Yen’s Trip to Iowa

For Christmas this year, Yen made his first trip to the Midwest. He’d been to Chicago, but I think you know that doesn’t count. So to clarify: the rural Midwest. I was worried about how he’d find it – after all, it’s much different from Boston, Vegas or Saigon. But he ended up having a good time and even discovered a new food that he loves: Frog’s Eye Salad.

The weather wasn’t quite as terrible as I expected. It’s always a lot colder in the Midwest than in Boston, and I stressed a lot over whether to wear my ski jacket or just the one I usually wear here. We ended up getting lucky for the first half of the trip because it was sunny and in the mid-30s – just fine for going out and doing things. One of those activities was visiting Squaw Creek with Mom and Dad. They go there a lot looking for snow geese. We only saw one skein of them off in the distances and then a smaller group overhead while we walked. But there were a lot of other birds out enjoying the sun.

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We stared at this mass for a long time before finally agreeing that it was solid duck. All of that green isn’t grass or lilypads. It’s mallard heads. Crazy.

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This is the small group I mentioned above. You can tell snows by the color, but also by their unique call, which I won’t attempt to describe here. You’ll know it when you hear it, because it’s completely different from Canadas.

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We saw a lot of eagles, particularly immature fellows like this one. Yen lamented not having a longer lens.

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Yep, these are pelicans. They’re on their way south to Texas from North Dakota, where they summer. Once I was driving through North Dakota and came over a small hill and suddenly saw a lake covered in pelicans. It was surreal to see these shorebirds out on the prairie, but now I know that’s just where they like to go.

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We saw these guys as we drove through the Refuge. I thought they were herons until just now as I’m looking through the photos. They’re sandhill cranes, of course. See the red spots on their heads?

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We took Yen to the square in Clarinda so he could have a look around. It’s not usually quite this deserted. Remember that this was the Sunday morning before Christmas.

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He really liked all of the little town displays in the store windows.

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David and I posed in front of Santa’s house. I’m sure if I dug around a little I could find photos of each of us, very small and sitting on Santa’s lap inside.

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We also drove out by what used to be the Mental Health Institution. I’m not sure what it’s all called now – it’s a prison, a juvenile center, and I don’t know what else. I like that they’ve changed the clock face over to a claxon on the original 1885 building.

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Here’s a close up.

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Here I am in front of Grandma’s house, absolutely freezing. The temperature dropped steadily during our visit until the last day when there was only a high of 9. These numbers are all Fahrenheit, of course.

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David and my uncle needed to feed the cattle, so Yen suited up and came along to help. That’s him on the right wearing Carhart for the first time.

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Now he’s in the background making piles of corn for the cattle. David has finished up already and is putting his buckets back in the truck. I’m leaning out of the back of the truck so I don’t have to step down into the not-terribly-frozen muck.

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Well, he seems to be having a good time!

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Here they are, the cattlemen: my uncle, Yen and David.

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The cattle know exactly where their food comes from, and will even let you give them a scratch.

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And speaking of suiting up, here’s Ruby getting fairied up for Christmas.

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She didn’t last very long before it got in the way of the serious farm playing she had going on.

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