Dengler Domain: Memories

When I entered kindergarten, I rode Bus 8 throughout northern Tama County until ending up at my grandparents’ house. While the bus driver, Ivan Stansbery, made sure we kept our feet out of the aisle, we were nearly the last people to get off the bus. It felt like Homer’s Odyssey, but it was probably 45 minutes to an hour. The major reason this ride took so long is the route went north out of Traer, through Buckingham, and finally down south to V-18 to my grandparent’s house. I was always entertained by the Buckingham post office. The size or lack thereof was unique. It was a small structure where mail existed. There were only two main attractions in this village, the other being the co-op. One was the smallest, the other was the biggest. They stood in stark contrast to one another. Thinking back on this post office always gives me a smile.

I also went to Gladbrook for two reasons as a child. One was to whoop the Gladbrook kids in county league baseball, and the other reason was to attend the Corn Carnival. As my family passed by Gladbrook along Highway 96, I was always reminded of when it will happen due to the cartoonishly large corn ear sitting along the road. It was the first big event of the summer where I could see more friends by running around away from the adults. It was always a fun time, and the other great part of the festival was watching the fireworks. It was probably over 10 years ago now, but the last time I watched the Corn Carnival fireworks, I remembered being amazed at how good they were.

Keeping with the northern Tama County theme, another enjoyable memory was spending time looking for Christmas trees at the Seda Tree Farm which is now more widely known now as Fox Ridge Winery. Shortly after Thanksgiving, we would pack up the van to take a trip on the gravel roads to the tree farm. We would find the perfect tree after wandering aimlessly through the endless rows of trees. After picking the tree, the best highlight was making my way to the gift shop to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate to warm up my freezing body. The best part of the story is the tree farm became Fox Ridge Winery. This has allowed me to share a place from my youth with friends from other parts of the state and country, and more importantly, hear them sing the praises of the Fox Ridge wine. I can talk about the Winding Stairs and the Traer Salt and Pepper Museum all day long, but nothing beats impressing people with a physical gift from where I grew up.

This resiliency and ability to adapt have always impressed me. It gives me hope when I worry about the tough road ahead for rural Iowa. People will also be innovative when they can and help make rural Iowa succeed. Having different opportunities and experiences is best for a child. At the end of the day, this innovativeness and drive to keep rural Iowa going will continue to give children the best chance at success.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.