The Iowans

I.

THERE is, when one comes to think seriously about it, a certain resemblance between the land of the lowans and Captain Lemuel Gulliver’s flying island of Laputa. For as Laputa drifted from one realm of earth to another, so the land of the lowans has passed by legal process from Spain to France, from France to Spain, then back to France, and thence to America; and once within our borders, has flitted through Louisiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

But Helen, whose tastes are submarine rather than celestial, likens the Hawkeye State to a delicate sea sponge. Though the sponge, in its tender youth, frolics about among its restless, many-eyed and many - fingered deep - water playmates, it chooses, upon reaching years of discretion, some pleasant weed-grown crag for its abiding place, and thenceforward vegetates. And so, when your vagabond Iowa at last found rest, it began an evolution quite radically different from its juvenile, frivolous past. Helen is right; for what American commonwealth shows to-day a firmer stability, a more judicious serenity, a calmer conservatism ?

Two breeds of migrant men have made the West, — the seven-league-booters and the little-by-littlers. Early Iowa invited the latter class, not the former. Few pioneer plainsmen came far, or came with the spirit of rovers. Trekking from Indiana or Illinois, bent upon finding cheap lands, anxious to escape competition, they sought the same chances for frontier fortune-building which had once enriched their elders. Iowa was therefore a huge overflow meeting, thronged with the second generation of middle - Westerners. Quite naturally, then, the state lacked the era of gorgeous desperado jollity which fell to the farthest West. It began most commonplace. Sensible people merely went there and lived.

And why should they not ? There lies “our Mesopotamia.” The Father of Waters courses beneath the bluffs of its eastern borders. The Great Muddy bounds it upon the west. Consider the fertility of those fifty-five thousand square miles, where the glaciers, scraping the ancient soil down to bed rock, brought rich selected loams from the great Northwest, and spread them out in a continuous layer from a foot to three hundred feet deep, until there is scarcely so much as an acre of waste land in the state, — and then, to be sure, you say “ Mesopotamia ” in good faith, and call it, moreover, no gaudy-tinted figure. Besides, just think of the climate ! Here are almost tropical conditions for farming; nor need any yeoman fear the hot wind which wreaks its havoc in Kansas and Nebraska. In Iowa, the real danger would be excess of rain, not the stint of it; and Iowa edges the arid region. To merit of soil and sun was added the charm of pure beauty. Very lovely at sunset is the open prairie, when the air is so absolutely clear, and the spacious world so happy, — meadow larks singing, prairie chickens thumping and booming, and ducks squawking over the flushed pools and little lakes ; and in springtime it is loveliest of all, for then come daisies, the white and the yellow ; fragile bloodroot; sweet William, white or red ; cool lilies that love the ponds, and oh the deep red dappled lilies of the prairie ! But perchance the chief lure was this : no fellow had legally any business whatever to go there. Iowa was Indian property. Had not the miners of Dubuque been once routed back across the Mississippi at the muzzle of honest Jeff Davis’s blunderbuss ? And had not Jeff Davis been sent to protect the red man from the white man ? Or where, indeed, were those precious homestead statutes, upon whose sole sanction lay based the solemn right of settlement ? Iowa, like the major portion of the middle West, was peopled far in advance of the legislation which gave it respectability. The case so harried the soul of John C. Calhoun that he counseled a military occupation.

The year 1838, however, saw Iowa formally turned territory, and then you had edicts engrossed and enacted. You had also a most engaging disregard of those edicts. For an “ absent-minded beggar ” is your pigeon-shooting, rabbithunting little-by-littler, who, in blissful oblivion of the spread-eagle sovereignty at Washington, made laws of his own. Knots of settlers established neighborhood clubs, with rules relating to homestead rights, the building of schoolhouses, the constructing of highways, the arching of bridges. Sometimes they even punished misbehavior. Here, then, was a truly Mormonite establishment, — imperium in imperio, — a fantastically unAmerican order, or disorder. What to do ? “ Aha,” said that pleasant old gentleman with the stars in his jacket and the stripes in his trousers, “ I ’ll have my way yet. I do therefore bid and command that whatsoever these sturdy pioneers of mine have wrought or accomplished be solemnly recognized and sanctioned ! ” If the people would not obey the law, the law must obey the people.

