15 Things You Might Not Know About Iowa

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istock

It may be widely thought of as a fly-over state, but there’s a lot more to Iowa than hogs and farmland (though there are plenty of those, too). Here are 15 things you probably didn’t know about the Hawkeye State.

1. Woolly mammoth bones have been found in Iowa. In 2010, a man and his two sons were hunting for blackberries when one of the boys spotted a ball near a creek. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t a ball at all—it was actually a 12,000-year-old woolly mammoth femur. An archaeological dig later revealed much of the entire skeleton. While it’s not uncommon to find woolly mammoth fossils in Iowa—the prehistoric pachyderms used to call the area home—it is unusual to find such a complete set.

2. A surveying mistake almost caused a war between Iowa and Missouri in the 1830s. The surveyor’s state boundary line slanted four miles further north on the east side than the west because he forgot to adjust his compass. Another official was sent to resurvey, but his line was a bit north of the original line, to the tune of 2,600 acres. When a Missouri official tried to collect taxes from the settlers who lived in the disputed acres, an Iowan sheriff arrested him. The governors of each state threatened each other with combat, with militias and volunteers called to gather at the border. Before any shots were fired, the federal government stepped in and drew the line (literally).

So why is it called “The Honey War”? Early on in the conflict, a copse of trees containing a large number of honeybees was destroyed.

3. The state is named after the Ioway people, a Native American tribe that once inhabited the area. But what “Iowa” actually means is a bit ambiguous. According to the writings of an early pioneer, the name comes from an incident where a tribe of Native Americans spied the land for the first time and proclaimed it “Iowa, Iowa, Iowa,” which meant “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.” However, another story says that it’s just a variation on the French word “Ayuhwa,” which means “sleepy ones”—something the Dakota Sioux tribe called the Ioway Nation.

4. Geaux Hawkeyes? As a nod to its roots—Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase—the state flag bears the same vertical blue, white, and red stripes that the French flag does.

5. Much of Iowa was mapped by Zebulon Pike, the Pikes Peak guy. Speaking of which, there’s a Pikes Peak in Iowa, too. It’s only 12,980 feet shorter than the one in Colorado.

6. Iowa’s population is actually more urban than rural—61.1 percent vs. 38.9 percent. [PDF]

7. Sliced bread was invented by an Iowan. Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the automatic bread slicer in 1912, but it was destroyed in a fire. He rebuilt the machine, and it was first used commercially in 1928.

8. The land-locked state is actually home to an island city. Sabula is just one mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, with a mere 576 residents. It wasn’t actually an island until 1939, when the construction of a lock and dam system flooded the lowlands west of the town.

9. About those hogs—yeah, there are a lot of them. There are more hogs than people in Iowa, actually. As of 2013, the state’s hog population was 21.2 million animals, whereas the human population was just north of three million.

10. The Red Delicious apple originated at an orchard in Peru, Iowa. But if you, like most people, find that Red Delicious apples are perhaps not as tasty as the name might imply, don’t blame Iowa. Today’s variety bears little resemblance to the 1872 original.

11. When the Civil War broke out, Iowa had only been a state for 15 years and had a population of just 600,000. Though the 76,534 Iowan men who served in the Union may seem like small potatoes compared to contributions from other states, no other state had a higher percentage of its male population serve. Iowa even had a regiment called the “Greybeards” because the men were all considered elderly, including one octogenarian.

12. Contrary to popular belief, not all of Iowa is flat, especially 640,000 acres on the western side. That’s where you’ll find the famous Loess Hills, dunes created by windblown soil during the Ice Age.

13. We have our own version of the famous Nazca Lines here in the United States—and some of them are in Iowa. Effigy Mounds, large scale Native American sculptures of animals, humans, and religious figures made out of piles of earth, date as far back as 350 CE. Sculptures of birds and bears are the most popular in Northeast Iowa, where Effigy Mounds National Park covers 2,526 acres—and there are no cars allowed.

14. Clear Lake, Iowa, is where “the music died.” Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson all died when their plane crashed into a field there in 1959.

15. When it comes to women’s rights, Iowa has always been way ahead of the curve. Married women received property rights in 1851, and in 1869, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that women should be allowed to practice law, making Iowan Arabella Mansfield the first female lawyer in the U.S.

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

10 Bizarre Documentaries That You Should Stream Right Now

A scene from Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020).
A scene from Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020).
Netflix

Documentaries have grown considerably more ambitious since Fred Ott’s Sneeze, an 1894 clip that documents the irritated sinus cavities of its subject in just five seconds. They can inspire, as in the case of 2019’s Academy Award-winning Free Solo, about bold mountain climber Alex Honnold. They can shine a light on cultural overachievers like Fred Rogers, the subject of 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? And they can parse political history, with films like 2003's The Fog of War shedding light on decisions that shaped the world.

