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Appendix -- Background Material: Offensive, or Amusing? (Original version)



Monday, September 3rd, 2001 7:38 pm (pandemo)


Podunksville, Iowa


Podunksville, Iowa, is a dinky town strategically located between Begin and Resume Speed limit signs way down on Highway 2. It is so tiny that it may NOT appear on your map. You'll just have to take it on faith that it really exists.

The census takers say that the population is 15, but, personally, I think it took creative accounting to get the results that high. Perhaps the workers came on a Sunday afternoon, when everyone was home from church and having a big get-together. Then, when they were all stuffed, they went out to walk around the block.

The workers, who had gone door to door to talk personally with everyone they counted, said, "Oh, here's some new faces. Howdy. Are you all from here?"

"Sure. Lived here all my life."

So they counted them again. They were walking quite energetically, and the aerobic activity resulted in a weight loss. Turning another corner,they again bumped into census workers, who dutifully reported them again.

Just a thought...

Podunksville is very close to a whole host of towns also not found on your atlases: New York, Iowa (5 miles west), Bethlehem, Iowa (7 miles), with, I am told by two old timers from the area, a creek named The River Jordan</> in between them, Confidence, Iowa (two miles), Harvard, Iowa, Promise City, Iowa(six miles); but if you get a state map, Promise City will be there, even though it has lost all its gas stations, grocery stores, its school, and the US PO keeps threatening to close its post office. If you live in Podunksville like I do, your postal address will be Promise City, and that will have to be good enough.

When I moved into the area, my mother, a citified lady who doesn't reliably know her right hand from her left, north from south, can only tell east from west when the sun is rising or setting, has not the least conception of how long a mile is, or how long it should take you to drive it at 60 mph, (in fact, probably could not tell you what mph even stands for) but CAN follow clear directions, asked for directions to my house so she could come to visit.

"I just bought a nearly 75 year old house on 80 rolling acres in Podunksville, Iowa, but the postal address will be Promise City. The closest "real" town, where you can get groceries, gas, or go to church is in Confidence." (Now-a-days, only the church is left. The store burned sometime before the road got paved. The only practical effect that had on me at the time was that I could no longer ride on horseback after a loaf of bread in the summertime. Remind me sometime to tell you the tale of the first Thanksgiving I celebrated on my new farm...)

"I can't find it on my atlas." (This has been a recurring complaint as long as I have lived in this area...)

"Well, Mom, it is about 2 1/2 miles from Confidence, 5 miles from New York, 5 1/2 miles from Promise City, 12 miles from Mystic and 7 miles from Bethlehem."

She obviously thinks these names are made up -- a joke. "Don't you think you ought to say you are a little closer to Promise City and a little farther from Confidence until you get the farm more paid off?"

Gotta love her... She's one of a kind.

People in northern Iowa feel superior to those in southern Iowa. When I went back north to pack up and move down, the folks were just full of good advice.

"When you're driving along down there, be careful passing cars. Some of the old timers will signal a left hand turn by opening the left door as they are going along. I'd hate to hear you hit one by accident." Wink, wink, nudge,nudge...

"Oh, so you're moving to Lapland."

"No, I am moving to Podunksville."

"That's what I said. Lapland -- where northern Missouri laps over into southern Iowa. I've heard it said that if the bottom two tiers of counties seceded from Iowa and joined Missouri, it would raise the IQ of both states by 50%." (You are permitted one heart-felt groan.)

Southern Iowa, where Ottumwa, Iowa, is located. Ottumwa is so famous that even people who don't know that Des Moines is the capital of the state can tell you that it is in Iowa. I think this stems from the fact that Robert Altman, the famous director from Kansas City, Missouri, made it big with his movie M*A*S*H, which was spun off into a famous TV show of the same name,
which, for all I know, might still be in reruns somewhere. Radar O'Riley was from Ottumwa.

Southern Iowa, home of picturesque Lake Podunk, where the men go fishing, the women go tanning, and the children learn not to play with wormswith rattles on their tails at a very early age.

Southern Iowa, home of kindred spirits to those folk in Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri, where, again according to northerners, the bright ones move away and the rest intermarry.

Does the phrase "raised in the shallow end of the gene pool" raise any memories? If not, try reading the recently published book The Darwin Awards. It is a collection of news stories from all over the world... which just goes to show you how universal small towns are.

I am reminded of the lead character in Murder, She Wrote, who said she would not live anywhere else, as she couldn't write her stories without the people who surround her. Smart lady. Big cities are impersonal. If you want to make connections with real live folk, move to a small town, and talk to the locals. Better yet, listen to them. Add a dollop of imagination, and voilá a book. Enjoy!

Last Updated 10/28/01
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