, especially in Jefferson, where locals are quick to share this rich history.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” Jefferson wrote in 1785 to John Jay, a fellow founder of the United States and first chief justice of the United States. “They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.”

Jefferson frequently extolled the virtues of the agrarian life and championed self-government. His legacy and ideals are honored on in the Thomas Jefferson Gardens of Greene County, Iowa (TJGGCI), in downtown Jefferson, thanks to dedicated volunteers, local civic groups and other community-minded supporters.

A life-sized statue of Jefferson himself greets visitors to the gardens, which surround the local Welcome Center/chamber of commerce office southeast of the Greene County courthouse. “The statue is so lifelike that I think a person is sitting there when I catch a glimpse of it while I’m working,” said Jean Walker, head gardener and secretary of the TJGGCI.

Jefferson’s interest in agriculture blends seamlessly with a rural community like Jefferson that honors its ag heritage and looks for new ways to promote the area, said John Turpin, a retired social studies teacher and coach from Jefferson who serves as treasurer and historian for the TJGGCI. “Jefferson was a student of the flora and fauna in his home state of Virginia. He also thought agriculture was the most important career a person could have.”

Making something out of nothing
So what came first in Jefferson—the statue or the garden? It all started in 2010 when Wallace Teagarden, a Greene County native, lawyer and long-time admirer of Jefferson’s philosophies, wanted to combine his love of agriculture and Greene County in a lasting legacy to the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Teagarden commissioned Jon Hair, an Iowa native and world-renowned sculptor, to create a statue of Jefferson. While displaying the statue on the courthouse lawn was the original idea, it was decided that the statute should become focal point of the new TJGGCI, located just down the street to the east of the iconic Mahanay Bell Tower.

A great deal of work went into creating the nearly $1 million gardens that visitors enjoy today. “This lot where the gardens are had three dilapidated old buildings on it that had to be removed,” said Mary Weaver, who leads 12-member volunteer board of the TJGGCI.

The ground itself wasn’t ideal, either. Old cans and other debris were buried in the corner behind the area where a filling station once stood on the property. “Multiple truckloads of soil were hauled in here,” Walker said.

Before some of the first plants could even be planted, grant writing and fundraising were essential. Project leaders received grants from Vision Iowa and Grow Greene County, along with support from Alliant Energy, West Central Cooperative (which is now Landus Cooperative, the Greene County Board of Supervisors, and countless other groups and individuals.

By 2014, the first plants were added to the new garden. Today, brick paving connects the five distinct gardens in the TJGGCI, including:

• The farmer’s garden on the east. Volunteers have grown broom corn, white corn, pumpkins, squash, Yukon Gold potatoes, flax and more in this garden, which is near a replica of Jefferson’s “mouldboard of least resistance” for a plow. While serving as minister to France, Jefferson had the opportunity to observe European plow designs. Their deficiencies inspired him to design an improved moldboard (the part of the plow that lifts up and turns over the sod cut by the plow share). He wished to make that lifting and turning action as efficient as possible so the plow could be pulled through the soil with the least expenditure of force. He never sought to patent his design and sent numerous models to friends at home and abroad, where his design met with general approval.

• A prairie garden on the north, filled with native plants. “This is what Lewis and Clark would have seen when they explored Iowa following the Louisiana Purchase,” Turpin said.

• A children’s garden, with beds made from old wagon wheels. This fun garden showcases unique plants like the sensitive plant, whose leaves and stems curl up when touched.

• A flower and rose garden on the west. This garden is filled with 1,000 plants, including many perennials ranging from irises to daylilies. This garden also includes Buck roses, which are hardy varieties developed by Dr. Griffith Buck from Iowa State University. In addition, some of the plants in the garden have been donated from local gardens, including two peony plants that are more than 100 years old, Walker said. Those are located near the garden’s striking pavilion, a Federal design reminiscent of architectural styles associated with Jefferson. Even the little free library in the garden near the pavilion reflects Jefferson’s legacy, since it’s designed to look like Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Virginia.

• Five raised garden beds on the south. Grapevines grow on a cedar trellis just to the south of the raised beds. The raised beds are used to grow various vegetables that are donated to the local food pantry and congregate meal program. “The first year we planted crops like parsnips, turnips and kohlrabi that Jefferson planted in his own gardens,” Walker said. “Those didn’t prove very popular here, though, so we grow peppers, heirloom tomatoes, peas, green beans and more.”

Learning and growing
Since Thomas Jefferson was interested in music as well as agriculture, the TJGGCI project leaders added whimsical, larger-than-life musical instruments, including a contra base chime and xylophone, to bring sound to the garden.

“We were inspired by the outdoor instruments at Okoboji in the Arnolds Park area,” said Jacque Andrew of Jefferson, who handles marketing for the TJGGCI. “Anyone can play these instruments, and they make the garden more interactive.”

