Grabbing a Coke and a light wrap, I made my way to the car, settling into the back seat next to Noah, my grinning, one-year-old grandson. Each turn that we made revealed more open spaces in the landscape. At one point it stretched before us like a patchwork quilt in shades of green spread beneath an indigo ceiling dotted with tufts of orange, pink, and red. The sun had already sunk below the western horizon, casting its colorful hues upon a few remaining cottony clouds. The last time we had made this trip to the Butterfield farm, Noah’s parents were high school sweethearts, Dan Butterfield being one of their classmates.
Dust hovered over a quarter-mile stretch of road above one segment of the “quilt”, designating where we should turn. When we did, corn stalks, much more than knee-high, enclosed us on both sides, narrowing the view to our immediate path. We entered an open gate on the right, forsaking the din of gravel to tread silently upon new-mown pasture. The expanse of parked cars surprised us. Apparently news of this once-small community affair had spread over the years of our absence. I estimated easily four to five-hundred cars parked in the pasture and along the perimeter of the corn field.
Gathering a blanket to sit on, along with the other things we brought for our comfort, we made our way through the parking-lot pasture to the expansive yard spread out behind the farmhouse. Families sat in clusters, drinking sodas and nibbling snacks from their coolers. Meanwhile the children formed a more cohesive group, filling in the spaces between their families as they played catch, hide-and-seek, and waved miniature flags. Some waved sparklers as well, mesmerized by the twinkling trails formed by merely swinging their arms. A John Deere tractor with hayrack in tow slowly snaked through the crowd, hauling enthusiastic youngsters and a few oldsters as well.
Upon closer observation, I realized that many of the faces surrounding us were familiar. In years past we all sat in the same bleachers supporting our teenage football players, cheerleaders, and marching band members. I smiled and nodded at those I recognized. Soon I came to realize that the children darting between family groups belonged to those same ex-football players, cheerleaders, and marching band members, now raising families of their own. My son and daughter-in-law milled around, greeting several acquaintances from their high school days.
Darkness descended, and activity increased in and around the corn field directly in front of us. Children returned to their parents as anticipation increased. Still, the first “Boom” caught many off guard, and a collective gasp quieted the crowd. The sky lit up with colorful flashes and bursts of flame. Well-crafted sequences of light and sound delighted and dazzled the audience, punctuated by trails of smoke drifting lazily overhead, as if to taunt us. Children took up the chant, “More, more, more…” just as the next round began. Sometimes twenty or more rockets shrieked as they shot skyward, side-by-side. Other times they popped as if the entire field of corn had been pressurized and ignited. Lightning bolts zig-zagged in reverse, from the ground up, making sounds like sirens. Large, star-shaped and spider-like fireworks drew ooh’s and ah’s from the appreciative crowd, and giggles followed the ones that surprised us by noisily bursting before fading into the distance.
Noah sat in his daddy’s lap, eyes wide and mouth agape. As this was his first fireworks display, his mommy and I observed his reaction closely. He never flinched, just stared in amazement!
The luminous display continued over fields of Iowa corn for over an hour. Entertaining? Yes, but eye-opening as well. The experience filled my heart with renewed gratefulness to God for allowing me to live in such a great country, state, community, and family. How truly blessed I am! And how especially fitting and uplifting was this down-home celebration of freedom and patriotism leading up to the Fourth of July…only in Iowa! ...only in America!