I approach Glidden, IA from the west. The sun has torched my neck and I can also feel its intensity through my shirt. I refused to put my hat with the neck cover on partly because I didn’t want to stop and start again and partly because I just wanted to get done, so I was now paying the price. Not exactly a smart decision after 7 hours on the road weaving through gravel because of the road having no shoulder to run on. Outside Glidden is the Merle Hay Monument. Beneath it lies the remains of Merle Hay who was one of the first 3 Americans killed in WWI in 1917 and the first Iowan to lose his life during that war. In town I would visit Butch the Woodworker who lives in the McNaught Home. The McNaughts owned the only grocery store in town for many, many years. The house is designed after the rural homes and villas of southern Italy where the McNaughts had visited. It was in this home that the remains of Merle Hay would lie in state under armed guard while the town waited for dignitaries of the Army to arrive for his burial. A procession would take him to the little cemetary just west of town. It was in this same cemetary that just last week a deer ran across the road, leaped the wrought iron fence and caught the highest spike on his underside which in turn sliced him open. The unfortunate animal made it to the Owens grave marker 100 yards away before collapsing and dying. This story was told to me by Mike, a retired Army Veteran, who along with another Mike (ex-Navy) picked me up at the end of the day. A day in which I ran with Kathleen whose partner Mike owns a car lot. After running a few miles she headed back to town and I was met by Mike the State Trooper who inquired about what I was doing. To top the day off, I would meet Fat Mike that night at a gathering of folks in the town bar. Go figure. It was like a Mikes of America gathering that day.
Near Dixon, MT back in May, I had placed Sergeant JJ Bonnells Flag. He was from Fort Dodge, IA. and was 22 years old. The flag was picked up by a curious passer-by who sent it to his parents in Iowa along with an article about me. The father and daughter in turn tracked me down on Route 30 via the link on the website and my beacon. They found me at my host home. On a mission to say thank you they had found me and it was exactly 3 years to the day of JJ’s death.
Lt. Colonel Daniel Holland was 43 when he died. His flag is placed on CO. 285 near Conifer. His brother, John, is a retired Major who found me on the same Route 30, east of Glidden. He rode 12 miles with me on a recumbent bike then would turn north for Minnesota and home. John had just wanted to say thank you and spend a little time with me on the road. For many of the miles I would give him a flag and let him place it and then we would salute in unison.
As I headed back to Glidden that day, these fresh encounters on my mind, I spy a giant pig of the artificial sort, in the front yard of a farmhouse. This pig is huge as in the size of a Ford F-150. What an oddity. Certainly would not be hard to find their home…no directions needed, just look for BIG swine.
Ahhhh yes….Glidden….land of Mikes, giant pigs, chance encounters and home to Merle Hay and Butch the Woodworker, who did I mention, gave me a wooden top with a string that when pulled can spin for 7 and a half minutes? Gotta love Iowa!