Category: News

Fostered on The Farm – Part 5

Nick Holman’s poignant stories recall growing up in a rural La Porte City foster home
Editor’s Note: At just six years of age, Richard “Nick” Holman, a member of the La­ Porte City High School Class of 1963, was placed in the state of Iowa foster care system with his large group of siblings. For the next twelve years, he grew up on a farm in rural La Porte City. Following a successful career in the United States Navy and working as a plant manager and long range planning for an international food company, he began writing a book about his experiences. In the Foreword, he writes, “Virtually all foster kids come from dysfunctional family environments and they absorb the bulk of the broken home fallout. The common thread they all share while in foster care is the uncertainty of what lies ahead. This uncertainty can cause them to think and act in ways others may not consider or understand. When they eventually leave the foster home, their futures will range from heartening and uplifting to unsettling and tragic. All incidents that unfold [in these stories] actually occurred during the time I and my siblings – three brothers and four sisters – were growing up in a foster home on a farm [near La Porte City in the early 1950s and 1960s]. However, some events have been slightly changed to avoid potential embarrassment for yet-living individuals. All the names [except my own] have been changed, only their ages remain the same. This is the story of a close-knit family of siblings as they struggle to stay together in extended foster care. It’s also a story of life on the farm, but a life and a farm few have ever known or experienced, even those born and raised on a farm. It’s told through my eyes but relates more than just the experiences of me and my siblings. As you’ll see, it all comes to a rapid and unexpected conclusion.”
Pretty Girl
By Nick Holman
We boys are congregating on the concrete patio outside the back door of the farmhouse, ready to go inside for noontime dinner (again, city folks call it lunch) when Mom steers the car up the driveway with the newest addition to our foster family, making it now seven boys and six girls currently in residence. She – her name turns out to be Laurie – is riding in the front passenger seat, which already sets her apart from most of us. In general, the front seat of either of the cars is reserved for Mom or Dad and we foster kids sit in the second and third row seats.
As Laurie exits the passenger side, I can almost hear seven sets of eyeballs popping out of their sockets. She’s slim, but not skinny, and has long dark hair that brushes half-way down her back. She looks to be at least 18 but apparently is only 16. It’s difficult distinguishing the color of her eyes from where I’m standing, but that isn’t important. What pours out of them is a steady, confident gaze, the look of someone who’s accustomed to having boys’ and men’s eyes focused on her. I notice the assured walk as she and Mom approach. Long legs, slightly muscular. They pause momentarily as Mom introduces her and then they continue on. If she’s at all inwardly nervous about this new environment, it doesn’t show. I, along with the other younger boys, have to stare up at her as she’s probably close to five feet six inches tall. Her lips are just slightly full, but not to the point where she looks like she’s pouting. And, as she passes, I can see what looks like a hint or flicker of a smile. Not a smile of condescension or anything like that. Rather it looks like she’s trying to be open and friendly – almost inviting. Of keen interest to me and the other guys, it looks like she can easily fill out a size B or maybe even a size C bra. By Mom’s manner I can tell she’s already concluded Laurie will be a handful and require a close watch. Unknown to us, but known to Mom, Laurie has a history – or at least a reputation – for being promiscuous, or as we boys say, “loose“, when it comes to the opposite sex. Mom’s judgmental conclusion is, therefore, reasonable in hindsight.
To understand how Laurie’s short stay at The Farm plays out requires an explanation on the dynamics of the boys and girls here. The Farm isn’t like Boys Town in Nebraska, where everyone is male. Boys Town’s only worry is keeping the guys from fighting, acting up or running away. It doesn’t have to deal with the physical attraction associated with a high level of sex hormones coursing the bodies of 12 to 18-year-old males and females. Mom and Dad do. Though girls have many of the same urges and desires as boys, in our guy-mind eyes, it’s always the boys trying to unlock the gate to hanky-panky. So, it’s no surprise that much of our conversations, outside the ear shot of Mom and Dad, deal with girls: kissing, getting to first or second base, where to go to attempt stealing a kiss outside the view of Mom and Dad, stuff like that.
