Thursday, August 16, 2012

Heat does little to deter visitors

It appears the relentless heat has abated for the present and what a relief it is. To paraphrase my favorite comedian, Johnny Carson, it has been so hot recently that when I stopped by Burger King and ordered a hamburger, the clerk said if I wanted my way I would have to cook it myself.

People that keep track of these things say that July was the hottest month on record for decades in this part of the state, and just a drive along a cornfield will attest to this. Where normally cornstalks rise to over eight feet and have ripe ears dangling, they are now parched and blistered with hardly an ear in sight.

Recently I read an article about the summer of 1936 and how hot and dry it was that year. (In 1936 Grant Wood painted Spring Turning, as well as The Practical Idealist and The Sentimental Yearner featured in Sinclair Lewis’s illustrated version of Main Street, evidently the heat didn’t slow him down much.) I remember Dad talking about that summer and he had little good to say about it, so I at least was aware of the conditions. This was in the time long before air conditioning and only the well-to-do had electric fans. Not only did the Iowa farmers have the heat and the drought to contend with, to make things worse a plague of grasshoppers and cinch bugs destroyed whatever crop was left after the heat had its turn. Talk about miserable bad luck.

One thing the heat did not impact much on was the number of visitors at the American Gothic House and Center. Sure, on the hottest days there wasn’t quite as much traffic as cooler days (of which there was but a handful in July and the first of August) but they still kept coming. Stepping from the air conditioned comfort of their cars onto the blistering parking lot of the Center I would often wonder what they were thinking—do you folks know how hot it is? But still they came. And from all over. One afternoon there were five cars in the parking lot sporting license plates from five separate states: Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana and Texas. When I remarked about the heat to the Texan she said it wasn’t anything compared to where she was from (it was 117 the day she left). I guess 102 degrees is better than 117 degrees, but to me the difference is negligible.

In my short time here I marvel daily at all the folks that get off the beaten path and wind through the country to Eldon just to seek out the American Gothic House, tour the Center and step outside to have their picture taken—no matter what the temperature is—all the while smiling and having a good time. It’s good to be a part of that. 

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center

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