So the Eden of Iowa was laid open to all, — such an Eden, when the truth is told, as few had fancied. For the early newcomers, accustomed to timbered lands, nested themselves in the “ brush.” The prairie, they said, was the Great American Desert. When, later, the prairie first felt the plough, all skeptics took the same doubt upon their tongues. “ How will you fence it ? ” they queried. Surely a ponderous question! The fences of our American farming countries have cost more than the land itself. Here posts and boards must be fetched from far. Value would therefore outvie utility. But in good season a clever fellow contrived to twist barbs into a strand of wire. Then an eager throng poured out across the plains.

It was, upon the whole, an easy life, this Iowa pioneering. Crops flourished. Villages sprang blithely into being. Isolation was trying, of course, yet not for long. Prairie fires were more serious. The chief hardship, however, was the difficulty of transportation ; indeed, it was not until 1856, when Iowa had been for ten years a sovereign state, that the first locomotive crossed the Mississippi River. With that dawned the day of great things, — the moving of vast harvests, the building of many cities, the all but incalculable growth of a cheerful, prosperous, contented population.

But it is not good for men that they should be too happy, and the lowans, in the midst of their rainbow-mantled felicity, sinned a great sin. They did as the Yankee farmer has done wherever, in this goodly land of ours, he has set hand to plough or spade to clod. He knows not how to feed the soil while the soil feeds him. He will pillage his acres for swift returns, confident that when the evil days have befallen, and the drought and the chinch bug and the grasshopper have become a burden, he can move yet further westward to rob God’s earth anew. Cheerful, the boast of “ rich black loam with its inexhaustible fertility,” but wheat, oats, and flax, nevertheless, sapped the strength from the land, and there went up a wail from all the people, saying, “ What shall we do to be saved? ”

Then Secretary Wilson, “ Father” Clarkson, and “ Uncle Henry ” Wallace, made answer in a forcible though sadly unrhetorical phrase which has since become proverbial. “ Go to grass,” said they. “ Go to grass, raise cows to eat it, and make butter for the nations ! ” The Iowans obeyed. And proved the admonition. Plant your field with clover every fourth year, and the clover will restore to the soil what your crops took from it. You plough it in two inches, you rub your hands with glee as it absorbs pure nitrogen from the atmosphere, you feed your cattle upon it, and when its roots have long enough been busy letting air and water down into the earth, you come upon it (quite as Robbie Burns came upon his " wee, modest, crimsontippèd flower ”) to “ whelm it o’er ” with the ploughshare, and bury it deep in the mould. That puts back the exhausted humus. And I dare say that if you look sharp enough, you will see that there is nothing but four-leaved clover in the Hawkeye State.

“ Going to grass ” had a further advantage. It outwitted the railroads. Despite their enormous increase in population and in wealth, the Iowans to-day ship fewer carloads of freight than they did twenty years ago ; and that is because they feed their produce to stock, and freight it away in the condensed form of grunting swine and stamping cattle. If the railroads suffered in consequence, the Iowans had no pity upon them. Why should they ? It was not without significance that the Inter-State Commerce Law should be carried through the Senate by loyal Iowans. Think of their grievances ! Cattle were brought from the remote West to Chicago for fifty dollars a carload, while the railroads demanded seventy dollars for transporting a similar herd from western Iowa to Chicago ; whereas forty-five dollars paid for the long haul from Omaha or Kansas City to Chicago, seventy-two dollars would scarce meet the cost of the short haul from western Iowa ; and the cars thus favored or slighted by conscienceless discrimination might be coupled end to end in the same train, and consigned to the same man. Surely there are certain oxgoads, against which it is easier to kick than not to kick, and the Iowans accordingly gave vent to their wrath. Since then, ill content with mere legal redress, they have applied still another stinging thong to the railways. Chicago, they say, is by no means an indispensable luxury. Why not Galveston ? If Europe is the final destination of Iowa’s glossy shorthorns and Galloways, then one need only remind one’s self that Des Moines lies two hundred and thirty miles nearer to Galveston than to New York, in order to see the advantage of the southern route. So the Iowans grin at their ancient foes, and chuckle with mellow satisfaction as they watch the eastern railroads shortening their curves, balancing their roadbeds, providing heavier rails, larger cars, and stouter engines, and courting by every means, known or unknown, the “ wreathèd smiles ” of their aforetime vassals.

