Importance of Natural Resources

Best of Living in Iowa 148

The Best of Living in Iowa
is funded in part by the Gilchrist Foundation,
founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the
philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in
wildlife and conservation, the arts and public
broadcasting and disaster relief. Funding for this program
was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation, generations of families and friends who
feel passionate about the programs they watch on
Iowa Public Television. Hello, this is
Morgan Halgren. For 16 seasons, Living in
Iowa told the tale of what it means to be
uniquely Iowan. Tonight we honor that
spirit by bringing you another glimpse into our
rich heritage with a few stories from our archives. In this Halloween episode
of the Best of Living in Iowa, we take a graveyard
history tour, peer deep into crop circles and
explore burial customs from our past. If you’ve ever enjoyed
Spoon River Anthology or the play Our Town, you
know how fascinating it can be to hear personal
histories told from the spirit world. Well, some Burlington
residents are dead certain that it’s also a way to
teach local history and instill civic pride. ♪♪ Neal Paslewski and
Josh Hollander study hard, like most students
at Burlington High. However, when it comes to
learning history they have an edge. That’s because Neal and
Josh have a time machine. ♪♪ Oh yeah, we do
real good in history class at school and it’s
really a lot of fun. It’s an excellent way. You’re in, you’re actually
reliving it or you bring yourself back
into that time. Neal and Josh are part of
a growing number of time travelers in the
Burlington area known as the Great River Living
History Society. While its members don’t
actually have access to a time machine, they are
capable of bringing the past to the present. Yes, I’ve been a living
historian as we call ourselves for about 9
years and I’m deeply in love with the Civil War
era, I have been since I was a child. And for me this is just
the closest you’ll ever get to actually getting to
go back in time, a time trip. Tara Harl-Odom and other
members of the Great River Living History Society
are reenactors. That is, they bring
history to life first by doing research, then by
dressing and acting like people from the past. Recently, Tara breathed
some new life into Burlington by digging
into its past and forming Candlelight Tours
Incorporated, an organization of people who
believe a walk through a cemetery after dark is
a great way to learn history. A lot of people at first
looked at me and said cemetery tour and they
kind of looked funny like what’s that? And at firs t we did have
some negative comments about who would want to
traipse around a cemetery at night? But then when we got
closer to the event last year people started
getting very excited and then once the event was
over it just sparked a wellspring of
enthusiasm in the town. This year’s candlelight
tour took place at the Sacred Heart Cemetery. There, reenactors from all
walks of life resurrected some of Burlington’s past
residents who had passed on. Some of those former
residents included Mrs. Shoe, whose husband,
an early Burlington foundry owner, died
over a wage dispute. Mr. Henry Martin, a former
employee, came into the foundry requesting pay due
for work he had done two to three weeks prior. Mr. Shoe replied he had no
funds with him but if he would call the next
morning at least part of the money would
be forthcoming. Mr. Martin grew angry at
this reply and stooped to pick up a heavy iron
ladle, raised it above his shoulders and dealt Mr.
Shoe three murderous blows to the
top of his head. Dr. Evelyn Swearingen
played the role of Mrs. Shoe. In real life she and her
husband are chiropractors in Burlington. Her husband, Dr. Tom
Swearingen, played the role of Anton Helm. Anton was a union soldier
who survived the Civil War only to be stabbed by a
friend and fellow union soldier. John said that he thought
the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee were better
soldiers than those of the Army of the Potomac. Now can you imagine
anybody would say such a thing? Well I couldn’t — When
you start doing the research to make sure the
costumes you’re wearing are correct you really
learn the history, you learn what the people
wore, what they ate, how they lived even back
during that time and it’s a very good way
to learn history. When they got to the — I
guess John finally lost control of his hot Irish
temper for he reached down into his boot, pulled out
a knife and stabbed me with it. William McKeever was a
Burlington resident who was executed in Missouri. As they put the noose
around his neck George asked for forgiveness but
the people only assumed that was his
admission of guilt. His story is told by his
wife played by Marlene Holsteen who works
in a downtown bank. When they asked me to
do this they give you obituaries from the
newspaper from the time this happened and they
gave me several articles because not only were they
not sure that he actually committed this crime but
he was very, very poor and there was not enough funds
to actually return the body so there was a big
campaign to get him buried at no cost. The money to transport the
body from Fulton, Missouri to Burlington was provided
by the sheriff who executed my husband. Maybe he too had doubts. Not every reenactment
was of a past Burlington resident who had met with
an untimely or gruesome end. Notable residents such as
Captain Roy Streckfus, an early Mississippi
riverboat captain were also portrayed. In the early days we
hauled primarily freight between the ports of St.
