Iowa Stubborn by Meredith Willson

You can eat your fill
Of all the food you bring yourself
You really ought to give Iowa a try
It's fly-over country. Except once every four years, when suddenly it becomes the world's center stage as the Iowa caucuses kick off to determine the first nominations for US president; since the United States plays such a pivotal role in world politics, it can be no exaggeration to say that viewers all over the world turn their eyes to Iowa at this time. And every four years, everyone asks themselves why, exactly, a bunch of hog and corn farmers get to start off picking the leader of one of the most powerful nations on Earth?

And every four years, that question is answered with a shrug: Why not?

The residents of Iowa know different. They know that Iowa is one of the best places to raise a family, that seasons are beautiful, that low cost-of-living, low-crime, and low-pollution all combine to make this state a paradise precisely because it is no place special. They know that places like Des Moines are quite hip, with skyscrapers and broadband Internet and alternative bands and everything. They know that you can be an agricultural haven and still have the top SAT scores in the country, year in and year out. They especially know that venison tacos rock, with venison meatloaf a close second, and that if it isn't white, it isn't Christmas.

Skyline of Des Moines, Iowa's capital and largest city<br>Photo: <a href="">Tim Kiser</a>, <a href="">CC BY-SA 2.5</a>, via Wikimedia CommonsSkyline of Des Moines, Iowa's capital and largest city
Photo: Tim Kiser, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
So we have the famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical The Music Man, a Broadway musical... Hold on. That's not Rogers and Hammerstein but Meredith Willson, whose only other marked success was The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which, admit it, you've never heard of it, have you? Anyway, The Music Man is the most famous Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical not written by Rogers and Hammerstein. It collected the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1958, the first Grammy Award given for best cast album, and a smash success for the 1962 film adaptation, starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Ron Howard.

Iowa Stubborn, the second song of the musical after the brilliantly innovative (and first rap song?) "Rock Island," is the song with which the townspeople of River City greet our chief protagonist (and sympathetic villain!) Harold Hill. The song is loaded with sass and irony, and is so good at capturing the Iowan spirit, as is the movie itself, that it's still referenced to this day.

The song also mentions a number of Iowa cities, including Des Moines (capitol), Hawkeye, Clear Lake, Keokuk, Dubuque, Marshalltown, Ames, Davenport, and Mason City, which is Meredith Willson's birthplace. This list largely comprises every major city in Iowa, more or less. They really like their open spaces there.

So what's the deal with Iowans; are they really that stubborn? They do tend to be on the stoic side at least. As the song implies, they're also polite but reserved, tending to invite you as far as the front porch but not much farther. As for stubborn, consider that every time CNN conducts an online poll, the state map shows Iowa to have a glaring different color, indicating that it has the capacity to disagree with the rest of the country about practically anything at all.

But when your crop croaks, they'll give you their shirts. We're not so sure about what "and our backs to go with it" is supposed to mean, exactly, so you might want to pass on that offer.

Pete Trbovich
January 11, 2011

Comments: 1

  • A. Petlover from Illinoissouthern iowa is hell on earth if you want good tasting food and not be price gouged by the handy men and car dealer service departments and several of the pet doc vets should be barred from practice, one in ottumwa, 52501 that i would like to see in jail.
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