October 24, 2004

'Connections': Returning home

The world is more intricate than we imagine. The lesson came home to me once again last week when "TalkSport," a British radio station, asked if I could speak a few minutes on their program about the presidential race's effect on Iowa. The interview was live, 6:15 a.m. London time, meaning post-midnight for me.

Of all my radio appearances this election, "TalkSport" most excited me. Six generations ago, the Bignell family left England via London thanks to an ailing farm economy, settling in Wisconsin not far from Laura Ingalls' little house in the big woods (due to crop failures, she eventually ended up in Iowa). The family never has looked back, though we love British TV.

National and international media often rely on local reporters and editors when they come to states like Iowa. We're happy to escort them around and answer questions; you never know when you might need some reporting favor -- if an Iowa City child undergoes a miracle cure in a Boston or London hospital, I've got a contact.

Just as importantly, our guidance keeps them from thinking all there is to Iowa is cornfields and soybeans.

"TalkSport" asked what Iowans felt about Iraq and which domestic issues might affect votes. The hosts wanted to know why we had seven electoral votes. They wondered where Iowa was, geographically speaking.

I suspect six generations ago a similar question was asked in England: Where is Wisconsin and Iowa?

Last week, though, the family returned to the mother country, albeit with a new accent. Could my ancestors have imagined the day when every Londoner might hear one of their own speak from the new home 3,000 miles away?

(originally published Oct. 24, 2004)

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