Paul and New Orleans. In 1917 the decision was
made to convert all of our stern wheelers into
excursion boats. Please father, may I tell
them about the music? Well of course Lily. In 1918 the — The roles
of Captain Streckfus and his daughter Lily were
played by photographer Dennis Fraise and
his daughter Laura. My daughter is in fifth
grade and studying Iowa history right now so
this has really been fun because not only do we
read it in the books but then we go out and
actually see some of the characters and things
that helped shape Iowa. On the banks of the
Mississippi with its wealth — In all, 17
reenactors brought to life 17 Burlington residents
of historic interest. On the 2 nights the event
was held, over 800 people took the tour and were
given the opportunity to become time travelers
themselves getting a spirited glimpse of
Burlington’s past. To me it’s mecca because
it’s history come alive which is just the
ultimate for me. But it is quite moving. ‘Tis the beautiful city of
Burlington, heart of the Middle West. We all know how
complicated it can get trying to root out
the truth today. Everyone has an opinion. But a situation in Nevada,
Iowa has folks divided into three distinct camps. Listen to what they’re
saying and see where you come down in this
circular argument. ♪♪ ♪♪ By the
time the spring planting season rolls around,
Iowa’s fertile fields have been turned into clean
slates, waiting for farmers and nature to
lay down the year’s new designs. But for Brett Anderson,
remnants of the past still linger and try as he might
he just can’t seem to plow them under. On a brisk October day in
1996 while combining his fields Brett came
upon three mysterious formations, a 30 foot
circle with a 2 foot wide outer ring in his beans
and two teardrop shaped formations in
corn and grass. People when I first
discovered the circles said a bunch of college
kids did it or high school kids did it. But once they saw it they
couldn’t figure out how anyone could do
it that perfect. The cause is a mystery
but there are plenty of theories, ranging from
pranksters to plasma vortices, Brett
has heard them all. Today his circles have
gained attention as part of the worldwide
phenomenon known as crop formations. I’ve had a lot of calls
from all over the United States about it, several
here just in the state of Iowa, even other farmers
here in town have told me they’ve had them and were
afraid to say anything about it because they
think people would think they were nuts or
off their rocker. Crazy or not, other Iowa
farmers have also come forward. This 55 foot circle was
reported in Arlington, Iowa. And these two were
spotted near Bedford. You might say they’re
cropping up all over and you’d be right. In fact, they are
occurring worldwide with astounding complexity. For many the simple
explanation is that it is an elaborate hoax. But there are other
schools of thought. For example, some think
the formations are an attempt by aliens to
communicate with us. This is a trace, it’s a
physical trace of some kind. Now what it’s a trace of
we’re not quite sure. And the scientific camp
claims they are the result of natural forces. There isn’t any group of
scientists that I know that could have hoaxed
the Nevada formations and about 95% of the others. The bottom line is that
it’s all a matter of opinions and just about
everyone seems to have one. In 1996 when Brett
Anderson was gathering his opinions, the only input
he received was from Beverly Trout, state
director for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network. We recognize and are
investigating the various reports that come to
us that we may not get definitive answers but we
are interested in getting the data, at least having
that, and continuing to investigate, try to learn
more about this phenomenon whatever it represents. With objectivity as her
guiding principle, Beverly approached Brett’s
circles cautiously. Leaving open the
possibility of a hoax, she took plant and soil
samples and searched for witnesses. There were some reports
from persons who live in the area of Nevada that
they had seen unusual aerial activity in the
general timeframe that those crop formations
were discovered. However, there is no way
that we can link those reports to the crop
formations themselves. There’s always the
question beyond the question. In a laboratory outside
Ann Arbor, Michigan, Dr. W.C. Levingood, an established
plant biophysiologist with over 50 published research
papers and 9 patents has thrown his hat into
the crop circle ring. After studying data from
over 200 crop formations, Dr. Levingood suggests
that we should look toward our own planet
for answers. He theorizes that a
naturally occurring event called an ion plasma
vortex is the primary cause of crop formations. It’s so very, very
complex, these energies. But we have some ideas as
to how they are formed. According to Levingood’s
theory, radiation from space and energy from the
Sun bombard the Earth’s ionosphere. These energies can
organize into something similar in shape to a
smoke ring which is then pulled through the
atmosphere by gravity. As it is pulled down, this
vortex is compressed by the Earth’s
magnetic field. Its energies intensify. It becomes more unstable
and it sprouts smaller offshoots. Finally, upon their impact
with the Earth the energy turns into a heat similar
to that of a microwave oven. Dr. Levingood theorizes
that this heat softens the nodes of the plants
causing them to collapse under their own weight
and create the pattern formations. From the recent work that
we’ve done and the two Nevada, Iowa crop
formations are right in this category, there are
some energies going on that if they get more
extensive, the farmer’s bottom line is going to
be severely affected. These seem to be very
pervasive and if they get more and more pervasive
there will be people interested, believe me. As a scientist, Dr.