So, how do Mom and Dad deal with this continual source of opposite sex attraction? We refer to it as Plan A. They split the task by gender. Mom looks after the girls by assigning chores where she can keep an eye on them, while Dad does the same with the guys. Although we boys are generally the mischief makers, we’re easier to watch. During spring, summer and fall there’s always field work for the older boys, those most prone to sexual mischief. We younger boys are assigned chores closer to the house like milking, slopping hogs or herding cattle. This separation of responsibilities works quite well, or it did until this new temptation arrives. Laurie is like a field of wildflowers in full bloom and we boys are attracted to her like a swarm of honeybees. It takes Mom and Dad little time to realize this, so they develop Plan B.
To understand plan B requires a brief explanation of farm work. Most of the farm field work involves a sole driver riding a tractor, pulling an implement like a plow, mower or whatever. Keep in mind, the tractors and field equipment of the 1950’s are less comfortable and much less efficient than those of the twenty-first century. Therefore, one spends much more time doing field work in less-pleasant conditions. You’re all alone, exposed to the weather, sitting on a hard metal seat, with the constant roar of a John Deere tractor engine running at full bore barely four feet in front of you. It’s just you and the tractor going up-and-down or round-and-round the field, hour after insufferable hour. This is not a glamorous or particularly enjoyable task – unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Iowa farmer, which Dad is. He doesn’t mind the repetitive nature of the job a bit. He can spend all day, day after day, in the field. And that’s what he plans to do, but with one exception. He won’t be alone. He’ll have company on the tractor. That company is Laurie.
The cunning and shrewdness of plan B is, quite frankly, beyond what we ever imagined Mom and Dad capable of devising. Rather than trying to keep an eye on seven mischievous boys, why not just keep it on the object that’s triggering their wild imaginations? Don’t try to keep a net over all the hungry honeybees, keep it over the sweet flower. And it’s working. From about eight in the morning to noon and then from one in the afternoon until four or five PM, it’s Dad and Laurie riding round-and-round or up-and-down the field. If she’s bored by this, it doesn’t show. Quite the contrary. She seems to enjoy this special arrangement. Thus, a resentment begins to sprout amongst the other girls. Though unspoken, there’s always competition to gain Dad’s attention, and now Laurie is easily winning the contest. Consequently, some of the girls, especially the older ones like Rebecca and Julie, want to start riding with Dad on the tractor. As an aside, the passenger on the tractor generally sits on the back wheel-fender on either side of the driver. Since there are two back fenders, there can be two riders. So…., Dad is now having two girls riding on the tractor with him; one of them always is Laurie. Being a normal male, he rather enjoys this arrangement.
Now, back to plan B and its execution. We boys all know the purpose and what’s going on, but think the plan has a serious flaw that will eventually show itself. It can’t stand up to any significant length of time. If Laurie remains on the farm for a couple of years – or even two or three months – plan B falls apart. Dad will run out of fields to plow, or hay to mow or corn to pick. But Laurie hasn’t come for an extended stay, and this is known up front by Mom and Dad. As is the case with many kids that come and go, The Farm is just a temporary place to hold Laurie until county social services can work out a long-term solution for her situation. What that solution will be, for her and others like her, we seldom know. County social services generally comes to The Farm to pick up the child, but occasionally Mom or Dad is asked to drop the child off at the agency office. If they’re told what’s to happen with the child, they don’t share that with us.
And that’s what happens with Laurie. She arrived very suddenly and is gone just as suddenly. None of us knew she was leaving. One afternoon, when Laurie had been there about five weeks, she gets in the car with Mom and they drive out the driveway. When Mom returns, she’s by herself. The sexual yearnings and naive imaginations of seven boys come crashing down. Not one bee has disturbed a petal on the flower! And that’s the story of Pretty Girl.
Next Week: Read about young Nick’s adventure herding cattle in a ditch. With “three or four boys in bib overalls and bare feet keeping them in check,” what could go wrong?