So far, there has been one wedding in the garden in 2016. Tour groups from Des Moines to South Dakota have also visited the gardens.

Volunteers continue to work to make the garden even more inviting. They hope to add a third musical instrument and are hosting another year of Tuesday Talks. These free, educational lectures are held in the garden each Tuesday from noon until 1 p.m. through mid[August. Topics range from perennial gardening to birds in the garden. “A garden is always a work in progress,” Walker said.

That’s part of what brings people together and makes this project inspiring, Weaver added. “These gardens make me so proud of the community. We want to help Jefferson and Greene County become a destination, and the gardens are an important part of this.”

People are listening
P.S. I received this wonderful note from Mary Weaver after this article I wrote ran in Farm News in July 2018: 

“On a very pleasant note, we are getting visitors because of the articles. We have, that we are aware of, three different sets of visitors from Humboldt. It is the type of visitor story we will tell the City Council when we report to them in September.

The best anecdote was a woman who was part of an assisted living bus tour that was coming to Jefferson from Humboldt, but the destination was the casino. She persuaded the driver her to bring her to TJG rather than the casino and she stayed the entire length of time the others were gambling.

The second was a couple I met yesterday during Tuesday Talks. It was their second visit for a “Tuesday Talk,” they ate at a local restaurant, went shopping at the quilt and antique store.

Certainly is the type of economic/tourism development we have been hoping to create. Thank you Darcy for your splendid articles about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens.”

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa

It’s no secret that rural Iowa has suffered through decades of population loss. The current trends are sobering, when you see data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that two-thirds of Iowa counties (that’s 71 counties, including my home county of Calhoun County in west-central Iowa) lost population between 2010 and 2017, while 28 saw gains. So what would attract a young entrepreneur to an area like Calhoun County?

It’s a question I asked Dr. Jeff Redenius, who opened Redenius Chiropractic, PLC, in my hometown of Lake City (population 1,700) in 2016. Not only has this native son grown his customer base at his thriving chiropractic clinic, which is housed in the former variety store on Main Street, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the popularity of his attached 24-hour fitness center. So what’s the secret of this dynamic entrepreneur’s success? Here’s his story, which I shared in the 2018 Hometown Pride section of the Fort Dodge Messenger.

Back to Health:
Dr. Jeff Redenius Promotes Fitness, Wellness for All Ages

Jeff Redenius had enough to worry about as final exams loomed during his senior year at Central College in Pella. As he studied for his tests, however, the Lake City native suddenly felt like a knife was plunging into his chest.

“It was so intense I couldn’t take a deep breath,” said Redenius, 28, who owns Redenius Chiropractic, PLC, and a 24-hour fitness center in Lake City. “I went to a chiropractor and found out I had a rib out of place.”

A quick adjustment provided effective relief. Redenius learned that displaced ribs are fairly common and can be triggered by stress. “I typically see at least one patient each day with a displaced rib,” said Redenius, who opened his chiropractic clinic along Main Street in Lake City in August 2016.

Redenius’s own ordeal with pain prompted him to pursue a career in chiropractic care. “I was amazed at how much relief I experienced by going to the chiropractor,” he said. “I had known since high school that I wanted to go into health care, but this experience helped me clarify which area of health care to specialize in.”

Becoming a business owner
Redenius first discovered the value of high-quality health care close to home when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee while playing football during his junior year of high school.

“I went to the hospital for physical therapy and began to appreciate all the medical care we have right here in Lake City,” said Redenius, who graduated from Southern Cal High School in Lake City in 2008.

After earning his bachelor of science degree in athletic training from Central College in in 2012, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue an advanced degree in physical therapy or chiropractic care. His displaced rib during final exams, along with his desire to own his own business, prompted his decision to enroll at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport.

“My dad, Gary, is a carpenter and has run his business for years, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” added Redenius, who had often worked with his father on construction projects through the years.

Dr. Jeff Redenius promotes healthy living through his business in small-town Iowa.

During Redenius’s years at Palmer, he served as the head athletic trainer and worked with the Palmer men’s and women’s rugby teams. After graduating from Palmer in February 2016, he and his wife, Jenny, a Hudson, Iowa, native, assessed their options about their next career moves.

The couple considered moving to Waverly, since it’s a growing community and a college town, but it proved more affordable for Redenius to open his chiropractic clinic in his hometown, especially when the local dime store on Main Street came up for sale.

“I knew a lot of people around here, which I figured would help grow my business faster,” Redenius said. “We also like the affordable cost of living and the chance to be close to family and raise our son, Sam, here.”