Levingood is careful not to validate any theory
until all of the evidence is in. In addition to finding
these bent plant nodes in many formations, he has
come across even more peculiarities upon
closer inspection. The normal amount of
magnetic iron in soil is 0.4 milligrams
per gram of soil. We’re seeing up to 50 to
100 times that amount in these crop formations. As all the — like I say,
if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck
it must be a duck. Levingood’s only
explanation is that these deposits are from meteors. In samples from a
formation in England, this material even
coated the plants. These plants are wheat
plants and the unique thing here is the magnetic
material struck the plants in a molten form and
stuck right to it. This is very pure iron
oxide, undoubtedly from a meteorite shower. I didn’t know what this
was when I got it into the laboratory so I began
to investigate its properties. I didn’t even know
it was magnetic. I just thought, well I’ll
try it and see and wow, especially when it picked
up plant parts, I thought this is incredible, never
seen anything like it. While Levingood theorizes
that these iron deposits were brought to Earth by
plasma vortices, MUFON debates that they were
left by alien spacecraft. At the same time, the
pranksters claim that they put them there. Recently some of
these self-proclaimed performance artists
came forth on national television. Here, through time lapse
photography, a team of three men was shown
creating a formation in under 5 hours. In fact, anyone with
Internet access can learn how and why to make
their own crop circles. This site makes the
argument that all crop circle phenomenon are
created by artist tricksters whose intent is
to make people aware of the persuasive powers of
science and the media. All of this would tend to
suggest that the Nevada circles are nothing
more than a local hoax. The Nevada samples are
not a hoax, they’re not vandals. No, if you put all of the
anomalies all together, no. Now, these critics, they
will tear into all my statistically sound
results but they have no alternative ideas, they
have no rebuttal data, they have nothing and yet
they’re given as much time and credit as my seven
years of work, the blood, sweat and tears here
in the laboratory. Whether you’re persuaded
by Levingood’s logic, alien arrivals or the
testimonial of tricksters, Brett’s mystery
remains unsolved. I don’t believe anybody
made these circles. I think it’s something
beyond maybe human that did it. The sheriff’s department
inspected it and we couldn’t find any traces
of footprints in or out and the soil was soft
enough that it would have left a footprint
because we were leaving footprints. Stems like a dead tree
limb, you can just, if you go to push it over it
would snap completely off. Meanwhile, Brett goes
about his daily chores, patiently
awaiting answers. He faces the same dilemma
that we all face. You can’t shut your mind
off into one specific area. You’ve got to keep an open
mind to it or you’re not going to learn anything
from it because you’ve got to take in all sides and
then it’s up to each individual what they want
to base their opinion on. We’re often encouraged to
take a closer look at the tining remaining areas
of our natural prairie. Those who have taken the
time to do so marvel at the variety of life and
the complexity of the ecosystem that thrives
in the tall grasses. An even closer look at
some of these areas reveals the signs of human
lives and the part they played in the history
of the prairies. For a better understanding
of that history we turn to two Iowans who enjoy
concerning themselves with grave matters. ♪♪ (nature sounds) The prairie has a lot to do with feeling like
you’re in another era. To me it’s like going back
and remembering those people. In 1988, Roxana Currie
organized volunteers to remove brushy trees and
litter in order to restore a remnant of virgin
prairie in the Polk City Cemetery. While researching the
history of the cemetery she discovered the
fascinating stories of the earliest pioneers who
settled here in the mid-1800s before the
land was even for sale. There are some that don’t
understand the value of the grass. They don’t think
that it’s attractive. I think it’s beautiful. In my mind it’s almost a
memorial to those pioneers who are buried there. I’m sure that was a place
then where people stood on top of that hill and just
looked to the north and saw waving grasses as
far as they could see. Samuel Hays was one of the
first settlers to arrive here in 1846. Both he and his daughter
were believed to have died in the diphtheria
epidemic of 1855. As the Crabtree family
slowly came west they founded Methodist churches
every place they settled. Elizabeth Burt was the
first white settler to die in Madison Township. She died in 1847 and at
that time there were 6 families in Boone and
there was not one settler yet in Story County. Her husband is
buried there. By the time he died he had
buried three wives, three brothers and six children
there at the cemetery and that’s a real part of
pioneer life too, it was a very hard time. This stone is engraved
but some of the earliest graves were marked
by only plain rocks. Around 1940, an
overzealous caretaker, not realizing the significance
of the rocks, gathered many of them in a pile. The pauper’s area is at
this edge of the cemetery with graves unmarked and
