May 22, 2022

COLUMN: Having a ball in Iowa

For my first column, I wanted to tell you a little about myself. Not only am I new to the Creston News Advertiser, but I’m also a fairly new resident to the state of Iowa.

When I entered college, I hadn’t been to a single state that didn’t border my home state - Wisconsin. As an avid reader, I had read about beautiful places I was dying to visit. It was a goal of mine to travel the country, and someday the world, to make up for lost time.

In the years since, I’ve made it to more than 30 states and several countries. Later this year, my husband and I plan to visit Ireland for my first trip there. We are both Irish - maybe you noticed the red hair and green eyes from my photo on May 11. This feature plus my love of reading inspired my column name - Read (red) Head.

While traveling, I was met with expected the Southern accents and hospitality in Mississippi. I was prepared for the flamboyance of the people and sights of New Orleans. The arid temperatures in the Grand Canyon didn’t phase me - well, maybe a little.

What took me aback more than anything, were the vast differences I discovered from moving to Iowa after living my whole life in Wisconsin.

I remember the first time my husband Patrick and I came into town. As we drove through, we noticed many vehicles covered in mud. He remarked that people must go mudding a lot down here. As it turns out, it wasn’t from mudding. It was from dirt roads.

Gravel roads are very rare in Wisconsin, and dirt roads are virtually non-existent. Imagine my surprise when we found ourselves on gravel roads more often than not.

After spending our first night in our new Creston home, I discovered something that I didn’t even know existed - an uncontrolled intersection. Outside my house was an intersection without a single stop sign or yield sign. I didn’t even think that was legal. It was not a shock to me that our first month in town, there was an accident in front of our house. Now, my intersection is the proud owner of two stop signs.

The first restaurant I ate at in Creston was Kelly’s Flowers. When we sat down to eat, the waitress let us know that they were, unfortunately, out of ham balls for the day. This was not something I expected to hear come out of her mouth. In my head, I pictured something along the lines of deli meat ham slathered in mayonnaise and rolled into a ball. Fortunately, I have since had ham balls and found them to simply be fancy meatballs - although I’m told calling them meatballs may anger some.

At A&G, I found another menu item that confused me. Cheese balls. You may think that I should know all about cheese balls coming from Wisconsin, but for us, cheese balls are the little puffs you get in a massive container at Walmart. Your cheese balls are our cheese curds. I know what you’re thinking, cheese curds aren’t fried, they are squeaky. For us Wisconsinites, cheese curds refers to both. Apparently, balled food is just an Iowa thing.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there are so many pig farms around here since you need pork to produce all these ham balls, but it’s not something I’m used to. Driving through Wisconsin, on the other side of every hill is another dairy farm. Black and white cows line the (paved) roads for miles, while here I have to search far and wide. I miss the hills and the pig-free smell.

A welcome change for me is not being constantly surrounded by Green Bay Packers fans. I know, I know, I should be a Packers fan, but my dad raised me right, so I’m a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and my husband is a fan of the Chicago Bears. I was hoping to go to the Steelers game against the Chiefs in Kansas City last year, but I’m glad it didn’t work out. I don’t know that I could have handled such a loss - I’m a very competitive person.

While my husband and I plan to someday return to the land of cheese and beer, I’m making the most of my time in this little dirt-road town with spherical food.