Fitness center proves popular
With approximately 5,500 square feet in the former dime store, the spacious building offered room for more than just a chiropractic clinic with exam rooms, a therapy room and an x-ray room. When Jenny suggested adding a fitness center, Redenius didn’t think it was feasible. “It was a great idea, but I was so overwhelmed by opening the chiropractic clinic that I didn’t think I could take on another project.”

Then Redenius found out that the Palmer College of Chiropractic was building a new fitness center and was willing to sell all the equipment from the former fitness center, including the free weights, the cable machines and the elliptical trainers, for a great deal. He rounded up some strong helpers, lined up a semi-truck and moved all the gym equipment to his building in Lake City.

After some remodeling, Redenius’s new 24-hour fitness center was ready for business. “We opened the fitness center in June 2016, a few months before I opened my chiropractic clinic in August that year,” Redenius said.

Some fitness center members like to take exercise classes and work with a personal trainer, while others like Mary Fern like to design their own workout routine. “I come here five to six days a week,” said Fern, 91, who moved to Lake City in August 2017. “It’s convenient, plus I like the variety.”

Fern walks laps in the gym, uses the cable machine to strengthen her arms and works out on the NuStep, which looks similar to an exercise bike and offers a safe, low-impact way to get a total-body workout. “Why do I exercise? If you don’t use it, you lose it,” she said.

Fern is a walking example of the power of healthy living, said Redenius, who features a quote from Thomas Edison on the wall of his reception area. “The doctor of the future will give no medication but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

 

aging and wellness

Dr. Jeff Redenius promotes fitness for all ages. Mary Fern is 91 years young and follows a “use it or lose it” exercise and wellness philosophy.

“We’ve only started to make our mark”
While fitness and chiropractic care go hand in hand, along with massage therapy services provided at Redenius Chiropractic by therapist Haley Abbott, Redenius doesn’t hesitate to refer patients to other health-care providers, when necessary.

Redenius is also seeking new ways to promote healthy living, including a new weight-loss program he began offering this summer. The four-stage program includes a meal plan and weekly coaching to help patients reach a healthier weight. “You only have one body, and I’m more about preventing disease than fixing problems.”

That spirit of service also extends to Redenius’s hobbies and work in the community. In 2017, he purchased the Baptist Church complex in Lake City after the congregation joined with the Woodlawn Christian Church in Lake City. He has been remodeling the education wing into two apartments. One unit has been rented, and the other is available for rent.

“I like to build things and create positive change, from people’s health to my business to the local community,” Redenius said. “We’ve only started to make our mark.”

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

 

Doing Good, Eating Good at Lytton Town Night

What’s the glue that keeps a community connected? Around Lytton, Iowa, it’s food and fun at Lytton Town Night–and the homemade pie, of course.

While Lytton, Iowa, celebrates Gala Days each year during Memorial Day weekend, planning and fundraising for this beloved 100+ year tradition starts months earlier. In fact, a key part of the process starts in that most iconic of all small-town gathering places—the church basement.

Emanuel-St John Lutheran Church in Lytton, Iowa

Emanuel-St John Lutheran Church in Lytton, Iowa, hosts Lytton Town Night meals throughout the winter.

The basement dining area at Emanuel-St John Lutheran Church, whose congregation has roots dating back to 1883, provides a convenient setting for Lytton Town Night, which is held each Thursday evening from mid-January through March. Each Town Night offers a unique opportunity for the community to come together for free-will-donation meal to raise money for various causes and organizations, including Gala Days.

“Town Night is great, because there are a lot of fabulous cooks around Lytton,” said Nelda Bartels, a lifelong Lytton-area resident who often volunteers at Town Night.

As word of Town Night has spread through the years, guests come not only from Lytton, but Lake City, Sac City, Rockwell City and beyond. It’s not uncommon to serve a few hundred people at each meal.

“It’s like one big family when everyone gets together,” said Wendy Miller with the Lytton Chamber of Commerce.

Lytton Town Night includes groups like the Gala Days volunteers, the South Central Calhoun FFA chapter, 4-H clubs, civic groups and individuals raising money for worthy causes, including overseas mission trips. The Lytton Chamber of Commerce coordinates the schedule for Town Night, which allows eight to 10 different groups and individuals to host a Town Night meal during the winter, complete with home-cooked food. Some groups serve a selection of pasta casseroles, while others like the local FFA members serve pancakes and sausage links.

“I like the food, because it’s all good,” said Randy Souder, a Lytton-area farmer. “It’s also affordable, so everyone can come.”

South Central Calhoun FFA at Lytton Town Night

Members of the South Central Calhoun FFA chapter cooked pancakes and sausage during a Lytton Town Night fundraiser.

