EDITED BY John C. Parish
Associate Editor of the State Historical Society of Iowa
Copyright 1920 by the State Historical Society of Iowa
(Transcribed by Gayle Harper)
Comment by the Editor
THE MEANING OF
Why should Iowa mean anything to us I It is not the
greatest State in the Union in size, in numbers, or in wealth.
It has no large city – no mecca for the pilgrimages of
mankind. Its shores are not washed by the sea as are those of
California and Florida. Its hills do not rise into the blue
like the mountains of Colorado. It does not look out toward
the island empire of either Great Britain or Japan. Its people
can not talk across the fence to the Canadians or feel the
stir of excitement along the prickly border of Mexico.
But it is the heart of America. Its shores are the two
greatest rivers of the continent. Its rolling hills and
fertile plains smile in the sun – well content with the task
of making manna for millions. It has woods and winding streams
and blue lakes, and towns with shady streets and green lawns
and alert and friendly people.
And it has traditions.
We are young in the land, but the land is old. Its story runs
back of the days when glaciers slipped down across it; back to
the times when the sea covered the Mississippi Basin. Into the
long story come the red men, and after many generations the
whites. The songs of French boatmen echo upon its streams;
Spanish fur traders trail its western shore. Julien Dubuque
and Manuel Lisa move through the misty past. Builders of homes
arrive and out of the border land a State comes into the
Union. Congressmen, soldiers, and farmers, lawyers, business
men, and wide-visioned women play their parts; and so our
heritage has grown.
And yet, probably it is the
associations of a more immediate past, the memory of more
intimate and homely things that makes up for us the thought of
Iowa. It is where we live – perhaps where we have always
lived. Its people are our people, and Iowa is our State. We
frame its laws and try to obey them. It is we who build its
institutions and make its history and look forward to the
enjoyment of its future. The familiar scenes of the land
between the rivers have woven themselves into our lives. And
so Iowa means a thousand things to us – the rush of water in
the gutters in the spring time, and the smell of burning
leaves in the fall; the tang of early frost and the sight of
oaks still clinging to their rusty foliage on the hill tops;
the sound of birds in the early summer morning, and the
stillness graven on the marble of a winter night. It means
black mud in the bottom road and red sumac along the fence;
small towns and large corn fields; Wallace's Farmer and Ding's
cartoons; the clack of the mower and the memory of boys going
off to war.
Iowa has its faults; but so, perhaps, have
our parents, our wives, and our children – to say nothing of
ourselves. And after all, we can not explain the charm of the
things we love. Let us then not so much boast of Iowa as be
happy in it. Let us look with seeing eyes upon its beauties,
and with friendly eyes upon its people – our neighbors. Let us
know its story and make sure that we ourselves play in it a
worthy part; for what we make it mean to us, that will it mean
to those who come hereafter.
J. C. P.