I’ve lived in Michigan almost half my life, yet consider Iowa my home. There is a deep abiding affection when I reminisce about my native state. I hold my home town, Rock Valley close to my heart. I can’t foresee a time when I don’t get choked up thinking about Iowa. In my immediate family however, I’m in the minority with these heartfelt thoughts. Our three children have all lived in Michigan much longer than Iowa and none nurture that strong pull/loyalty/love for Iowa like I do. All have graduated from high school, college, graduate school, found spouses, had kids-in Michigan. This is their home. I get it.
You’re gonna think I’m being petty. Perhaps you’re right. A piece of my heart literally broke in Iowa recently. After all these years of my undying loyalty and warm fuzzies. Really, where is the love? Ever since we left Iowa in 1987 there’s been many reasons to go back. Family was a biggie. Both sets of parents and all siblings still made Iowa their home. Most of our vacation time was spent in our native state. For decades. And what do I get in return? Nothing. It’s over. Kaput.
See it was all a ruse. I methodically used, “yeah, I gotta go stay with my folks for a week.” Cooking and baking for days so their freezer was packed like a can of oily sardines before I left for the airport again. The martyr visits, fooling people into thinking I was really ‘there’ for them and no other reason. I lied.
It started several months ago as I perused Facebook. Something was afoot in my favorite state. (note: I didn’t say favorite spot. Not gonna fib about this. Favorite spot is Niagara Falls-hands down). Some seriously rich guys were investing mega bucks into something very dear to my heart and taste buds. No, not corn, beef or hogs although I’m partial to all 3. Much more significant than just what keeps Iowa’s farming economy revved up. And it does have a strong connection with moo cows.
It’s all about the Wells. A band of brothers with more money than they know what to do with (think heated driveways in Iowa-what a hoot, second, third and 4th homes and probably as many wives). These guys have had the world as their oyster for decades. A few years ago they opened a quaint ice cream parlor on Highway 75 in the ice cream capital of the world, Le Mars, Iowa. A quirky establishment with an antique restored milk delivery truck permanently parked outside. Couldn’t rake in the bucks fast enough, so they up and moved the store. Huh? Chose a building a few blocks east on Le Mars’ main downtown strip. Spent major coin designing another cute ice cream/souvenir shop. Place could handle a pretty good size crowd. Nostalgic tabletops showing how Wells Blue Bunny got their start-with black & white photos. You were happy to sit and enjoy a scoop, sundae, shake, cone, and revel in the cuteness of everything Wells. Oh cripes.
But it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough. So another huge remodel got underway last fall. New color scheme, conference room, and party room. Roof top seating covered with solar shades to ward off some of Iowa’s glorious sun. The souvenir shop size was diminished and moved. Wall art was added. I was giddy with anticipation. Couldn’t wait to visit and order my ice cream. Sorry ’bout the drool.
It’s my goal to have ice cream everyday I’m in Iowa. Every. Single. Day. It’s not that I’m crazy about ice cream in general. During the summer, I eat a soft serve twist cone once a week in Michigan as a treat. But there’s this thing about Wells Blue Bunny ice cream. They make this flavor I can’t get anywhere else. Blue Bunny Ice cream wasn’t even sold in Michigan until recently. And only like the top 10 flavors. Not the ONE flavor I’ve literally traveled thousands of miles for in the last 30 years. (Kind of like a religious pilgrimage/while scamming everyone that I was really there to see them-ha).
I’ve enjoyed Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream since I was a little girl. Their extraordinary flavor is called CHERRY NUT. Pink colored ice cream with chunky pieces of maraschino cherries and hunks of chopped walnuts. That’s it. Not readily available anywhere, it remains the number 1 reason I continue to drive 750 miles west. I kid you not.
