Eldon: Driving around southeast Iowa in the midst of tornadic winds may not be the ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but my friend Jane and I did that this past Sunday. After a movie in Ottumwa (Heaven Is for Real, moving and worthwhile), we headed south east into Eldon. We were scouting great spots for MUM's upcoming Japanese visitors to see to get know Iowa. We began in this small town, less than a half hour from Fairfield, at the delightful American Gothic house, made famous by painter Grant Wood. Even in the pouring rain, the lovely little house is a special place to visit. The information center offers many additional opportunities to learn about this American iconic symbol. They also offer costumes for visitors to pose in, assuming the traditional couple's pose with the pitchfork in front of the house. In summer the Pitchfork Pie lady, who lives in this small beautiful home owned by the historical society, also offers pie for sale in the front yard.
Cantril: From Eldon, we drove south to Cantril. The road into Cantril from the west offers a lovely small covered bridge off to the left (and the road into Cantril from the east passes a farm, which startlingly enough offers a camel and alpaca grazing in the roadside field). Our goal in Cantril was the fascinating Dutchman's Store, a block-long general store operated by and for the Mennonite community in this area. The store is closed on Sundays so I didn't get my wonderful fresh-ground cardamon and my handful of maple leaf cookies. Monday through Saturday, this store is just a wonder to wander. It is aisle after aisle of items that cover every aspect of life, including an entire room of fabric (my love), and other areas with fresh produce, dishes, shoes, cheeses, craft goods, and so on. Cantril is about a half-hour drive south of Fairfield and makes a wonderful half-day trip.
Bentonsport: Our last stop, Bentonsport, Iowa, about twenty minutes east of Cantril, sits right on the edge of the Des Moines River. Once an important port for steamboats on the river, Bentonsport today is a small community of shops that invite visitors in to observe specialty crafts. Places to stroll or picnic along the river offer wonderful views. We stopped to look at the river here and noticed the threateningly dark clouds that had been chasing us since Ottumwa had finally caught up with us. Jane took a picture of the rolling cloud formations. We didn't learn until the next day that a killer F-1 tornado had touched down in several places in the area where we were. We drove back to Fairfield in the pouring rain, none the wiser, still enjoying our day. Just a thought–pick a
sunny day for your sight seeing.
American gothic house (Jessica Strom, in Eldon, Iowa, October 31, 2007 released into the public domain.
The Dutchman's Store: <http://www.dutchmansstore.com/>
Clouds. Courtesy of Jane Aikens