Madison County

Serendipity led us to the most famous place in Iowa.

And they say there is a covered bridge four miles down the lane from here. I had planned a very different route through the state, missed an exit, and just kept going. I think this worked out better.

All night last night in central South Dakota, I imagined I heard some strange music in the wind and traffic. But when the sun came up, I realized that it is some sort of vexatious giant wind chime. I suppose a clever guy thought it would be something to hear out on the empty plains, but it made it impossible to hear the redwinged blackbirds. It repeats the same intervals over and over. 

I got up, couldn’t find the source of the strange musical wind instrument, quaffed a flagon of mare’s milk, jumped astride my white steed, and galloped off over the steppes into the rising sun, like the Yamnaya princess I’m descended from. So says 23AndMe. The milk was from a cow, and all I could find, in case I ran out of half and half for my coffee.

Struggled to stay awake and alert this afternoon, what with long country roads through unremarkable little South Dakota towns. Entered Missouri River country,  and saw a plaque about some Indians who were displaced from this area. It had a remarkable photo of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe. Doesn’t he remind you of a movie star? I can’t place who, but found that a movie about him is in pre-production right now, Martin Scorsese to direct.



Near a Walmart was a huge sign for a local restaurant that said “Prairie Oysters!” “First weekend of every month!” If people plan their outings just for those, this must be the most real cow country ever. We were in cowboy country, this is cattle country.

Iowa is just pleasant. At a magic line in South Dakota we went from shortgrass prairie to tallgrass prairie, and now there are big oak trees.  The humidity arrived, and it feels different culturally too. The state line sign, (and I’ve seen almost all of these), says “Iowa’s People Welcome You.” The ubiquitous Buckle Up sign says It’s Our Law, not The Law. I want to know why.

Perhaps I’ll find out, because as soon as I found this campground about 25 miles west of Des Moines, I called a woman from the Davis County Genealogical Society. She is willing to meet up with me tomorrow in Bloomfield, and help me figure out where my family members are buried. She really sounded like a midwestern lady on the phone. No nonsense, slow-speaking, can’t be interrupted. This is now not the West, but it isn’t the East either.


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