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Leaving so soon?


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We drove up to northeast Iowa recently, and the fields were full of combines and grain carts headed back and forth, round after round. The highways, however, were full of recreational vehicles and travel trailers, all headed south.

Oh, great. While the farmers haul their corn and soybeans to town, the snowbirds are already hauling their spending cash to Arizona or Texas.

Folks, it’s only October. Don’t you want to see the pretty leaves? Carve a pumpkin? Enjoy those lovable scamps in their adorable Halloween costumes as they celebrate the annual tribute to Satan?

To be brutally frank, can’t you stick around to spend some money during the Christmas shopping season? We’re trying to survive here, you know.

We’re ready to start charging the legislators rent for their desks at the state Capitol, and there’s talk of a value-subtracted tax on every conversation about the Hawkeyes’ bowl prospects. Our last hopes for finding a forgotten stash were dashed when a special commission opened the secret panels at Terrace Hill and found nothing but a risque letter to Herschel Loveless and Bob Ray’s baseball card collection.

In the meantime, the snowbirds are flocking to the lower latitudes, shortening their lives with excessive solar radiation and getting fat from the lack of shivering. Idiots.

Imagine the economy Iowa could have if it didn’t have winter. Think of the river of retail activity if everyone stayed here year around, buying bread, milk, holiday sweaters, movie tickets and gasoline.

But no. They would rather go south and complain about the heat or the fire ants or whatever people complain about down there, than stay here and help us complain about the cold.

It’s easy to spend 95 percent of your time indoors, you know, and there’s lots to do. The tile in the shower stall won’t clean itself, and Wii golf is actually much better than the outdoor version – you never have to look for a lost ball.

In the old days (which really should be called the young days; civilization is getting older every minute, and kind of grumpy), Iowans didn’t grab their wallets and head south as soon as the furnaces kicked in.

In memory, it almost seems as if they didn’t complain as much about winter weather before some genius came up with the wind-chill factor. Of course, there’s no way to prove that. Historians should have left a reel-to-reel tape recorder running in every household, but it’s too late now. And it’s tough to lip-read Polaroids.

Complain or not, most of those Iowans couldn’t conceive of spending money to rent or buy a place to live down south when they had a perfectly good house right here.

They were a hardy, practical people who managed to survive without Thinsulate, Gore-Tex or, in some cases, decent insulation in their houses. Although they could have used an occasional Caribbean cruise, they thought of big ships only as tools for invading Europe.

Now we have many amazing technological advances – cable TV, video games, microwave popcorn – that reduce winter to a minor inconvenience.

If it weren’t for the ice-covered roadways, dangerous snowdrifts and life-threatening blizzards, winter in Iowa would be almost exactly like winter in Sarasota, except for the frigid temperatures, bare trees and gray skies.

Plus, it’s a bargain. Here’s a quote from a 2005 article about property taxes in Florida:

“Unlike permanent residents, who are protected from tax increases by the Save Our Homes constitutional amendment, snowbirds are completely exposed,” the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported. “As the expense of owning a vacation home increases, many snowbirds are questioning their annual flight south.”

See? They’re taking advantage of you down there. Up here, we’re friendly and familiar and accepting – and we really, really admire the way you handle that credit card.

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