Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa



Agincourt is situated along the western edge of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, represented by Congressman Tom Latham. Latham recently voted for the Tea-Party-inspired budget resolution, which will (if signed into law) shift the shape of our future in ways that Iowans may regret. Only time will tell. I’d like to say that Fennimore county is an oddity in its part of the state—that Agincourt is more like Congressional Districts 1, 2 and 3 in eastern Iowa, each represented by a Democrat—but I know that isn’t likely.

Ten miles southeast of Agincourt lies the hamlet of Nimby, one of four rural villages, each special in its own way. Let Howard explain Nimby to you.

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Not in my backyard

There are two views of history. In one, the past is complete and the future will be soon enough; the past cannot be allowed to influence what is yet be. In the other view, the past is incomplete, an open book of stories half-told; crying quietly, sometimes shouting, to be resolved. My sympathies lie with the latter point of view.

In the current political rhetoric, the past is being rewritten in curious ways. Historical facts are conveniently distorted or downright ignored; geography morphs to suit the situation. Critical thinking is an endangered species. In fact, there are some who say that “critical thinking” is redundant; that thinking is, by its very nature, critical. The loss of that skill bodes poorly for us all.



The Great Society

Many social programs grew from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Among them was WICAP—the Western Iowa Community Action Program—intent on bringing the benefits of a Great Society to the least, the last and the lost. I knew two young people who joined WICAP in the mid-1970s, Mick and Cindy Berringer, classmates of mine at the University of Iowa. Mick worked with home improvement programs (plumbing, insulation and the like), while Cindy used her degree in education to bring opportunity to rural children. As we hasten to abandon, deny, neutralize and scrap those programs today, I’m reminded of a conversation long ago, a tear-filled tale unworthy of the 20th century. At the risk of offending any neighbors who might have been involved, I’d like to share it with you today.

Cindy Berringer was charged with educational outreach in a six county region, part of which included a survey of children with disabilities. Lunching one day at the Koffee Kup in Agincourt, Cindy heard of a physically challenged eight-year-old—perhaps a club foot or other similar birth defect—who hadn’t enrolled in school. Cindy went out the next day to southeast Fennimore county, a few miles beyond Nimby, and drove cautiously into the family farmyard. Identification in hand, she approached the modest well-kept house, knocked on the screen door and spoke with the farm wife. No, she was told, Cindy must be mistaken. No child here matched that description. Or none hereabouts either. But thanks very much indeed for your trouble.

On the drive back to the office in Fort Dodge, Cindy made a few other calls, being careful to skirt the matter of her recent encounter. It soon became clear enough: The ——— family did includes a ham-footed child, but the ———s were members of a fundamentalist sect. Nothing involving snake handlers, mind you, but a church inclined to see physical non-conformity as a curse from God; punishment for some unspecified, unidentified infraction of the Rules. She was told to “let it be,” to let the ———s bear their shame alone, just as they bore their arms as defined and defended by the Second Amendment.

For a twenty-something in the 70s, it was as though Cindy had stepped through a time warp somewhere between Agincourt and Fort Dodge, where she might just as easily have interrupted a witch-burning, and it saddened her to tears. She and Mick nearly left the WICAP team because of what had happened that afternoon, but toughed out the last eight months of their contract, knowing at least one Iowa child was caught somewhere in the 15th century.

Under other circumstances I’d say this story was fiction, but it’s not. Some names and places are disguised, only because I do not know them. The tale is all too true and all too surely being played out again and again.

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