About Me

Iowa Gothic

The ‘Gothic House,’  in Eldon, IA, USA,  (located just a few miles from our home) became historically important because of Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic.”  It’s a small home, very common in small towns, and was the residence of one of Grant Wood’s relatives.  Only recently,  it was  recognized as an Historical Site, and a Visitors Center built next to the house.  As for the original couple on Grant Wood’s painting, they were, I believe, his sister and an uncle, the town’s only doctor; and it is rumored they neither one really wanted to do it, thus the grim look on their faces.   Of course, I would imagine during the depression of the 1930’s no one had much to smile about.

Our daughter, Julie, has artfully captured that same sense of depression when she “tweaked” the original American Gothic, and like magic there we were, Ray & I in our 1930’s Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ finery.  But I digress…..

Ray and I are both of the ‘Depression Generation’ and yet, there were many worse off than we were.  One memory sticks out in my mind when I look back to those years.  None of us were wealthy, by any means, but even though lots were unemployed, through no fault of their own, my dad had a job, with a weekly paycheck… actually not as much as some on welfare received.  That brings me to the vivid memory of gigantic oranges the size of a cantaloupe melons given out to the poor unemployed, and we could afford only the small ones, and only when the oranges were in season, which usually was around Christmastime.  I think the size of the oranges these kids would bring to school was when I first realized we were not all alike.  But why were the unemployed welfare families given those big oranges, and not to all of us?  Santa always stuffed our stockings  with nuts in their shells, apples and oranges, and maybe a small toy, or one Christmas we found real watches among the fruit and nuts!


My mother was a wonderful seamstress, and made practically all my clothes, and for my sister, as well.  We longed for ‘store-bought’ clothes while our neighbor, who was financially better off than we were, wanted ‘homemade’ clothes… the same holds true today, I’m sure.  We could count on a couple of outfits for Christmas, which she kept hidden from us, as well as a doll house one year.  My dad built the two-story doll house, wired with a Christmas light in the ceiling of each room.  He also made all the furniture and Mother made the curtains, bed spreads, etc.  It was a sight to behold and was the center of all our playtime for a few months, then the newness wore off, and it was played with less and less.  I remember we decorated it with lights and greenery, and placed it on the front porch.  People were coming from everywhere to see the ‘doll house’ all lit up.  One man came to the door and asked if he could buy it, and my dad said he would let him know, after talking to my sis and I.  Well, we were reluctant to say, ‘SELL’ but did admit to not being very interested in it anymore.  So he said he would price it high enough, no fool would buy it…. Well, he had no trouble finding a ‘fool!’  And that was the end of an era.  We had outgrown doll houses!

Thus the pony (I’d rather have a bike) era began!  I believe, since my father always wanted a pony, and never actually had one all his own, we seemed to always have a pony or two.  Most of the time, it was just one.  The two I remember most are Dick and Little Joe.  Dick was more of a kid’s pony.  He would let anyone ride him, and so enjoyed being around children.  At one time we had a neighbor who had a St. Bernard, and we would saddle him as well as Dick… and down the road we would go.  Dick had just one bad habit.  Whenever he was tired of taking kids for rides, he would just lie down.  Well, we all learned how to jump off quickly when he started his movement to rest on the ground.  I remember one time he did his lie down stunt, and broke part of the stirrup.  This was a no no as far as my father was concerned, and it wasn’t long until Dick was sold. 

Dick was a black and white spotted Shetland and Little Joe was a sorrel Shetland, with some talents for entering in horse and pony shows.  Much to my chagrin, however, as I was the one to ride him, and he did not like being around horses.  So going to a horse show, and having to prepare for your part of the judging, was rather a hectic time.  This gelding could not comprehend that he no longer had the ability to sire.  So when he came close to mares, he went ‘bonkers’ and was hard to control.  We did win a few ribbons with him, but I dreaded, with a passion, every horse show we entered. 

We did enjoy hitching Little Joe to the buggy in the summer and the sleigh in the winter.  Kids from all over town came to ride.  At one time we had 6 of us in the sleigh and about a dozen linked on the back with all their individual sleds.  Well, that was just more than Little Joe would pull, so he came to a rapid halt, and would not budge until all the kids with sleds were free from the sleigh.  Then when we attempted to get him to go, he still would not move until his load consisted of only 3 passengers, then, happy as a lark, he would take off in a full trot.  We never tried to make a train engine of him again! 

At times we would saddle him up and try to enjoy riding, but always like a magnet, here came the kids.  Well, we would give them turns, and when it came time for the clean-up before taking him back to his barn and pasture, my sister and I were the only ones remaining.  Well, we finally made a rule, you can ride, but you have to share the work, too.  There was the grooming, the cleaning up of his droppings, and often, his bath.  We had just one girl agree to help with the chores, and it was the last one I thought would ever come near the chores of caring for a pony.  She worked diligently, and also enjoyed the pleasure part of riding Little Joe.

As I stated in the beginning of this section, since we seemed to always have ponies, which required a great deal of work, and all our friends had bikes, which required no work, my sis and I were always envious of those who had two-wheelers.  But, this was during WWII, and everything was rationed or just not available.  So, we would be very lucky to even get used bikes, and new ones were out of the question.  Or, so we thought.  It just so happened that the Firestone dealer had 2 new girl’s Schwinn bikes with generators for lights, chrome fenders, basket, and horn… fully equipped.  But the hitch was, according to government regulations, he was not to sell them until the war was over.  My father was bookkeeper for a Chevrolet dealer, and had access to tires, which the Firestone dealer needed.  As the Chevrolet dealer was also a farm implement dealer, he could sell or trade tires, as farmers needed tires and equipment to keep farming and feed the nation.  The Firestone dealer also could sell tires to farmers, if indeed, he had any.  Now, I think you can see it coming… 2 precious tires for 2 top of the line Schwinn bikes.  So the Christmas I was in 7th grade, I finally had the long awaited for bike. 

We still had Little Joe, but he was hitched to the sleigh less, saddled less, and soon my father sold him to a horse breeder who wanted to show him, and also have a pony his children could ride.  My father never did sell the buggy until many many years had passed, as he never gave up having ponies or horses, it seems he always had one or more.  His pride and joy was a palomino fancy-prancing show pony, and his prance came naturally, he just had that step bred in him, I guess.

He showed that pony several years, and won many ribbons.  The ‘Kansas City Royal’ horse and pony show was the showcase for an owner of a fancy prancing pony!!  Dad had trained this pony to follow vocal commands, so the grandchildren really had nothing to do in the show ring except look nice and cute in the Fancy Turnout rig.  The couple (a grandson and a grandaughter) dressed in a tux and long fancy dress.  The buggy wore a sort of skirt that seemed to flow from the girl’s dress… thus the name ‘Fancy Turnout.’  As long as he had grandchildren the right age to ride in the ‘Fancy Turnout’ his prized palomino pranced in that show, annually.   




(To be continued..)




2not busy 





  1. Anxiously awaiting—the next chapter.

  2. Me, too!

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