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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

A Field of Daydreams


Editors note: The writer dedicates this column to Lyle Bauman

A common complaint I’ve heard about Grinnell is how flat the land around us is, but drive more than five minutes in any direction and you can clearly see that’s not true. Southern Iowa is not flat but filled with rolling foothills, covered in leafy old timber, new cornfields and prairie grasses that stretch high above your head. In brightest day and darkest night, it is vivaciously beautiful, and simply sitting in a field can make you feel like you’re living in a Renaissance painting.       

I will never forget the first time I was lucky enough to sit in one of these fields: it was by permission from Lyle Bauman, a beloved dining hall supervisor and the namesake of Lyle’s Pub. We were tasked with taking out some coyotes, also known as ‘yotes or dogs.

The next night, Eli Freese ’14, Tyler Anderson ’16 and I went out into the pitch darkness to one of Lyle’s fields. We were hauling along a few buckets of old food as bait for any wandering coyotes. As I had no flashlight or headlamp, my two buddies went off into the woods and left me by the truck, and suddenly it felt like I had the whole world to myself.

Left alone, I leaned back against the truck and looked up. A giant blanket of stars seemed to reach out and embrace me, so close that they felt like Christmas lights in a dorm room that had slipped off and fallen onto your face. Everything was twinkling and sparkling at once, as if a million gemstones were hovering above me.

The next morning, as our hapless trio stewed in 90-degree heat, we stared at hazy mirages far away and tried to puzzle out whether a random shape was just a branch or a coyote slinking around our bait. Head resting against a hay bale, I looked up again: this time, the sky was a tranquil blue dotted with puffy white clouds, like I had been transported into a “Calvin and Hobbes” comic. My buddies sat beside me, each lost in their own thoughts, or perhaps just cursing their dehydration and the humidity. It was hard to tell.

Anyway, we didn’t have any luck that day, but decided to stop by to visit Lyle on our way home. It was my first time meeting him, but he greeted me like an old friend: he asked about what we saw and told us to make ourselves at home. We talked about fishing, the crop that season and how Lyle had gotten a nice buck recently. It was an unspoken fact that it would be one of his last hunts, and so a story of that deer had particular significance for all of us in the room.

Lyle passed away the next March, surrounded by loved ones. A photo of him still hangs in Lyle’s Pub, looking out upon all the students and friends he made at Grinnell College. When I look at it, I feel a sense of serenity, a human touch that reminds you that every day isn’t just about work and internships and stress and textbooks. It’s about being kind to others, and kind to yourself.

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