Friday, December 16, 2011

Do All Dog-Owners in Iowa Hunt?

Earlier this week, Professor Stephen Bloom of the University of Iowa wrote a piece for The Atlantic about having lived in Iowa for the past two decades.  He talked about the whole caucus process and made lots of generalized assertions about our state's backwards, crazy ways.  Many Iowans were upset by his characterizations. 

I wasn't nearly as offended as others by his descriptions of life in Iowa, though I really didn't recognize the Iowa City that Bloom lives in.  Which is especially weird since he apparently lives fairly close to me.  For example, I almost never hear anyone call younger boys "Bud".  We have a "mudroom" (AKA front porch), but I've been to enough homes around here to question the assertion that "almost every Iowa home" has one.  I see lots and lots of cars around here.  I've never heard of a Red Waldorf cake.  And I've lived enough other places in the Midwest to know that words like "pop", "parking ramps", "suckers", and "sacks" are hardly Iowa inventions.  There's a bunch of others stuff in his piece, but none of it upsets me as much as it seems to upset others around here.

Except...

I completely don't recognize Professor Bloom's experiences as either a dog-walker or a dog-owner in either Iowa or Iowa City.  Check this section out:
For our son's eighth birthday, we wanted to get him a dog. Every boy needs a dog, my wife and I agreed, and off we went to an Iowa breeding farm to pick out an eight-week-old puppy that, when we knelt to pet her, wouldn't stop licking us. We chose a yellow Lab because they like kids, have pleasant dispositions, and I was particularly fond of her caramel-color coat. Labs don't generally bite people, although they do like to chew on shoes, hats, and sofa legs. Hannah was Marley before Marley.

Our son, of course, got tired of Hannah after a couple of months, and to whom did the daily obligation of walking the dog fall?

That's right. To me.

And here's the point: I can't tell you how often over the years I'd be walking Hannah in our neighborhood and someone in a pickup would pull over and shout some variation of the following:

"Bet she hunts well."

"Do much hunting with the bitch?"

"Where you hunt her?"

To me, it summed up Iowa. You'd never get a dog because you might just want to walk with the dog or to throw a ball for her to fetch. No, that's not a reason to own a dog in Iowa. You get a dog to track and bag animals that you want to stuff, mount, or eat.

That's the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.
According to Adam Sullivan of The Daily Iowan Live, Professor Bloom lives really close to my family.  I walk my dogs a lot in our neighborhood.  Additionally, our dogs regularly visit the dog parks except this time of year when it's fricking cold outside.  I'm not saying that people don't stop and ask us about our dogs, but I've never ever had anyone ask us if we hunt (with or without our dogs) or assume that we hunt.  Never.  Usually, people tell us how attractive our dogs are or they might ask where we got our dogs or they just want to use the dogs to sidestep into an unrelated discussion (anything but hunting).

It makes me wonder if Professor Bloom is being completely honest about his interactions with his fellow Iowans and Iowa Citians, especially when it comes to his dog-walking.  Did he really never meet another Iowan who owned a dog for purely non-hunting purposes?  I find that nearly impossible to believe.  I suppose it's possible that people are more likely to assume that Labs are hunting dogs compared to standard poodles.  Then again, my standard poodle is pretty kick ass.  I bet he'd love the opportunity to help track down pheasants or something similar.

Iowa City isn't the sticks and Iowa overall isn't the cultural pit-stain of America.  There are certainly truths (and uncomfortable truths) in Bloom's Atlantic piece, but ultimately I believe his article says more about Bloom himself than the state of Iowa.

Now forgive me, but I've gotta run to Wal-Mart for the weekly groceries, check out some movies at the library, and then clean out the mudroom.

1 comment:

Talking With said...

Here’s our show about Bloom’s article:

“Yale talks with four native Iowans about the depiction of them and the state they call home in Stephen Bloom’s scathing and controversial article in The Atlantic Monthly, his motives for publishing it, the response its generated across the state, and its national implications with regards to Iowa’s first in the nation voting status.”

http://patv.tv/blog/2011/12/18/talking-with-stephen-blooms-observations-oniowa/