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  • 11/22/2013

    My internal clock is still running on time, got up around 5:15. About an inch of snow fell during the night, a blanket of white lightly frosting the remnants of harvested fields and barren branches where oak, elm, and linden leaves once flourished. The constant pines alone remain green and stoic against this early hour of winter.

    Outside the widow, the bird feeders are a buzz with a nuthatch, a few wrens and a couple of ordinary finches.

    I completed the proscribed stretches my therapist wants me to do and added a few pushups, showered and shaved and dressed before 7 am. Olivia made a couple of tentative trips outside to use the facilities, but rapidly returned to the warmth of the house as soon as she was finished. Shih Tzu's have never been accused of being snow dogs.

    1st Corinthians chapter nine is a little intimidating, since Paul has continued his “butt chewing” but is now bordering on sarcasm as his method of delivery. Chapter eight contained his comments concerning self sacrifice for the good of others. They were couched in the topic of eating foods offered to idols, but the general tone was much broader.

    Here Paul speaks of supporting the ministry and of putting spiritual goals above earthly concerns. I will complete my interpretation of chapter nine when I am able to concentrate, which may not be until late tonight when the “hens” have stopped their “clucking”. Sisters, what can one say.

    A trip to town is planned today, some shopping, a visit with Helen, my mother in law, and perhaps Everett and Caren as well. Everett is Charlotte and Sandy's brother, a former marine and retired manager at John Deere who for the last 19 years has participated in the RAGBRAI, an event begun by the Des Moines Register in 1974. The Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is a seven day event beginning on the western border of Iowa and ending 468 miles later at the eastern border. To give you a bit of perspective, Everett is 73 years old and prepares for the ride by cycling at least 468 miles during the year, if not more. He is the leader of a crew that enters every year, and has never failed to finish the event.

    I'm looking forward to it, for while I appreciate the solitude and peace of the country, I am essentially a city boy. I like the feel of concrete beneath my feet as much as the soil. I've thought about it from time to time, and while I either have or could accumulate the knowledge necessary to be a farmer, it's not a life I would be happy with. I think I'll stick to my gardens.

    The trip to town was a success, as far as accomplishing what we set out to do. We arrived at the local WalMart to pick up some food items, then met at the retirement complex where Helen has her apartment. While there is some assistance provided by the staff, the seniors there are still very independent, and at 90 years old, she seems to get along very well.

    Everett and Caren were already there, so after a few minutes of greetings and pleasantries, we were off to Perkins for a nice family luncheon.

    Newton, Iowa was once a thriving community and it shows in the exceptional schools, parks and community buildings. There was once a Maytag plant here, but the plant was purchased by Whirlpool and within a few years was shut down. The machinery was either sold or transported to a newer facility in Mexico, where they continue to manufacture appliances under the Maytag name.

    For several years, Newton dwindled down as people left to find other jobs, and the town reflected it in the vacant storefronts and mom & pop businesses that moved into the buildings where J.C. Penneys, Sears, and other chain stores were. Recently the town has seen a resurgence, thanks to the building of a NASCAR track adjacent to the town, and the purchase of several of the old Maytag buildings by TPI, a company that builds the giant wind generator towers and blades that are becoming such a common sight across the plains of the Midwest.

    Driving through downtown Newton, you notice a few remnants of the past glory. Most of the newer businesses have located on the eastern side of town near the NASCAR track.

    Perkins is a family style restaurant featuring many varieties of baked goods as well as home style cuisine. Of all the businesses along the I-80 corridor leading into town, it is the only one remaining from my first view of Newton more than 20 years ago. I ordered the Patty Melt with a side salad instead of fries in an attempt to maintain my intake for the day, but my plans were somewhat curtailed when we walked in as there was a long table filled with samples of their Holiday Specials for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. After a long deliberation, I succumbed to a coconut macaroon with a drizzle of chocolate across the top. As I took the first bite, I calculated how many situps would be required to compensate for the damage.

    Returning to the farm, the sunset once again drew back it's curtain on my favorite show, the plethora of stars across the Iowa sky. With no clouds in the sky, every star and even a planet shone brightly down on us, and the moon has yet to make it's appearance. I stared a while, then went back inside to play Wii games with the sisters.

    To be continued.

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