While no one is quite sure when Lytton Town Night started, it has been around since at least 1980, according to local-time residents. “It’s such a fun event, because you get to visit with friends and neighbors you don’t always see,” said Marlene Glasnapp, who lives with her husband, Roger, on a farm south of Lytton and is known as one of the best pie bakers in the area.

Each Town Night event is promoted through the Lytton Town Crier and on social media through Facebook. Each meal runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Thursday evening during the winter. The popular gatherings attract people of all ages, from babies to grandparents.

Some groups, like the Gala Days volunteers, serve a lunch and a dinner meal when it’s their turn to host Town Night. “We usually have casseroles and homemade pie,” Bartels said. “The homemade pie is the kicker, because it’s always a hit.”

When the meal is done, the fellowship continues in downtown Lytton at the 1950s-era American Legion hall for bingo. “Town Night bingo has been called Lytton’s winter sport,” Bartels said.
The evening of bingo lasts about an hour and a half, and participants can play as many cards as they want. Two cards cost $3, and the proceeds support the American Legion.

Town Night isn’t just a fun evening, added Brian Lantz, an ag instructor at South Central Calhoun High School who advises the local FFA chapter. “It’s a local tradition, plus the kids learn how to work with the public when it’s their turn to cook and serve the meal.”

Keeping the Town Night tradition alive is important to residents of Lytton, which has a population of 302 residents. “Every year we wonder if we’ll be able have Town Night again,” Miller said. “We’re going to keep it going as a long as we can.”

Creamy Chicken Pasta Casserole

Creamy Chicken Pasta Casserole

Creamy Chicken Casserole
This simple, hearty dish from Nelda Bartels of Lytton was served at the Gala Days fundraiser at Lytton Town Night in March 2018.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 10.75-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 bag (2 cups) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 / 2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-pound box elbow macaroni (cooked according to package directions)
1 1 / 2 cups panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chicken with garlic powder. (Nelda uses a programmable pressure cooker and adds a couple cups of chicken broth.) Drizzle with olive oil. When done, shred chicken with a fork, and save the juice.

Combine the two cream soups, milk, cheese, cooked chicken, broth from chicken and pepper. (If desired, add some sour cream or cream cheese into the mixture for extra flavor and creaminess.) Add cooked macaroni. Stir the mixture and pour into a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole pan.

Top casserole with panko breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Brown panko topping under broiler on low for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch closely, since the breadcrumbs can burn quickly.

Bowtie Lasagna Casserole
This tasty recipe comes from Nelda Bartels of Lytton.
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef
1 package bowtie pasta noodles (cooked according to package directions)
1 small carton cottage cheese
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 small carton sour cream
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown hamburger; mix with spaghetti sauce. Pour sauce on bottom of 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Combine hamburger and bowtie pasta. Combine cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream. Add to hamburger/pasta mix; pour in baking pan. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Poppy Seed Chicken
This recipe comes from Susan Albright of Lytton.
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 carton (16 ounces) sour cream
1 10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup
Very small handful of spaghetti, broken into pieces and cooked (Susan Albright uses three fourths of a box of angel hair pasta)
1 stick butter
40 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 / 2 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After cooking chicken, season to taste with garlic salt and onion. Combine sour cream and soup. Add cubed chicken and cooked spaghetti to mixture. Add salt, to taste.

Pour mixture into greased, 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish.

In a separate bowl, melt butter; add crushed crackers and poppy seeds. Sprinkle cracker mixture on top of casserole. Bake for 20 minutes.

Pie Crust
For decades, Marlene Glasnapp of rural Lytton has relied on this recipe, which yields approximately 6 crusts per batch.
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound lard
1 cup water
Combine flour and salt. Cut lard into the flour mixture. Add water, a little at a time, mixing quickly and evenly until dough just holds together in a ball. Divide dough for six crusts. (The crusts can be frozen for later use, and Marlene often rolls hers out before freezing.)

Raisin Cream Pie

Raisin Cream Pie
Marlene Glasnapp’s raisin cream pie is always a hit wherever it’s served.
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups half-and-half
3-4 egg yolks (depends on the size of the eggs)
1 cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients with 1 / 2 cup of half-and-half, and set aside. Whisk egg yolks, and combine remaining half-and-half with the yolks. Add this mixture to the pie filling mix you set aside earlier.

Add raisins to the mixture and stir over medium heat until thick. Cool slightly. Pour in baked pie shell and top with meringue.

Meringue
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 / 2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
3 to 4 egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs)
3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water. Boil 1 / 2 cup water and add to cornstarch mixture. Cook until clear. (This can be done in the microwave.) Beat egg whites and gradually add sugar. Add cooled cornstarch mixture and beat to proper consistency. Spread meringue over top of pie, sealing to the edge. Bake pie at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until meringue has browned.

