And the horse you rode in on

Let’s say you’re a college kid. Better yet, let’s make you a college kid with an urban background. When you’re all done with college and have decided to go to law school at a different university, in a different state, what’s the first thing you do? You call your uncle, the farmer, and have him haul all your stuff out of your apartment. He’ll show up with the right equipment and do all the heavy lifting just because you asked. But remember, he’s a farmer. That means he will show up in his trusty pickup with a freshly scrubbed livestock trailer on behind it. If that doesn’t scream “RURAL IOWA” to all of your urban classmates, I don’t know what would.

Now let’s say you want to conduct this move at the best time of the year. Comfort-wise, that would have to be toward the end of July, right? I mean, what fun is moving if you can’t do it when it’s 112 degrees outside with the humidity hovering around 143%? Makes a person want to grab some Hefty bags and several pieces of Samsonite and start hauling stuff up and down several flights of stairs, doesn’t it?

My nephew, Mike, suggested that he’d probably be available on Saturday afternoon to load all his stuff. The forecast for Saturday was for heat advisories, with a high around 96 degrees. Mike thought 3:00 might work for him if it worked for me. I had a slightly different plan. Sunday morning at more like 9:00 worked better for me. Fortunately, Mike was cool with that. We set it up for a Sunday morning move.

But the plan got better. Mike didn’t have an entire 23-foot livestock trailer worth of stuff to move. What he had was mostly stuff that wouldn’t fit in a car — dressers, a bed, a couple chairs and other bulky stuff. It would all fit in the front half of my trailer. Since the forecast was for heat AND SUN, I had another suggestion for him. What if I brought the trailer, but it came down half-full already? Like, for instance, if it had, say, the dune buggy in it! We could unload the buggy, toss all his stuff in the front half of the trailer, then jump in the buggy and cruise around Iowa City in it during the less-than-Nome-like portion of the day.

Again, Mike was cool with that, literally. The buggy was shined up and placed into the trailer the night before the move.

When I got to Iowa City, I discovered it’s not a particularly gooseneck-trailer-friendly town. They love their one-way streets in Iowa City. In order to park your trailer to load collegiate furniture, you need to make a lot more turns than what my buddies at MapQuest would suggest. After my fourteenth left-hand turn onto yet another one-way street in reasonably busy traffic, I got to Mike’s apartment. It didn’t take us all that long to get all of his stuff into the trailer. Then we changed out of our soaking wet clothes, took a shower and went on a cruise in the buggy.

Let’s have a little review, shall we? I am a graduate of Iowa State University. The Cyclone colors are cardinal and gold. The archrival Iowa Hawkeyes, on the other hand, have school colors of black and gold. Unfortunately, the guy in Walla Walla, Washington, I bought the buggy from put a yellow body on it with a black rollbar and black seat covers. It looks like a HawkeyeMobile, which bothers me to no end. Once I find the right set of ISU cardinal red seat covers, things may change. Until then, I have to settle for my personalized ISU license plates on it to keep me in good graces with the powers-that-be in Ames.

I know a lot of people who attended the University of Iowa. It’s always fun to tweak them. They’re never shy about doing that to me. Since this was relatively early on a Sunday morning when classes were not in session, I had an idea. I suggested to Mike that maybe we should drive past a couple of U of I landmarks and have some pictures taken in front of each of them with my buggy clearly in the frame. As usual, Mike was cool with that, too. I expect him to be far more argumentative by the time he’s done with law school.

One of our stops was the law school. There are lots of graduates from there with whom I come in contact regularly. We parked right out front and took a picture of me leaning against the buggy. It was tempting to park in the handicapped spot, but I didn’t have a banner to hold up, saying, “So, sue me!” We stayed in the appropriate space.

As we continued our journey, Mike’s phone rang. Here was the end of the conversation I heard: “Hey. Oh, I’m riding around with my uncle in his buggy. Yeah, he came down this morning to load my stuff in his trailer. No, we were done a while ago. We’re just in the buggy now. We started early. Real early. Yeah. Yeah, he’s a farmer. Okay. Well, call me later then if you’re free, or stop by. We can go for a ride in the buggy. We should be home in, like, a half hour or so. Okay. Bye.”

Even though Mike’s end of that conversation made sense to me, one hypothetical situation left me with a bad feeling. Something about it from the caller’s end just left me thinking that some blanks were being filled in on pure speculation and a very loose association of facts.

But I kept quiet and we continued on our way. Our next stop was at world-famous Kinnick Stadium. They’ve been blowing all kinds of money on a major renovation project at the House That Hayden Built. Darn the luck, the giant parking lot was basically empty, the sky was perfect and we had a camera. I sent Mike across the parking lot as I positioned the buggy right in front of the stadium’s south entrance. Mike did an excellent job of framing the stadium and me in the shot. It may go on the Christmas card I send to all my Hawkeye friends.

When we had finally seen everything, I suggested a little ice cream might take the edge off the heat. Mike’s solution was a place called Whitey’s. We did a couple laps around the block before finding an acceptable parking spot. On previous visits to the campustown area of Iowa City, I discovered that few people make multiple trips around the block. They want to stop somewhere and go into a place of business, they just throw it in park right there in the middle of the street. Some parallel park, some do a modified angle parking thing. Some are complete anarchists and park wherever they are when their brain tells them to go into a nearby store. The place ends up looking like there should be police crime scene tape strung up around the area in a matter of minutes. I’m always on the lookout for Lieutenant Howard Hunter from Hill Street Blues to walk down the street with his bullhorn in hand.

The atmosphere inside Whitey’s was downright delightful. Nothing like stepping into a freezer on a blowtorch sort of day. And it was only about 11:30. I went with a couple scoops of White Chocolate Raspberry Chip in a waffle cone. The stop was money well spent.

We made our way back to Mike's apartment so he could start packing the boxes to go in his car. Not long after we got there, a couple girls walked in. They were friends of his, apparently the ones who had called earlier. The first one looked almost giddy, but a little apprehensive. “Hi, Mike! We stopped by to ride the horse.”

Mike was clearly confused and at a loss for what his friend was talking about. “What?”

“We want to ride the horse. I mean, if we can’t ride it, can we at least pet it?”

Mike was still confused, but everything was making perfect sense to me.

“You said you were in your uncle’s buggy when I talked to you. We didn’t see it when we got here. Is it tied up out back somewhere? We just want to see the horse.”

“Oh,” Mike said as the situation began to sink in for him. “It’s not that kind of buggy. It’s a dune buggy. A car. It’s across the street. The yellow one.”

If Webster’s ever needs a photo to accompany the entry for “crestfallen,” the look on this girl’s face would have been perfect. The warm fuzzies disappeared in no time flat. She and her friend decided they would hit the road if there wasn’t going to be a mini petting zoo today. Introductions weren’t made, so I never had the opportunity to tell her I’m not Amish.

But in a couple more years, when it’s time to move Mike out of his law school apartment, I’m showing up at dawn in my bib overalls and a straw hat. Gotta live up to the expectations, you know. Perhaps I’ll skip the black wool jacket if it’s August. It’ll keep the spectators guessing.

Guy No. 2