Running for home at the Field of Dreams. . .
Friday , August 7:Out of Kansas City and Iowa bound, we endured six hours of corn field after corn field, economic stimulus highway construction projects (how many million orange traffic cones must there be in Iowa alone?), and AM radio (if it ain't a Jesus preacher, it's an angry, Obama-hating conservative). We were boring deeper into the midwest, where regional dining chains--Bob Evans, anyone?---unbeknownst to us Texans started appearing. Everything was lush and green.
We pointed the Mitsubishi toward Dyersville, in the northeast corner of the state, hoping the rain would hold off so I could take the boys out onto the almost-mythic "Field of Dreams," a regulation-sized baseball field improbably carved into a farm of tall corn, created for the 1989 movie of the same name starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta. The movie location has taken on a life of its own, joining the Ertl die-cast farm toy museum as one of the town's major attractions.
The Anamosa Penitentary, Iowa's largest, housing 1200 maximum security inmates. . .
But first: Iowa. Lots, and lots of Iowa. North on I35 to Des Moines, east on I80 to Iowa City, then northeast on two-lane Iowa 1 and US 151 to Anamosa--hometown of artist Grant Wood and the "White Palace of the West," a of a Gothic castle of a state prison established in 1972 and plopped down incongruously in a small town right out of a . . well, a Grant Wood painting. Lots of Iowa towns are like that: Solon and Monticello and Mount Vernon, places a person in a crowded, sun-baked Texas suburb could easily see them selves moving to, living in a big, white, double-story frame home in the cornfields, with a baseball diamond right outside the front door. Just like the place in "Field of Dreams!"
You're almost there. . .
A couple of miles outside of Dyersville, down a narrow dirt driveway, you'll find the "Field of Dreams." It still exists largely as it did in the movie, and we picked the right time of year to visit: the corn grew eight feet high, tall enough to engulf not only our sons but me as well as we re-created the obligatory coming out of/going into the cornfield scene.
You might remember the movie, a metaphysical fantasy into the soul of America and the redemptive powers of baseball. Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Costner, hears voices in his head which implore him to build a baseball diamond in his corn acreage. He builds the ball field, and soon old-time baseball players--the heroes of his late father--inhabit the field each evening. "Is this heaven?" one player asks Kinsella, amazed at the ballfield-in-a-cornfield. "No, it's Iowa," Kinsella replies. The film's final scene finds Costner's character meeting his father as a young man--a baseball player in his youth. The two play a game of catch under the field's lights.
The boys were ready to play. . .
Twenty years after the film's release, the field remains a big draw to Dyersville, and despite the economic temptations, the place isn't TOO commercial--no admission is charged, and you can stay as long as you want until sunset (the light standards are still in place, but the bulbs have been removed to save operating costs. There was a feud between the two landowners whose property the field sits upon, but we didn't see any evidence of that. A wooden concession stand sits in the parking lot, a respectful distance from the playing field and white two-story farmhouse. It did a brisk business in bumper stickers, hats, t-shirts and other knickknacks. "I see how it works," said one visitor. "They don't charge admission, but you end up spending $70 on souvenirs!"
Out on the field, the boys and I joined the never-ending pickup game. Everyone was accommodating, the boys generally well-behaved (well, E. had a tendency to argue pitch calls, but that's just E. being E.). The boys got to hit and run, and I had a good opportunity to chase after fly balls hit by one of the teenaged kids. I am so out of shape.
Between the field and the farm house, Mary sat and chatted with other visitors on the wooden bleachers. The spectators came from all over, including a couple of history teachers from Pennsylvania who'd been on the road since early July, seeing America: the Little Big Horn, Civil War battlefields, and the Field of Dreams.
A great place to make memories with your brother, too. . .
I. stepped right up to the plate in the informal, free-flowing pickup game. . .
Mary took a nice photo of the 3 Dudes at the edge of the field. That corn's about ready for harvest. . .
Then we all "had a catch". . .
And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. . . . The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
They built it. We came. Just as the voice in the movie predicted.
Then it was on to Dubuque and a motel, a take-out pizza, and a come-from-behind Cubs victory watched on the TV from the comfort of a Days Inn bed.