 

Note from Darcy: I first wrote this piece in 2018 for Farm News. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention

When Alvin (Al) Liske and his wife, Jean, signed up for the Barn Quilts of Sac County project, they had no idea how much attention this would attract to their stately World War II-era barn west of Early, Iowa.

“Our barn has been featured in Eleanor Burns’ book, ‘Quilt Blocks on American Barns,’ and it was also included on the cover of the Department of Transportation’s 2009 map of Iowa,” said Jean.

Burns, a popular television personality who gained famed for her “Quilt in a Day” system, visited the Liske barn last year when she traveled to Iowa to participate in the Sac County Quilt-a-Fair. She was especially intrigued by the Country Lanes barn quilt pattern that graces the barn’s haymow door. She noted that Country Lanes is a very old pattern that was originally published by Mountain Mist, a company that began selling quilt batting in Cincinnati in 1846.

“We chose the Country Lanes block, because we live on a gravel road,” said Jean, who works in the registrar’s office at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. “Even though we’re off the beaten path, it’s not uncommon to see people drive out here and take photos of the barn.”

Jean’s father, Herman Puetz, built the barn for approximately $4,000 around 1943 or 1944 on the Boyer Valley Township farm that his family had purchased in 1930. The new barn replaced an existing barn that was made from cottonwood lumber. After the concrete foundation for the new barn was poured, lumber was not readily available for the building, due to the war. In the meantime, the family roller skated on the concrete slab. “When construction started again, I can also remember going with my parents to Albert Lea, Minn., to get the rafters for the barn, and I thought that was a really long trip,” said Jean, who noted that the barn includes glazed tile on the bottom and originally had wood shingles on the rounded, gothic roof.

Herman kept horses in the barn, said Jean, who added that farming with horses could be dangerous. “One time when my Uncle George was hauling manure on our farm, something spooked the horses, and they ran toward a barbed wire fence. My uncle jumped off, and he broke his ankle, which got infected.”

Jean’s father, who was one of 12 children, also milked cows on the east side of the barn and kept plenty of hay in the haymow. “I’d play in the barn with my brothers and sister, and we’d make tunnels and caves and houses with the bales. When enough hay had been fed, there would be bare spots in the haymow, and we’d play basketball up there,” said Jean, who noted that the haymow still includes basketball hoops.

After Jean married Al and the couple moved to the farm where Jean grew up, the Liskes raised cattle and hogs in the barn and farmed from the early 1960s until the 1980s. In 2005, the couple decided to remodel the barn, which still had a good foundation. “It was getting to the point where we needed to fix up the barn or think about tearing it down, and we didn’t want to watch the barn fall down,” said Jean, who noted that the family power washed the interior, rebuilt windows and doors, had the barn rewired, covered the roof with red steel and added a staircase to the haymow.

The barn, which is now used for storage, became

a favorite play area for the Liske’s grandchildren. “The barn is an important part of our family’s heritage, and it’s one of the few old buildings left on this farm,” Jean said. “My dad was always proud of the barn, and we’re glad we’ve maintained it.”

Note from Darcy: I first wrote this piece in 2010 for Farm News. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa

Ask Amber Gable about the back story behind Backcountry Winery at her family’s home east of Stratford, and her answer is straightforward. “It’s a hobby out of control.”

That hobby has taken Gable and her husband, Preston, on dynamic journey that has led to the creation of a small business that’s helping spur economic development in rural Iowa. At the heart of it all is a century-old barn that’s central to the story, offering an attractive venue for gatherings, celebrations, music concerts and more.

“This barn is such a unique building,” said Amber Gable, 27, who grew up on a farm near Sibley. “There’s so much history here, including original interior boards that have Stratford Grain and Supply stamped on them.”

Backcountry Winery haymow Iowa

Beyond the tasting room on the main floor, the barn loft holds 150 people.

Guests who come to Backcountry Winery for bridal showers, wedding receptions, class reunions and other celebrations enjoy exploring this rural heritage. So do the visitors who stop by for Backcountry Winery’s live music events.

“When we’re open on Saturday afternoons without a special event like live music, we tend to have smaller crowds,” Gable said. “Events help create experiences that people seek out.”

Events of all types have become an increasingly important part of running a successful winery, noted Mike White, a viticulture specialist for Iowa State University Extension. “More wineries are realizing that there’s big potential in event centers, and many are going this way.”

Putting down roots in Hamilton County
For many guests, part of the experience involves learning the story of the winery. In the case of Backcountry Winery, that story began with Preston Gable’s long-time interest in home winemaking.

“We’d talk about how we might open a winery someday,” said Amber Gable, whose husband is a fellow northwest Iowa native from Hartley.

