Iowa is the thumping heart of the Midwest

Confirmed by data

August 17, 2022 8:00 am

An Iowa farm that produces both wind and grain. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Writers 'Collaborative. Linking Iowa readers and writers.So Iowa is the most Midwestern of places, The Washington Post discovered. Who’da thunk?

The data journalists took a side trip from wildfires and shootings after stumbling upon Air BnB collections of how their hosts described their place. If you talk walleyes or tater tot casseroles a lot, it speaks Midwestern.

We talk about these sorts of things, especially food, more than anybody, the data disclosed. We named it Davenport on the Mississippi, not sofa. We likes our Maid Rites and pop, Washington gets an “r” stuck in the wash and a barnyard epithet attached. Pork loin. Ummm.

How boutcha bud, I coulda just had you look at a map. We are dead-center at I-35 and I-80, the top spot in the nation for immigrant smuggling and potholes. We sired Minnesota from our territory we poached from the Native people. We are certainly north of Missouri, in better shape than South Dakota, more comely than Nebraska, more navigable than Illinois and less drunk than Wisconsin.

We are the thumping heart of the Midwest. Chicago draws its energy from Dubuque, where Al Capone had a summer home on the Illinois side. St. Louis is the gateway to Sioux City. Mark Twain abandoned Hannibal for Muscatine and Keokuk. We taught Ronald Reagan how to communicate in the Quad Cities and Des Moines once he fled Dixon.

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Twelve states are Midwestern, according to how the hosts describe them. Iowans mention Midwest the most. We know where we are. After Midwestern and walleye, the Post reports that “heartland” and “Lutheran” are the next most-common descriptors. Each of which implies hot dish and how boutcha.

Other key words: blacktop, glacial, supper (there’s food again, and dinner is at noon of a hot beef sandwich), snowmobile and bluegill. Orchestra, too — Uncle Wally played fiddle and Merle was on bass. By this list, Storm Lake fits as the most Midwestern of places. We saw no mention of hogs, which do not typically attract guests to a BnB, although Hog Central Storm Lake does have guests who visit Tyson to admire our meat.

Meat. The Poles and Italians used to lug it in the City of Broad Shoulders, Chicago, the undisputed capital of the Midwest. Carl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey, Mike Royko and Mayor Daley, Marshall Fields and Col. McCormick, the swamp that gave rise to Wrigley Field, our baseball shrine.

The Illinois Central’s Hawkeye reached out here so more corn could get planted and more hogs shipped back to the stockyards. The rivers set up the grain exchanges in Minneapolis and Kansas City. And Steve Goodman wrote it all up in a song where we all sing Good Mornin’ America How Are Ya? as the train rolls out from Kankakee, which used to be the hog capital before Storm Lake. God Bless Steve Goodman and John Prine and John Mellencamp. And Greg Brown, who convinced Iris Demint to move to Iowa City.

Minnesota gave us the first shopping mall. St. Louis gave us Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang. Illinois gave us the Rod Blagojevich hairdo which Donald Trump styles, and it gave us Barack Obama by way of Iowa, of course.

Nebraska isn’t Midwest much beyond Lincoln, and there’s talk of Oklahoma but you really can’t grow much corn there, and I cannot say that Dodge City, Kansas, is that much like Marshalltown except for the butchering and manure so I guess it is Midwest. You have to draw the line somewhere. Texas.

It’s a club with code language. If in an airport you see a man wearing a cap indoors, and say it’s hotter than hell out there, and he chirps back that it’s supposed to be near 90 all week — it doesn’t matter if you’re in Greece, you know that guy is from Omaha.

“I’ll take this over freezing rain any day,” he says as you agree, ever politely, not to discuss Iowa State beating Nebraska every other year, and that the Huskers do not belong in the Big Ten, for criminettlies (which is a Midwestern way of not using the Lord’s name in vain, geez).

Freezing rain also is not on the list of hospitality plugs but we get about a solid three months of it here in Storm Lake, which is the most Midwestern of Midwestern places, if you don’t mind, just sayin, didn’t mean anything by it but, say, do you know any Radkes in Wisconsin? You betcha. Well, you know Brad Radke of the Twins has cousins in Alta, and the corn does need those heat units. Howsabout weseeifwecangetusapork burger and Busch Light there at the bar? Nah, too expensive.

I coulda told ya where the Midwest is. Not that you’re wrong or anything. But I would just as soon stay home because nothing good happens after dark anyhow.

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Art Cullen
Art Cullen

Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times Pilot, where this column appears. Please consider a subscription to the Times Pilot or a tax-deductible donation to the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation. He is a member of the Iowa Writers' Collective. Subscribe to Art Cullen's Notebook here.