Conservation director Dan Towers on Friday will share amazing history of wildlife in Greene County

CHURDAN, Iowa, April 29, 2018 — Dan Towers, conservation director for Greene County, will be presenting a history of wildlife in the county, from the time of settlement in the 1840s right on up to the present, at the Friday, May 4, meeting of the Greene County Historical Society at the United Methodist Church in Churdan.

Towers, besides working in conservation, is an avid hunter, outdoorsman and naturalist. He has done extensive work in preserving and redeveloping wildlife habitat all over the county.

He graduated from Paton-Churdan High School in 1973, and in 1980 from Iowa State University, where he majored in fisheries & wildlife biology. His best resource on wildlife continues to be a book by James Dinsmore, one of his ISU professors, “A Country So Full of Game: The Story of Wildlife in Iowa.”

Dan Towers, with his ISU professor’s book, still his best go-to source about wildlife facts.

Towers worked five years in wildlife management for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, covering several counties from Lake View. In 1985, he became the third conservation director in Greene County.

If we go back 14,000 or so years, he said, the area that would become Greene County was roamed by wooly mammoths and mastodons, “similar in size to elephants today.” Their bones have been found along creeks and the North Raccoon River.

When settlers began arriving, there were still “many of the bigger mammals – elk, bison, black bears, gray wolves, cougars.” There were prairie chickens that would puff-up to crow, wild turkeys and “so many passenger pigeons that they could block out the sky,” he said. They all “were wiped out by settlement,” with the animals either moving away from people or being killed in unrestricted hunting.

A conservation ethic began developing among people by 1900, and the first hunting laws were established in Iowa by 1910.

With careful game management, we’ve seen some thrilling comebacks by some species, including giant Canada geese and eagles.

Ring-necked pheasants, which were stocked in the U.S. from their native China, thrived in Greene County until the last third of the 20th century when rapid expansion of row crop farming gobbled up much of the grasslands habitat. DNR pheasant counts show that the number of pheasants in 2013 was about 1/10th of what it was in the 1960s.

Towers says his “best guess” is that there are “500-plus” coyotes in the county every fall, “before any hunting and trapping occurs,” while there were “very few coyotes until the 1950s.” As for raccoons, “there might be more of those in Greene County now than there are people.” He added that “it’s hard to guess deer numbers in the county, but it was thought to be around 500 in the entire state at the low in 1936. At its peak in about 2005, the deer population in the state was estimated at 350,000.”

The future for wildlife in the county “is all tied to our agriculture,” he said. “If we have a Farm Bill that includes conservation acres, we’ll have wildlife. If we are encouraging full-out ag production, we won’t have as much wildlife.”

He said “we do better” with waterfowl, primarily because we have two large conservation areas that host them – Dunbar Slough, covering nearly 3,000 acres in the southwest part of the county, and Goose Lake, which has 560 acres between Jefferson and Churdan. Some days during the waterfowl migrations, there will be a million or more birds at Dunbar Slough.

Towers will be using photos and artifacts to help illustrate his presentation.

There will be an $8 lunch for members at the Churdan church at 12 noon, with RSVPs due with their community contacts by midday Wednesday, May 2. Members of the public who want to eat lunch for $10 should phone vice-president Nancy Hanaman at (515) 436-7684. The 1 p.m. program at the church is free and all are invited.

Pondering the racism that was so common around him in childhood


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 19 2018– I grew up the second child of Bob and Mary Hanaman, on Argall Avenue in Beloit, Wisconsin. My sister, Marianne, was 3 ½ years older. Argall Avenue was a street filled with all kinds of neighbors. Two people I thought were married were but siblings living together. Five families had children near my age but younger than my sister. Three of these children were Nancy Dickson, Tom Plunkett and Bill Bronzi. None of the parents were college educated, most had finished high school. Both Italian and English could be heard in our neighborhood.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom until I entered middle school. She then entered the workforce as secretary at First Methodist Church, later with the Beloit schools administration office, and finally at both middle and high school offices until retirement.

My father worked as a patrolman at Fairbanks Morse, a large Beloit factory. He and other men provided security for the factory in shifts around the clock. He had one semester of college but had to drop out during the Great Depression.

During my elementary days, my neighborhood school was nearly all white, as I remember. Both the middle school and high school had both white and black students.

My father was very prejudiced toward black people (called “Negroes,” or worse, at the time).

When I was about 10, my dad and his younger brother, Jens (called “Duke”), visiting from Blue Island, Illinois, were sitting at our dining room table. They were talking about black people, using the term that begins with “n” and ends with “r”, which was common to hear back then in both Beloit and Blue Island.

I remember standing before both men and said, “I didn’t want to hear you use that term.” Again, I was about 10.

It was only much later that I reflected on that time and my comment to both my dad and uncle. They did not say, “You don’t talk to us like that,” nor tell me to “leave the room.” Instead, after that, I don’t remember they used that term in my presence.

While in high school, I was part of the local Masonic Order for boys, called DeMolay. The order for girls was called Rainbow. One weekend the Masons sponsored a dance at the Masonic Temple for DeMolay boys and Rainbow girls. Each could bring a “date.” One of the girls invited a biracial boy to our dance.

