Talking turkey

If you’re feeding a huge crowd for Thanksgiving this year, you better get out and find your large turkey today, if you haven’t already.

Because of the bird flu, large birds are going to be scarce. You may have to settle for two 12-pound birds instead of your usual 24-pounder. Iowa is one of the top five turkey producers in the United States, and the avian flu hit us hard. This also means that a turkey is going to cost you more, but what doesn’t anymore.

One of the most creative ways to get a couple of toms for Thanksgiving would be to hang around a governor’s mansion when the tradition of pardoning a pair of birds is a general spectacle prior to Thanksgiving. Once the birds are pardoned – grab one. Hey, it’s free! Right? Freed, free: What’s the difference?

On my daily walk last week, I spotted a wild turkey running through the Tai Dam Village Festival parking lot. If I were faster, I might have caught it. However, to chase that bird I would have been trespassing. I respect the Tai Dam people and the land they acquired, which reminds them of the land they left behind in southeast Asia.

However, we don’t need a turkey. We haven’t eaten turkey in this house for close to twenty years. We don’t eat turkey for various individual reasons. My personal view is that I think turkey tastes like “sacks of wet cement.”

So, enjoy your green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes with gravy. We will have some of those Thanksgiving treats, but our latest tradition has been chicken marsala. I’m not sure what we’re going to have this year, but it won’t be turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving from Fawkes-Lee & Ryan!

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Why I dislike constitutional amendments: Part II

This is the second part of a series about the reasons why I object to most amendments to Iowa’s Constitution. The series begins with the most recently approved amendments and ends with my first opportunity to vote for or against a constitutional amendment in Iowa. The previous post on this subject can be found here.

 Dueling (approved by Iowa voters in 1992) Art. I, § 5

1989 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1992 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

In the general election of 1992, Iowa voters approved this measure that repealed section five of article one of the Iowa Constitution. Section five of the Constitution prohibited an otherwise qualified candidate from running for office if that person had been a party to a duel.

The late Representative Clay Spear (D-Wever) spearheaded (no pun intended) this amendment through the legislative process from beginning to end. Rep. Spear claimed that the provision was archaic and no longer necessary as a part of our constitution. I recall voting “NO” on my ballot. My specific objection was the fear of having other original amendments repealed.  There was a sense that dueling may be in style again sometime in the future. Really! I do remember thinking that. Little did I know that a law would be enacted in 2017 called “Stand your ground” in which the outcome is closely related to what a duel may have been two hundred years ago.

  • A person is justified in the use of reasonable force when the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend oneself or another from any actual or imminent use of unlawful force.
  • A person who reasonably believes that a forcible felony is being or will imminently be perpetrated is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, against the perpetrator or perpetrators to prevent or terminate the perpetration of that felony
  • A person who is justified in using reasonable force against an aggressor in defense of oneself, another person, or property pursuant to section 704.4 is immune from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred by the aggressor pursuant to the application of reasonable force

Iowa Code Chapter 704.

I don’t believe that a person involved in dueling or standing ground (according to IA Code Chapter 704) should be eligible to be a qualified candidate for office.

Election and term; Governor and lieutenant governor elected jointly – returns of elections; Election by general assembly in case of tie – succession by lieutenant governor; Contested elections (approved by Iowa voters in 1988) Art. IV, §§ 18

1986 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1988 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

AND,

Terms – compensation; Duties of lieutenant governor; Succession to office of governor and lieutenant governor (approved by Iowa voters in 1988) Art. IV, §§ 18

1986 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1988 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

These two amendments were presented to voters on the 1988 general election ballot but were considered separately. The first listed above was known as Amendment 1. The subsequent proposal was Amendment 2.

Prior to the enactment of Amendment 1, Iowa’s lieutenant governor served as the presiding officer in the Iowa Senate, much like the Vice President of the United States serves as the presiding officer in the U.S. Senate. There is a difference, however. Before the enactment of the amendment, the lieutenant governor was elected separately by popular vote. The lieutenant governor could be associated with a minority party, or virtually, no party at all, giving one person without ties to either the governor or Senate, the power to determine legislation with just one vote.

The constitutional amendment allowed voters to select “the governor and lieutenant governor as if these two offices were one and the same.” One vote cast for the governor also was a vote for the candidate running as the governor’s selection to run as his or her successor.