Other documentaries set out to chronicle true stories that, were they presented as a fictitious, might be hard for people to believe. We’ve profiled such films in previous lists, which you can find here, here, and here. If you’ve already made your way through those tales of cannibals, tragic love affairs, and twist-laden true crime, here are 11 more that will have you staring at your television in disbelief.

1. Tiger King (2020)

At first glance, the seven-part docuseries Tiger King could be mistaken for a mockumentary along the lines of American Vandal or This Is Spinal Tap. An exotic pet breeder and roadside zoo owner named Joe Exotic practices polygamy, nuzzles with tigers, and records country music videos attacking his arch-nemesis, big cat advocate Carole Baskin. That Exotic ends up running for Oklahoma governor and alleges Baskin fed her late husband to her own tigers after putting him through a meat grinder may be the two least weird twists in this sprawling epic of entrepreneurial spirit, animal welfare, and mullets.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

When Idaho native Jan Broberg was 12 years old in 1974, her neighbor began to take an unseemly and inappropriate interest in her. What begins as a disturbing portrait of predation quickly spirals into an unbelievable and audacious attempt to manipulate Jan’s entire family. Director Skye Borgman’s portrait of seemingly reasonable people who become ensnared in a monstrous plot to separate them from their daughter has drawn some shocking reactions since it began streaming in 2019.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. The Wolfpack (2015)

Confined to their apartment in a Manhattan housing project for years by parents wary of the world outside their door, the seven Angulo siblings developed an understanding about life through movies. The Wolfpack depicts their attempts to cope with reality after finally emerging from their involuntary exile.

Where to watch it: Hulu

4. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

The highly marketable conceit of director Tim Wardle’s documentary is that triplets born in 1961 then separated spent the first 18 years of their lives totally ignorant of their siblings. When they reconnect, it’s a joy. But the movie quickly switches gears to explore the question of why they were separated at birth to begin with. It’s that investigation—and the chilling answer—that lends Three Identical Strangers its bittersweet, haunting atmosphere.

Where to watch it: Hulu

5. Tickled (2016)

A ball of yarn bouncing down a flight of stairs is the best metaphor we can summon for the narrative of Tickled, which follows New Zealand journalist David Farrier on what appears at first glance to be a silly story about the world of “competitive endurance tickling.” In the course of reporting on this unusual subculture, Farrier crosses paths with people who would prefer their hobbies remain discreet. When he refuses to let the story go, things grow increasingly tense and dangerous.

Where to watch it: Hulu

6. Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary (1997)

How far would you be willing to go for a new pick-up truck? That’s the deceptively simple premise for this documentary chronicling an endurance contest in Longview, Texas, where participants agree to keep one hand on the vehicle at all times: The last person standing wins. What begins as a group seeking a prize evolves into a battle of attrition, with all the psychological games and mental fortitude that comes with it.

Where to watch it: iTunes

7. My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

At the age of 4, upstate New York resident Marla Olmstead began painting sprawling abstract art that her parents sold for premium prices. Later on, a 60 Minutes report called into question whether Marla had some assistance with her work. Was she a child prodigy, or simply a creative girl who had a little help? And if she did, should it matter? My Kid Could Paint That investigates Marla’s process, but it also sheds light on the world of abstract art and the question of who gets to decide whether a creative impulse is valid.

Where to watch it: Amazon

8. Beware the Slenderman (2016)

In 2014, two Wisconsin girls came to a disturbing decision: In order to appease the “Slenderman,” an internet-sourced boogeyman, they would attempt to murder a classmate. The victim survived, but three lives have been altered forever. Beware the Slenderman explores the intersection where mental illness, social media, and urban mythology collide to result in a horrific crime.

Where to watch it: HBO; Hulu

9. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992)

For years, Richard Kuklinski satisfied his homicidal urges by taking on contract killings for organized crime families in New York and New Jersey. Following his arrest and conviction, he agreed to sit down and elaborate on his unusual methodologies for disposing of victims and how he balanced his violent tendencies with a seemingly normal domestic life that included marriage and children. (You can see an example of Kuklinski's chilling disposition in the clip above.) In addition to The Iceman Tapes, which originally aired on HBO, Kuklinski participated in two follow-ups: The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman in 2001 and The Iceman and the Psychiatrist in 2003.

Where to watch it: HBO; Hulu

10. Perfect Bid (2019)

Price is Right superfan Ted Slauson spent a lifetime analyzing retail price tags in case he was ever called up from the studio audience. What happens when he gets a little too close to a perfect Showcase Showdown guess will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Where to watch it: YouTube Movies

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