Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dutchman's Store, Cantril

“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.” — Grant Wood

SATURDAY Paul and I took Paul's parents on a road trip to Cantril, Iowa to visit Dutchman's Store, and on the way we stopped to see the iconic house from Grant Wood's world-renown painting, American Gothic

It was an encore performance. It's exactly the same trip Mama Logli planned and we took together about a year ago. We thought it worthy of repeating.

Cantril, population 222, is located in Van Buren County in the southeastern corner of Iowa. According to Wikipedia, the entire county has a population of just 7570, of which 1006 reside in Keosauqua, the county seat, which FYI is the home of the oldest continuously-operated courthouse in Iowa and west of the Mississippi.

The red square on the Iowa map is Van Buren County. On the left is an enlarged drawing 
of Van Buren County, with the town of Cantril circled in red. The other squares on 
the county map are also towns, so you can see it's rather sparsely settled.

There's an association called the Villages of Van Buren, and here's what their website has to say about themselves:

"Off the beaten path, but near to history, nature and the spirit of America's heartland, visitors say life in the Villages of Van Buren, a unique cluster of towns in Van Buren County, moves at a slightly different pace, friendliness is a virtue among residents and village heritage is sacred ground.Relax as you drive through the countryside because you’ll not find a stop light or a fast-food restaurant in the entire county.

Awarded 'Iowa Tourism County of the Year"'in 1989, 1991, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010, it's easy to see why the Villages of Van Buren are one of Iowa's top tourism destinations. We are also proud to be included as one of only nine Iowa locations in the best-selling book '1,000 Places to See Before You Die' in the U.S. and Canada."

But first came our stop in Eldon to see the American Gothic house and walk through the small museum dedicated to Grant Wood and the history of his best-known painting. Visitors are offered the opportunity to get their picture taken in costume posing as the dour pair in front of the house Grant Wood immortalized.

Of course we had to do it.

The famous original.
Paul's parents, Phyllis and Keith, in their own clothes.

After leaving Eldon, we wended our way on county roads through Amish country to Cantril. I spotted a bake sale at an Amish farm participating in the Farm Crawl, an event where various local farms welcome visitors and offer goods for sale. 

I bought donuts and a cream-filled coffee cake, and Paul's parents got green beans and a pecan pie. The green beans were $1 and half a dozen donuts were $1.75. I haven't had a donut for I bet 10 years, but for the last couple of weeks I'd been experiencing an intense donut craving, and there they were calling my name. I ate three, and about made myself sick. I expect I'll go another 10 years before I do it again.

Below are a few photos I snapped while we were at the bake sale home.

Dutchman's Store is an anomaly and a wonderment in this modern day. It's an old-fashioned country store, but not a fake old-fashioned country store like some restaurant chains have. This is the genuine article where what you buy is wrapped in paper, comes in a Mason jar or a bag with a twist tie.

It's become a draw for tourists, but it started simply enough in 1985 as a single storefront serving the needs of area residents for meat, produce, milk, cheese and butter, spices, raw ingredients, dry and preserved goods, bakery items, household wares, ointments, clothing, shoes and every other thing you can think of sold at fair and reasonable prices. It's grown now to encompass the entire block.

The place was jam-packed on this particular Saturday, and I was so distracted by the array of goods and crush of people that I forgot to take any pictures, so I've attached two screen caps taken from their website.

Paul and I bought peaches, tomatoes, fresh and dried garlic, ginger, horseradish, coleslaw, honey roasted pecans, soup, soap and a knife. (They have the best and most inexpensive knives there!)

Afterwards we ate across the street at Alice's restaurant where there were pork tenderloins, mashed potatoes, $5.00 hot beef sandwiches, homemade peach pie and other Iowa soul food on the menu.

We wended our way back towards Des Moines on different county highways that are part of the official Scenic Roads of Iowa, and stopped in Oskaloosa so I could made a quick run into one of my favorite shoe stores where they specialize in trendy shoes for a small price. In fact by coincidence, that day both Paul and I were wearing shoes we'd purchased the last time we were there a year ago with Mama Logli.

It's called the Shoe Dept, and I highly recommend it. As Paul says, "Any day that has new shoes in it is a good day in Kelly's world." Does he know me, or what?!

My super-comfortable, cushy, $16.98 sandals.

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