Well, the question has to be asked. My wife and I were travelling through Iowa, Colorado bound (for work) and came across a sign that basically said, covered bridges of Madison county thata way. We did a double take, and missed the turn off. Well, given highway travel etiquette, everyone knows that once you miss a turn off there’s no going back, uh huh, can’t do it, not allowed. However, on the return journey, we were prepared, I knew there’d been a movie, because Clint Eastwood was in it; my wife had actually read the book – so she gave me a recap. Famous stuff! Had to see the bridges ... romance, adventure, etc, etc.
We made sure that we turned off this time! And, bonus, the birthplace of John Wayne is in the same Iowa county. A coincidence? I think not. There are rumours that John Wayne was actually fathered by an alien because he was just too awesome to be human. I can discredit this assumption: I used my tricorder to search for an ion trail, and apart from some localised ion production from a local town clock (was Back to Future filmed in Winterset, Iowa?) I could detect no residual ion trace. But is it a coincidence that there are only two famous events in the history of Madison county? i.e. the writing of The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, and the birth of John Wayne (then Marion Morrison)?
I, of course, prefer the theory that John Wayne was the son of Butch Cassidy. I think this stands to reason, I mean how could he not be Butch Cassidy’s son? Everyone knows that Butch survived Bolivia and came back to the US. Who else could he father but a John Wayne? However, I cannot discount the alternate theory that Robert James Waller had actually researched an early part of John Wayne’s family history, and …discovering the truth… had transplanted it to a later time to hide the not so innocent. I mean, why write about Madison county at all? The only eventful occurrence to that stage had been John Wayne’s birth. Is Robert James Waller a fan of John Wayne? Well duhhh. Of course he is, everyone is. So, attracted by the mystic of the Duke (that was John Wayne’s nickname), he researched and found a truth that went beyond what could be told in a straight forward sense. Hence The Bridges of Madison County.
I looked it up and there are supposed to be six covered bridges in the county. I think this is a myth. We could only find one, Hogback covered bridge. Incredibly romantic that name, Hogback, just rolls off the tongue. We think the rest were transplanted by tornadoes to Kansas. Anyway we took some pictures, and felt very romantic. We thought of making love under the bridge, just like in the book, but it looked seriously overgrown under there and after Gennie got bitten by a horse fly we thought better of it. The real event mustn’t have happened in June, it just wouldn’t have been practical. We gave it away as a bad lot.
I should probably distract you now with a timely travelogue of Iowa. I liked Iowa, in the South West it had hilly terraced farmland, a cut above the average farming practise. There was also the antique town of Walnut, which was having its yearly Father’s day markets when we passed through. Noice! In the north the plains were like green seas with islands of huge conifers surrounding farm houses. It was incredibly green when we were there in early June, I’m not sure that that’s the usual state of things, we might have been there after an unusually wet period, but we took it as it was. Des Moines was easy to drive through, not overly busy like some bigger cities. It seemed modern and well cared for.
There were plenty of clean rest areas along the main highways. They gave the impression of a wealthy forward looking state. The one distraction we found during our travels was the amount of road kill left to rot at the side of the road. I’m not sure if this was a conscious decision on the part of Iowa, meant to toughen up their young male children in the hopes of producing another John Wayne? Or perhaps I’m being overly harsh. Maybe there is one guy in a pickup running around the state removing all that diseased carrion. Maybe if they gave him a shovel it would increase his productivity.
Vale to our travels of Iowa. As Maureen O'Hara would say "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" its time to say adios Pilgrim. Farewell John Wayne, you did America proud, and, if its true, being conceived under a bridge isn’t the worst of things. We'll remember you for your life, that's for sure.