Nearly four months have passed since I left suburban Des Moines to move back to my home county in north central Iowa. I initially lived in an apartment in Webster City but now reside in my new bride’s home (our home) in Blairsburg, a town of about 200 located 10 miles east of Webster City.
So, after spending nearly half my life in cities, how is it going in rural Iowa? Wonderfully!
It was never my intention to leave rural Iowa in the first place. Yes, I heard the siren call of the larger cities as a young adult, but my young wife and I were happy to be living near our families. As so many young people are experiencing today, the jobs for my profession were in the larger communities. We left rural Iowa in search of a better job and income.
Frankly, I enjoyed my 14 years in Sioux City and 14 years in the Des Moines metro. The larger communities offer an assortment of amenities unavailable “back home.” There was a 12-year gap between Sioux City and Des Moines when we lived in Creston, a community of about 7,500 in southwest Iowa.
As I grew older, however, I tired of the traffic in the Des Moines metro. Yes, I have driven in Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta and other large cities. The busiest Des Moines traffic is a Sunday school picnic compared to the Beltway in Washington, DC, on a Friday afternoon. On several occasions, stuck in traffic on I-235, I called home to tell my wife I’d be late. “They don’t have to put up with this in Kamrar,” I would say, referring to the town of 200 where I spent my teen years.
Prior to our wedding, I spent most of my daytime hours at Julie’s house, where I have an office. I worked on projects inside and outside her home and was a frequent customer at the lumberyard in Blairsburg where, like the bar on television’s Cheers, they know my name. A visit to the Blairsburg Post Office sometimes involves a conversation with the Postmaster. I knew her when she was a young girl in Kamrar. At the two supermarkets in Webster City I usually run into someone I know. It’s a rare grocery shopping experience that doesn’t involve a pleasant conversation. One morning I stopped at a supermarket for a couple of items and spent more than a half hour visiting, including a chat with a friend from elementary school days.
Last week I dropped off a flat tire at a Webster City tire store and spent nearly 15 minutes visiting with the sister of a high school friend.
“What about traffic in rural Iowa?” you ask. I laughed at myself a few weeks ago at a four-way stop in downtown Webster City. There were two cars ahead of me at the stop sign and I grew impatient. I quickly remembered driving to work on the freeway in Des Moines. Stupid me.
Webster City and Blairsburg are about 10 minutes apart. It took me longer than that to drive from my townhouse in Ankeny to the Ankeny Post Office. It was only three miles but with the traffic… well, you get the picture.
I miss my Des Moines area friends, of course, but it’s only an hour drive to see them and I have done so on several occasions.
On the other hand, the drive to my mother’s house is less than 15 minutes. Two of my brothers live in Webster City and one of my sisters lives across the block behind our home.
When Julie and I returned from a visit to Des Moines several weeks ago we stopped for a couple of items at a supermarket near my former home in Ankeny. Driving in that traffic again reminded me of why it’s good to be back home in rural Iowa. From our front yard in Blairsburg I can see the western horizon out there beyond miles of verdant corn and soybean fields. I love it. The absence of traffic noise allows me to hear songbirds I haven’t heard for years. People – even youngsters – wave and say “hello” when they walk by. Moving back home to rural Iowa was a good move. I’m grateful that the folks who knew me as an ornery kid have let me back in.