Finalizing dreams of yesteryear
The following was written by Andrew Maland, late editor of the Slater News, in 1942. Andrew is looking back 60 years to when he was a boy and remembering a time that would be no more.
“Going back to my boyhood days of the early 1880s I vividly can recall the mornings of April and May when I could hear the vibrating sound of big flocks of prairie chickens in nearby fields; or it might be the musical quacking of the ducks or the cackle of geese over in the sloughs.
“Passing along the road large flocks of quail would fly up from some underbrush. Along fence posts bobwhites would sound their notes. From the topmost treetops the robins would sing as if their throat would burst. Evenings would find the whippoorwills breaking the silence from their peculiar notes.
“The rivers were full of fish; so also the lakes and smaller streams.
“All this has changed. Now an attempt is being made to rebuild the whole picture through conservation work and they are making headway, especially in one direction – establishing man-made lakes.
“Many of these are now dotting the state and are being stocked with all kinds of game fish. The men at the helm invite you to take a day off now and then and take your boy fishing.
“There is a vast enjoyment in taking your boy fishing. You can get close. If you do not have a son, scout around and find a lad who wants to go; they like the sport.
“Or if not fishing – take a trip. Outdoor life breeds love for country – love for the things nature gives us – through the woods, over streams, through wooded lanes and valleys, over hills and what not.
“You know we sing, ‘I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills. – My heart with rapture thrills.’ Make it real and enjoy your right to enjoy nature and what it offers.”
I can't help but wonder what Andrew would say if he could see central Iowa today.
He would surely be amazed that the once lazy creek flowing southerly between Madrid and Slater now forms Big Creek Lake attracting thousands upon thousands of folks each year.
And how he would look on in disbelief at Saylorville Lake. The Des Moines River that he knew as a boy and as a man would seem hardly sufficient to produce such a body of water.
And the boat traffic. How Andrew would have looked at it in shock. Hundreds and hundreds of boats – all shapes and sizes – crammed into an area where once native prairie flourished.
But Andrew would have had noticed some other big changes.
The people with the fishing poles are no longer just fathers and sons. Today everyone in the family fishes. Mothers and daughters not only join in, they often land the big ones.
Yet as popular as the sport may still be, Andrew would see that the majority of the people using the lakes are not fishing. They are involved in other water sports. Sailing and boating along with skiing and swimming now dominate the lake scene.
The many beaches, dotted with sunbather after sunbather, would probably be more than Andrew could ever imagined.
Yes, times have changed and so has central Iowa. Those man-made lakes that Andrew saw as a glimmer of hope in 1929 continue to dot our state today.
Trouble is they are rapidly filling with the topsoil that’s blowing and flowing into our streams and then into the lakes. Chemicals are poisoning the water. These are problems that we must face and solve. Andrew would have expected nothing less.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.