This amendment also changed the term of the governor and lieutenant governor from two years to four years. A final action by the amendment added constitutional language that became highly controversial in 2017. The amendment provided that if the governor was unable to assume the duties of the office of governor for the ensuing term, the powers and duties shall devolve to the nominee for lieutenant governor. The word “devolve,” which means “to pass on (something, such as responsibility, rights, or powers) from one person or entity to another,” was the center of a legal opinion issued by the Iowa attorney general. Because of that word, Governor Reynolds could not appoint a lieutenant governor until her successor was chosen because she simultaneously was serving as governor and lieutenant governor.

A feeble attempt to rectify this problem may be brought before Iowa voters in the near future.

Amendment 1 was approved by two-thirds of Iowa voters.

Amendment 2 was more controversial at the time of enactment. Amendment 2 eliminated the practice of the lieutenant governor serving as the president of the senate. Under this amendment, the Senate would select its own presiding officer from its ranks. The amendment also changed the duties of the lieutenant governor by allowing for those duties to be “provided by law and assigned by the governor.”

The amendment established a definitive chain of succession if the governor and the lieutenant “shall by reason of death, impeachment, resignation, removal from office, or other disability become incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor, the president of the senate shall act as governor until the vacancy is filled or the disability removed; and if the president of the senate, for any of the above causes, shall be incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor the same shall devolve upon the speaker of the house of representatives; and if the speaker of the house of representatives, for any of the above causes, shall be incapable of performing the duties of the office of governor, the justices of the supreme court shall convene the general assembly by proclamation and the general assembly shall organize by the election of a president by the senate and a speaker by the house of representatives. The general assembly shall thereupon immediately proceed to the election of a governor and lieutenant governor in joint convention.”

Surprisingly, this amendment was approved by voters on the same ballot as Amendment 1 in the closest ballot vote in Iowa history: 50.01% to 49.99%.

I have no recollection of how I voted on either amendment.

 Time laws to take effect (approved by Iowa voters in 1986) Art. III, § 26

1984 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1985 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

 This amendment was one of the simplest enacted. It changed the date of the enactment of a law from July 4th to July 1st and eliminated the requirement that a law passed of “immediate importance” could not take effect until “publication in newspapers in the State.”

Without researching much further, I can only assume that newspaper owners, journalists, and a few people who oppose everything (no, I am not that person), were the only ones in opposition.

 

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Why I dislike constitutional amendments

There have been seventeen amendments to the Iowa Constitution since I have been able to vote. There is one pending, and three proposals have passed the first of two successive general assemblies, which is required before qualified Iowa voters approve or disprove them.

Although I cannot remember how many of those amendments I have voted for, and how many against, in recent years I have voted “no” on most of them. It’s not because I’m a negative person, it’s because there is a legitimate reason to reject them. A proposal to amend Iowa’s Constitution, guaranteeing the right to bear arms will be on the ballot this November. At the end of this series, I will comment about my objection or support of that proposal.

This is the first part of a series about the reasons why I object to most amendments to Iowa’s Constitution. The series begins with the most recently approved amendments and ends with my first opportunity to approve or disprove a constitutional amendment in Iowa.

Natural resources (approved by Iowa voters in 2010) Art. VII, § 10

2008 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrat

2009 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

I objected to the constitutional amendment that created a “natural resources and outdoor recreation trust fund.” The constitutional provision was to be funded by appropriations passed by the legislature. As suspected, the appropriations have never been made, rendering the constitutional amendment virtually useless. But that’s not the reason I objected to it. It’s a sales tax, the most regressive tax of all, which always burdens the least of our society.

Disqualified persons (approved by Iowa voters in 2008) Art. II, § 5

2006 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Republicans

2007 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

Like the Natural Resources amendment, this constitutional change had good intentions. This amendment repealed the language that disqualified certain persons from voting. However, in correcting the amendment, it didn’t go far enough. The old language disqualified any “idiot, or insane person, or person convicted of any infamous crime” from voting. The new language eliminated the idiot and insane person and incorporated a “person adjudged mentally incompetent.” The new amendment kept the restriction on a person who has been “convicted of any infamous crime.”

My opposition to this amendment was the fact that legislators didn’t have the courage to eliminate the ‘infamous crime’ provision.

When indictment necessary – grand jury (approved by Iowa voters in 1998) Art. I, § 11

1996 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Republicans

1997 Leadership = Senate – Republicans: House – Republicans

This amendment changed two aspects of criminal law. First, it eliminated the requirement that a simple misdemeanor fine be limited to one-hundred dollars. Next, it deleted “justice of the peace’ and replaced it with ‘an officer authorized by law.’ The language for the amendment was introduced at the request of the Iowa Attorney General. He had claimed that one-hundred dollars meant little in terms of deterrence today; that it was a lot of money in 1857 when the constitution was adopted, but that most Iowans could be dissuaded from committing simple misdemeanors if the fine were set by law instead of cemented in the constitution.

