In 1940 a book was published from the writings of the late Thomas Wolfe. Entitled “You Can’t Go Home Again,” the novel is about a fledgling author who writes a book that makes many references to his home town. While the book was a big success, the residents of his hometown were upset with what they viewed as the author’s distorted depiction of them. My family moved frequently when I was a kid so I don’t have a hometown, I have a home county. I don’t recall writing too many disparaging things about my home county so I’m hoping to disprove Wolfe’s title. Earlier this month I sold my townhouse in Ankeny and moved back home to Hamilton County in north central Iowa.
I was born in Algona and spent my earliest years near Titonka. When I was 4-years-old we moved to Hamilton County, my father’s home county. Over the years I lived in and near Ellsworth, Jewell and Kamrar. Along with Kamrar, the Blairsburg and Williams school districts merged into the Northeast Hamilton district when I was a freshman in high school so I became familiar with those towns, too. I was already somewhat acquainted with Blairsburg as our family’s church was located there. After high school, I attended what was then called Webster City Junior College. My first two jobs were in that community and I married a local gal so I became well acquainted with Webster City.
My wife and I and our 1-year-old son left Webster City in January 1974 for a better paying job in Sioux City. Neither of us was excited about leaving home but we both understood the need to do so. The move was a good one and I found a solid career path. After 14 years in Sioux City we moved to Creston and 12 later we moved to Ankeny.
Before my wife died we discussed moving back to Hamilton County in retirement, but never reached a final decision. After Cindy’s sudden passing, I felt it was time to retire. I did so last January. Meanwhile, I began dating a lovely young widow with whom I was acquainted in Blairsburg. A romance blossomed and on Valentine’s Day I proposed. Julie Keller said “yes” and we plan to marry in July. After discussing her moving to my home in Ankeny and me moving to her home in Blairsburg, we decided on the latter. On a Saturday last summer when I was helping Julie with yard work three local folks stopped by in their pick-up trucks to chat. I had nearly forgotten the pleasure of informal “over the back fence” visits. It’s something less often experienced in high growth suburban communities.
On March 7 I listed my Ankeny townhouse with a real estate firm. The next evening the agent called to tell me she had an offer. It was a valid offer and the buyer wanted possession in 30 days.
Cindy was a saver. Our basement was full of her treasures. Though I had started doing so last fall, I stepped up my efforts to give away and dispose of her many saved items. My children took what they wanted and they helped direct specific items to family and friends. My mother helped me give things to family members. I took boxes of Cindy’s “savings” to her sister’s house and multiple loads to local thrift stores. This was a difficult task.
On the morning of April 3 a moving van showed up at 8:30 a.m. and hauled my things to Julie’s house. Meanwhile, I rented an apartment in Webster City where I will reside until Julie and I marry this summer. My apartment is spartanly furnished. I hate moving things twice. Don’t worry, the refrigerator is well stocked.
Hamilton County is where my families settled when they came to the United States from the Netherlands and Germany’s East Friesland. Some came via German Valley, Illinois, and Grundy and Carroll Counties in Iowa; others came directly to the East Frisian settlement east of Kamrar. I safely estimate that I am related to more than 60 percent of the persons buried in First Presbyterian Church (formerly German Presbyterian Church) cemetery east of Kamrar. Hamilton County is my home. I hope to prove that you can go home again.
COOOOORRRRRNNNNN,’ then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.” As luck would have it, the same Sunday a young, new Christian from a city church attended a small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the young man, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.” “Hymns?” asked the wife. “What are those?” “They’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man. “Well, what’s the difference?” asked the wife. The young man said, “Well it’s like this: if I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you, ‘Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by-and-by to the righteous, glorious truth. For the way of the animals who can explain there in their heads is no shadow of sense. Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain, unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced. Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night they all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed. So look to that bright shining day by-and-by, where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry and I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.’ “Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”