Dave Paxton

YOU CAN SORT OF get lost in the shuffle of big community celebrations, if you don’t force yourself to slow down and look, not only at the booths and the attractions and the food vendors, but talk to the people behind the booths, or operating the attractions, or serving up the pancakes and tenderloins.

You don’t really want to spend a lot of time trying to visit with food vendors, lest you get a pickle in your eye, but I guarantee they have a story to be told.

One of the reasons I like car shows so much is that once the beautiful old vehicles are parked, the owners have nothing more to do that sit and chat with whomever is ogling over their paint job, or sharing a memory from childhood about driving the same car…except that it had a huge dent in the back fender and it would only start on random Mondays.

The month of July and early August had me going to the girls state softball tournament, the Monroe County Fair and Albia’s Restoration Days celebration. I’m not a huge Iowa State Fair goer, but I will guarantee a trip to the fair for at least one day with my kids and grandkids.

I’d complain about people overload, except that at each event there are really interesting people to meet and greet and visit with. I actually met (if but for a brief moment) former University of Iowa football All-American Dallas Clark who was an NFL All-Pro with the Indianapolis Colts before retiring back to his family farm near Humboldt. His nieces were playing for Humboldt at the state tournament.

He was dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and boots, standing next to his very attractive, yet very farm looking wife. The only bling the two had were in their smiles and had I not been given a heads up by a newfound sports reporter friend from Humboldt, I would never have recognized him.

I didn’t have the time or the inclination, but my guess is that the story of his return to rural Iowa following an incredible collegiate and professional football career is just as interesting as the days he wore black and gold for Iowa and blue and white for the Colts.

I pretty much filled up my tank with mostly rural community stories at the 4-H fair and only wished I could have spent time asking questions about the lives of the 4-H Hall of Fame inductees and the people receiving awards for volunteerism, instead of merely taking their photographs and attempting to get their names spelled correctly. Behind each photograph that will appear in my Chariton and Albia newspapers concerning the fair there is an epic story begging to be told. The kid who showed his pig with a pronounced front leg limp had a story I couldn’t get to. But the courage it takes to bring your limping barrow into the ring is really something I want to know about.

At Albia’s Restoration Days celebration, the naming of winners of the juried art show came later in the afternoon, when I actually got to spend a little time visiting with artists. I am very much an art ignoramus, particularly involving mediums I’m not familiar with, or don’t really like. Art is an incredibly subjective experience and when I am enticed to buy art it is because it speaks to me at some visceral level. The art reminds me of my childhood, or something I love, which is why my home is filled with wildlife and old car art, both reprints and originals. The most prominent painting I own, however, is a picture of a little girl sitting at a piano and next to her is a dog with its paw on the piano bench. Every time I look at it, I see my daughter at our piano, with our cocker spaniel not too far away.

But Saturday, I was able to visit with Chariton artist Susan Baer, not about her art but about her daughter, who worked for me as a high school student, and her grandchildren, who live exactly 47 minutes away. My grandchildren are six minutes away, unless a train stops me.

I made my way down the row of artists to Nash Cox, also a Chariton artist. Nash Cox has a 1950 GMC pick-up truck and paints pick-ups extremely well. I have a 1951 Chevy pick-up truck, thus my house has a number of Nash Cox paintings, prints and charcoal drawings. Our conversation ranged from collecting toy trucks to the world of professional artists and how art shows like the one Albia puts on, as well as others around the state, either help or hinder an artist’s growth. It is a tug of war between needing to introduce art to the general public and giving up a day where an artist could be standing behind his easel.

It was stuff I had never thought about. It’s part of the epic story Nash Cox has to tell to us, partly through his artwork and partly through living his art.

I’VE BEEN ATTENDING attending Sunday School since I was old enough to walk and there are few times that I’m so distracted I don’t learn anything useful. Sometimes, though, I come away with a head full of stuff to think about. Such was Sunday and a study of a Christian catechism, this one dealing with idolatry. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That one. The catechism defined idolatry as anyone who worships created things rather than the Creator, but it goes beyond that in terms of honoring the creation of the human heart.

Typically people wondering about idol worship think of the golden calf or some other trinket of faith. Except that we don’t have golden calves today. We have cell phones and money and cars and things like worry and anxiety.

If you’re staring at a cell phone while your wife is trying to communicate her day’s events, you’re worshipping an idol. If you’re shining your 1957 Chevy while your grandson is asking you to fill his bike tire with air, you’re worshipping an idol. If you’re kicking yourself for not buying Apple stock when the news it hit a trillion dollars instead of sitting down at your MacBook and writing a letter to a friend, you may be worshipping an idol.

Like virtually every person on the planet, I find myself on occasion worshipping idols. But it’s actually fairly easy to divert from idol worship to Creator worship by simply thinking about the Creator or his creation…your wife, your kids, your friends and neighbors.

I’m still thinking about the conversation surrounding that lesson. It makes a person look inside to see what it is or who it is he or she is worshipping.

I’m pretty sure I want to get this right.

ANOTHER FOLLIES has come and gone and even doing it without Dan this year, it turned out pretty good.

We’re never short of compliments for those who attend. Unfortunately, the days of filling the theater’s main floor three nights is for now gone.

I’ve always taken a “Love the one you’re with” approach to any live performance. I’ve always hated sitting in church and hearing a lecture on those who aren’t there. I love and appreciate those who come.

I just think our culture is short-changing itself when it doesn’t appreciate live, locally performed musical and theater arts. I also happen to think our culture is short-changing itself when its people choose to mow lawns on Sunday morning instead of attending church.

For those of you who aren’t taking in the many wonderful live musical and theater arts events in Albia, here’s a personal invitation to the next high school play, or band concert or community theater production. You come and I’ll bet you’ll like it.

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