EMPTY NEST by Curt Swarm

Runner pens and peds through Iowa


Tyler (Ty) Sullivan's handshake is firm.  It comes from his high school running coach, Bob Brown.  Coach Brown would shake the runner's hand if he or she received a medal.  If the handshake wasn't firm, Coach Brown said he or she didn't deserve the medal.  At 34, Tyler Sullivan's handshake is firm.   

Ty started out by visiting different counties to see the sights, like Lover's Leap Swinging Bridge in Louisa County, or Plum Grove in Johnson County, the retirement home for Iowa's first Territorial Governor, Robert Lucas.  Lucas' bed had no mattress, but was made of ropes.  Rope beds is where the term, “sleep tight” came from.

Ty ran track and cross country for Iowa City Regina Catholic High School.  He was an All-Conference runner and qualified for State.  He still runs today.  So, one of his friends in 2018 suggested he set a goal of running in every Iowa town.  Tyler was flabbergasted.  “Every town!  There are 99 counties.  Each county has maybe a dozen small towns,” he told his friend.       

“Just run a mile or so,” his friend advised.  “You can knock off three, maybe four towns in a single day.  If the town has a summer festival with a road race, register for it.” 

Ty did just that and has run in 1,106 towns and cities, with around 100 left.  Iowa has about 157 unincorporated towns, give or take.  They all still count for Ty.   

Ty is not only a runner but a poet (his feet show it! LOL).  Another one of his friends said, “You're a poet, Ty.  Why don't you write a poem about each county in Iowa.” 

Ty liked the idea and gave it a shot.

Lee County: In a county where there are two functionable courthouses, Located in opposite directions of each other, When you travel along the Mississippi River toward Montrose, You will find an old school house.  It might not be as transparent like the ones we are familiar with.  It may look like a log cabin more than anything.  Galland to be the first school house built in October 1830, Where cursive and Latin were taught.  A slap across the hand with a ruler in forgetting to cross your t's and dot your i's was a minor punishment.  I wouldn't have dared to use my left hand in the classroom setting like these.  It might explain why a small percentage of people celebrate national left handed day on August 13th.  Be sure to tour the Galland School.  It is one of many hidden gems Lee County has to offer.

Van Buren County: Looking on beyond the backstretch. The Missouri border is in reach a little past the tree line.  Competing on the black track throughout my years in high school, Seems forever ago but now I love cherishing the fond memories.  I get into my car as I drive further into the county seat of Keosauqua.  The streets are pretty calming for an early Saturday morning.  Pulling into the Welcome Center to meet with the tour guide, Thanking her for taking the time out of her day to take me back in time.  Learning about the Underground Railroad and witnessing places where the slaves would go to feel safe before proceeding on to their journey to freedom.  A little over 150 years ago times were much different.  Trees still sway their branches and birds continue to chirp.  Yet when you stop to think about it, It breaks my heart to know that we humans still cannot find a way to get along with each other.

  Ty has currently written poems about 83 out of Iowa's 99 counties.  He is about to run in and write about Henry and Jefferson Counties.  Follow Ty Sullivan on his running and poetic adventures across Iowa on Facebook at Iowa Scenic Views by Foot.

Fort Madison, Curt Swarm, editorial, opinion, Empty Nest, Lee County, Mt. Pleasant, Pen City Current, author,


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