Friday, September 26, 2014

The Secret of Cleves

A grain elevator, bank, repair shop, and handful of houses are all that meet the eye of the casual passerby.  On the map, the town of Cleves, Iowa is nearly forgotten. Surrounded by cornfields, it is not the pulsating center selected by tourists. The grocery store is gone. The railroad is no more. A cursory glance reveals nothing of interest to be seen. Where is its secret?

It seems little could be hidden in a town with only two streets. We visit the elevator: there are impressive new grain bins, but the secret is not there. A man in well-worn overalls steps out of Ag Machinery; here we might find a clue. We walk in, searching for the answer. Here the locals sit, sipping steaming cups of coffee, crunching on peanuts, and sharing the latest news about the crops and the weather. Although their conversation seems superficial, these are the men who guard the secret of Cleves.

Forty years ago, we hear, a man with a cutting torch robbed the bank. Who he is no one knows. He may have taken his secret to the grave, or he could be in this very room. That's the mystery of the town, but not the secret that I found.

The secret of Cleves is the heart of the town. It's a love for the land, a joy in the mundane, and a faith in the God who never fails to water the crops with spring rains. Here the things that matter are not the glamour of the city. What matters is life: the cattle, the corn, and the grandkids.

The secret I found in Cleves is the foundation on which the world survives. It's the beauty of a place that can be called home, unacclaimed but never forgotten. It's the charm of a place whose last crime is forty years old*. Far from the cynosure with its spontaneous and ephemeral attractions, Cleves offers a peaceful haven. Once, many a small town seemed forsaken, forgotten; but now I know that each has a heartbeat way down and a secret yet to be found.

*Update: I hate to ruin such a beautiful story, but a journalist must be true to her trade.  Unfortunately since this article was written Cleves has had a potato chip stealing crime wave.  Ag Machinery (Lonny's, as we call it) will stop providing chips on the honor system at a dollar a bag unless the crime wave stops.
End Potato Chip Thievery!

50 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing its always great to see and read posts about different places and countries all over the world...myself have a blog about our hometown in arnhem and its special to me...would you like to follow? i just once in a while post about whats going on here...http://greetingsfromarnhem.blogspot.nl/ ......blessings bethany.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know about it! I enjoy your devotional blog, and the blog about your hometown is a treat to find out about.

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  2. i love little forgotten, sleepy farming towns.

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  3. I love your writing style. I'd love to visit a quaint little town like this. On the potato chip thing, maybe someone in the town has an addiction. :)

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    1. Thank you Gail! According to Susan (Lonny's wife) about 25 people have a potato chip addiction.

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  4. Bethany lovely place but isolated places are fantastic, too.

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    1. Yes, it's nice to be out in the countryside!

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  5. you are a wonderful writer Bethany. I don't do good dialogue on my blog.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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    1. I really enjoy the photos you post, Felicia!

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  6. That was beautifully written and Cleves looks and sounds like such a charming place... :)

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  7. I like the narrative and the photo of the factory.
    Peace :)

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    1. Thanks, that's the elevator where the farmers store corn.

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  8. What a great post. You would be perfect for writing and photographing for the tourism industry. You certainly have the passion for it!

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  9. Bethany, this was a precious post. The simple life of a small town is enriching.People are real and down to earth.
    You write beautifully.
    Sweet blessings to you, Debbie

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  10. I really, REALLY enjoyed reading this....it's almost a fable of the American Dream...to love, survive, and never be forgotten by some who love and survive it all the same!! Well done, well written. Very good read today Bethany.

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    1. "to love, survive, and never be forgotten by some who love and survive it all the same" --beautiful way to epitomize it! Thanks Anni!

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  11. Beautifully written. The secret of Cleves is the key to happiness.

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    1. We have to learn to find happiness in the simplest of things if we are to live truly joyful lives :)

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  12. Wonderful post and story, Bethany.. Thanks for sharing your views on the town of Cleves..Have a happy Sunday!

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    1. Have a delightful day as well! Thank you!

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  13. what a lovely old place that really makes you feel like you are traveling back in time!!!

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    1. Small town Iowa really doesn't change much as time marches on...actually years ago this town would most likely have been busier with the railroad going through!

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  14. Wonderful post...I like your blog.^^
    Maybe follow each other on bloglovin?
    Let me know follow you then back.
    Lovely greets Nessa

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  15. It seems that someone with empty pockets is hungry! Very well written! Janey

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    1. Thanks Janey...I don't think the farmers around here have much excuse for not paying $1 for a bag of potato chips. Farmland in my county is worth over $10,000 an acre, so if a farmer has 100 acres, his net worth would be around a million dollars... but the price of grain is down right now, so who knows?

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  16. C'est vraiment un bel endroit, je te remercie pour ce beau partage ✿

    Bisous

    Manon

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  17. Bethany, have you ever read anything by Wendell Berry? He is one of my favorite authors, and though he's written many essays on the importance of our farming roots which I haven't read, he's written fictional stories of a small town and farms in Kentucky. You might enjoy him. Your story reminded me a little of his writing. I really liked reading your story. I wish the worst thing we had to worry about in our cities today was potato chip thieves!

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    1. Ahhh! Yes, I wish that were the only problem facing society today. I've never read any of Wendell Berry's works; I'll have to look him up. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  18. Bethany, interesting post and lovely place. Thank you for sharing. Hugs to you.

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  19. Such a great post, Bethany! You write so well, I feel like I'm reading a Laura Ingalls story. Love the small town history you shared.
    Debbie
    xo

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  20. I really like your writing. I imagine being back in the midwest again in one of our small towns. In some ways, they are very lucky to be off the popular map of places to be. Life is quiet and peaceful. As for the potato chip thief, hope they catch the individual! Bad!

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    1. True! There is something special about being able to live a peaceful life away from the hustle of the city.

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  21. I've decided that I want to write like you when I grow up ;)

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    1. Olá querida, passei por aqui para agradecer sua doce presença
      no meu cantinho.
      Amo passear por aqui!
      Obrigada !!!
      Abraços, Marie.

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  22. I can tell that I'd like this place. It's America at it's best!

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    1. Unlike many of the other little towns around here, it's not a "bedroom community;" it's more like a "morning coffee community" for all the farmers. But these days it's (relatively) booming--bustling with workers--as the construction of the new grain bins/elevator finishes.

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  23. Nice post, and I especially like the name of your blog! Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.
    Have a great Wednesday!

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