“Someday” seemed far off, however, when the high school sweethearts started their careers in Ames following their graduation from Iowa State University (ISU). Amber Gable became a landscape designer for an engineering firm, while her husband worked in biofuels research at ISU.

When the couple began looking for an affordable acreage in central Iowa where they could establish a home, start a family and maybe operate a winery eventually, the process became frustrating at times. “We actively looked for about a year and often came up with nothing,” Amber Gable said. “There were some tears along the way.”

Things turned around in 2014, though, when the young couple found an acreage with a house and barn northeast of Stratford. “We really needed a fixer-upper, and this place needed a family to put down roots,” Amber Gable said.

After the couple purchased the property in August 2014, they began remodeling the barn within a few months and exploring its history. The abstract for the property goes back to 1920, when the current home on the acreage was built by Alfred Erickson. “We know the barn pre-dates 1920, although we don’t know exactly when it was built,” Amber Gable said.

While the barn is structurally sound, time had taken a toll on some parts of the building. “We poured a new concrete floor and replaced the entire hayloft floor,” said Amber Gable, who noted that the barn once housed cattle.

After months of work, the Gables opened Backcountry Winery in May 2016. “The barn is still a work in progress, but it has allowed us to open our winery sooner than we anticipated,” said Amber Gable, who appreciates the opportunity to run a home-based business, especially now that she and her husband are raising their 1-year-old son, Ivan.

Word-of-mouth marketing, Backcountry Winery’s website and a Facebook page have helped the couple’s business grow. While Backcountry Winery hosted one wedding in 2016, this grew to five weddings in 2017 and has increased to seven weddings slated for 2018.

At Backcountry Winery, the Gables grow six varieties of wine grapes. They make 12 different wines, including strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apple wines, and plan to expand to 14 wines soon.

The Gables have invested in an expansion near the barn to accommodate these events. A connecting space on the west side of the barn will include a room when brides can get ready for their wedding. This connecting space is attached to a 60-foot by 90-foot addition that will provide additional production space, storage space and office space for the winery.

This infrastructure is just one part of Backcountry Winery’s recent expansions. While the Gables maintain a vineyard on the east side of the barn, the couple also began leasing an established, 4-acre vineyard near Webster City in the spring of 2017.

“It’s exciting to raise more of our own grapes so we can produce estate wines, which are made from our own crop,” said Amber Gable, who is a member of the Iowa Wine Growers Association. “There’s a great deal of pride in that.”

Wine wins big at Iowa State Fair
This pride is reflected in the large, silver trophy that graces the barn at Backcountry Winery. When the Gables competed in the commercial wine competition at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, the judges selected Vignoles from Backcountry Winery for the top honor, the Governor’s Cup. Vignoles is a semi-dry white wine that boasts crisp flavors of tropical and citrus fruits and a clean finish.

Vignoles is just one of the wines available from Backcountry Winery, where the Gables grow six varieties of wine grapes. They make 12 different wines, including strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apple wines, and plan to expand to 14 wines soon.

 

Backcountry Winery’s products can be purchased at the winery or through the approximately 25 retailers in Hamilton County and central, northern and northwest Iowa that partner with Backcountry Winery.

Raising specialty crops like wine grapes and offering Iowa wines offer unique opportunities to boost economic development in rural Iowa, Amber Gable said. “When visitors come to our winery, they not only buy wine, but they buy fuel at the convenience store in Stratford, which is owned by the local co-op, and they can go to Stanhope to get a burger. It’s rewarding to promote the whole Hamilton County experience.”

The Gables hope to attract more guests to the area by offering more live music this summer at the winery. This builds on the success of the three performances offered in 2016 and the 10 shows offered in 2017. The 2018 concerts, which range from country to classic rock, cost $5 for admission and will be held on certain Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the barn.

“Visiting a winery is all about the experience,” Amber Gable said. “We enjoy creating these memorable experiences, meeting people from across Iowa and beyond and promoting rural Iowa.”

Iowa State Fair wine winners Backcountry Winery

When the Gables competed in the commercial wine competition at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, the judges selected Vignoles from Backcountry Winery for the top honor, the Governor’s Cup. Vignoles is a semi-dry white wine that boasts crisp flavors of tropical and citrus fruits and a clean finish.

Iowa’s Wine Industry, By the Numbers
Data from the Iowa Wine Growers Association (IWGA) shows that Iowa has:

• 103 wineries
• 267 vineyards
• 1,300 acres of grapes
• 8 wine trails
• 40+ cold-climate grapes grown
• $420 million of economic impact in 2012
• 2,600 full-time jobs
• 358,000 wine related tourists per year

On average, the typical Iowa winery produces approximately 3,000 gallons of wine annually. The Iowa native wine industry helps promote and establish additional activity in the state, including lodging, food, travel, gifts, agri-tourism, event centers, festivals, music, art and a host of service industries.

