I invited my Australian friend Heather to visit Iowa on her driving tour of the United States. The promise of a chance to photograph a real butter cow for her travel blog www.hhukins.blogspot.com won her over and found her pushing her navigational pencil along the map in the direction of Des Moines, timing to coincide with the Iowa State Fair.
Heather is the daughter of my dear friend Geoff. Many of you have met him. Even more of you have heard stories about him. I invited Geoff and his Texan wife Patricia to join Heather when she visited Des Moines. The three of them arrived last weekend and I had a great time showing them the Iowa State Fair and Madison County.
Up-with-the-sun kinda morning girl that I am, I explained we'd need to get up early on Saturday to arrive with the first wave of what I was sure would be a record-breaking day of attendance---which would translate into long lines and hoards of people. Heather loves to document her travels with photos, often waiting for the perfect shot ---one which does NOT feature wandering tourists or, in this case, fair-goers. I knew morning would be her best shot at good pictures. I was right. When we arrived at the butter cow, the line was only two layers of people deep. I think she was able to get some clear shots, not only of this years butter cow but of the butter rendition of Harry Potter. She is a great fan of the books which perhaps leads her to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of a butter Harry Potter. Butter anything is ok with me. Mostly I like it on toast. I have to admit I found a butter Jesus just a little disturbing a few years back when Duffy Lyon immortalized the The Last Supper in butter, a rendition I'm sure Leonardo could not have envisioned in his worst nightmare, even if he had tried.
The animal barns are my favorite place to begin.
Who says you can't meet a really sweet guy at the Iowa State Fair???
This little lady's sincere and steady gaze has convinced me: it's Cornish Hen for Thanksgiving this year.
Is this where Happy Meals come from????
Hey, all these kids are enjoying treats, it's time for us to find a snack too......how 'bout some ice cream??
Heather had never tried Dippin' Dots before.
After a detailed explanation of just exactly WHAT Dippin' Dots are from the nice and very well informed Dippin' Dots Official Spokesperson, she forked over a crisp five dollar bill for a small cup of them.
I think she liked them.
Her Dad and Patricia are lots of fun, too.
And they're really great sports.
We walked from one end of the fairgrounds to the other on a hot, sticky August day including a quick walk-through of the hilltop museum to watch films of the Amazing! And Historic! Train Wreck! Somewhere in the Cultural Building, around the hand-carved corncob pipes and moose-shaped walking sticks I managed to wander away from the group and become lost.
Properly re-located and tethered securely to the group once again, we continued on through the Cultural Building to see my Sara's entry in the art department.
Alot of the young people I work with had entries accepted this year as well, several of them prize-winners. (Congratulations Lonnie, nice job!!!!!!)
Watching the livestock judging, one must note that these are indeed very, very clean sheep. Once the judging was over, it was clear that a sheep pretty much goes where it wants to go, thus it must be persuaded to move in a specific direction by a handler who has developed a special technique of making the sheep think it's all his own idea. I couldn't bring myself to photograph the technique as it could be considered, in circles of folks with odd tendencies, pornography. Ah-hem.
Leave it to say, the way to get a sheep to go where you want it to go is to tickle it's....er...fancy. Yup. Just remember, you read it here first.
Fancy properly tickled, this little lady snuggled down into her bed of clean hay to enjoy the afterglow.
The next day we headed down the highway to Madison County.
Heather and Patricia and I are all great fans of the Robert Waller book. Geoff yawned alot, misbehaved in the car and redeemed himself by buying lunch at the counter where Clint Eastwood sat in the movie.
Madison County is a pretty place. And thanks to all the rain, it was beautifully green. Before leaving town, we stopped to pay homage to Madison County's favorite son. When in Winterset, one simply must have one's picture taken with John Wayne.
Even if he is cardboard.
I credit Geoff with introducing me to great wine and was quite delighted when he and Patricia came with a suitcase full of bottles. Heather, longing for a "taste of home" after several months in the United States, received a FedEx'd care package the day she arrived and was thrilled to find that it contained a couple of her favorite treats mailed by a friend from home.
She shared one of them with Sara and I, explaining that Australian children grow up enjoying the salty taste of Vegemite the way American kids enjoy peanut butter.
One spreads a thin layer of Vegemite over the buttered toast.
Hmmmm. Interesting. Not bad, actually. I don't think the nice people at Jiff have anything to worry about, in my cupboard anyway. But I like trying new things.
And I love spending time with great friends, old and new. Thanks for coming, you guys. I had such a great time!