Thursday, August 25, 2011
An Uncommon Man
August 25: My feet still tender following the many miles of yesterday, I got a late start, not heading out until ten thirty or so. I moved west on F-40, passing the small community of Springdale, home of the first accredited school in Iowa. Only a monument now stands to mark its existence.
I continued to gimp slowly along, arriving in West Branch early in the afternoon. My first trip was to the library, which proved to be a fortunate choice. One of the librarians, Claudia, was extremely excited to hear about my quest. She arranged an interview with the local paper and offered me a place to stay after hearing how tired I was as a result of yesterday's long haul.
Her generosity gave me an opportunity to visit the Presidential Library of Herbert Hoover. Hoover, who is best known for heading the country during the soul-crushing Depression of the early 1930s, is a complex character. Accuse me of falling in line with the museum's propaganda if you will, but I came away with a much different view of the man.
Bert, as the future president was known as a child, was orphaned at ten and spent much of his early life in near poverty. He never forgot the experience or his upbringing as a Quaker, a sect which prides itself on always helping the less fortunate.
Herbert grew into quite a go-getter, a member of the first class at Stanford University who was involved in numerous extracurricular activities. He was not the greatest student, but he learned quickly how to manage and motivate. His first job out of college was as a miner, but he took his geology degree and his wits and managed to advance at a speed that would have lapped the Millenium Falcon in a space ship race.
These talents served him well later in life when he heeded the nation's call to help with food relief after WWI. His actions in Belgium earned him the eternal devotion of King Albert (not the one the piercing is named after) who kept trying to give him medals. A year later, Hoover helped feed starving Bolsheviks in St. Petersburg, assistance later Communist leaders tried to wipe from the history books. The organizations he formed during his relief work later became CARE and UNICEF, which you may have heard of if you would spend some time out from under your rock.
During the 1920s as Secretary of Commerce in the Harding administration, Hoover worked to expand home ownership. Certainly somewhat ironic for a man who later had Depression era shacks known as Hoovervilles named after him.
As we know, the presidency did not work out for double H (what a good name for a professional wrestler, he missed his calling). His one shining moment was the erection of the Hoover Dam, which I learned is not actually named after the cross-dressing FBI Director J. Edgar. Maybe his presidency was harshly judged as well, but I will have to learn about that another time - at five the museum closed and I turned into a pumpkin. As we know pumpkins can't read, so I had to return to Claudia's house.
Over dinner with Claudia I did learn one more fact. Excuse my ignorance if this is common knowledge (and it no doubt will be to all Iowan readers), but I discovered that there are two types of corn. There is field corn, which is used for animal feed, corn syrup, and ethanol. I see this corn in fields everyday. The corn we buy in grocery stores is sweet corn and is grown in smaller plots. I'm glad to know the eight billion acres of corn I have seen so far isn't all being eaten because that stuff just doesn't digest too well. Just saying.
I'll leave you with a quote from our good friend double H:
When we are sick, we want an uncommon doctor; when we have a construction job to do, we want an uncommon engineer, and when we are at war, we want an uncommon general. It is only when we get into politics that we are satisfied with the common man.
Miles: 6/Total Miles: 1389