Odebolt, Iowa

downtown Odebolt, Iowa

Johnny got the brick lust blues

America made me take this picture. The America that was. It wanted to say something, possibly “Help!” or “Look, I’m still here!” This scene really grabbed me. I can’t say why, but I’m usually stirred by darkness under the surface. Odebolt (“OH-dee-bolt”) appears to be doing all right, though. Industrial agriculture and will power keep these towns alive.

There was a noisy gang of retired farmers having coffee in the mini-mart while they watched the trucks go rumbling by: feed trucks, cattle trucks, grain haulers, gravel trucks, one after the other. So much heavy equipment. Some of the old guys were heavy-weights too, with biceps the size of my thighs, heavy and tough from lifting bales or juggling hogs. If there’d been any trouble, no one would have had to call a cop.

All those truck drivers and coffee drinkers need places to sleep, of course. So do the people behind the counter, the teachers, the insurance salesmen, and the kid who installs your DSL modem. Since that has always been the case, march a couple blocks from the above and behold the lovely boulevard:

Odebolt, IA

It just amazes me that people live their lives in quiet certainty like this. (Forever curbs, eternal grass…) The noisiest thing you’ll ever hear, at least if you avoid the mini-mart, is two lawn mowers going at once, or maybe a tornado siren. As if I would really know! But it sure was peaceful when we pulled in after spending the night in Ida Grove.

A little too peaceful, maybe. Like chloroform from old brown dusty bottles in the dead doc’s attic, or buried by your daddy in the backyard under green, green grass.

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  • terri May 29, 2013, 11:19 PM

    John, your writings from this trip have been incredible.

    ‘America made me take this picture.’

    You always provide such a shaft of meaningful writing. I’m feeling like lately, though I’ve found the Man of the Year edition. onward!

    • JHF May 29, 2013, 11:26 PM

      I just pass it on, is all. But thank you kindly.

  • Ken Webb May 30, 2013, 9:27 AM

    Those pictures certainly evoke an earlier America, still preserved in amber in these little towns. Like you, I always get pretty nostalgic at such sights. I can’t help imagining a life I might have lived in such a place, where everything one was going to be and do got pretty well determined right out of high school (if not earlier) and all one’s habits and doings were always going to be the common property of the town. Yet I always recoil from these thoughts sort of the way you recoiled in your last paragraph.

    There’s a long American tradition, going back to Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio”, of portrayal of the dark side of little towns – the shameful secrets, the grotesque limitations and hypocrisies, the stifled longings, the urge to free oneself from it all by running off to the godless anonymous destructive big city.

    I sometimes look at the kind of characters you observed in Odebolt and wonder whether any of them are thinking such thoughts. Somehow I doubt it. If they were, they would have run off.

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