“By our estimation, based on direct feedback from the wineries we surveyed, there was over $2.1 million in revenue generated from these wine-related events and facilities,” according to the 2012 “Economic Impact of Iowa Wine and Wine Grapes” report produced by Frank, Rimerman + Co, LLP.

In order for the industry to keep growing and attracting new visitors, wineries not only need to continue focusing on improving wine quality, but consider expanding into more wine-related events like private parties, weddings and festivals held on winery properties, according to the report.

  • I originally wrote this story for the Progress section of Farm News, Ft. Dodge, Iowa in February 2018. 

Backcountry Winery’s fermenting equipment is housed in a Hamilton County, Iowa, barn that’s approximately 100 years old.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing–FFA Journey

My FFA story is so unlikely that even I can’t quite believe it myself. It all began in the fall of 1989, when I was starting my sophomore year at Southern Cal High School in Lake City.

As a child of a Farm Crisis, I never thought about joining FFA. I was busy with classes, band, choir, theater and other activities, and the unspoken message was clear—ag has no future, so don’t spend your time there. Then along came Ed Ricks.

Ed was Southern Cal’s ag teacher and FFA advisor. Turns out he was also a talent recruiter. He asked me whether I’d be interested in coming over to the ag building and studying ag rather than taking the standard 10th grade biology class. I was intrigued. Ed worked out an arrangement with the biology teacher so I could skip biology class every day and instead focus on ag, as long as I could pass the biology tests.

No problem.

What a golden opportunity this turned out to be. I discovered a whole new world of learning, plus I didn’t have to be bored in a biology class. (And yes, I always passed the tests.)

I’m forever grateful that Ed welcomed me into the dynamic world of FFA. Not only did I love the ag classes, but it was fun to compete on the horticulture/floriculture team at nationals in Kansas City. My ag adventures truly set me a path that has defined my career for more than 20 years. They also explain why I’m sure a big believer in FFA.

As I look back, it’s amazing to think how much FFA has changed, and what hasn’t changed, since those days.

1. More diversity. When I was in FFA, there were usually only three to five girls at most in our chapter. That era wasn’t that far removed from the days when girls were not allowed to join FFA (a change that didn’t come until 1969.) Now girls often outnumber boys in many FFA chapters. I was excited that our local South Central Calhoun FFA chapter offered a Diversity in Ag class for the first time this fall, thanks to advisor Matt Carlson, to help girls learn more about the diverse career options available in ag today.

2. Ability to inspire. As I worked with the Diversity in Ag students, I remembered just how influential adults can be at this point in an FFA student’s life, and how much we can inspire the next generation of ag leaders, if we only take the time.

3. Learning made fun. While “fun” doesn’t come to mind when I think of most of my high school classes, it’s a word I’ve always associated with ag education. That all stems from my positive experiences in FFA, from working in our greenhouse to competing with teams that traveled from Ames to Des Moines to Kansas City.

4. Competition. Speaking of competition, I grew up in the era before everyone got a participation ribbon, and it made all the difference in my outlook on life. I loved competing on our floriculture/horticulture team. Even when I didn’t do well in certain categories likes salesmanship, I learned how to keep trying, keep learning and keep progressing. I also come from a legacy of FFA competitors. My Uncle Jack Dougherty competed in public speaking at the state FFA convention in Des Moines in 1956, where he focused on soil conservation. My family still quotes his words that “when the soil is gone, so are we.”

5. Real-world connections. These FFA lessons, from soil conservation to sales and communication skills, aren’t just academic theory. They have real-world applications that continue to influence my approach to business, farming and life.

6. Broadening your horizons. Being recruiting into FFA opened up a whole new world of career options I might never have considered. While there isn’t an abundance of children of the 1980s Farm Crisis working in agriculture, I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones, all because Ed Ricks helped me broaden my horizons.

7. Useful knowledge you don’t learn anywhere else. When I’m at a meeting, I can tell who’s an FFA alum and who’s not, simply by whether a person knows how to conduct a meeting properly with parliamentary procedure. This is such a useful skill, and it’s curious to me that FFA is one of the few organizations that seems to understand its value.

8. Giving back. I remember helping plant and water the flowers in the planters around Lake City’s town square as part of our FFA training. While I just thought this was a fun way to get away from school for awhile, lessons like this helped plant the seed of community service in my life.

9. Leadership. As I volunteer with local FFA chapters today, I’m always inspired by the leadership opportunities that kids embrace at the chapter, district, state and even national levels. A dedicated FFA member always stands out among his or her peers. Some of FFA’s most notable alums have ascended to the highest levels of their chosen professions, from President Jimmy Carter to professional athletes like Bo Jackson to country music superstars Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift.

