Foto Friday: Presidential Inquiry



By nature, I’m a curious person. Maybe it’s the historian in me. I want to know the reasons why things are the way are. Since I moved to Iowa, I have wondered about the statues outside the Scheels sporting goods store at the local mall.

Outside the entryway are sculptures–on the left, one of George Washington holding the Preamble to the Constitution. . .

George Washington

George Washington

and, on the right, one of Thomas Jefferson holding the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson holding the Bill of Rights

Thomas Jefferson

Is it just me, or does a mall in Iowa seem like a strange place to see bronze sculptures of Washington and Jefferson? I wanted to know why they had sculptures. And also why they chose these particular sculptures. I went inside Scheels to ask and was directed to an assistant manager (the cashier didn’t know) who told me that the president of the company is a “history buff,” and he chooses presidents to sit outside each store. That was all the manager knew. Upon further investigation, I learned that Scheels also has bronze sculptures of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan outside other locations.

Statue signature showing it was produced by the Lundeen Brothers.

Statue signature showing it was produced by the Lundeen Brothers.

The bronze sculptures are the work of Mark and George Lundeen, who have a studio in Loveland, Colorado.


Foto Friday: Isis in Iowa

Last Saturday I visited the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, located in West Branch, Iowa, President Hoover’s birthplace.


In addition to the museum, the grounds also contains the the cottage where Hoover was born, a Society of Friends Meetinghouse, and the gravesite of Pres. Hoover and his wife Lou Henry. I also found something unexpected, a statue of the goddess Isis.


Bronze statue of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of life

Before being elected president in 1928, Herbert Hoover was known as a great humanitarian. In 1914, during World War I, he became the chairman of the Commission for Relief of Belgium. The “children and citizens of Belgium” gave Hoover this bronze statue of Isis, sculpted by Auguste Puttmans, in appreciation of his service. Between 1921 and 1939, the statue resided on the campus of Stanford University, Hoover’s alma mater. But in 1939 Hoover had the statue moved to West Branch.


English translation of the French inscription on the statue.


Missing Mississippi

Winter in the Heartland

Winter in the Heartland

As I write this post, the current temperature here in Iowa is 12 degrees. TWELVE DEGREES!!! (And let’s not even talk about the wind chill.) With a forecasted high of 23 degrees, today will actually be the warmest day of the week. It’s safe to say that the weather outside is frightful. It’s also safe to say that I’m tired of this. I’m not cut out for this. After all, I am a Southerner. These are the times when I find myself really missing my home state of Mississippi with its mild winters.

Mississippi has had its share of colder-than-normal weather this year, even some snow last week, which is rare. Two inches was enough to shut just about everything down. My mother had a hilarious narrative about our hometown folks slipping and sliding their way around town to the grocery store and to department stores to buy real coats. Because there were no snow plows, city workers with shovels were throwing sand and salt on the streets from the back of a truck. That must have been a sight!

The snow and cold temperatures were inconvenient for them, but I knew that after a day or two, the snow would be gone. Meanwhile, I don’t think I’ve seen the ground since some time in December.

Maybe I’ve got the Winter Blues along with a touch of nostalgia. I want to see green grass on the ground instead of snow. I want to see full trees instead of gray stick figures. But Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so I guess spring is still six weeks away for us.

So, I can’t help but envy my family in Mississippi. The high temperature in my hometown will be 64 degrees today. While I long to go outside without a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and boots, some of my cousins will be wearing shorts.

Fixing My ‘Do and Getting My Fix at the Barber Shop

Since I started wearing my hair short in college, I have often gone to a barber shop to get haircuts. It can be quite troublesome trying to find a good salon when I move to a new place, but I can usually find a good black barber shop with ease. And, I KNOW somebody “up in there” can cut my hair. In fact, I went to the barber shop today to “fix my ‘do” and to “get my fix.”bbshop

I had to fix my hairdo (or my ‘do) because my TWA had gotten a little raggedy. I like a nice fade in the back, and the taper had definitely grown out. However, living in Iowa has made me appreciate my barber shop in some unexpected ways as well.