Beyond the luck of the fragrant clover and the zest of the fight with the railway barons, observe what further befell when the Iowans turned to grass - growing. Population declined. Dairy and stock farmers bought out their neighbors, and those neighbors moved farther west to establish themselves anew. Towns formerly fattened by rural trade grew gaunt and lean. A rigid process of social or industrial selection set in. As a natural result, the whole state of Iowa became most dismally uniform in aspect and character.

“ It is all one,” says Helen, — “ the way of a tourist in Iowa and the way of a sailor man at sea. You wake up ” (and here I detect literary dependence upon Charles Dudley Warner) —“ you wake up morning after morning to find yourself nowhere in particular.”

And if this is what came of “ going to grass,” note patiently the next admonition of those fatherly bishops of husbandry. “ Go to grain,” said they.

II.

“ Happy that people who have no history.” From prairie grass to wheat, from wheat to clover, from clover to corn,—such are the short and simple annals of the Iowans.

Deprived of due opportunity for the exercise of a genius for historical science, the Iowans increase their mental cultivation by the practice of elementary arithmetic. Whereas an Ohioan begins the new day by intoning a list of the national heroes whom his state has produced in years gone by, faithful Iowans devote a still hour to the precise calculation of the amount of corn annually raised within the borders of their modern Mesopotamia ; and well they may ! What with their eight and a half millions of corn-sown acres, their corn harvest of three hundred million bushels, their towered corn palaces and hilarious corn carnivals, I think Helen had fully half the fact when she said, “ The motto of Iowa should be ‘ Cornucopia,’ — plenty of corn.”

There is also wheat, and beside wheat a rich store of oats and of barley, of rye and of flax. But corn leads ; and the corn feeds cows. Uncle Henry Wallace, who is, upon the whole, the most delightful Hawkeye of them all, peers at you slyly through the smoke of his Pittsburg stogy, and propounds the true philosophy of cow feed. At the age of thirty months, it seems, the Iowa cow should be gradually withdrawn from her favorite blue grass and clover, and tempted with stalks of corn; then must one serve “ corn in the ear ; ” toward spring you may surprise her with shell corn, and of course you will add a little oil meal “ to put the bloom on her ; ” and then — alas, and then ! Eighty per cent of the corn grown in Iowa is devoted to just such preparation for pathetic dénouements. Nor is that the only tragedy. Wherever in Iowa you see cattle nibbling at large among the corn, you see also a busy drove of black swine. Those, begging pardon of good Jean François, are The Gleaners. Save for their gleaning the cows could never fare so daintily, as it is only by turning their crumbs into pork that it pays to feed cattle on corn. Which for the present hour makes glad the heart of the porker, though to-morrow “ this little pig goes to market.”

Your happy Iowan, lost in a rapturous contemplation of the vast agricultural importance of that “ greatest state in the Union,” will cross himself before what he calls “ our dairy interests.” I acquiesce. Ah yes, there are certainly fully a thousand coöperative creameries in Iowa.

Helen pictures Iowa as holding a yellow blossom beneath the national chin and inquiring whether the American eagle “ likes butter.” The Iowans seem also so to think, for they boast that Iowa has “ more farm separators than any other state.” And a thoroughly miraculous contrivance is the farm separator. You pour in the milk, you set a sheep a-trampling in a treadmill, the wheels go whizzing, and presto ! out spurts yellow cream at one spigot, and gushing skim milk at another, all laws of nature to the contrary notwithstanding. But enough of these dairy interests. The world is so constituted that there is nothing under heaven so hopelessly devoid of interest as an “ interest.”

