Search for Iowan oddities
makes for a swine time...
but the pig had the day off
On Thursday, we resumed our westward drive through Iowa and began engaging in a favorite highway pastime – searching for quirky places using the cellphone app of RoadsideAmerica.com.
And that brought us to the town of Newton, in quest of a celebrity pig.
|Dawn Bleekman displays Joy's Wonder Woman costume.|
The pig’s name is Joy and, according to Roadside America, she has a starring role at the 1928-vintage Capitol II Theatre in the center of town. We were uncertain whether the movie house would be open on a Thursday afternoon, but decided to check it out. Unfortunately, no movie was showing and Joy was not at work – but the theater door was open, and in the lobby we met owner Dawn Bleeker who, with her husband, bought the bankrupt movie house in 2012.
Dawn has been pretty much obsessed with pigs since her childhood, and for about eight years has had Joy, an American mini-pig, as a pet. She and her husband even installed a ramp for Joy to climb into their bed to sleep with them. The pig is potty-trained, ringing a bell when she needs to go outside. And they go everywhere together, even to work. And that’s how Joy became an attraction for patrons at the Capitol, as she wandered around during shows in search of dropped popcorn.
Predictably, a movie-plot-style crisis ensued as government bureaucracy took action in the name of health and public safety. Pigs were not allowed in movie theaters. Pigs were not allowed in establishments where food (as in popcorn and candy) was being sold. But the Bleekers got a law changed on pigs as pets, and variances on health department rules, so Joy could remain a star attraction. Just not roaming the aisles.
During shows, she is in residence in the theater office where Joy’s star decorates the lobby door. And she wears outfits for occasional promotions, like her Wonder Woman costume during the run of that movie a few months ago. She even has a Facebook presence at http://www.capitol2.com/joy_s_page.
A Tree Grows in Brayton
From Newton, we set off in search of a tree pretty much in the middle of a four-way intersection (and in the middle of nowhere) in the very rural western Iowa community of Brayton. Directions are dicey, for streets with names like 750th and 350th in, as I say, the middle of nowhere. They must have run out of clever names. But there’s a sign on the roadside pointing the way to “Landmark Tree 6 Miles.”
Against Bonnie’s better judgment, I choose signage over the written directions and, after about fifteen miles of mostly dirt and rutted roads, we end up treeless and pretty much back where we started.
|This definitely beats a speed bump.|
Turned out the written directions, taking a shorter but equally dusty and gravelly route, were correct and we found the huge, century-old tree (decorated with a little graffiti), in the middle of a dirt-paved intersection (whose name signs did not entirely agree – but by then, who cared?). The tree was an oddity, and the drive an unforgettable hour of bemusement.
We overnighted in Council Bluffs, in our second of three nights in Marriott hotels… cheap or free, courtesy of our Marriott credit card and the 87,500 “points” it came with. Our first night, in Ohio, cost $55 plus 8,000 points. Council Bluffs was a Springhill Suites luxury room at 15,000 points; and our upcoming night at a Fairfield hotel in Nebraska ran just 10,000 points. The latter two included equally free buffet breakfasts.
Next chapter: Bowling in Nebraska