Early that next week, all the youth – DeMolay and Rainbow – were gathered in the same room. The Masonic leaders said, “That will never happen again.” The “that” was not defined, but we all knew it meant black or biracial persons were not welcome in our white Masonic events. We were further told, “Since there’s a black Masonic Order in town, they didn’t need to come to our events.”

Later, while I was attending Simpson College, the Simpson College Choir was on tour through northern Illinois and Wisconsin. Their tour included Beloit. My roommate Don Hamen was among those in choir. Since he was going to be in Beloit, I asked my parents to host Don and his roommate on the tour. They agreed.

Then I discovered that Don’s partner was Bobby Jones, the one black student in the choir. I again contacted my parents, saying it would be difficult for them – and for me at school – if they said now they couldn’t house the black student. After some consideration, including talking with one of their pastors, they did agree for both Don and Bobby to stay at our house.

I grew up – probably most of us grew up – with racial bias toward others different from ourselves. So, bigotry was always part of the life that surrounded me. It has taken me a long time to name the racism of my childhood, and grow through it. I am still learning.

I have grown even more since the births of our first two grandchildren, Adrianna, now 20 ½, and Adyara now 19, who are biracial, beautiful, compassionate, loving, patient, welcoming and open young women.

Our world is too small to place walls between others and ourselves. Skin color is just that, skin color.

We are all part of the human race. Some of us speak Korean, Thai, Russian, French, Italian, English, as well as other languages – but we all love.

Others of us are gay, bisexual, married, single, divorced, widowed, atheist, agnostic, Catholic, Protestant or other religions, citizens or undocumented – yet we all know pain, disappointment and loss as well as joy.

I believe it is time that we open our eyes, minds, hearts, and lives so we can greet others as neighbors, friends, as human beings.

The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at 

A funeral of an 89-year-old stirred him to reflect on how we could all live better in a new life


RIPPEY, Iowa, April 10, 2018 – Last Thursday, April 5, I attended the funeral for Doris Brown, a woman who was important to me and to the rest of the congregation at our Rippey United Methodist Church. She was nearly 90 when she died.

She provided a legacy of family, commitment to children, to neighbors and friends, as well as to her church. That is the setting for these thoughts.

One of the songs chosen for congregational singing was “In Remembrance of Me,” which focuses on the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. The first verse sets the stage:

In remembrance of me, eat this bread. In remembrance of me, drink this wine.
In remembrance of me, pray for the time when God’s own will is done.

These are deep and powerful words to hold our attention. Gifts of God – bread and drink for each of us.

But the second verse speaks of even greater depth – the reason that we remember the bread and drink:

In remembrance of me, heal the sick. In remembrance of me, feed the poor.
In remembrance of me, open the door and let the neighbors in, let them in.

We don’t only eat and drink for our own health, our own safety, or for our own lives. To do so would be stingy, self-serving, or thinking only of ourselves. The focus is always on how we care for the least among us.

I have also been viewing some “TED Talks” online. To view them yourselves, you just need to connect to

One of the talks was by Christian Picciolini entitled, “My descent into America’s neo-Nazi movement – and how I got out.” Picciolini speaks eloquently about his neo-Nazi involvement and even more about leaving that movement. At one point he shared his interaction with another neo-Nazi, an injured soldier who wanted to return to Afghanistan to kill Muslim people. Picciolini arranged for the two of them to “drop by” a Mosque because a “Christian man” wanted to learn more about Islam. With a window of only 15 minutes – which stretched into over two hours – Picciolini’s friend became closely connected to the Imam and remains so this day.

It seems to me that we in Greene County are quite isolated from people who are really different from ourselves. We may interact in shops, restaurants, and stores with others, but we don’t know their names nor share our own. We leave our grandkid pictures in our pockets or purses. We seldom step out of our way to comfort, offer empathy, or share joyous occasions with others – unless we know them well already.

Perhaps the change need not be as wide as that of Christian Picciolini, yet we each need to be reflective and be open to change.

Until we do so, we will continue our sense of separation: city or rural, Democrat or Republican, old or young, gun supporters or anti-gun.

I believe we need to become vulnerable, loving, patient, welcoming – ready to “open the door and let your neighbors in, let them in.”

The author, Dale Hanaman, is president of the Greene County Historical Society lives on a farm near Rippey. He is a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church. You can write him by email at

Program this Sunday: Bicycling history of Greene County – and of RAGBRAI, too!

JEFFERSON, Iowa, April 9, 2018 — If it seems to you like there’s been a whole lot of bicycling happening around Greene County in recent years, you’re right.

That will be especially so this summer when RAGBRAI (that’s the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) pedals through the county on July 23-24. It will visit Scranton on July 23, overnight in Jefferson, and then go on to Grand Junction and Dana the next day enroute to an overnight in Ames.

So this seems like a good time to review the history of bicycling in Greene County – and let’s add the history of RAGBRAI, too.

