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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Rich (04/26/12)

TITLE: Black Gold
By Laura Hawbaker


It is dirt. Not just any dirt—Iowa dirt—smooth, mellow, fertile. The rich Iowa soil is the result of two natural phenomena, glaciers and grass. According to science, three different glaciers slowly inched their way across the middle of the continent eons ago, pulverizing boulders and rocks beneath their weight. Maybe God decided that between the forested mountains of the east and the rocky, stark mountains in the west he needed a broad plain, a giant market basket. He used the glaciers to carve out what we now call the mid-west, and He seemed to put a special touch on the soil of Iowa.

In God’s perfect timing, the glaciers melted and the grasses grew. Not just your polite meadow grass; this was serious grass, thick and lush, sometimes growing twelve feet tall. Iowa was covered with this tall grass, home to many wild animals, birds, butterflies and earthworms. The Native Americans lived along the streams leaving the tall grassland undisturbed. The land of Iowa was part of the President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803, but he was more interested in what lay beyond the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers than what lay between them. He had no idea of the wealth that lay below his four cents per acre bargain.

The first settlers coming from the east found the vast prairie overwhelming, something to be endured on their way to the promised land of California. Eventually a few homesteaders, (those more interested in farming than gold digging) tried their hand at breaking the Iowa prairie. The hopeful farmers didn’t have to fight tree stumps or rocks, but they did battle with the thick, stubborn grass roots deeply entwined in the soil. The wooden plows they brought from the east were not up to the task, only steel blades could master the sod. And beneath that sod they found the soil, deep and black and promising. More and more farmers settled in Iowa, hard working folks, eager to conquer the land.

The year the state of Iowa turned thirty, the United States was celebrating its 100th birthday. A great centennial celebration was planned in Philadelphia and all 38 states in the union were invited to showcase their state. How did Iowa choose to represent their young state? With soil, of course. Soil samples were collected from the thirty-five Iowa counties and displayed in six foot glass cylinders. The samples were presented just as they came from the earth, the bottom of the cylinders showed the clay, shale and lighter colored soil, and the top three to four feet displayed the black, rich top soil. The Centennial Exposition was a perfect chance for Iowa to show off its greatest resource as ten million people toured the exposition from May to November of 1876.

Farming in Iowa has gone through many changes from the first sod-busters to the present day GPS guided farmers. The prairie that so prolifically grew grass is now the top corn producing state in the nation. The farmers have done their part implementing soil conservation, crop rotation, fertilization and the judicious application of chemicals. Science has played a role in developing corn hybrids, insecticides and herbicides. God faithfully does his part providing timely rains, heat and humidity. Of course, farming is still a gamble, with nature holding the ace card, but most years the soil produces bumper crops and the Iowa farmer cashes in on the black gold beneath his feet.

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This article has been read 527 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marina Rojas05/03/12
How lovely the images are that you share! I thought of the rich lush grasses of my childhood in a whole different way than I have ever thought of them.

How rich the 'black gold' of our plant earth truly is!

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/03/12
This was really interesting. I could picture the settler's moving west and those who stayed and found the wonderful soil. God did have a marvelous plan. I also liked your take on the topic. It was creative and unique.
C D Swanson 05/04/12
Nicely written and nicely told. A very interesting piece and one which held my attention until the very last word. Thank you.

GOD Bless~
Linda Goergen05/05/12
Well written and quite interesting—like a mini history lesson on Iowa. Unique take on the topic. Enjoyed.
Hiram Claudio05/07/12
Well written and I could detect a tone of native pride in the piece - pride well deserved! I enjoyed this a lot.
Genia Gilbert05/07/12
This is interesting and well written. Good approach to the topic!
Leola Ogle 05/09/12
I absolutely loved this bit of a history and geography lesson told in story form. Well done, well written and thoroughly enjoyable. God bless.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/14/12
Congratulations for ranking 7th in level three and 24 overall!