Iowa Culture Shock: M80s, Hogs, and Kittens
David Silverman's Iowa Culture Shock
At around the age of nine, my mom and stepfather decided to take a trip to Ames, Iowa to visit my stepfather's family. I had spent my entire life up to that point in a large city (Riverside, CA). This would be my first adventure outside of Riverside. Little did I know that my experiences in Ames, Iowa, would come back to me 20+ years later. These experiences are categorized and documented here.
Disclaimer: I do not either condone or recommend any behavior mentioned in this article. This is simply a factual recall of my experience in Iowa. I like animals and do not encourage any animal cruelty of any kind. In fact, I don't encourage ANY type of cruelty at all!
One of the first things I noticed was the way Iowa looked. It was completely foreign to me. It was very flat and very clear. Riverside was full of smog and you couldn't even see the mountains most days. In Iowa, you could see forever. Also, there were no tall buildings in Iowa, just rows and rows of crops. For some reason, endless miles of telephone lines stuck in my memory. Maybe the fact that they were the only thing taller than an occasional mailbox made them remarkable. I also saw silos everywhere. On the way to my stepfather's family, we drove on a dirt road. This was the first time I'd been on a dirt road and I was very fascinated with the sound the car made on the road and the way the dust bellowed-up behind the car. Whenever we stopped, all the dust caught up with us and engulfed the car.
Hog / Kitten Incident
This incident was disturbing to me. My cousin in Iowa was about the same age as me, so we hung out on the farm. The farm was primarily a hog farm. They had a few cows, but mainly hogs. My stepfather's family had a lot of cats and kittens. For some reason one day my cousin was carrying one of the kittens. We had to do some chores related to the hogs, so my cousin sat the kitten down in the hog pin while we performed the chores. Well, he forgot about the kitten. We realized this about an hour later and went back to the hog pin. Hogs aren't carnivores, as far as I remember. They didn't eat the kitten either, but they seemed to literally suck the life out of the kitten. My cousin explained that hogs will suck on things when they get hungry. Needless to say, the kitten was no longer alive. All its fur was wet and had been sucked into wet slimy lines away from its body. Almost like someone spiked all the kitten's hair in an extreme fashion. My cousin didn't seem to think much about the fact that the kitten was dead. In fact, he seemed amused by the incident. He even got excited and said, "hey, I got some M80 firecrackers". I was, like, "what we gonna do with those?". He said, "I'll show you". He ran and got the M80s from somewhere and grabbed the dead kitten. I followed him as we went into a field. He put the kitten down on the grass and at first decided to "blow it up" by putting a couple M80s under the carcass. I think I was in shock at this point, because I'd never seen anything like this in California. Anyway, he lit the M80s and the explosion blew the kitten into the air a little. I thought this was the end of my cousin's fun and I even suggested we bury the kitten, but he was just getting started. He proceeded to put an M80 in the kitten's mouth and force one in the kitten's butt. He lit them both and we again ran away. Once these blew up, he seemed satisfied with the results and finally agreed that it was now okay to bury the kitten. I have no idea what happened to my cousin, as I haven't spoken to him since this trip. I'm curious how he turned out though.
There are no electric fences in California, yet they are everywhere in Iowa. I remember my cousin trying to convince me to pee on the fence. He was trying to tell me it was good luck in Iowa. This was, however, after the kitten incident, so I didn't really trust him much. Plus, whenever I asked him to show me how it's done, he refused. The most I ever did was touch the electric fence with a stick and I felt a mild shock.
Riding in the Combine
There seemed to be miles and miles of corn fields in Iowa. One of my fondest memories is riding in the Combine and clearing the fields. This combine thing was huge and the tires were twice my size. It was like a giant lawnmower, but for corn. I rode in this thing for a decent amount of time with my uncle. I think I was trying to avoid my cousin and his acts of insanity.
Fishing in Iowa
Being from California, I never heard of fishing, but in Iowa, fishing is the thing to do. I remember going fishing with my stepfather and a couple uncles. We went in a tiny boat (a jon boat) and were at this tiny lake that had snakes and turtles and all sorts of creatures. On the way to the lake we stopped and bought some minnows (tiny fish) and beer. This was my first experience fishing and it was perplexing to me that my uncles would fashion the minnows on a hook in a manner that wouldn't kill them. This was so they could swim around and "act live" for the bigger fish. They attached a "bobber" to the fishing line and cast it out in the water. The bobber continually moved and they told me that was just the minnow swimming around. The bobber occasionally went under water and they would jerk on the line and reel in the fish. The other thing I found interesting is they had a net that they filled with the canned beer and threw over the side of the boat. I asked about this and they told me it was to keep the beer cold. The water didn't seem that cold to me, since it was summer, but I wasn't drinking the beer. I guess Iowa didn't have coolers then. My stepfather and uncles did okay with the fishing. After many hours, they had managed to catch about 20 perch. The perch were quite small. My aunt descaled the perch - scraped the scales off with a knife and she also took out the guts. She then deep fried all the perch with the heads on and everything. I tried a few, but it seemed like all bones to me...very little meat.