Jesus said the “the poor you will always have with you.” Mark (14:7). Evidently, that biblical statement did not resonate with the state’s AG. Most Iowans facing misdemeanor fines in 1998 were living well below the poverty level, and that has not changed. But, in a turn of decency, the AG did make sure that the fine would be set by the legislature, hoping that the minimum would be one-hundred dollars. Today, the fine for a misdemeanor is “at least one hundred five dollars but not to exceed eight hundred fifty-five dollars.” Iowa Code § 903.1(1)(a).

Depending upon where the judge is located in Iowa, a defendant will be fined anywhere from less than the minimum (but charged court costs or fees) to the maximum. Either way, defendants are more than likely to not have resources to pay fines. In the past five years, court debt has increased by at least $200,000,00. Unpaid fines, fees, etc. are increasing at an exponential rate yearly. Also, the state has utilized the questionable ethical efforts of a Texas law firm to go after these unpaid costs.

I voted against it.

Rights of persons (approved by Iowa voters in 1998) Art. I, § 1

1995 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Republicans

1997 Leadership = Senate – Republicans: House – Republicans

I voted for this amendment. It did one particularly important thing. It added “and women” to the Rights of persons section in the first article of the Iowa Constitution. “All men and women are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights – among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”

There is little case law on this section of the Iowa Constitution. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been addressed. “It is well-established that the protections of Iowa’s inalienable rights clause are not absolute.” Atwood v. Vilsack, IA S.Ct. (Dec. 29, 2006)See Gacke, 684 N.W.2d at 176. Does that mean that adding “and women” to the Iowa Constitution was meaningless? No, but the Court has side-stepped this constitutional guarantee for decades.

Fish and wildlife protection funds (approved by Iowa voters in 1996) Art. VII, § 9

1993 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Republicans

1995 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Republicans

The amendment of 1996 is self-explanatory.

All revenue derived from state license fees for hunting, fishing, and trapping, and all state funds appropriated for, and federal or private funds received by the state for, the regulation or advancement of hunting, fishing, or trapping, or the protection, propagation, restoration, management, or harvest of fish or wildlife, shall be used exclusively for the performance and administration of activities related to those purposes.

I’m sure I voted for this amendment. I see no concerns or objections. It is only right that money collected in the course of fees, licensing, and grants for fish and wildlife be appropriated to support those activities.

* * *

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Field of pipe dreams

Goosy, a friend of mine who is a technological hermit living in California (his technology is limited to a television and land-line telephone), knows that I’m a huge Royals baseball fan. He calls me on a regular basis to see how I’m doing. He asked if I was going to watch the big baseball game in Iowa, referring to the Field of Dreams game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. He was shocked when I told him I didn’t watch last year, and I wouldn’t be watching this year.

“I am not a Cubs fan nor a Reds fan,” I told him. “And there are so many other problems with this corny promotion that it has literally become a field of ‘dreams.’”

In a politically timed effort, two days before the big game, Iowa Governor Reynolds handed $12.5 million dollars to the city of Dyersville to build a stadium near the original Field of Dreams site. The project has already received $11 million in state money earlier this year to connect water and sewer infrastructure from the City of Dyersville to the movie site. The money for all projects came from the American Rescue Plan, a federal law intended to “provide emergency grants, lending, and investment to hard-hit small businesses.” The intent of the American Rescue Plan was saving small businesses. Building a major league stadium in a rural, isolated area is anything but small.

So, why build a stadium in a corn field where one already exists? The current site has a capacity for 8,000 fans, the proposed permanent stadium will seat 3,000, which can expand to 8,000 if another major league game is played there. If two major league baseball games have successfully been played there, why build a new one?

The city administrator of Dyersville, Mick Michel, was quoted as saying that the grant “allows for development opportunities like a hotel and a permanent MLB stadium, along with a future convention center and other opportunities to service the needs at that site.” That’s a pretty big dream he’s having about the future. The big question about expansion is: “If they build it, will they come?”

Several opinions from experts say the area cannot support this project. The city of 4,100 is not in a position to provide enough restaurants, hotels, and other support businesses for a project of this magnitude. Considering the low unemployment rate of Dubuque County, Iowa, 2.2% as of May 2022, a commonsense check will indicate that area businesses will not have a strong cache of potential employees to work in the low-wage food, hotel, and related businesses.