We arrived in Le Mars late one morning last week to take our nephew Andy out for lunch. We’re all hungry for Mexican food and meet him at a joint. Food was ok. Andy’s on his lunch break from work but has just enough time to scoot for a scoop at Wells. We walk in and I wander around for a few minutes, admiring the wealthy boy’s (probably closer to my age. I’ve got to stop calling them boys. They need to be held accountable for their bad decisions). The decor is cute, but not any cuter than the last 2 times they opened a parlor for their money-making-shtick. Eager young faces peer at me from behind a long, long counter, courting multiple 5 gallon round cartons of every imaginable ice cream flavor known to mankind. “I’ll have a good sized bowl of CHERRY NUT please.” Well(s) had flavors up the wazoo-everything but-CHERRY NUT.
I felt light headed, the fringe of my peripheral vision dims. Voices sound very far away and I think I’m gonna faint. “You don’t have CHERRY NUT? Now? You ran out? I can wait.” The only worker who’s older than 12 steps conspiratorially close to me and softly mumbles, “no ma’am, they’ve discontinued CHERRY NUT. Permanently.” Well(s) my life’s shattered. There is no reason to go on (ok, I’m still planning on attending my class reunion-but as a broken woman-without purpose. No goals. I’m seriously in a funk). “How could they? Do they realize what they’ve done? That I’ve driven to Iowa every year-for 3 decades-just for WELLS BLUE BUNNY CHERRY NUT ICE CREAM? 750 miles. For ice cream. Would it help if I bought some cherries and walnuts? Did they finally run out of money?”
“I’m very sorry. We don’t understand the reasoning in their decision either. They discontinued peach about a week later. CHERRY NUT is no longer available in the grocery stores either, I’m afraid. I can relay your disappointment, but your disapproval would have much more of an impact if you complained to the head office.”
“Oh, those little shits are gonna hear about it. Mark my words, they will see the error of their ways. After all the money/praises I’ve lavished. How could they? Honestly, how could they hurt me so? Umm, I’ve never been in this position before. I don’t know what to order. I’ve never tasted another flavor. I’m lost and afraid. Please help me.”
“Well(s) we have butter pecan, moose tracks, strawberry, blah, blah, blah.” Just stop, I’m gonna be sick. The rest of the day was a blur. I think I gave Andy a hug goodbye and pushed him towards work but I really don’t remember.
My sister-in-law Mary Jane came through though, after we had supper with them at Archie’s. She had a half gallon of bootleg CHERRY NUT. (That woman remains a mystery. I didn’t ask how the CHERRY NUT was obtained-she just knows people). CHERRY NUT has always been made by Wells, then packaged for various grocery chains. After a great steak I wasn’t craving much of anything but I did myself proud. Ate as much CHERRY NUT as I could. Took one for the team. The CHERRY NUT flavor was somehow enhanced with the realization this might be the last time I’m ever really happy and content for the rest of my life.
Two odd things happened since. Well more than 2 really. My vision eventually returned which was good. You know how I am about ‘real’ books. I want to hold them, turn the pages-literally-while I read. I had some catching up to do with an author I love named John Sandford. He’s written a series for 20 years about a cop from Minneapolis named Lucas Davenport. So I ordered the last several in the series and was on maybe my 5th Lucas book in a row. (Sandford writes an even better series about a coworker of Davenport’s named Virgil Flowers. I love him). Anyway, I’m reading this novel about this gorgeous young woman who’s running for the Minnesota senate. She’s a freakin nut case/psycho but Lucas can’t prove it (actually pretty close to the whack jobs we have in the senate now-truly not funny-but certainly resembles some of the lifers we continue to elect). Lucas needs to question her while she’s campaigning and she walks out of her trailer, eating an ice cream cone. Lucas thinks it’s CHERRY NUT, one of his favorites. (Just shoot me now. He’s going to be so disappointed too).
Recently I read a comment on my last blog story (about my class reunion) after I failed to hook up, (time was of the essence and mine was running out) with one of my Facebook friends, Renee’ from Rock Valley. She invited me to her house next time I’m in town-for CHERRY NUT ICE CREAM! Now how am I supposed to deal with that kind of negativity in my life? Living/coping/pretending-in a world that’s Well(s) CHERRY NUTLESS….