Helen once attempted to put all Scotland into five words — Scott, Burns, heather, whiskey, and religion. In Iowa you pack the thing tighter. Three nouns are enough : corn, cow, and hog ! But as in Scotland a hundred afterthoughts come clamoring for admission, and five words will never suffice, so in Iowa you make tardy concession to many an eager claimant. Great is the Iowa hen ; and if it be true that the geese saved Rome, the Hawkeye hens could in any time of need save sunny Iowa. Equally great is the Iowa goat. Problem : to clear away brush. Answer : bring goats. Not only do those picturesque Angoras reduce the brush as if fire had gone through it, but they afterwards contribute their plentiful fleece to the loom at fully half the price of sheep’s wool. Great, too, is the Iowa pigeon. At Osage they will show you a township of pigeon houses four acres in area. And of what use are pigeons ? Pray what, think you, is the ornithological basis of quail on toast ? But greater even than hen, goat, or pigeon is that venerable by-product of middle Western agriculture, the retired farmer.

Now when I consider the retired farmer, I think of the preacher who introduced a florid passage in his prayer by saying, “ Paradoxical though it may seem to Thee, O Lord.” For while in New England retirement means defeat, in Iowa it means triumph; whereas in New England the rush of the young to the city leaves the old folks in chill loneliness upon the farmstead, in Iowa the old folks come to town, and leave their sturdy sons to till their acres. In New England the urban drift is a struggle for self-preservation; in Iowa, a movement toward luxury, refinement, and reposeful ease. I saw it first in Des Moines, where you may go a long and crooked mile among the cheery dwellings of wealthy retired farmers. You know them by their neat little barns (brown Dobbin has still the granger’s affectionate personal care) ; by “ shops ” in the yards, where the granger tinkers his harness, or operates upon flexible tables and chairs, or penetrates the inmost mysteries of the eight-day clock ; and should you seek quarters in that pleasing region, you may tread your long and crooked mile in fruitless search for a house with a bathroom. Chat with the tradesmen and learn the ways of this yeoman emeritus. “ A monstrous nuisance ! ” say they. “ Stingy enough to bite a penny open,” he trots nimbly from store to store, planting elbows by turn upon a hundred bargain counters and purchasing nothing but “ leaders.” Or consult the city fathers. “ A very Chinese wall of conservatism ! ” they cry. “ He and his ilk would check every effort toward public advancement.”

But, for ardent indignation, commend me to the manufacturer. “ What we want,” says he, “ is capital ; and the retired farmer prefers to leave his moneybag at the banker’s rather than hazard a more ambitious venture.” True. And what after all has the farmer to show ? A little blue book in a little tin box.

Nevertheless, when you meet Governor Shaw, he will surely say : “ Have you seen the view looking south from the dome of the Capitol ? Finest view in Iowa save one ! ”

“ And what is that one ? ” you ask.

“ The view looking north.”

And I know what delights the governor’s eye. It is not the rippling river, it is not the city with its myriad soaring spires, it is not the slopes of the valley nor the gently rolling prairie land beyond. No : it is the gloomy, murky, sunenveiling cloud of soot that hangs over Des Moines. That and the countless spurts of white steam that shoot up into it foretell the industrial future of the commonwealth. Here and in every part of Iowa the roar and grate of machinery begin to mingle with the homely sounds of pasture and barnyard. No wonder : half the state is underlaid with coal. What matter, then, that the ladies of Des Moines must sew their ball dresses into bags to keep them from the soot; what matter that the beauties of Des Moines have twisted their pretty chins awry in attempts to blow cinders from off their pretty foreheads ; what matter that you cough like the people of Butte in your vain effort to catch a breath of something better than bitumen ? “ No smokeconsumers ? ” I gasped. “ Sir,” said the Iowans, “ every citizen is a smoke-consumer ! ”

