Here: Pigeon Creek, Iowa

And yet somehow, in the breathless quiet of this sterile creek, something does remain. Something worth returning for.

Pigeon Creek, Iowa. PATRICK MAINELLI

Pigeon Creek, Iowa. PATRICK MAINELLI


Pigeon Creek is a generous name for a ditch. Though it is born upstream as a few thread- thin brooks filtered through floury loess soil, leaking out along the hills of Iowa’s western profile, after flowing barely a mile out of the ground it has, with clinical certainty, been channelized into banks so straight and high it’s as if the fist of God himself had directly plotted them onto a map of the world. How exactly these modest headwaters look—whatever moss, whatever flower grows there—I cannot know, private property that it is. All I know is that in short order those errant seeps will be corralled and cordoned into this narrow lane and hurried rigidly between the corn and soy livelihoods of the few dozen families who have planted here for generations.

For others—the semi drivers, the exurban commuters and those of us inclined to take the scenic route home—Pigeon Creek is just one of so many trenches we’ll see stitched together across Ag country. In fact, in the humid light of barely morning, pushing 70 across Old Lincoln Highway, I can follow the blunt edges of the creek’s rim for several miles with scarcely a turn of my head.


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