10. Focus on the future. As I look back, I knew I had a good thing going in high school with FFA, but I wish would have understood even better the amazing opportunities I had. It says a lot about an organization when you realize more of its value the longer you’ve been away from it.

It’s always interesting to me that FFA took root in the mid-1920s to counter the trend of boys losing interest in agriculture and leaving the farm. I think of my own FFA story and am still inspired by the wisdom reflected in the the FFA creed:

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.”

Long live FFA!

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

In Praise of Ham and Bean Soup

I’ve never understood why a smoky, delicious ham and bean soup is so hard to find. Heck, just a lackluster, ho-hum ham and bean soup is often hard to find.

I always figured no one knows more about ham and bean soup than Iowa farm cooks, especially when those who grew up on a hog farm like I did. Pork galore in all its forms was a staple on our family’s dinner table for generations. Plus, soup night was always Sunday night at our farm—and it still is. What a treat when ham and bean soup is on the menu!

With its rich broth and smoky undertones, there’s nothing like a hearty ham and bean soup to chase away the winter chill (or bitter cold, depending on what Mother Nature throws at us.) As I’ve refined my own recipe through the years, I’ve come to three conclusions:

1. You MUST have a thick, smoked ham hock (also known as a ham shank) to make the magic. No cubes of cured ham are going to cut it, if you want maximum flavor. This is a heavy-duty, low-and-slow kind of job for a tough, smoky ham shank.

2. We’re blessed to have many great meat lockers in Iowa, a reflection of our thriving livestock industry, where I can get fabulous smoked ham hocks. One of my favorite suppliers? Lewright Meats in Eagle Grove, which has been serving northern Iowa since 1936.

3. Adding diced potatoes is a good thing for ham and bean soup. I like to add oomph to my cooking, and how can you go wrong with extra veggies? Adding potatoes might be a bit non-traditional for ham and bean soup, but that’s how I roll.

Smoked ham hock from Iowa

This smoked ham hock from Lewright Meats in Eagle Grove is the key to a great ham and bean soup.

The thing about ham and bean soup is that it can be a palette you fine-tune to your own tastes. Don’t like garlic? Leave it out. Want more onions in the mix? Add another one. (As my dear neighbor and farm cook extraordinaire Alice Ann Dial taught me, onions are a cheap way to add lots of flavor.)

The story behind Congress and Bean Soup

“Thunderation,” roared Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois. “I had my mouth set for bean soup! From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow, or shine, I want it on the menu every day.”

Obviously, ham and bean soup isn’t just a farm favorite. Turns out it has a rich history in the kitchens of Washington, D.C., too.

While ham and bean soup was a common item on the U.S. House of Representatives’ menu before the turn of the 20th century, it became a permanent fixture in the institution when Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois discovered that his favorite meal had not been prepared by the kitchen staff on a hot, summer day in 1904.

Cannon, who was the namesake of the Cannon House Office Building, served in the U.S. House for 46 years. Dismayed by that egregious menu omission in 1904, the Speaker directed that bean soup be served in the House every day, regardless of the weather.

More than a century after Speaker Cannon’s decree, bean soup remains on the menu in the House Restaurant, making it one of the more longstanding and famous traditions in the House.

Members of the U.S. House aren’t the only fans of ham and bean soup. It’s also on the menu in the Senate’s restaurant every day. There are several stories about the origin of that mandate, but none has been corroborated.

According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th-century at the request of Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho. Another story attributes the request to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903.

The recipe attributed to Dubois includes mashed potatoes and makes a 5-gallon batch. The recipe served in the Senate today does not include mashed potatoes, but does include a braised onion. Click here to check out both Senate recipes.

No matter how you like your ham and bean soup, here’s my take on this American classic. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Darcy’s Hearty Ham and Bean Soup

1 smoked ham hock (also called a smoked ham shank)—the meatier, the better
1 48-ounce jar great northern beans (I don’t drain and rinse the beans—I add it all)
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 to 4 medium potatoes, diced (I prefer Yukon Golds)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
Water or chicken stock
Salt, to taste

Place ham hock in slow cooker. Add beans, celery, carrots, potatoes, onion, garlic and pepper. Cover with water or chicken stock until slow cooker is full. (If using water rather than chicken stock, I often add 2 or 3 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base to add more flavor.)
Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. (I often prepare the soup in the evening and let it cook overnight.) Remove ham hock, allow it to cool, and remove ham from the bone. Add ham back to the soup. Taste the soup to see if it needs salt. Add salt, if desired. (Some ham hocks add enough flavor to the broth that no salt is needed.)

• Note: homemade soup often develops more flavor if you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and serve the soup the next day. This Hearty Ham and Bean Soup is so good, though, that I understand if you dig in right away!

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

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