Rural Hospitality in Creston, Iowa

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Good bye, Creston, Iowa and thank you for an amazing show of midwestern hospitality this morning. This is a feel good story, so even though it’s a long post I hope you get a chance to read it. 

Not much happens here on Sunday mornings. Everything is closed. What at first promised to be a four-hour wait for a delayed train in the hot sun changed to a pleasant morning. 

Before I go on, a heartfelt thanks to George and Patti Naylor for letting me join them on their road trip back from Sioux Falls, South Dakota yesterday on our way back from NFFC's summer board meeting. I'm grateful that they welcomed me onto their farm and into their home in Churdan, Iowa last night. And, thanks to Patti for leaving at 4:45 a.m. to drive me down to Creston for what was supposed to be a 7 a.m. departure. It’s 11:20 and the train just pulled out of Creston. 

Creston used to be a major train hub. Today, mostly coal and oil trains come through. Today, Amtrak's California Zephyr stops in twice a day; once in the morning heading east, and once in the evening heading west.

What appeared to be the Amtrak station was all closed up when Patti and I got here. No way to get in and all the benches were on the sunny side of the building. After walking a few blocks in the hot sun with my luggage, I found a shady spot to sit for a bit, but knew it wasn’t going to be long before the sun took it over. I was dreading what was ahead as I’d heard it was going to reach the mid 90s by mid morning. 

I saw a gentlemen on his morning walk and asked him if he had any ideas of places where I could get out of the heat. “Not really,” he said “nothing is open on Sundays.” 

I headed to a nearby gas station. Along the way I noticed a young man drive by, look at me, kept driving, and then turned around and stopped on a patch of dirt across the street. I heard a faint “excuse me, ma’am...” but didn’t know what to expect. He went on to yell across the road “are you waiting for the Amtrak train?” 

He said he’d seen me sitting outside and when he saw me again wanted to stop to tell me where I could find the old train depot where there was a place to go inside. I was so grateful that he literally went out of his way for this act of kindness. 

The sentiment on this mural certainly came through Creston's welcoming people.

In the gas station I had a brief chat with the young woman behind the counter about the train delay, got a cup of coffee, and told her I was headed for the old depot the young man told me about. 

Within 15 minutes, the older gentleman from earlier showed up at the little oasis the young man had pointed out to me. Turns out when he got home and told his wife about our interaction she immediately said “go back and get her!” So he set out to find me. 

When I wasn’t where he’d first seen me, he went to the gas station and asked if they’d seen me. They said yes and told him where I’d headed. He and his wife opened up their home, we had a great conversation, taught me about the history of Creston and the area, gave me a jar of homemade strawberry jam, and took me back to the train depot a couple of hours later. 

The jam!

Anthony Bourdain opened up his show about West Virginia with his personal revelation that rural America isn’t the monolith we often paint it to be. He used a few curse words to express himself. I’ll keep mine clean. 

The more I travel through rural communities the more convinced I am that prejudice is implanted in our society by those who benefit from keeping us divided, apart, and at war with each other. 

I’m grateful for these opportunities for an upfront and personal experience with the humanity shown toward someone who looks nothing like everybody else who lives here. 

Thank you, Creston, for replenishing my faith in humanity.

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