Imagine Northeast Iowa

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Not Just Iowa: The Northeast Corner's Particular Sense of Community
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Not Just Iowa: The Northeast Corner's Particular Sense of Community

When I tell people that I'm originally from Iowa, I make sure to include Northeast in front of it. Not that this means anything to the people I'm telling this to. In fact, I'm sure that it doesn't. To people who aren't from Iowa, the entire state is viewed to be pretty much the same, with flat land and corn, and not much else. I've lived in Iowa City, Dubuque, Mason City, and Cedar Rapids (all sprawling cities compared to my home town), but living in Northeast Iowa is a different experience--not necessarily better or worse, but different.

My parents moved my older brother, Matt, and I from Iowa City to Calmar when I was in the seventh grade. I was twelve years old, and naive, and excited to add new friends to the good friends I already had in Iowa City, of whom I quickly lost touch with. Matt was sixteen, and a junior in high school. His closest friends to this day are the friends that he had in Iowa City, before we moved to Calmar, and in hindsight, the transition was understandably tough for him. Because of this, the way we view Northeast Iowa is vastly different; he made his closest friends and best memories in Iowa City, and I made my closest friends and best memories in Northeast Iowa. Our nostalgia scale tips in my direction, and even though my parents moved to Kansas five years ago, to me, somehow it's still home.

My dad still raves about how nice the people are. Every Christmas he tells me how he used to golf his rounds at the South Winn Course first, and then pay afterwards, or if no one was at the counter he'd just leave the money. He almost gets teary-eyed when he tells the story. "Now, there might not be a ton of things to do, because there isn't much around," my dad told me this Christmas, "But you can't beat the people, Mark. And that's important." He loved that you could still pump your gas before you paid for it, and that he only had to walk three houses down our street to watch my baseball games.

I lived there for six years, and there is a certain trust that comes with living in a small town. It's just the familiarity that builds trust more than anything--familiarity with the people, their routines, the pace of life. When someone I don't know says hello to me in Calmar, I know that they probably know me, or my parents, or their son or daughter is friends with my brother, and even though all of my extended family lives in Indiana, it just feels as if they could have gotten drunk with some distant cousin or uncle of mine when they were in high school. There is a closeness that comes with seeing and knowing your neighbors literally your entire life.

In Calmar, my anonymity disappears at the gas station, and although re-telling "what I've been up to" to five people, when I just want to buy three hot dogs for a dollar, can be cumbersome. In the end, it is nice to live amongst people who actually care enough to ask, who somehow feel invested in my happiness, and how I somehow feel invested in theirs. To me, this is why I make the distinction that I am from Northeast Iowa and not just Iowa. Even though I now live in Colorado, and haven't visited in years, I'm still invested somehow. It's a community that, if you really become a part of it, never actually leaves you.

  1. Kris Kulish
    Mark Huber are you the young man who never brought your lunch money to school? Lol I remember you Mark. Did you find a teaching job in Colorado? History major right? Hi From Calmar Iowa!!
    1. Mark Huber
      Never brought his lunch money? Yeah that sounds like me. I'm the only one in my family that didn't go down the teaching road. I was an English major, and I work for a landscaping company out in Fort Collins. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on what I wrote. Take care
  2. Becca Brynsaas
    My sentiments exactly, Mark! Small towns may seem like a curse when you are young...parents seem to know what you did before you make it home for curfew. But as you get older, those qualities are what make it a blessing to call home.
    1. Mark Huber
      South Street!
  3. Pfrana
    Hi Mark! What a nice article! I remember you well! All the basketball games we followed you and Jeremy and the boys to :-) nice to hear you are doing well and have fond memories of your time here. Tell you mom hi too. We enjoyed her at CFS and appreciated her teaching skills. Jeremy is doing well, living in Minneapolis. Thanks for sharing. Patty Frana
  4. SherylSievert
    Hi Mark! I remember walking a couple blocks to see you play baseball too!! I hope you come back to visit soon. You are always welcome.
  5. sally
    Wait. . . . we're not related. . . . I thought Huber was short for Hageman. .
  6. Joyce Meyer
    Joyce Meyer
    Great piece, Mark! Thanks for sharing! -Mrs. Meyer, your old school librarian :)
  7. Beamedik
    Great article. I grew up in Frankville and now live in Kansas City, Ks, so my life is full of specifications.....northeats iowa, kansas city, ks not mo, and sometimes i even have to point out that iowa is actually a state, so the person u met once that was also from iowa may not know me....seriously, thought, we try and go back once a year cause it is a pretty awesome place.
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