Assistance for flood victims available at Operation Threshold

Qualifying households could receive up to $5,000 for flood damage
Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a proclamation of disaster emergency for Black Hawk County in response to a severe storm June 20, 2020 and continuing.
The Governor’s proclamation allows State resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of the severe storms and flooding. The proclamation activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program.
The Iowa Individual Assistance Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three. Grants are available for eligible home or car repairs, replacement of clothing, personal property or food, and for the expense of temporary housing. Disaster Case Management is available to all that have been affected by the flooding, regardless of income.
Residents with damage resulting from the severe storm occurring on June 20, 2020 have 45 days from the date of the proclamation, or until August 10, 2020, to submit an application to Operation Threshold.
Operation Threshold will determine eligibility and will make direct payments to vendors for those with eligible repairs or purchase replacement items. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery.
Applications for Black Hawk County residents can be obtained by calling (319) 291-2065, by email at or online at Operation Threshold’s lobby remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, staff continue to work and are available by phone or email Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Fridays 8 a.m. to noon.
Applications are also available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website ( however, the application will need to be submitted to Operation Threshold to be processed.

July 20 is unlimited garbage pick up day

Unlimited garbage day in La Porte City is Monday, July 20, 2020. ALL items in bags must be at the curb by 6 AM. Furniture, appliances and other large items are not included in the unlimited pickup unless scheduled and paid for in advance at City Hall. Cost is $15 per item.

Black Lives Matter: Community Read

Hawkins Memorial Library is offering the Black Lives Matter: Community Read. OverDrive is offering four different books, available with unlimited checkouts to library users during the month of July. Library patrons will be able to borrow these eBooks or audiobooks through BRIDGES on
The OverDrive digital book program is created to provide you with simultaneous access to important titles on social justice and anti-racism. The four books included are:
• The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, is available as an audiobook through July 15.
• Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad, is available as an eBook through July 12.
• The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, is available as an eBook and audiobook through July 19.
• So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo, is available as an audiobook through July 26, 2020.
To get started reading, all you need is a Hawkins Memorial Library patron card. Any of these titles can be read on all major computers and devices. The Black Lives Matter: Community Read is a free program, there are no wait lists, and the books automatically expire at the end of the lending period, so there are never any late fees.

Delta Dental recognizes Dr. Sarah Gingrich with loan repayment award

Dr. Sarah Gingrich of Pipho Gingrich Family Dentistry in Dysart is one of four Iowa dentists announced as the 2020 recipients of educational loan repayment awards from the Fulfilling Iowa’s Need for Dentists (FIND) project, a collaborative public-private partnership lead by Delta Dental of Iowa. This program engages dentists to establish dental practices in Iowa counties that are designated as high priority, and to devote at least 35 percent of their practice to underserved populations, such as Medicaid-enrolled, disabled, and elderly persons.
“It’s fitting that Delta Dental of Iowa turns 50 this year and, through our public-private partnerships, we have now awarded more than 50 dentists with FIND awards since 2003. Access to dental care for all Iowans increases with each FIND award,” said Jeff Russell, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa. “This commitment to practicing in underserved areas not only improves the oral and overall health of their patients, these dentists are also contributing to the economic health of their communities.”
Dr. Gingrich completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Iowa, and graduated from the College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics in 2007. She worked in large group practices in Minneapolis until 2016, when she moved back to Iowa to purchase a practice in Dysart and become a partner in Pipho and Gingrich Family Dentistry. Several partners provided community match for Dr. Gingrich’s FIND award, including Iowa Area Development Group, Aureon, Farmers Cooperative Telephone Company, and also local businesses.
The dental practice moved into a new facility in late 2019, which provides more clinical space and up-to-date equipment, and also includes better accessibility for disabled and elderly patients.
According to Dr. Gingrich, the additional space is critical as the practice takes on additional patients due to recent retirements in area dental practices. Dr. Gingrich’s community activities have included classroom education during Children’s Dental Health Month and volunteering with Zion Lutheran Church, along with other community organizations.
“Pipho and Gingrich have a great community spirit and Dr. Gingrich fills a critical gap in access to dental care for this service area, ” said Carlie Beem, I-Smile Coordinator for Mid-Iowa Community Action.
Initial investments in a dental practice are significant. On average, dentists invest more than $300,000 in new equipment and technology, some building a practice from the ground up including new construction or remodeling an existing facility. Educational debt for most dentists averages more than $280,000.
The FIND project award recipients will each receive up to $100,000 in loan repayment funds in return for a five-year commitment. This includes $75,000 from Delta Dental of Iowa and the State of Iowa and a community match of at least $5,000, with an option for local organizations to contribute an additional $20,000.
Since Delta Dental began the Loan Repayment program in 2003, 52 private-practice dentists have participated in the Loan Repayment and FIND programs to provide 203,000 patient visits and more than 588,000 dental services to underserved Iowans. The program has expanded to include other statewide partners including, the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, Iowa Area Development Group, Aureon, The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, as well as numerous local organizations.
The FIND project recruits dentists to practice in underserved Iowa counties by helping them with their dental education debt. The Loan Repayment program is a component of Delta Dental of Iowa’s community impact program that invests in projects that support and improve the oral and overall health of Iowans. For more information, visit
About Delta Dental of Iowa: Delta Dental of Iowa, a not-for-profit health and wellness company, provides dental and vision benefits to more than 1.2 million Iowans. Locally focused and nationally networked, Delta Dental of Iowa invests in oral health and wellness projects through the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation and community giving that focus on access to care, prevention, education and research. Since 2002, Delta Dental has invested more than $42 million to improve the oral health and overall health of Iowans. For more information, visit the website at


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