Tag Archives: rural america

Summer Fading in Siouxland, Arnolds Park

19 Sep

Summer has faded in Siouxland, with days growing shorter and the feel of fall creeping in. On a visit to the Iowa Lakes Region during the week, it became evident that fewer people were rummaging about and those there were enjoying those fading remnants of summer. Especially on a lake where everything revolves around the water.

The summer livin’ is easy in Arnolds Park, Iowa August 18, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer boating in Arnolds Park, Iowa August 18, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the fall’s crisp days and colder evenings begin to settle into the area, people can wistfully think about the languorous summer days and how they spent them and dream of the following year and what adventures might await them for their next trip to the lakes enjoying the moment away from cares and daydreaming of those summer days as children.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the waning days of summer in Arnolds Park, Iowa August 18, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lawn chairs on a dock in Arnolds Park, Iowa August 18, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Day in Siouxland, Dunlap

28 Aug

The more I travel about Siouxland the more I keep encountering small communities such as Dunlap. With a population slightly under 1,000 residents and sitting on the edge of the Loess Hills in southern part of Siouxland it is a community looking to revitalize itself and make it an enjoyable place to live and raise a family.

The surrounding countryside can be seen from downtown Dunlap, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like so many small Siouxland communities it is sustained by an agricultural economy but seems to be breathing new life into itself with a downtown that is small but “smartly dressed” and welcoming to visitors. On days like the one I visited Dunlap there may not be a lot of activity to do other than to walk around and wonder about its residents who created the town in 1871. The prairie land then and naturally a railroad played a part in its creation. And it’s nice to see community still thriving. So many small towns never reach a potential original founders might have dreamed about, and many succumb to loss of inhabitants and continue a long, slow decay of decline, while others come together and thrive and enjoy the benefits of what they have and continue to create.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Getting Lost in Siouxland, rural Monona County

18 Aug

Maybe because I grew up on a small farm in Illinois that I enjoy driving about the countryside in Siouxland. And in the southern portion of this area of Iowa the country gravel roads meander through the state designation of the Loess Hills.

A couple farms nestled into a valley in the Loess Hills in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have gotten smarter these days driving about in that I now carry county platt maps and an Iowa county road atlas so when I end up somewhere with no idea what direction I am headed, I can get a sense of where I am lost in Siouxland. While driving about I listen to some various jazz artists and just enjoy the visuals I come upon often times not seeing another soul for the many hours of driving time I spend wandering these roadways.

A car meanders along a gravel county highway in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But I find myself transported to another plane of thought without worrying about current events or other issues that most face if not day to day at least a portion of our lives during the week. It’s a time I let my mind wander and savor the moment and the here and now and sometimes wonder what this area of Iowa must have looked like when early settlers arrived while this state and others west were still prairie grasslands before becoming the agricultural hub of production it is now.

A maintained graveyard of early settlers and forebears in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing snippets of land not farmed, especially in the Loess Hills area where some farms and farmland is nestled in amongst the still prevalent hills and green space that exists today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland History in Harrison County, Welcome Center Missouri Valley

12 Aug

A few weeks back as I was getting out exploring some new areas to me in Siouxland, I finally visited the Harrison County Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley. The Welcome Center and its museum originally started as a personal project of a Preston Niles who moved there and started an orchard and then a store and finally a small museum as it was situated on the Lincoln Highway, Route 30, that travelled across the country from east to west. The Welcome Center and its small village and museum has so many items and pieces of history that it’s easy to spend a couple of hours reading about all the items.

The Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Situated outside is a long wooden culvert that was used during the WWII era when metal was in short supply for drainage for communities. Talking with a docent she informed me that when more recent work began around the museum area, the culvert was discovered. And rather than throwing it into the landfill, added it to the other historical items, such as a Bible from the Civil War era, that is from the local area surrounding Missouri Valley.

A Bible from the Civil War era on display at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docents at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum explained that during WWII with a short supply of metal because of the war, wooden culverts were used for drainage in the area near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During a massive flood of the Missouri River during 2011 the docent told me some structures were lost and items from those individual displays were put together in a newer building that is more flood resistant than the former wooden structures, although not as historic in nature. And on a hot day, as this particular day, visitors can also try out some cider that is made there. Evidently part of the original owner Niles had an orchard and beside selling its fruit, also made non-alcoholic beverages from the fruit.

The Welcome Center and museum area is certainly a nice place to spend half a day acquainting oneself with local history and understanding some more of Iowa’s development in Siouxland.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding Design in Siouxland, Rural Iowa

22 Jul

As I drive about Siouxland I always try to find something interesting to me to photograph. Sometimes it is places, things, people, events. And sometimes it is something simpler.

When one walks into an area, a town, or a place in the community I look at everything. And as I have gotten older I try not to miss much. But still, sometimes once away from a place “things” that I see become more clear. And that happened the other day as I was looking at images to put up on this blog, along with some more recent photos, I saw the lines, angles and shapes.

And I find that selectively photographing parts of items I see can have an appeal in and of itself as well as photographing the entire object. In some ways, it is almost a cat and mouse game with oneself. What did I overlook or see, but did not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Summer Time Fairs in Siouxland, Sioux Center

14 Jul

With the middle of summer approaching and the temperatures heading north, it is county fair time in Siouxland. The Sioux County Youth Fair is underway this week with other area fairs beginning as well. The fairs generally run a week with a large emphasis on the 4-H kids and their livestock or smaller animal exhibits as well as crafts and other skills learned.

Young 4-H’ers show their animal projects competing for blue ribbons and best of show at the Sioux County Youth Fair at the fairgrounds in Sioux Center, Iowa, Wednesday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As a youngster who grew up on a farm, my brothers and I participated in 4-H projects. Those times have changed as there are now fewer small farms and in some respects less “farm kids” who participate. 4-H shifted its perspective a number of years ago and began to seek “city kids” more actively to participate. It is a good organization much like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts teaching youth to follow through on projects and participating in character building activities.

Those who exhibit animals have to keep substantial records of the care given as well as demonstrate knowledge about that particular animal breed. It can be time consuming but one learns so much from doing. I like to see the kids exhibits and watch them show their animals, which brings back memories of my own participation. Some of which I can laugh about today, but then, not so much. And it’s nice to see the continuation of 4-H and the kids enjoyment in participating.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the Lake in Siouxland, Arnolds Park

12 Jul

Recently I took a drive up to West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park and spent the day walking about enjoying a cooler day. Temps were in the 60’s with a pretty good gusts coming off the lake.

Choppy waters in West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy cooler days than hotter ones personally, although some younger people bemoaned the fact they couldn’t soak up any sun, of which there was little that day. The water on the lake was also pretty choppy which figured into my plans for taking a tour on the Queen II, an excursion boat that spends about 1.5 hours on the lake giving the riders a bit of history. And the Queen in one of its iterations has been providing this service for decades.

The Queen II dock side in Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I stopped by the office to buy a ticket and heard a couple employees talking about the choppy water and the possibility the ship may not go out. I took that as more probability than not, so found myself a coffee shop for a cup and a snack. And while enjoying myself with a book I had brought along, The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, I heard the Queen’s whistle blow and knew I had miscalculated. But, with an entertaining read, coffee and a scone I sacrificed. I later found a small art gallery, Summerwind Gallery, and had a nice chat with the proprietor, Roberta, who also paints and explained she is currently working with pastel as her medium of choice.

So I felt my day was still spent well. Not too hot, a bit of a walk, and some really nice artwork to check out. Some days go as planned and some days one makes up as the day progresses. Both types of days are good and I hope to enjoy a few more of them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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