overgrown with trees. To surround and protect
departed loved ones cedar trees, a symbol of eternal
life, were frequently planted on each corner
of a family plot. Her family just camped
there for a few days and the little girl died and
the town went together, bought a tombstone for the
little girl, took care of her burial and then her
family went on West. I think that’s a beautiful
story of kind of the pioneer spirit. This is my favorite stone
with the shawl draped over the top of it and a rose. The inscription at the
bottom says, I know that my redeemer lives. Roxana has developed a
guide for a walking tour of the cemetery and gives
slide presentations to community groups. Her husband tells her
she knows more about the people here than
the people in town. But for her this pioneer
cemetery not only makes history come alive, it
reveals as well the unique prairie ecosystem in
which the pioneers lived. People often ask me what
is the best time to see the prairie. The only good answer to
that question is every three weeks because it
changes through the summer. ♪♪ Rarely found in
Iowa, one of the most unusual species here is
the Prickly Pear Cactus. It blooms in June with
bright yellow blossoms. Roxana feels that you must
get out and walk through a prairie to really
appreciate its beauty, and the same goes
for a cemetery. Bill Reisman of Indianola
provides that close up view of the Woodland
Cemetery in Des Moines with an interpretation
of its symbols. This stone popular to
the turn of the century indicates the Christian
concept of resurrection and as we die the
branches are broken. But on these stones you’ll
notice usually on the right side there will be a
vine climbing the side of the tree indicating that
out of death comes new life. Many of the symbols are
traditionally from England but they are based on the
cultures of Egypt and Greece, the Roman Empire. Originally they were
carved by cabinetmakers on the East Coast. Those stones came as
ballasts on the ships from England. If you notice the top of
this particular monument you have an Egyptian urn. The bodily parts remain
here but if you notice at the top there’s a flame
indicating that the soul or spirit has
departed to heaven. Several of the large,
intricately detailed markers are actually
hollow and made of metal. These stones have a roof
symbolizing a shelter over one’s bodily remains. The Romans would bury
their children under the eaves of their houses
for eternal protection. Shakespeare indicates that
our life is nothing more than a short time of
acting on the stage and we see here the curtain
draped over the stone indicating the curtain has
finally come down in the end of life. This stone is shaped like
the Washington Monument. It is believed that at
the end of life we would actually become one with
God therefore at the pinnacle all four points
combine into one. Many of the oldest
tombstones had this common shape of biblical tablets
symbolizing a name being added to the book of life. Variations of that design
are still popular today. A lamb was often used to
symbolize the innocence of a child. The clasped hands
indicated a gesture of bidding farewell to
earthly friends and greeting God. People who wanted to be
buried most like Christ and they felt that to be
buried in seplecar or to be buried sideways into
the ground was most like their Lord and they
wanted to imitate that. Early in our country
cemeteries were parks and people would go to make
great decisions and consult their
dead relatives. The tradition of wearing
black to funerals comes from the old belief that
at death you went to the land of utter darkness. The only way to be
protected from evil spirits was to blend
in or be invisible. Some were buried kneeling
indicating a posture of humility for when
Christ returns. Some were even burned
upside down because they believe that in the Book
of Revelation that there would be great earthquakes
before Christ came again and they would be turned
right side up to meet the Lord. Witches were buried face
down with rocks on their back to make sure that
they would go to hell at the final judgment. Understanding the
symbolism of tombstones and native prairie flowers
will enhance your next visit to your
local cemetery. You might be lucky
enough to find both in a graveyard like the Hess
Prairie Cemetery west of Clinton. Its sea of native grasses
and flowers embrace the grave markers. It’s nothing like a
weed patch at all. It’s specific species of
plants and the prairie adds just incredible
visual impact to the stories of the people
that are buried there. It’s just an incredible
thing to know Elizabeth Burt’s story. When she looked out of her
cabin door this is what she saw. When her children went
out to play these are the flowers that they picked
for her to put on the table. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The Best of Living in Iowa is funded in
part by the Gilchrist Foundation, founded
by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the
philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in
wildlife and conservation, the arts and public
broadcasting and disaster relief. Funding for this program
was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation, generations of families and friends who
feel passionate about the programs they watch on
Iowa Public Television.

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