Another potential problem is future funding. Ninety percent of the funding for the stadium will come from various public funds, aka taxpayer revenue. Michel and other economic development entities in the northwest part of the state believe that if a stadium is built, it will encourage additional private investment in the project. It’s just a theory; there is no data to support the enthusiasm. A hotel on the site will surely expect to be built using whatever public funds are available, including the use of tax increment financing [TIF], a heavily abused development option that delays a developer’s property tax responsibility into the future, far beyond the property’s prime tax rates, usually ten to twenty years or more.

Travel Dubuque, a tourist information center, estimates the grant proposal will create eighty-one jobs. There is no information on whether those jobs are seasonal or permanent. Baseball is not a year-round business. Will employees be able to collect unemployment benefits from November through March when the ground is too wet, frozen, or snowy to work on? Probably not, this isn’t heaven; it’s Iowa.

A severe problem with this permanent project is its damage to the environment. Dan Evans, the COO of the group that now owns the Field of Dreams site, said that the group is “deeply committed to preserving the romantic experience of the Field of Dreams, including the views, the baseball diamond, the farmhouse, and the cornfields. Those images will never change.” Planting corn on the same ground year after year is not being the best steward of Iowa farmland. In a Des Moines Register article, it was noted that nutrients are necessary to keep the corn tall and green. Nutrients, also known as chemicals, leach into the streams and groundwater that Iowans rely upon for survival. If Ray Kinsella saw ghosts coming out of the cornfield, he would have rotated his corn with hemp.

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Life is a Bowl of Cherries

The Candy Kitchen was on the corner of Main Street and Broadway in Denison, right next to the Ritz Theater, which is now the Donna Reed Center and Heritage Museum. It had an entry to the theater lobby in the rear of the store. Large curved windows displayed the numerous varieties of candy, from licorice (red and black) to hard candy and everything in between. But the thing I remember most about the Candy Kitchen was cherry phosphates.

Many of my friends would go for a malt or shake, or even a chocolate soda, but my preference was always the cherry phosphate. It’s not something you can get in a can or bottle; it has to be made immediately in front of you. Unfortunately, there are very few places anymore where you can order one. However, I know I can get one at Bauder’s Pharmacy on Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines. And, if I want to travel to Denison, I can get one at the same location where the Candy Kitchen was located, The Bake Shop and Hollywood Café. There are eight more locations in Iowa listed on a site called Only in Your State. However, I have made my own for several years now.

I used to mix six ounces of club soda with eight ounces of Old Orchard Diet Cherry Juice. I quit using club soda because soda is derived from sodium. Today, I use seltzer water. It’s not the same, but I kid myself that it is. I’m the only one who knows the difference.

Grace Lindberg opened up a small café in Vail called Grace’s Drive-In. It wasn’t a drive-in whatsoever, but the food was good, and she had a soda fountain. Whenever I could afford it, I sat on a stool by myself and savored every drop of a cherry phosphate. It was always in the afternoon, once the farmers had emptied the booths, tables, and counter to get back into the fields or wherever they go after lunch. I didn’t want to take up a seat drinking a fountain drink when hungry ag workers needed a place to sit while indulging in a hot beef sandwich. For those of you not familiar with a hot beef sandwich, let me first tell you that I have heard over the years that it is “a heart attack on a plate.” A piece of white bread is laid on a plate. It is topped with several ounces of roast beef and another slice of white bread. The sandwich is cut diagonally, and a huge scoop of mashed potatoes is plopped down in the middle. The entire plate is then smothered in gravy. It’s delicious!

Back to the cherry phosphate. Cherry is my favorite flavor. When I was a kid, I sat in George Powers’ cherry trees for a long time eating the cherries right off the limb. He would come out of the house and yell at me. I didn’t move. Neither did he. Smith Brothers’ cherry flavored cough drops cured me of any cough I had during grade school. Of course, not until the box was empty.

Stephanie and I took road trips back before we were married (and a few after). On a trip to western Iowa, we found Small’s Fruit Farm, a few miles east of Mondamin, on the bottom of Loess Hills. We purchased a few quarts of cherry cider. It wasn’t long after that we went back to buy several gallons of cherry cider for our wedding, and a few quarts of apple cider. I couldn’t believe that I lived not that far from it for forty years and the only thing I knew about it was that a Small’s Fruit Farm truck was often parked outside of Clete’s Open Market on the east end of Denison (a few businesses down from the Tipsy Pine). I stopped at Clete’s once in a while but knew nothing of Small’s. Clete had Pearl Beer for a buck a six-pack.

