Way Down in Iowa

Way-Down-in-Iowa-sheet-music“I’m gonna hide away on a little farm in Iowa.” The words sang out to me from the aging, yellowed paper I held in my hand. I first had felt drawn to the pale pink flowers and cozy cottage on the front cover of the sheet music I’d found in a bin at an antique store in Plover, Wisconsin. It was fall of 1987 and I already knew that I would be moving to Iowa the following June.

Iowa was to be my next adventure. By June I would be quitting my job as an agriculture news reporter in Wisconsin, getting married, moving to Iowa, and starting graduate school at Iowa State University. So given the song’s title, “Way Down in Iowa I’m Going to Hide Away,” I had to retrieve the music from the bin for closer inspection.

A lively little song about going home to Iowa, it was copyrighted in 1916. The lyrics were written by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young, and the music by George W. Meyer. Although the original price was 16 cents, I didn’t mind paying the dollar the antique dealer demanded to have it for my own.

I took the vintage sheet music home, framed it, and hung it on my apartment wall — an icon for my future. In June of 1988 it traveled with me and my new husband to Iowa, where it adorned the walls of two apartments and one old farmhouse that we rented during the early years of our marriage. (Yes, I actually did hide away on a little farm in Iowa.) For the past 20 years it has been on display in our own little house in an Iowa town on the prairie.

My original plan was to live in Iowa for two years, only until I completed grad school. But then I got a fulltime job at Iowa State. And I really liked it. For more than 26 years now. It seems I’ve taken that old song to heart. As the chorus says, “I’ll never leave, I’ll take an oath, I’ll hide away, way down in Iowa.”

Laura Sternweis

P.S. You can listen to “Way Down in Iowa I’m Going to Hide Away,” on YouTube.

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