National Geographic : 1939 Aug
IOWA, ABIDING PLACE OF PLENTY and more seed from hybrid corn, the re sult of crossing the best strains in isolated fields. No attempt is made to perpetuate this hybrid corn beyond the first season; a fresh supply is grown each year by commer cial seed companies using methods devel oped on State College experimental farms. Its merits are that it is drought- and blight resistant, and that it greatly increases acre production. Yields of 90 bushels to the acre-about double the amount from ordi nary seed-are not unusual; and J. H. Greiner of Keota won the Des Moines Register and Tribune cup in 1938 by grow ing an average of 135.18 bushels to the acre on a 10-acre tract (page 145). MORE CORN ON FEWER ACRES In fields where the hybrid seed is grown, alternate rows of the chosen varieties are planted. As soon as the tassels appear, all those on plants of one kind are pulled off, those of the other sort permitted to develop. The pollen from the undisturbed tassels fertilizes the silk on the ear shoots of the denuded plants, and these produce seed containing in even balance the charac teristics of both parents. What hybrid corn means to Iowa is easily understood. If for any reason a farmer must let half of a field lie idle, he can offset some of the loss by planting the other half with the more productive seed! When I was a boy in Odebolt, only the chief thoroughfares of the larger cities were paved, and small towns lost much of their farm trade in wet seasons. Well do I re member how our village streets would be cut into a jumble of wagon ruts and ridges during a January thaw and then frozen to such iron hardness that the pedestrian who wandered off a crossing felt the need of spiked boots and an alpenstock. The Iowa State Highway Commission at Ames has banished such conditions. Today Iowa has more than 102,500 miles of good highways-nearly 6,000 miles paved, about 3,000 miles graveled, and the rest graded. A Des Moines man and I motored about the entire State during several weeks fol lowing my visit to Ames. Corn planting had been delayed by heavy rains, and few farmers were at work in the fields; but fine cattle and horses were browsing in green pastures, hundreds of little pigs were scampering about, and the whole countryside held joyous promise. Most of the farmyards and feeding lots were as clear of litter as if they had been swept. While waiting to begin seeding, the owners had made everything tidy. I have seen places of far more spectacular beauty than the rolling prairie farms of Iowa, but nothing to surpass them in appearance of prosperity and contentment (Plate IV). Near the coal-mining town of Colfax, we saw two men in uniform talking to the driver of a halted automobile. "The police must have caught him speed ing," I remarked. "No," my companion replied, "he prob ably ran out of gas or had engine trouble, and those boys of the State Highway Safety Patrol are on hand to help him. There are 150 of them, all trained in a special school. If you violate a regulation, they'll warn you or report you; but they'll also give you emergency service, from supplying a gallon of gas to towing you to the nearest garage." At Newton, "the city that washes the clothes of the world," factory smoke hangs over the rich farmlands. Here F. L. May tag, a farm boy who had been a junior partner in a band cutter and self-feeder company, began in 1907 to make hand power washing machines designed by How ard Snyder. Four years later the two men introduced electric motors to operate the machines, which soon were selling through out the United States; and Mr. Maytag became the "Washing Machine King." GRINNELL TOOK GREELEY'S ADVICE It was to a New York Congregationalist minister, Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, that Horace Greeley gave the memorable advice, "Go west, young man, go west and grow up with the country." Grinnell and two friends followed instructions and in 1854 started the Iowa prairie settlement that became Grinnell. Ardent abolitionists, they main tained a station of the Underground Rail road in their log home. They set aside land for a college campus and sold building lots with the stipulation that any on which liquor should ever be sold would revert to Grinnell or his estate. Grinnell College opened its doors in 1855, and in 1859 absorbed Iowa College, which had been founded eleven years earlier at Davenport by twelve Andover Theological Seminary graduates known as the "Iowa Band." Among Grinnell alumni are the writers James Norman Hall and Ruth Suckow, and the actor Gary Cooper.