Now the value of smoke is its charm for the factory. Not long ago a Boston preacher wrote letters to absentee pewholders, inquiring why men so complacently deprived themselves of the privileges of the sanctuary ; and one of the answers was this : “ Men don’t like to go where they can’t smoke.” Factories, it seems, are not only very human, but very masculine. So, in Des Moines at least, the children of this world are wiser than the children of light. Nor is license to smoke the sole art of their wooing. Says a certain Mr. Hubbell, speaking for a company in Des Moines : “ We stand ready to erect a building for any reputable company that has the backing to carry on its business during next year. To any firm that will erect a permanent building on the railroad tracks we will give free rent for ten years, with rent after that period to be at the rate of four per cent per annum on the value of the ground. We propose to do anything possible to encourage new manufactories in Des Moines, and to induce the old ones to increase their facilities. We want to build up Des Moines, and are offering these inducements for that purpose.” Small need, methinks, of such plentiful perspiration. For raw material, the Iowans have clay, they have corn, they have leather, they have wool; these, with cheap fuel, can be turned into brick and tile, starch, boots and gloves, and all sorts of woven fabrics. Hence, adding the mournful packing of reluctant little pigs, you have innumerable pillars of swirling black smoke, — many at Des Moines, many more at Dubuque and Davenport, not to mention Fort Dodge, Ottumwa, Sioux City, and a score of other places. Yes, and when raw material is made up into things to eat and to wear and to use, the lowans easily get them to market. Scarce any other state in the Union is so totally netted over with railroads. Indeed, your rocking carriage is continually bumping across intersecting tracks, avoiding branches or “ plugs,” and rumbling past the heavily loaded trains of competing companies ; and nowhere will you find an Iowan hamlet or pocketborough more than ten miles from some tiny station. The year 1899 witnessed the completion of three hundred leagues of entirely new steel roadway. Moreover, the buyers of finished wares are many and rich, though as yet a trifle timorous.

Beside their manufacturing enterprises the Iowans are heaping up wealth by mining and lumbering. The ancient “ mineral holes ” of Dubuque still yield their store of gleaming lead ore, and the dull waste material, so long called worthless, has lately turned out to be zinc. And as for the lumber trade, the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota send huge rafts downstream, to be cut into planks by the singing saws of the thriving Mississippi River towns.

Very kind, then, is the heaven above, and the earth beneath, and the minerals under the earth. But what of the queen of the air ? Lest the people of Iowa should grow too proud, the gods have prepared them a foe.

III.

The month, we will say, is June, the day excessively warm, the hour a little past noon. Mirages — spectres of forests, lakes, and cities — float in the quivering air above the prairie. The sun’s heat fairly flames out of the earth, sending streams of atmospheric torment up into the sky; long currents of hot wind rush in from the south; damp, cool currents are drawn by irresistible suction out of the north. Hour by hour rain clouds are forming. Humidity increases almost to suffocation. There is a space of shuddering suspense portending the inevitable ; and having waited till now, as if reluctant to play their part, the meeting winds clash, wrangle a moment, and join in a tumultuous dance.

Yonder a black cloud bows ominously earthward. Look ! It is dropping an inky cone from its under side. A mound of yellow dust leaps up beneath it. Cone and mound stretch toward each other — writhing — unite in a whirling pillar and go crashing northeastward across the state. Timid souls dive into “ cyclone caves; ” daredevils pop kodaks at the flying wonder. Pelting rain and hail, darkness, a demoniac roar and howl, a moment of awful demolition, and the monster is gone. The blessed light breaks in once more, and the timid crawl out of their caverns, while away to the northeastward the bellowing demon is ripping its path across the prairie, filling the air with uptorn trees, bits of shattered buildings, and far-flung rubbish.

Nothing can possibly exceed the tornado’s studied diabolism. By deftness, by cynicism, and by a hideous waggery it deepens and heightens the effect. That cloudy funnel, hanging and swinging like an elephant’s trunk, will effect an all but Castilian indirection of aim. From time to time it will bound from the earth, and go tearing through the upper air; then, with an assumption of innocent carelessness, it will touch a village as with gentle finger tips, and wipe it out of existence. And for all its outward rant and extravagance, the tornado inwardly maintains a cynical imperturbability, and somehow manages to impart a certain stoical indifference.

After the storm has passed practical interest wakes up. Newspaper reporters, with their accustomed sang-froid, interview “ eyewitnesses.” Insurance agents quietly jot down in their notebooks the evidences of loss and havoc. The clerk of the weather drives by in a buggy, stopping here and there to take photographs of telltale wreckage ; to-morrow he will begin the supervision of a coldly scientific investigation, which will secure data for a map showing the exact route of the tornado, a time-table to record its progress, and a minute topographical study, which, by its accurate determination of the forces at play (as illustrated by the “ lay ” of fallen trees and the direction taken by flying débris), will constitute a document of permanent value.

