Wednesday, August 13, 2008
On the road to Abner Kneeland's grave Monday ...
... I stopped at the Davis County Iowa Welcome Center in Bloomfield to pick up an Iowa map. Didn't really need one, but a map makes me feel secure and the last time the old pickup went in for an oil change I did a clean sweep to make it look a little less like someone was living in it --- and the maps ended up in a heap in the house in Mason City. Iowa produces and gives away wonderful road maps and welcome centers (rest stops, too) are some of the places you can find them.
Besides, I like the Bloomfield Welcome Center, located maybe a block north of the northeast corner of the square right on Highway No. 63. If I'm remembering right, it's a restored Sears, Roebuck & Co. house. The two front rooms form a shop featuring local crafts, books and the like. The volunteer attendant, surrounded by the usual blizzard of pamphlets and promotional material, sits in the old dining room and the room north of that is a Christmas center --- interesting if you're in the mood for Christmas in August. And then there are the usual restrooms, etc.
I always find something to buy, for better or worse, and this time it was a copy of the brand new "Mars Hill: A Living Legacy," by Michael W. and LeAnn Lemberger (Ottumwa: PBL Limited, 2008, list price $24.99 --- yikes!). But it's for a good cause, the restoration of Mars Hill Baptist Church whose torching by stupid-kid arsonists I lamented a couple of years ago (with pictures) somewhere else in this rat's nest of blog entries.
The restoration after the fire of Iowa's oldest functioning log church out there in the woods between Ottumwa and Floris is nearing completion, it's good to report. I planned to stop when I was headed home later Monday, but took a wrong turn north of Floris and missed it entirely (but it was a pretty drive anyway). I can always find Mars Hill coming in from the north, so that can wait until another day.
The fiberglass horse attached to an Amish buggy in front of the welcome center signifies that Bloomfield is at the heart of one of Iowa's fastest-growing Old Order Amish communities and if you're interested in visiting some of the dozens of on-the-farm shops operated by the Amish (offering everything from groceries and furniture through tack and buggies to baked goods), you can get a map at the welcome center --- and you'll need one.
I'm not sure if it still works this way, but the welcome center folks used to turn that big plastic horse over to the historical society before Christmas and it was moved to the museum and hitched to a sleigh as part of a holiday display before being stabled inside during snow season.
I had gotten to Bloomfield along one of my favorite routes --- east from Chariton on Highway 34, then south through Melrose (the Irish capital of southern Iowa) to that Appanoose County road that skims along the north side of Lake Rathbun (water's as high as I've ever seen it there) on the Mormon Trail route before plunging south and east through Moravia, Unionville, Paris (Bunch) and Drakesville (still on the Mormon Trail) to pick up No. 63 just north of Bloomfield.
After lunch at Uncle Bob's (not quite the same as when Uncle Bob actually ran it but good enough), I headed east off the southeast corner of the square toward Troy.