Midwest mosaic

Some sidebar observations from my pilgrimage to Iowa this past weekend to see the famous Field Of Dreams movie site:
•Due to the high percentage of motorcyclists in Iowa that refrain from wearing helmets, I am either incredibly impressed by their self-confidence or incredibly concerned about their state of mind.
•Pro-choice supporters might want to keep their thoughts to themselves when travelling through the region. I saw at least three large-scale signs on people’s private land indicating a rather passionate distaste for such perspectives.
One particular billboard screamed “Abortion” along the top and “Euthanasia” along the bottom, with the middle reading “Choices can kill.” I can’t help but wonder if they mean the fetus or anyone foolish enough to speak in favour of abortion within earshot—or gunshot, for that matter.
•The most intriguing sign in my travels was this election reference: “Politicians take note—hogs don’t have the vote.” So now what? Try and appeal to the chicken demographic, instead?
•Most police in Iowa, I’m sure, are very nice people. Of course, my kind host and fellow Great Big Sea fan Diane and I were oh, so fortunate to encounter the Scarface of the residential street patrol, narrowly avoiding a ticket for allegedly driving on a closed road. Hey, Joe Friday, here’s a hint: when you close a road, close ALL the entry routes, including the alleyway coming out of the bank.
•There’s few things I’ve done more relaxing than cruise the Cedar River on a blazing Fourth of July summer afternoon.
•My first in-person experience with Fourth of July fireworks in the U.S. makes me think that those in the American fireworks industry must be living the high life. I think there was less firepower on display during the peak moments of Operation Iraqi Freedom than there was over Cedar Rapids Friday night. Truly a spectacular sight.
•Restaurant service in Iowa is pretty top-notch, and the food’s even better. Big thanks to Diane’s sister Karen and her husband Tim for springing for dinner both nights I was in town. They and their kids Brittany and Christopher (and Diane, of course) treated me like gold.
•No human being who isn’t in the trucking business should try driving an average of 12 hours per day. The body tends to react negatively to such torturous acts. My legs may never forgive me.
•Sunday’s brilliant sunset as I drove the home stretch made me realize it’s good to go away, but it’s even better to get back.
• • •
A fitting tribute is in store for long-time umpire John Kingsley Downs, who was tragically killed in a one-vehicle accident Canada Day near Stratton.
This weekend’s slo-pitch tournament in Devlin will be renamed the Kingsley Downs Memorial Tournament in honour of the much-beloved Pinewood resident, who had an estimated 500 people turn out for his funeral this past weekend.
A dedication ceremony featuring a moment of silence will be held Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Devlin Ball Park, with the Downs’ family planning to be in attendance. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony, as well as the entire tournament’s action.
I never knew the man personally, but there’s no denying the respect and adoration he had from recreational ball players and the local region in general. He will be greatly missed.
• • •
Congratulations to the foursome of Steve Pruys, Shawn O’Donnell, Charlie Windego and Jason Kuorikoski from Fort Frances, who won the Buick Scramble regional qualifying tournament at Kitchen Creek Golf Club this past Saturday.
The quartet fired a rock-bottom score of 56 in regulation play, then hung on in a playoff to take home the victory and advance to the provincial qualifier in Winnipeg two weeks from now involving players from both Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario.
The survivor of that affair heads to Niagara Falls in August to compete in the national Buick Scramble championship.
• • •
There is joy in Muskie football land after it was announced this past week that four of their key veterans will be granted one more year of eligibility.
The decision by the senior athletic council of Winnipeg School Division I means a return to the black-and-gold this fall for last year’s Muskie player of the year, wide receiver Kevin Gemmell, along with fullback Shane McDonald, defensive back Jason Kellar, and receiver/defensive back Rick Ricard.
Muskie faithful have much more to be encouraged about with this talented quartet back in the fold.
• • •
A follow-up to last week’s column item on the upcoming Rainy River District Fastball League Old-Timers’ Game July 24 at 6:30 p.m. on Vandura Field in Fort Frances, just prior to the league’s all-star game at 8 p.m.
Those players 40 and over wanting to take part can contact George Oltsher (483-2253), along with Ed Vold (274-9318) or Derek McKinnon (274-4578).
• • •
The Heron Island Golf Course on Couchiching First Nations Reserve is inching closer to opening up for business.
Project co-ordinator Shane Jourdain said yesterday that when the proper equipment arrives within the next week and is installed, the club’s driving range should be ready to go for public use within two weeks.
Officials are still trying to get the back nine holes finished before the frost hits, but at this point, it appears more likely the full 18 holes will probably have to wait until the spring of 2004 to see their first action.

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