Humor adds color to tragedy. Michael Angelo Woolf understood this when he made his wretched tenement waifs so comical; Kipling understood it when he wrote Danny Deever. The tornado also understands it. That is why it picked up a locomotive and stood it on end in a garden, but left a rosebush in that garden uninjured by so much as a crumpled petal; that is why it twitched the water out of every well in town ; that is why it gathered up half an acre of mud and plastered it all over the Methodist church ; that is why it carried a baby a mile and deposited it unhurt in the crotch of a tree ; that is why it plucked the feathers from a rooster and stuck them into an oak plank, while the shivering fowl stared and wondered what next! This is the art of the storm : in the midst of the tempest see “ Laughter holding both his sides.”

So that was the work of a day in June! Then how, one cannot choose but ask, are there any Iowans left in Iowa ? The answer is easy : The state is so large and the track of the tornado so narrow that, although there are four or five “ green - bordered twisters ” let loose every season, there is always a capital chance of their failing to kill anybody. Furthermore, the tornado’s habits are fairly well known : the course is almost invariably from southwest to northeast; and you merely curl up in the southwest corner of your “ cyclone ” cave and wait. And on the whole there is very little likelihood that a tornado will ever come your way. Indeed, you may insure all your farm buildings for seventy - five cents a year. Mr. J. R. Sage, clerk of the weather for Iowa, says that for thirty years he has been trying to make the acquaintance of a tornado, but that he has “ never been able to get near enough to one to interview it.”

IV.

I think it was wise Mr. Lecky who said the Italians owed half their genius to their earthquakes. John Addington Symonds thought that the spirit of the Renascence sprang out of political disturbance, — wars, sieges, exile, and factional strife. If both are right, and if terrors, night fears, are good for the soul, then what shall we expect of the Iowans ? A priori, much ; empirically, precious little. Their storms are too few.

The sober truth is, the Iowans are an effect in drabs and grays. The state is too young for quaintness, too old for romance. Its people are so uniformly respectable that they will attempt nothing quixotic or piratical; so prosily conventional that if by chance they do anything unusual, they undo it next day. The rulers of Des Moines framed an ordinance to put that charming city to bed: curfew would ring at eleven, and Des Moines must bury its curls in its pillow ; or if not, then any patrolman might order any citizen found upon any highway to stand and deliver. Yet I had no more than got the thing written down in my notebook when the mayor annulled it by veto. The state lacks local color, it lacks unique traits or customs, and beyond pronouncing itself “ Ioway ” it lacks dialect. Result? No one has ever been tempted to write a history of Iowa; no one has ever made Iowa the scene of a novel; no one has ever found attractive material in Iowa for journalistic exploitation. You have here a high level, but — as Helen puts it — a dead level.

Learning, as one soon learns, that the Iowans trace their lineage to New England at the one extreme and to Missouri at the other, one threads one’s way backward along the tempting trail of heredity, hoping as in Ohio for fascinating ethnological discoveries. But the Iowans had experienced Illinois or Indiana or Ohio before entering Iowa, and their inherited characteristics had become so modified by successive strange environments as to be no longer recognizable. And once settled upon their spacious, wind-blown prairies, those migrant peoples so mingled that the resultant Iowa was not a mosaic, but an emulsion. Moreover, the uniformity of the prairie itself contributed to the uniformity of the Iowans by destining nearly all to be farmers. At the same time it forbade the building of great cities, and it is only in metropolitan centres that culture reaches its zenith, or depravity its nadir. Given time enough and the potent influence of isolation, and your rural community develops a picturesque charm of its own and a rich and mellow individuality ; but Iowa is still young, and its people love nothing so dearly as a little journey by rail. When cattle are sold, the farmer must betake him to Chicago to see the bargain closed; when wheat goes to mill, he must find his way to Minneapolis ; and to-morrow he journeys westward to visit his boy in South Dakota, or eastward for a fortnight with the old folks at home. Farm life itself affords abundant communication with one’s neighbors. The coöperative creameries’ carts carry gossip and letters along with the daily papers; telephones are thought no extravagance ; the church is everywhere a living centre of social intercourse. There also exists a very genial understanding between country and city. That is partly because the city contains so many retired farmers, and so many bankers, merchants, and professional men who have invested their money in agricultural interests. In an Iowa town good citizenship requires the ownership of a farm, just as in Sapphira, Montana, it involves the maintenance of a ranch “ off somewhere ” or a costly " hole in the ground.” Still another basis of mutual good feeling is the eminent respectability of the Iowa farmer, who wears irreproachable clothes, rides in a stunning carriage, and sends his sons and daughters to be coeducated at Grinnell. The epithet “ hayseed ” — where will you hear it ? Climb the broad steps of their golden - domed State House, pass beneath its pillared portico, traverse its echoing corridors (where your heels go click upon polished marble), and look in upon the rulers of the commonwealth and their deputies : almost every man of them is farm-bred.

