For Carolyn, my good friend from grad school who grew up in
Elk Horn Kimballton and whom I think of every time I see the Elk Horn exit sign on the interstate…
As many know, I grew up in rural southwest Iowa. It’s not as exciting as the greater Madison area, but it’s still home.
When I was on the track team in high school, our first meet when I was a freshman (I think – it was a long time ago) was at Elk Horn-Kimballton High School. It was cool/cold, rainy day, one of those “shoulder” days between winter and spring. The drive to Elk Horn for the track meet was a long one by our standards, maybe two hours. Most of our athletic events were closer as there were so many small schools in the area. I also seem to recall that our little school bus van had a flat tire on our way to the meet and we were concerned that we wouldn’t make it to the meet on time. Well, we got to Elk Horn and we found out that the meet had been cancelled due to weather. We drove back to Elk Horn the following week for the meet. That was my first visit to Elk Horn. I also recall going to Elk Horn for one of the first basketball games of my senior year and Coach Hutchings ripping me a new a**hole during the game – something about a lot of turnovers, poor decisions, that kinda thing. Yes, it was deserved, but I’ll still accept your sympathy.
Elk Horn, Iowa today is still a small town, very similar to my hometown of Malvern. (Contemporary Malvern is nearly twice as big as Elk Horn!) Elk Horn was founded by Danish immigrants and, along with Kimballton, makes up the largest rural Danish community outside of Denmark. With this rich Danish heritage and the desire to stand out, Elk Horn was chosen to be the home of The Museum of Danish America, which is quite an honor. The Museum will soon be the location of the “Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park.” There’s a link back to Madison and Wisconsin with Jens Jensen. While Jensen is best known for his work as a landscape architect with Chicago’s park system, he also designed the “Wheeler Council Ring” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Arboretum for his grandson Kenneth Wheeler who died shortly after graduating from UW-Madison. The Wheeler Council Ring is located in the Wingra Savanna Oak area, just off of Monroe Street. After working many years in Chicago, Jensen retired to Ellison Bay, Wisconsin where he established The Clearing, his “school of the soil.”
When you visit Elk Horn, the Museum is there as you enter town. But, what you’ll first see is the beautiful Danish Windmill. My pictures don’t do it justice, as it is truly an impressive site to behold. Originally built in Denmark in 1848, the windmill “immigrated” to Elk Horn in 1976. It’s an imposing figure on the nearly flat land of west central Iowa. I hope that you’ll enjoy this gallery and consider a side trip off of Interstate 80 when you might be traveling through Iowa.
43 N MSN signing off…