I felt it in the air last week and I know you did, too.
Football weather — my favorite time of the year. There was a just a little bite, enough cool crispness in the air to get me thinking of tailgates and Hawkeye football. Or Cyclone football or Panther football. Whomever you root for — college, NFL, high school — all levels, really.
There should be an entry in Webster’s Dictionary: football weather – The time of year during the autumn harvest when sports fans start clamoring for touchdowns, tailgates and any such food that can be consumed while watching athletes dressed in barbaric gear trying to carry a leather-clad ball over an imaginary line with the winner determined by number of points scored. Whew!!! Almost lost my breath on that one. Like one of my old bosses and editors said – grab a bag of periods!
Back to the weather. Because if you have nothing to say, you can always talk about the weather. But in actuality, I have plenty to say.
I love summer, but I don’t like to sweat. It would be better if I was able to be around water and cool down, but nobody I know has a boat. Or if they do have one and I do know them, they’re always “booked.” Like I need to talk to their agent or something to schedule a “session out on the lake.”
I have friends that have pools as well, but that’s been shot down twice now because of torrential rains that forced the fun to be moved inside. I can’t spray someone with a super soaker indoors and get away with it. Plus where’s the fun in cleaning up puddles of water on kitchen hardwood floors?
Spring is my second favorite season. I love the smell in the air when things are coming back to life. Cool breezes equate to easy spring living. But there’s a lot of water that comes with spring as well. I’m not scared of water, but I just prefer to stay dry.
I have a certain friend that is “drawn” to the ocean – like they are one with the sea or something. I can seriously see this particular person getting in a boat and just floating on the sea for the rest of his life. I just hope and pray he doesn’t morph into Lieutenant Dan Taylor from “Forrest Gump” at some point, climb the rigging on the boat and scream, “You call this a storm?!?”
But that was a shrimp boat and my friend doesn’t shrimp, so I think we’re all good on that front.
Winter? Well, I try to not bad mouth winter because I don’t want six inches of snow in May. The Snowflake Gods have a way of slapping you back into reality real quick when the day before you were enjoying 80-degree weather.
Such is the case with weather in the Midwest, specifically Iowa. Yes, Iowa weather, I’m talking to you.
Schizophrenic would be the word I would use to best describe the zero–to–60–in–six–seconds weather that can flip on a dime here in this state.
I moved three hours north here in beautiful Floyd County from my usual stomping grounds of southeast Iowa. I am preparing myself for the worst. I went to Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls after high school for a year so I’ve experienced the whole Highway 20 weather phenomenon.
To my understanding the saying is pretty straightforward – the winter weather gets worse around Highway 20 in Iowa. Maybe that’s something people from southern Iowa just say.
I assume Floyd County residents or people that live north of Highway 20 in Iowa say the same thing about a stretch of highway where the weather is more harsh and a bit more frigid in Minnesota.
Don’t know, but I’m still learning the ways of the north.
It’s been pretty hectic here in the state the past couple weeks, with all the tornadoes that touched down. Hit my hometown, those terrible twisters did. When I travel home to where I was born and raised in Pella, I take Highway 14 down south most of the time. Depends on my mood. Because it seems gravel roads and myself have a way of getting united when traveling in foreign territory.
That’s not by design. I prefer alternate routes on occasion. That’s another way of saying I got lost again. But I enjoy the drives. I think Iowa doesn’t get enough credit for its scenic beauty.
Sometimes I tell people that I feel like I am driving through one big corn field at times. But I’m joking, because Iowa holds much more beauty than say Kansas or Nebraska. Drive through the states and you’ll see why. No offense to any Cornhusker or Jayhawk supporters, I’m just clarifying geographic differences.
Back to the tornado.
On my route back home, I drive through Marshalltown. There is a way around it, but with so many road closures as of late, I ultimately end up back on gravel choking dust. That’s not my idea of a pleasure cruise.
I recently drove through Marshalltown two weeks prior to that tornado devastating the town, specifically its downtown area. There was a bad storm when I rolled through the town — obviously nothing on a scale compared to the EF3 twister that crumbled buildings and ripped off roofs there two weeks later.
This bad weather, which consisted of hard rain and what had to be at least 50-mile-an-hour winds, followed me all the way down to Ottumwa. Ottumwa is where I lived for 15 years after leaving my birthplace of Pella.
Marshalltown is a lot like Ottumwa — blue-collar people who don’t back down from a fight. Tough towns that can withstand big punches to the gut. They get by on grit and determination — a little rough around the edges, but they don’t seem to care either way.
Charles City knows all too well the heartache a tornado can inflict on a town. Marshalltown and Pella will pull through, though, just like Charles City did 50 years ago. I don’t really think there is any other way.
You have to become stronger when an event like that happens. It tests your mettle. But such is life. Overcoming adversity and obstacles are nothing new for those fine folks. The town of Pella was spared any damage from the twister, but Vermeer Corp., just on the eastern outskirts of town, was hit like a Mack truck by the tornado.
I will spare you all the details of the damage, but I drove by the destruction on what is called the Vermeer Mile – a solid stretch that encompases all of Vermeer’s buildings and facilities.
Vermeer’s CEO, Jason Andringa, who is the third generation of family ownership of the business, spoke to the media the day after the tornado forever altered his business.
I don’t know Jason. He’s my age, but went to Pella Christian. I went to Pella public. I remember he was a basketball player back in the 90s.
Sidebar: The Pella Christian–Pella sports rivalry is a pretty big deal. But so are most prep sports rivalries in Iowa. We love a good, old crosstown tussle.
Jason read from a prepared script in front of the media camped in the Vermeer parking lot. He then stepped back for a moment, his emotions getting the best of him. It was his personal touch that struck a nerve with me — my eyes watering up when I watched the video online.
He said one of the first people on the scene after the disaster was his pastor, who is also my pastor. I don’t attend my church on a regular basis, but I know what my pastor means to the community. He means a lot and cares about struggle and fighting through tough times.
All pastors care, but he’s my pastor. I’m not saying you can’t claim more than one pastor, but most everyone has a favorite something and he’s my favorite pastor.
He has encountered recent personal loss himself. If you live long enough, you’ll get dealt a bad card or two, that’s a fact. The key is don’t fold, play your hand. Sometimes you might have to bluff, but not often. In the end, an effort to reconstruct and rebuild your gameplan on what it takes to succeed is usually inevitable.
Pella and Marshalltown are going through that process right now. Often times a steady and winnable hand comes with experience. I usually suggest to not cash your chips in all at once. Save a few, you never know when they might come in handy when you’re in a jam.
Just remember, going all in doesn’t mean taking a chance on losing it all. It just means you might lose it all on that particular hand. There are many battles left to be fought. You can’t win them all and seldom do winners ever avoid the taste of defeat.
A storm may knock you down in the spring, only to save you in the summer. That’s what I like about Iowa’s weather.