Farmer goes to Iowa, brings back a typewriter

It is a rare thing indeed to have any time away from the farm, let alone an overnight stay.

Anything beyond that, well, that’s as rare as finding a free Taylor Swift ticket in your mailbox.

However, funny things happen, and recently, I went spontaneous and set off on a road trip for a few days just to get away and renew myself. I sent a message to my best friend, Ellen, to say, “Hey, wanna go on a road trip? It’ll be inexpensive and not very far,” and I was thrilled when she responded, “Sure!”

There was just one problem. I didn’t have a clue where we were going to go that fit that description. My best friend lives in northern Indiana, so there are the usual spots, such as Chicago or one of the beaches along the Michigan state line, but we had done those in years past, and neither was inexpensive.

I started searching sites for road trip ideas either near her home or mine and kept hitting roadblocks. Either there weren’t rooms available, the cost was way above the budget or the drive was too far.

Finally, in desperation, I typed in “road trip ideas near Chicago that are inexpensive.”

Iowa came up in the search.

Iowa? I thought. You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s nothing but corn there. Why would I want to go somewhere that was away from the farm that was nothing but land with farms?

After a Google search, I found the German village known as the Amana Colonies, the John Deere headquarters, the Iowa 80 world’s largest truck stop, a winery, a few breweries, a Czech village and a huge farmers market and indoor city market all within driving reach from the hotel I had found. I had discovered Iowa was more than corn.

I messaged Ellen and excitedly told her where we were going. No surprise, her response was “Okaaaay???”

She and I set off on a Thursday morning, and I was quick to realize the first 24 hours away from the farm can be a little rocky with the schedule changing so drastically. Suddenly, I didn’t need to be up at 5 a.m. to feed and get things taken care of, and the evening was relaxing without having to collect eggs, lock up animals and other chores.

I also rediscovered my love of looking at old things, and she and I found ourselves in an antique shop in Amana, Iowa, one afternoon. I was having great delight in reminiscing about the items on display when suddenly I noticed something that any writer would pause at: A vintage Underwood Universal typewriter.

My best friend reminded me I didn’t need it. It was more costly than the usual souvenir T-shirt or other such item, but for some reason, I felt drawn to the heavy hunk of steel.

I gently pressed the keys. It moved wonderfully. The price was reasonable, too.

“Come on,” Ellen urged. I walked away reluctantly, thinking of the things I could write on such a piece of art.

I didn’t get far, though. Before Ellen could stop me, I had turned back and approached the typewriter again. Would I find another like it at the price this one was? How amazing would it be to have a souvenir like this? What a great story this would make for the future.

Without another moment’s hesitation, I gently closed the lid on the typewriter, latched it and carried it like the most prized possession I had ever had to the cashier.

As the woman filled the sales slip, she shared that the typewriter had belonged to her husband’s mother, who had owned it during World War II and had written many letters on it to those overseas. It added to its charm.

I haven’t found the perfect spot for it just yet, but it serves as a reminder every time I look at it or use it. Just like the slower pace of typing with a manual typewriter, sometimes, you have to just be spontaneous and slow down. I know that farm work since I’ve returned seems less taxing. Perhaps I’ll write a novel someday on another break using that Underwood typewriter.

In the meantime, I’m just going to work on restoring the machine and getting some new typewriter ribbons.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].