  1. The belonging. It’s like Cheers, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” ( I may be dating myself with the Cheers reference.) When I walk into the shop, the barbers know my name. They speak or nod their heads, giving me the silent “what’s up.”
  2. The politics. I usually get a good dose of politics when I’m there. They supported Pres. Obama in his re-election campaign, and they also support local candidates for office. I appreciate the historical continuity of their activism in the community.
  3. The events. Concerts, poetry slams, fish fries, etc. I would have never known that some of these events were taking place if I had not gone into the shop.
  4. The conversations. Dramatic sometimes, often comedic, I get a kick out of barber shop conversations. I love the street scholars who know everything about everything. The debates are epic–sports, politics, music, television. You name it; they’ve argued about it. Think of Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy playing the barbers in Coming to America. Think of the Ice Cube movie Barbershop.

I used to find these conversations infuriating, but now I hear the black oral tradition when I listen. I hear “toasts,” and urban bad men tales like “Stagger Lee,” and “the dozens” (or snaps). The barber shop is where I get my hair fixed and my cultural fix.

What Do You Like Best/Least About Where You Live?

Da Hype 1

I have lived in a city outside of Nashville for almost 9 years now. I call it a city and not a town because I have been corrected by locals on numerous occasions in regards to how to categorize it. This “city,” while in the same area code as Nashville, boasts of being independent from Nashville in the ways in which its inhabitants live and function. True, I do not have to leave this city to go shopping or for entertainment. There are always plenty of events going on in and around the city. Yet, I still struggle with calling it a “city;” a major metropolis, it is not. As a friend once said about it in comparison to Washington, D.C., “everything I want and need can be found in _____,” the city where I live.

I’m not certain that I can say the same.

Anyway, the best/worst aspect about where I live is in the landscape.

Cotton Fields

Cotton Fields located within a mile from my house

On the one hand, I absolutely love the landscape. If I go in any direction outside of the city, I am surrounded by rolling hills. And, in the fall, I can find cotton fields within a mile of my home. The cotton fields evoke conflicting emotions: I find the rows and rows of cotton to be beautiful, and at the same time it is a reminder of a time before when black people toiled in those fields.

The worst aspect about living in the Nashville metropolitan area is that it is located in a

The Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head, SC

The Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head, SC

land-locked state. I grew up on the East Coast and visited the ocean often. When I met my husband, we made trips to VA Beach, Miami Beach, and the beaches in South Carolina every summer. Each time I go to the ocean, I take all of my worries and I throw them in the ocean.

Da Realist 1

Around the same time that I became an Iowa resident two years ago, Stephen G. Bloom, a journalism professor from the University of Iowa, published an article in The Atlantic,Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life.” He discussed the Iowa Caucuses  and the state’s impact on electing a president. He also shared his impressions of life in Iowa, many of which were quite unflattering. Even though I had not been in Iowa very long, I thought much of his criticism was unfair. Not to worry though, he was roundly excoriated for his article and the inaccuracies therein.

Being from the rural South, I have a completely different perspective than Bloom, a New Jersey native who went to college at UC Berkeley. Farm life and “ruralness” are not strange or new to me. For me, the worst thing about living here in Iowa isn’t so much about the state as it is the distance from friends and family. I am 10 hours away from my best friend and more than 13 hours away from my mother, so taking a drive to visit them is “more than a notion.”

I felt out of place when I moved here, but at the same time, the people seemed awfully

Water cooler on the walking trail.

Water cooler on the walking trail.

familiar. They reminded me of Southerners–open, very friendly, and often chatty. Unsolicited, my downstairs neighbor bakes bread and cupcakes for me. As I take my walks, people in cars often wave as if they know me. A few months ago, I tweeted this picture. Someone had set up a cooler near the walking trail for people to get a drink of water. Who does that? It’s not the first time I’ve seen this, but it’s the first time I took a picture. Yes, friendly people are the best thing about Iowa.