The Iowans, then, have founded a great agricultural state, not remarkable in any particular; or if in any particular it seems remarkable, be sure that that particular is not representative of Iowa. The red - blanketed Indians at Tania, the monastery of the Trappist fathers, the communistic settlement at Amana, the silly purists who insist upon saying “ do not ” instead of “ don’t,” and the beautiful young ladies who annually serve as conductors on trolley cars and give their earnings for charity, — all these matters are distinctly aside from the main trend, which, whether regarded politically, educationally, religiously, or socially, remains gravely commonplace, distressingly normal, hopelessly sane.

Think of a state that will build a three-million-dollar state Capitol and not steal a penny ; fancy an American commonwealth without a state debt; contemplate, by way of self-abnegation, a public of two million people electing a Republican governor every campaign but one, and then tying the hands of the Democrat so that for all his term he could do nothing but mope; consider that Nebraska bounds Iowa upon the west, and that Kansas lies not so very many leagues to the southwest; and then — think what the Iowans might have been, and what they are! Still, seeking to relieve their virtues’ sombre monochrome, they cultivate just a little political corruption, bartering senatorial ballots for desirable committee enrollments, and lending now and then a very attentive ear to the bell and whistle of some wealthy railroad. But when, by methods fair or foul, the Iowans have made the makers of laws, they manage to frame so tiresomely sensible a body of enactments that whoever peeps into their leather-bound tomes will soon enough feel the dustman playing the mischief with his eyes and brain. In only two respects the legislative procedures of Iowa afford interesting reading. The state experimented with the abolition of the death penalty; it also experimented with prohibition ; and as in the former case it returned to capital punishment, so in the latter it came at least half the way back, devised a compromise, and called the law a “ mulct.” Prohibition set the whole state a-glimmering with the red and green lights of impromptu apothecaries ; what was worse, it caused the coat-tail pockets of the people to bulge with illconcealed flagons. So the Iowans rubbed their eyes and considered. And then — happy thought — came the mulct, which says in effect: “ Thou shalt sell no intoxicating liquors in any form, shape, or condition whatsoever; but whenever thou dost think best to sell them, thou shalt feel for thy purse and pay dearly.” Benissimo ! Prohibition and high license have kissed each other.

In matters of education you find a similar effort at prairie - like avoidance of extremes. Thanks to the system of public schools modeled by Horace Mann, there is scarce another state in the Union where so few people are unable to read and write ; on the other hand, there is scarce another state where so soothing a hand is laid upon ambitious scholastic pretensions. Formerly the small and pretentious “ universities,” so called, — and Iowa has its store of those pitiful institutions, — gowned their graduates in learned purple ; but in 1886 the State Teachers’ Association defined “ college,” and made it very plain that the world would be wiser if the number of those Dotheboys Halls were diminished. Some sought refuge in total extinction; others raised their requirements to the standard set by the association ; and a concert of powers decreed that the master’s degree should be conferred only in recognition of stated studies duly performed, and that the doctor’s degree should not be conferred at all. Good! By and by the alphabetic trappings of wisdom will be a little more in keeping ; the lecture platform, the library movement, and the eastward wending of college students are having their effect. But this I say at peril of my ease, recalling the discomfiture of a recent lecturer in an Iowa city. “ You found an appreciative audience,” said the mayor, by way of congratulation, next morning. “ Oh, well — ah, you see,” replied the man of genius, “ I did n’t give you my best, you know; I tried to come right down to your level! ” And I dare say that when that lecturer returns to the Hawkeye State no salvos of salute will greet him.