The Greene County Historical Society and Jefferson Matters Main Street are going to do just that this coming Sunday, April 15. They are co-sponsoring a special free program at 2 p.m. at the museum in Jefferson, looking at cycling’s past, present and maybe even future here. And the program will also explore how RAGBRAI became the international phenomenon that it is – the oldest, longest and largest bicycle touring event in the world. It should be a good primer for Greene Countians getting ready for RAGBRAI’s visit.

Presenting will be John & Ces Brunow, of Jefferson, co-owners of All Ability Cycles, and special guest T.J. Juskiewicz, the director of RAGBRAI.

Ces & John Brunow, of Jefferson, will speak on the history of bicycling in Greene County.

This is one of a series of sports-related programs this year that are preliminaries to the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling “Hometown Teams” exhibit, which the historical museum in Jefferson will house Aug. 11 thru Sept. 23. That exhibit is being hosted here by the local Main Street and historical groups.

Bicycling had a big start in Greene County as early as the 1890s, when there was a large men’s cycling club based in Jefferson and a “women’s auxiliary” cycling group, too. There were races, exhibitions and jaunty group rides to neighboring towns. Through the decades, there have been “Bicycle Days” promotions and parades in our towns.

We’ve seen much more of the sport in more recent decades.

For 41 years, Rippey has been a host town and turn-around point on “BRR” — that’s the “Bike Ride to Rippey” from Perry and back in early February, no matter the weather. And since 1997, Greene County has had the northern 12 miles of one of the best-known and busiest recreational trails in the nation, the Raccoon River Valley Trail, with trailheads in Cooper, at Winkleman Switch and in Jefferson.

And now here comes RAGBRAI in its 46th year, delivering visitors to us from all 50 states and a dozen or more other nations.

T.J. Juskiewicz, director of RAGBRAI, will speak on the history and impact of that huge event.

All of the above is part of bicycling now having such a major economic impact in Iowa. According to a recent study by the University of Northern Iowa, bike-related expenditures in the state now total about $350 million annually.

At the program this Sunday, the Brunows and Juskiewicz will be speaking, and there will be displays of cycling memorabilia. There will also be time for questions and free refreshments.

John & Ces Brunow have lived in Jefferson since 2010 and based their inspiring bicycle business here, although Ces grew up here as a Melson. John is a native of Centerville in southern Iowa, and he and Ces met as students at the University of Iowa.

They returned to the Centerville area after college, and in 1972 John was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives, where Ces served as his clerk until they started their family. They also bought and operated two weekly newspapers, the Moravia Union and Moulton Tribune. After three terms in the Iowa House, John ran for state auditor and was defeated, but then was elected Appanoose County auditor.

He served until landing a good insurance job with a company in New Hampshire. The Brunows spent eight years there, then John got a transfer to the Washington, D.C. area where they lived for nearly 20 years. They’ve been bicycle riders, even commuters, most of their adult lives.

John stayed in insurance until Ces Brunow, who had teaching experience in pre-schools, accepted a position at the Smithsonian Institution’s “Early Enrichment Center.” She became part of an innovative educational program that used the museum’s resources in a daycare program for employees’ children as well as some children from the public.

When she took that job, she said “it let John fulfill his dream of opening his own bicycle shop” in suburban Vienna, Va. He ran that shop, “Bikes@Vienna,” until they moved back to Iowa to be closer to his parents in their later years. They picked Ces’ hometown of Jefferson as their new home, and opened All Ability Cycles with the motto of “We believe that all can ride.” They sell a variety of bicycles, and repair them, but they specialize in adapting bicycles so people with all kinds of challenges can ride them. It’s a heart-warming story that has been shared nationally.

T.J. Juskiewicz is a native of Sunrise, Fla., who has been with RAGBRAI since 2003, director of it for 15 years. Before that, he was director of Florida’s cross-state ride Bike Florida and also directed the Florida’s Sunshine State Games. He’d met former RAGBRAI director Jim Green through their membership in the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association.

Green “kept wanting me to come to Iowa and ride RAGBRAI, so I did that in 2002 – with no intention that I’d ever move here,” said Juskiewicz, who lives with his family in Ankeny. “But I fell in love with RAGBRAI and with Iowa. In 2003, I accepted the job and worked with Green on the ride that summer, then he retired and I took over.”

Juskiewicz said he thinks RAGBRAI’s growth and success over nearly a half-century “has changed the way bicycling is looked at in this state. It’s not just a sport, it’s really a whole industry here. Because of RAGBRAI, many other biking events have started up in Iowa, and I think it’s also at least part of the reason we’ve had such a great trails system develop here.”

When you consider all that, he concluded, “I think we can put Iowa up against any other state, and – pound for pound – we’ve got the best bicycle state in the nation.”

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    How many courthouse structures have been built on the site of the current Greene County Courthouse?



    There have been three courthouses built where the Greene County Courthouse stands today.  Ground was broken on the current courthouse in November of 1915, the cornerstone was set in May 1916 and the new building was dedicated in October of 1917. The centennial celebration of the courthouse is already underway, with events being planned by the “Courthouse 100” committee, with support from the Greene County Historical Society.  You can learn more about the courthouse history and the celebration plans on the Facebook page “Courthouse 100: Greene County, Iowa.”


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