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Hogback covered bridge near Winterset, Iowa Tom J. Bechman
WHERE’S THE FARM STORE? OK, you’ve seen one covered bridge, you’ve seen them all. It’s time to check out a farm store, right? This is the stately Hogback covered bridge near Winterset, Iowa.

Only farmers visit farm stores on vacation

Front Porch: True story — this couple passed up a chance to visit a state quilt museum to check out a farm store.

When most people plan vacations, they pick somewhere exotic, like Hawaii. Not my wife, Carla, and me. We go to Iowa — where tall corn grows. And when it comes to picking places to visit in Iowa, farm stores top the list. Isn’t that how everyone plans a vacation?

That’s how it turned out in 2020, but it’s not exactly how we planned it, either. We went to Iowa to help prepare for the Farm Progress Virtual Experience. The live Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, and Husker Harvest Days in Nebraska were canceled, so Farm Progress combined them into one huge virtual event. Check it out at

The first thing we discovered was that Iowa doesn’t always grow tall corn. Between drought and the August windstorm, some of it was short. In fact, some was flat.

Next, we discovered many covered bridges in Iowa are timber bridges with flat roofs. They have nothing on the covered bridges in Parke County, Ind. They’re still impressive, but not overly romantic. At least we didn’t think so. If you’re into chick flicks and have a good memory, you may recall the film “The Bridges of Madison County.” It was set in Madison County, Iowa. A freelance photographer strikes up a romance with a local lady, with bridges as backdrops.

A real freelance photographer told a friend of mine that he wandered rural America taking pictures for 40 years, and nothing like that ever happened to him. It’s never happened to me, either, not that I would want it to. Then again, neither of us looks like Clint Eastwood did in his heyday.

Tough choice

To get information on the bridges, we stopped in at the visitors center in Winterset, Iowa. We drove by the Iowa Quilt Museum on the town square. “You want to stop and go in?” I asked Carla.

“No, I can’t afford expensive quilts,” she said. “Let’s just check out the bridges.”

After visiting a couple of bridges highlighted on the map I picked up, we headed back toward Winterset. There it was high on a hill — a farm store we had never heard of!

“You want to check it out?” I asked.

“Sure, let’s go,” Carla replied. Her face was already lighting up.

So, we bypassed the quilt museum, left out a trek to a couple more bridges, and hightailed it to the farm store instead.

We weren’t disappointed. They had bigger quantities of goods than most farm stores here in Indiana. And my eyes lit up when I saw a huge screwdriver set — on sale, no less! It included 24 screwdrivers for $15, with a wall hanger to boot.

“You will just lose them,” Carla said.

“No, that set will last me the rest of my life,” I exclaimed.

She just smiled, or maybe it was a snicker. Anyway, I bought the set, and a can of WD-40 for good measure. You always need WD-40. Carla bought souvenirs for the grandkids.

What’s better than visiting a farm store on a trip celebrating your 35th wedding anniversary? Visiting another farm store of a brand you can’t find at home later in the trip, of course. How can you beat such excitement?!

TAGS: Farm Life
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