I saved the Villages of Van Buren County from havoc, and I did it while jogging. Yep.
It was my birthday. 73 for me—yippee! Growing old is a privilege. As we did last year for Ginnie on her birthday, we rented a cottage in Bentonsport (Bent-on-sport) and spent a tranquil two days in peace and quiet, fresh air, and the pleasant sound of dropping walnuts. “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”
Any stay in the Villages of Van Buren requires at least one meal at the Bonaparte Retreat. Whenever I’m there I can’t get the tune, “Waterloo” by Stonewall Jackson (this really dates me) out of my head. “Little General, Napoleon of France, tried to conquer the world but lost his pants. Met defeat, known as Bonaparte’s Retreat, and that’s where Napoleon met his Waterloo.”
In order to work off that excellent meal, I was up early the next morning, while Ginnie slept in, for a Van Buren County jog. I crossed over the Des Moines River on the now foot bridge between Bentonsport and Vernon. Ducks rose in the misty morning as I slipped across. Then it was up the Vernon Hill to County Road J-40, down the hill, to again cross the Des Moines River, this time raising a doe and her fawn, and back to our little cottage. Only in Van Buren County can you cross a major river twice in the short coarse of maybe three miles.
Then it was off for a day of running around the Villages of Van Buren. The big stop was the Dutchman’s Store in Cantril. Ginnie loves stocking up on stock. We know the owner, Clair Zimmerman, and always seek him out in the back storerooms. He was full of the big news that he was building a new Dutchman’s Store out on the highway, a facility that would double the size of the existing Dutchman’s Store. He showed us a picture of a John Deere tractor his boys had built out of hay bales for the upcoming Van Buren County Bale Trail tour.
Back at the cottage it was time to open presents. Instead of a birthday cake, Ginnie had made my favorite strawberry pie. We invited Rick and Nancy Alexander, owners of the cottage, over to join us. All were in agreement that strawberry pie, especially in this heat, is a grand substitute for birthday cake any day.
For birthday entertainment that night, after grilling ribeyes, Ginnie and I went to see an all female group, the Awful Purdies, in Fairfield. Because of the heat, the event was moved indoors to the air-conditioned comfort of the Arts and Convention Center. Surprising us both, the Awful Purdies, from Iowa City, were quite good. And it was free.
The next morning, I was up early again for my post-birthday jog, this time heading east, with the intention of running up the Bentonsport hill toward Bonaparte. I hadn’t made it out of town when I noticed something in the middle of County Road J-40. I stopped and looked and, lo-and-behold, it was a box full of two-inch framing nails, along with a strip of staple-gun staples. Holy Moly Guacamole! The box of nails must have fallen out of the back end of a pick-up or maybe an Amish buggy. If that box of nails had gotten run over, and those nails spread over J-40, the whole county could have been plagued with a rash of flat tires. I set the box of nails and strip of staples over on the curb and picked them up when I returned to town after I ran “The Hill.” And that’s how I saved the Villages of Van Buren from a whole lot of havoc and grief—just a little token of my gratitude for all the pleasure Van Buren County has given us.
Returning home, there was a raccoon in the live animal trap I had placed in our sweetcorn. All-in-all, it was an extraordinary birthday, not agreed to by Rocky Raccoon. He or she didn’t appreciate its new accommodations.