Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Place I Call "Home".

I come from a very small town in southeastern Iowa. It’s where the mighty Cedar and Iowa Rivers meet. Where the Burlington and Cedar & Northern railways once met. It’s a town called Conesville.

According to the 2010 Census, Conesville has a population of approximately 432. That’s up from the 300 or so folks who called it home during my childhood. Everyone claims to be related to one another – and that’s probably true. In 2010, 63% of the population was Latino or Hispanic. It’s a place that has attracted field workers from the Rio Grande area since I can remember. The land surrounding Conesville is lined with tomato, watermelon and bean fields.  I worked in those fields as a young girl, detasseling corn, picking watermelon, and hoeing weeds from bean fields. It was a wonderful way to live out my childhood. Working in the fields and paying softball.

It’s a place I still call “home”. It’s where I’m from and I’m very proud of the place. It was special when I was growing up providing that protective, supportive, and mentoring cocoon from which to thrive.

And while I haven’t lived in Conesville since 1982, that community continues to rally around me. Sure, it helps my dad still lives there and the “Bennett” influence on the community remains strong and vibrant since the mid 1800’s, but it’s the people. The good-hearted, never-forget-your-family, people that make this place special. I am heartened by the words of encouragement, the pictures of old friends in their “Her Fight is Our Fight” glory. Words can’t describe how good this all makes me feel. I’m NOT alone. It’s so clear to me. My battle to rid my body of cancer encompasses many folks, buoyed by prayers, memories, love, food, hats, blankets, and cards. It truly is a village of love.

There are no stop lights in Conesville and only a handful of stop signs. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention you may blow thru the town without little notice. But notice you should.

Conesville, incorporated in 1878, took its name from a fella, Beebe S. Cone (1818-1885), who owned several thousands of acres of land in the area. The earliest Bennetts – at least according to the town’s cemetery records was Henry (1855-1933) and Mary Louise (1853-1925). Now, I am not our family historian. That falls to my dad so I’m sure he can fill in tons of information I leave out, but you get the picture. We Bennetts have been around since the beginning.

I remember riding my bike with friends until it was way past dark outside. No cell phones, no worries. Total childhood freedom to roam my town. No boundaries, no restrictions. My experiences growing up in a small town have stayed with me as an adult. Even in times when I’d find myself standing in the White House – totally alone and entirely authorized to be there - I would never forget to appreciate from where I came.Just a girl from a small town in Iowa.

It is their spirit, their faith, their love and their belief that I will be OK that sustains me in the middle of the night.  Corny or not: Conesville is in my soul and its people feed my soul. I am full. #BennettStrong

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