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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Home now, and pictures ready. I'll start with the Candy Kitchen, since we did that first. Had lunch there. The coolest thing? The "phosphates." I know I've read books where the kids had phosphates, but I never thought I'd get the chance to order a Cherry Fizz myself. Until the Candy Kitchen.

George and Thelma Nopoulos make all their own sodas with their own syrup, and the choices range from lemon and root beer to Green River (lemon-lime, and a beautiful shade of green) and Oddball (a mix of the first 7 choices).
The soda fountain has been a fixture in town for over 3 generations. And as folks in Wilton can attest, many grew up there. It was where the kids hung out before television and cars took them farther afield. They'd come right over after school, stay til supper, go home for dinner, and come right back. Just the place for Andy Hardy and his friends.
Knowing I was a romance writer, Thelma was eager to tout the the restaurant as town matchmaker. She showed me a dozen or more pictures of people who met their spouses there, and one even dropped by for a visit. Carla and Bourke Thurston have been married for 50 years now. Here's their names scratched into the side of one of the wooden booths, circa 1956 or 7. It's a crappy picture, I know, but if you look closely, you can see the "C" of Carla's name and Bourke's below it.
What a great tribute to the Nopoulos's, their warmth and hospitality. Not to mention their generosity. When my sundae (made with George's homemade ice cream) melted because I was talking to the Thurstons, Thelma plopped another at my place. Of course, I had to take a bite. Out of politeness if nothing else...
Overstuffed with food and memories, we left the Candy Kitchen and went on to the real work of the day--harvesting corn.
Frank Townsend and his partner, Rick, have 8000 acres in feed corn and soybeans. They had a wet spring, so planting was late, which meant they were still harvesting late in November. Right now, their days were exhausting--early morning wake ups and going until midnight some days. Hard but necessary because they have to get the crop in before the first snowfall.
It was freezing that day, the kind of cold exacerbated by a knife-blade wind, so I was happy to sit in the cab of a pickup until they finished up with one field.
The combines--John Deere green all--are big monsters plow through the rows and vomit up corn in a flush of yellow into a massive bin.
I couldn't appreciate how monstrous they were, though, until I was sitting in one. Looking down at the stubs--the torpedo-like fingers that scoop in the stalks--felt like I was riding atop a piece of war machinery. Hacking down those stalks, feeding them to the razor sharp shuckers. Very cool. Very lethal, too. Couldn't help thinking that would be a neat way to kill someone. Hack an arm off. Skin them alive. And where better to hide a body than a corn field? Especially the dried up, brownish-yellow feed corn fields, which in themselves look like a Halloween set piece. Gruesome? Oh, yeah. But hey, someone's gotta come up with this stuff else there'd be no suspense stories. Right?
Lucky for me, I didn't have to stay until midnight. I got a taste of what this part of farming is like, and could go back to my comfortable house, my knitting, and my TV--way before midnight. But my respect for what these guys do is way up. Next time I hear some actor complaining about the hard work they do, I'll remember Frank and Rick.
The next day, I did a talk and book signing back at Bandag in Muscatine. Had a wonderful turnout and enjoyed meeting everyone. A special shout-out to Pam Collins, the Muscatine librarian who trekked over to see me. I talked up the RWA convention, so I hope to see her there at some point.
My Iowa adventure has come to an end, now, and I'm back home. Can't say enough good things about the people I met in Muscatine and Wilton and roundabout. I've already got a list of things I missed, so I'll have to go back.
But maybe I'll wait for the summer...

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Blogger Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Annie. I remember the old drug store in the tiny town where I grew up. My favorite after-school treat was a cherry Pepsi and a bag of chashews.

November 23, 2008 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

Sounds like a good time, MN. We didn't have an after school hangout that I can remember.

And yes, I did have a great time. It's fun to see how other people live.

November 23, 2008 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Rae Ann Parker said...

The Candy Store sounds like a great place and it sounds like you enjoyed your research trip. The homemade ice cream sounds wonderful.

November 26, 2008 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

It was wonderful. I had a really good time. Never thought I'd say that about visiting Iowa. Just goes to show ya...

November 26, 2008 at 8:54 PM  

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