Religiously, — and the Iowans troop faithfully to service, — the state displays a happy exuberance of consecrated common sense. Not only have certain denominations shown a tendency to establish spheres of influence instead of clashing in unbrotherly zeal for precedence, but each has manifested a desire so to modify its peculiarities as best to adapt itself to the needs of a sober-minded people. The Adventists, for aught I can learn, very rarely assemble in robes of white to ascend into heaven ; the Mormons at Lamoni decry the polygamous propensities of their Utah brethren ; and that charmingly peculiar people, the Gurneyite Quakers, yield acquiescence to the popular demand for modernization by establishing a salaried clergy, by discarding their former quaintness of dress, and by building organs in their churches. Penn College, despite its Friendly belief and practice, supports a football team, and we saw it play. “ Aha,” quoth Helen, “ I know what that will be like ! ” She looked for silent signals ; the ball in play only when the spirit moved ; a gently polite deference as a survival of nonresistance ; and a frequent ejaculation of “ Does thee mind if I slug thou ? ” But no; those stalwart youths fell upon Drake University with intent to kill. I think, too, that I have seen in Iowa a very general willingness to soften the rigor of oldtime morality. Little remains of the Puritanic code, save only in the observance of the Lord’s Day. The Iowans have no Sunday trains except on main lines, and they go without Monday morning papers that the newspaper folk may rest their weary brains upon the Sabbath.

Sane in their political, educational, and religious activities, the Iowans maintain a thoroughly consistent attitude toward social questions. The Missouri River, which separates them from the populistic Nebraskans, is a hundred miles wide. The only proletarian uprising ever known in Iowa was the transit of Kelley’s army, which swept across the state on its way to join the meteoric Coxey. Professor George D. Herron, late of Iowa College, complains that his gospel of Christian socialism has merely hardened the hearts of the Iowans. In short, an Iowan is a man who regards this world as on the whole a desirable place of residence, and if by any chance he turns Herronite he ceases to be an Iowan. On Boston Common I met such an exile from Iowa, and to him I said, “ What are you doing in Massachusetts ? ” Whereupon the socialist replied, “ Working my head off to hasten the coming of — I don’t know what! ” Then I knew why he left Iowa, for the Iowans are bound that nothing shall be hastened. A well-fed, respectable, leisurely, comfortable people, are they not ? The street cars in Des Moines are fitted with solid doors to keep you from mounting in a hurry, yet no one protests. My baggage master said, “ Yes, I ’ll check your trunk so you won’t see it for a month.”

It is perhaps very fortunate that the Iowans are not inviting the existing social order to crumble about their ears ; at all events, it is certainly very natural. A life so uniform and so prosperous produces few original spirits, few blatherskites or demagogues, few sowers and reapers of rebellion. At the same time, however, it breeds few amazing individuals of any sort. Were it fair to compare Iowa with Ohio, which is three times as old and twice as populous, I should say to the Iowans, “ Where are your presidents, your painters, your sculptors, your novelists, your poets ? ” It was, I fear, a little too easy to make the state of Iowa, and to-day the Iowans are showing the lack of that rigorous pioneer discipline which goaded the souls of the Ohioans to fine personal achievements. Or who knows but the featureless prairie has tended to broaden, rather than to heighten and deepen, the genius of the Iowans ? Besides, one must remember that great men are beckoned forth by great events, and nothing at all significant ever happened in Iowa. Indeed, were I a public event and about to occur, the Hawkeye State is the last place I should select for my occurrence. Still, I have read in a famous old book that there are diversities of gifts, and that it is the pinnacle of folly to judge by one sole standard. To see the Iowans at their best, go to the national capital, where, if fortune favors, you will meet their Allisons and Hendersons, their Hepburns, Gears, and Dollivers. Sound judgment, judicial sense, and executive ability, — these are the talents that lift them to power, talents neither rare nor little prized among the Iowans.

When all is said, it is the merit of the mass, not the merit of the individual, the humbler, and for matter of that the mere brown-colored virtues, not the blazing, sporadic flashes of genius or prowess, that establish the real greatness of a people. Unrelieved industry, morality, intelligence, and loyalty make very melancholy material for literary or artistic treatment; but when your soul is bent upon finding a happy augury for your country’s future, what better can you seek ? Happily this state of Iowa, so typical of the broad, fertile, populous valley of the upper Mississippi, stands representative of the bulk of our people.

Rollin Lynde Hartt.