OPINION

Country Roads… A tiny town with a big heart

Arvid Huismanhuismaniowa@gmail.com
Country Roads… A tiny town with a big heart

Two years ago this widower married a widow who lived in the small town of Blairsburg, about a half hour north of Ames on U.S. Highway 69.

Prior to our marriage, Julie and I discussed her moving to my home in Ankeny. After many discussions on the matter, it made more sense for me to move to her home in Blairsburg until she could complete her career. A return to the Des Moines metro remained on the back burner.

It was a return to home for me since I grew up in nearby towns and went to high school and church in Blairsburg. The day I moved in I knew about a fourth of my neighbors.

About a year ago we began looking for a home in the Des Moines area and settled on a retirement community on the Waukee side of West Des Moines. To make a long story short, Julie retired on June 2 and we moved to our new home a few days later.

While I’m excited to be back in the Des Moines metro close to friends I made while living here for 14 years (and closer to a Chick-Fil-A,) leaving Blairsburg tugged at my heart strings a bit.

Blairsburg is a tiny town of about 200. Fifty years ago, before I-35 was built just four miles east of town, Blairsburg was home to two busy truck stops at the intersection of U.S. 69 and 20.

Like many small towns, Blairsburg has lost a great deal over the past 50 years. Lake Street (the town’s main street) is down to a farmer’s cooperative, a lumber yard, a Post Office, an investment company, city hall and a lovely restored Opera House.

Northeast Hamilton Community High School, from which I graduated 50 years ago, closed a year ago. Middle and high school students attend classes in nearby Webster City.

Fortunately, Blairsburg has not lost its welcoming spirit.

A highlight of my week in Blairsburg was the Tuesday morning community coffee. Depending on the week, some 15 to 20 locals gather at city hall for a couple hours of camaraderie and conversation over hot coffee and baked treats.

The German origin of the term coffee klatch ? kaffeeklatsch ? means “coffee gossip.” At the Blairsburg coffee klatch there was very little gossip (at least at the men’s table.)

The guys talked about everything from restoring Allis Chalmers tractors to the best place to get a haircut in Iowa Falls. There were occasional jokes you could tell your grandmother (if Grandma had a good sense of humor).

Blairsburg’s Post Office was one of those where the service hours were cut a few years ago. The service window is open only in the mornings but the service during that limited time is better than any big city Post Office I have been in. Randee, the postmaster, was a youngster when I was a teenager in a nearby town.

Walking to the Post Office one morning, a southbound driver stopped to chat. Meanwhile, a northbound driver stopped and joined the discussion. Finally another southbound car forced us to end our conversation.

At the lumber yard, John and Keith will cut that board to size and engage in a pleasant conversation while doing so.

My brother-in-law is the manager at the farmer’s co-op which plants a sizeable patch of sweet corn each spring and invites locals to help themselves to the harvest.

During my first October in Blairsburg I became ill and was ordered to take it easy for a few weeks. Meanwhile, our front yard trees dropped a thick layer of leaves on our front yard.

One afternoon my neighbor, Bud, showed up with his lawnvac-equipped garden tractor and cleaned up the abundant layer of leaves in minutes rather than hours.

Bud refused payment. “We help our neighbors around here,” he said.

I left home nearly 50 years ago and never dreamed of living in a town of 200 again. I’m pleased that life gave me two years in Blairsburg. I was able to renew many acquaintances, make new connections and enjoy the good life in an Iowa farm town.

Blairsburg is a tiny town with a big heart.