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Local Columns

Weed Whackers and Window Cleaner

As part of my work, I visit a lot of small towns around the nation and teach them practical steps to a brighter future. I visited Roscommon County, Michigan and toured a few empty buildings.  On one corner, a major intersection into town, there was an empty building on each corner.  We ...

Find the food, find the fish

In the remaining open water months, there is one very basic thing to keep in mind for fishing success, we’ve said it before and I’m sure we’ll say it again, but it’s so important that it’s a good thing to keep in mind: If you want to catch fish now, you’ve got to find what ...

Nobody understands the crazinesss better

Whatever my siblings and I lacked in material things growing up, we were rich in cousins. My mother was one of a dozen children and my father one of six. As close as I can figure, I have more than 60 first cousins ranging from 10 years my senior to 20 years younger. I am one of the older ...

The joys of a summer bike ride

If everything goes as planned, the current edition of RAGBRAI is underway as you read this. Unless you live under a rock in Iowa, you know about this annual event that started as a simple bike ride across the state and has turned into a very real phenomenon that attracts bicycling enthusiasts ...

Some mid-summer fishing reminders

Summer continues. July is on the way out, August is here or near. Time marches on and that’s okay: What else can time do? Many anglers across the Midwest and North America report that fishing has been pretty good, bordering on excellent in some locations. And despite the thought that ...

Pretty as it gets

What do you call those little tributaries that flow through Iowa’s countryside? Poets call them brooks and streams. In some parts of the country they are referred to as branches, kills or runs. I’ve also seen them described as gills, rills, rivulets and freshets. The most common term, I ...

Unique land, unique phrases

When I was living out of state while in my 20s, I very rarely met anyone who had been to Iowa. “Oh, yes, I've been through there. . .” was what I usually heard when someone inquired about where I grew up.At least once the question was raised to ask me about how the potato crop was this ...

Things change

This is the time of year when lots of people are on the water, fishing or skiing or swimming or whatever. Sometimes on some bodies of water, we notice changes in the water. We’re noticing these changes more and more in more and more bodies of water. Those changes can affect the fishing. ...

An All-American Fourth of July

As I left the post office I saw a familiar pickup in the parking lot ̶ a rusty Studebaker pickup. And behind the wheel sat my cantankerous old buddy, Ebenezer Griper. “Howdy, Eb!” I shouted when I pulled up next to his pickup. “What brings you to town this afternoon?” “Aw, ...

The blessings of good friends

Have you ever tried to categorize your friends? To group them according to how close you are to each other? And then make a count in each category? That was the topic of a recent NPR broadcast I heard one day. Naturally, someone has done a study on just such a topic. It showed that the ...

Crankbaits in the summer

It’s been a cold, wet spring in many parts of North America, but summer is here, so we would guess that things are about to warm up. Something that has already heated up is the fishing: Fishing has been pretty darn good in many places. As the water warms up, our lure choices can speed up. ...

Deep water walleyes

When a person is preparing to go fishing, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that the fish might not be where we expect them to be. I forgot that fact recently, and it impacted my catching in a negative way. We caught lots of fish, but if I had been better prepared, we would have caught more. ...

Find their food, find the fish

A very basic yet often overlooked principle of fishing is that you’ve got to put your bait near a fish if you want to catch a fish. So often we consider lure shape, color, size, or speed, when, in reality, those things don’t matter if the fish don’t see the lure. Once we’ve found the ...

Short tips for more fishing fun

We’re into the open water fishing season of 2019. In fact, summer fishing isn’t that far away. Sometimes we get too wound up in the details of catching fish, and that’s okay. Oftentimes minor details can play a large role in how many fish we catch, and how big those fish are. There ...

Old traditions that make mothers cry

The big thing around Iowa this time of year is high school graduations. It’s been 53 years since I experienced this rite of passage and it appears that some things haven’t change. Graduates still don hot gowns and square hats, march to “Pomp and Circumstance” and are handed a diploma ...

Oh, the people you’ll see

Last weekend I took a little trip north for an overnight, driving on one of those wonders of modern transportation: the interstate highway. Fast, direct, no muss, no fuss. Not even any potholes that I noticed. There’s also not much to see. Oh, I do have landmarks that I study each time ...

Volunteers are needed to speak up for foster youth

May is National Foster Care Month, a time set to recognize foster parents, family members, mentors, volunteers and child welfare professionals for all the support they provide youth and children in foster care. It can also be a good time to consider how you personally can make a difference in ...

Hamilton the community

“Hamilton The Community,” knowing your neighbors. This is what Rick Young, Hamilton County supervisor and Hamilton Hometowns board chairman, will work to do over the coming months. He will escort a few individuals “out of their own community silo” and take them to another Hamilton ...

Heroes of the classroom

I've been thinking about heroes lately. A hero may be your basic, everyday hero: the neighbor who plows out your driveway after a snowstorm without even a phone call to ask if he can bring over his big John Deere with the loader bucket, the old family friend who stops by with two $20 bills ...

Things that make me smile…

As a kid I was an optimist ̶ a glass-half-full sort of guy, almost always looking on the bright side. That optimism included a healthy mix of naiveté. I was one chunky, happy sort of country bumpkin. Then life happened and by the time I retired I had become much more cynical. Over the ...