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The Gentle Giant of Mud Creek
Written by Melody Snow
(Article from Vinton Today)

          At the end of 13th Street, just beyond where the pavement ends, a one lane, wooden, country bridge holds the key to the secret that lies just around the bend.  Stepping off the little bridge as it crosses onto the east bank of Mud Creek, the gravel takes a turn and there, as you lift your eyes, stands the one and only, rugged and stouthearted . . . Stoney Arch.  Hidden beneath a flurry of overgrown vegetation and plethora of colorful graffiti, it’s remarkable how unchanged the gentle giant has remained, that is at least for the last 120 years.  
          Before 1898 a trussed bridge stood in its place, an iron structure with a span of 115 feet and stone abutments that alone reached 30 feet tall.  But that bridge, along with the surrounding area, caused many curse words to be heard from freight engineers and crews as they headed into what was known at the time as the “Terror” east of town . . . the “Vinton Hill.”  Freight trains of any reputable size would meet their match on these steep grades, causing their engines to stall.  Finally, after several accidents, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern Railway company made major improvements to the line.    
          In 1898 the surrounding hills, including the notorious “Vinton Hill,” were cut down and the gaps raised to reduce the grade of the railway allowing engines to haul more cars with less effort.  The result of this hard work was a double-arched, cut-stone bridge described at the time as “one of the handsomest structures on the entire line, and one of the prettiest in Iowa.”  This is the structure that still stands today and I have to admit, something about it intrigues me.  
           Over the last century there have been a couple of subtle changes to the Arch, nothing drastic, a thin cement encasement is covering much of the main structure, and graffiti has found its way around its base.  But then, anymore, that graffiti has become just as much the meaning of Stoney Arch as anything else.  I’m not sure when or who the first person was that scrolled their signature on the arches of this bridge, but they’ve been there as long as I can recall.  Almost as a rite of passage, a coming-of-age ritual, some have seen to it that their names remain forever a part of the gentle giant.  And albeit not what the original structure was meant for, it has in a way become endearing.  I still will find myself driving out to Stoney Arch from time to time and looking amongst the graffiti for any names I once knew.  Most have been covered by layers of new autographs, but the hodgepodge of colors never change, and they’re still there along with the memories.
           On the next sunny day, venture down to the east end of 13th Street.  Stand in the coolness of the mighty shadow cast by the giant, listen to the Iowa countryside come alive, and watch the shallow waters of Mud Creek meander its way towards the Cedar.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself as mesmerized as I’ve been by the contrast of the strength of this great giant and the gentleness of the area over which it stands watch.  
        Please note: Any type of vandalism, including graffiti, is considered a criminal misdemeanor.  If caught vandalizing, charges will be pressed.  

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Other Points of Interest

Stoney Arch
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The Benton County Fair
Written by:  Melody Snow
(Article from Vinton Today)

          Shhhhhh . . . I found it. . . I tell you it’s there . . . you just have to believe.  A land of adventure, mythical powers, and magical moments.  There’s no wardrobe to step through, just a dusty road betwixt two stone fences.  Once inside this Narnia-esque kingdom a wooden sign amidst a teeny grove, proudly exclaims . . . “Welcome To . . . The Benton County Fairgrounds!”

           Just as in Narnia, child and beast walk side by side, a pocket full of treats and fingers crossed as they make their way into a nearby arena.  Not far away, in barns laden with straw, rest more children and beasts awaiting their turn to parade down the alleyway.  This is where you’ll hear the quiet whispers they share, where beast understands child; and child, the beast.  A year’s worth of sweat and tears in hopes of having a simple blue ribbon to hang on the rail. 

           Across the way no beast shall enter for it’s filled with tempting tastes from the kitchens, and a barrage of skilled projects that have been honed until mastered.  There too they wait in hopes they’re found by the coveted ribbon.  Then on the far edge of the grove a rumble begins that grumbles and growls and groans.  Engines are revving out on the dirt track, sounds billowing up, overtaking the night air.   Even those who have not yet stepped into this kingdom of Narnia can hear the moans echo for miles around.  

           Then as the evening sun fades and slips away, the glow of the midway comes alive.  The chatter and laughter of the young, the rickety steel gears grinding with the awakening of the jovial carnival rides, the pings and bells calling out, and the sweet smells of cotton candy along with anything-on-a-stick, meld effortlessly to stamp this particular Narnia forever in our memory.  

          If you look carefully, little has changed at the county fair in our celebration of rural life for the last hundred years.  Children still bring their beloved animals to show, they’ll spend the week sleeping in the barns, dreaming of ribbons, others will vie for a prize on the midway, delight in fair food, court a sweetheart, and steal a kiss in the shadows of the grandstands.  The fairgrounds are for reminiscing, as well as making new memories.  

           Narnias can be found all throughout Benton County whether it’s at the Benton County Fair or elsewhere.  Find a Narnia that speaks to you, rekindle your memories with a glimpse into yesteryear, then pass it on to a child to keep it alive for generations to come.  

Fair - Veggie stand
Cattle Barn
Fairground Dirt Track
Benton County Fairgrounds
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