Today, everything has to blended with something else. Pomegranate/banana, wild berry/lemon, passion fruit/orange lemonade, if you can imagine it, it must be available. Take me back to the time when flavors were simple, like cherry. I don’t want vanilla in it; I don’t want apple in it; I just want cherry. By the way, the cherry juice I buy has apple juice as the ingredient listed after water. Whatever!

 

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Jambalaya

Joseph Charles Ryan 1957-2022

My baby brother died. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

The eldest should always go first. In our family, the eldest are still living, while the last four have gone to wherever little brothers go.

Joe asked if I was going to write about him like I did our brother John when he died. I promised I would if I were still alive. I didn’t expect this so soon.

Joe passed away on June 22, 2022. I am keeping my promise. It’s become more difficult to write than I could have imagined.

In the past few years, Joe and I had many phone conversations. We reminisced and laughed at some of the unbelievable things we did as adolescents, young adults, and even silly little kids. Joe had a better memory of what it was like in the Ryan house during the 1960s. When he shared his experiences with me about the so-called Ryan house of the 1970s, the guilt of leaving him behind was overpowering.

Joe didn’t have a particularly good childhood. Being the youngest Ryan, he was subjected to living at home with an alcoholic mother and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. Bob, our half-brother who was the first to pass away at the age of 30, was several years younger than Joe. When the stepfather came home with candy, he gave it to Bob and ignored Joe. If Bob would share, which he did often, Joe would be punished if the stepfather found out. Down to the basement furnace room. The furnace room must be the modern-day woodshed.

Joe’s love of music began when, as a young teenager, he received a guitar for Christmas. He knew nothing about it, and it wasn’t a toy. I don’t know if he asked for it, but it was a particularly good acoustic guitar. I spent time with him showing him a few chords, about six or seven simple chords, and began with an easy song, Jambalaya. After a few years, he told me that some of the first songs he learned were Puff, The Magic Dragon, which he played with a couple other boys in Vail who had guitars, and Tequila Sunrise. Virtually, that was their playlist. They played, and small children listened, and loved it!

Joe ended up in Southern California where he founded no fewer than fifteen bands. His guitar playing had gone far beyond Jambalaya and entered the era of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Perhaps his best musical talent was the harmonica. We had a family reunion in Carroll, Iowa, several years ago (the last time he was back) and he entertained the crowd with his musical talents. He even took requests. As they say in Vail, “a good time was had by all.”

Our father was a beautiful Irish tenor who played the piano with grace (and many people told us kids that he used every key). Joe was barely two months old when our dad died. For most of his life, Joe wanted to be like the father he never knew. He tried to emulate Dad as much as possible. Joe didn’t have Dad’s rich Irish tenor, but he could hold a note.

Almost everyone in Vail had a nickname and Joe was certainly no exception. Joe’s nickname evolved over the years from the original faux moniker Bony Moronie, which our brother Kevin (Cub) first called him because of Joe’s slender frame, to Boney, and eventually to “Bones.” The last band he co-founded was named Cisco Bones. The other co-founder’s name was Cisco.

Joe was a Deadhead, and the playlist for all of his bands included music from The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Tom Petty.

Our mother was a good cook, and Joe and I picked up a lot of her tips, recipes, and her knack of being able to make just about anything out of nothing. When we talked, one of us would always bring into the conversation a recipe we had tried. Both of us were inspired by Italian food. I credit that to growing up with Chef Boyardee as our limited choice for Italian cuisine. Mom didn’t like Italian food, or, it was too expensive, or both. We’ll never know.

Joe never forgot some of the flavors of the Midwest he left decades ago. He would ask for a care package, often. It would have to include Twin Bing candy bars, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, and Denison Mustard. He grew many of his vegetables in his garden. He would send photos, many of them displaying a healthy and weedless abundance of flowers and vegetables. He made my garden look like an overgrown vacant lot.

Joe had three children. Jacob, Megan, and Jordon. Jordan, only in his twenties, unexpectedly passed away from hypertension on January 2, 2018. Joe took it hard. Extremely hard. He talked to me a lot about his loss. “No parent should bury their child.” I’ve heard it many times, and I’ve witnessed it far too many times. It’s the unnatural order of things. And let me add that baby brothers should not die before his siblings.

It took so long to write this. Sorrow was one impediment; the vast amount of what to write and what to eliminate was the other. I realize that I can always write a sequel.

Within the past year, Joe told me that he still remembers all the words to Jambalaya. “And the chords?” I asked. “Definitely!”

In my little brother’s memory, I am going to restring my forty-five-year-old guitar, get it tuned, and see if I can remember those chords I taught Joe decades ago.

The first line of Jambalaya is “Goodbye, Joe . . .”

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