Iowa Public Television


Iowa's Simple Pleasures (#405)

Dan Kaercher learns how to draw a bow, aim and let the arrows fly in west central Iowa;  gets a hold on all things wrestling in Waterloo;  walks on Iowa's ancient seabed uncovered by floods; and  relaxes at a Victorian Inn in northwest Iowa.

Dan Kaercher:  Let’s go!  Draw a bow, aim and let the arrow fly in West Central Iowa. Get a hold on all things wrestling in Waterloo.  Walk on Iowa's ancient sea bed uncovered by floods.  And relax and enjoy at a Victorian Inn in Northwest Iowa.  Join me Dan Kaercher as I travel the state to bring you these stories next on Iowa's Simple Pleasures. 

 Funding for this program was provided by "Friends" the Iowa Public Television Foundation.  Generations of family and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa Public Television.

 Iowa Tourism.  Iowa's tourism industry generates six billion dollars annually and supports more than 62,000 jobs.  Information is available at to learn how you can support Iowa's economy while having a wonderful vacation in your own state.

 The Gilchrist Foundation.  Founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist.  Furthering the philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, medical care and social services, the arts and public broadcasting, and disaster relief. 

 Iowa Community Foundations.  An initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations.  Connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about.  For good.  For Iowa.  For ever.  Details at 

Dan Kaercher:  I know have something in common with Cupid and William Tell, and you can too if you visit an archery range.  I am here at Raccoon Ridge Archery in Stuart to pick up some pointers and discover why so many Iowans enjoy this sport. 

 Linda Thompson:  Oh, I really like being in the outdoors and the woods and I like going with Gary and we go out.  And we had already purchased this 40 acres and we were wondering what we could do with it and he said well, we can make it into an archery course and it -.  From there we started in 1998 and it is just been going ever since. 

 Gary Thompson:  We have people come in the dead of winter, in July when it is hotter than blazes and - so yeah, it is open year round.  I would say the two bigger sections are probably close to a half mile by the time you go back and forth.  The course flows through the timber.  We have got three different sections here.  We're on the first section, 28 targets made of a product they call ethafoam, you shoot it with an arrow with the target points, it heals.  Try to make everything so when you shoot a target you move away from it.  Safety reasons.  It would take one person about approximately about an hour and half to go through the section.  The course is open all year round.  Love to see the ladies come out.  We have classes for clubs, traditional release shooters, finger shooters, there is about six or seven different classes we provide for each tournament. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Now that I know about the course I need to get some practice in.  Out in front I put that finger down.  Ok.  Now. 

Gary Thompson:  Got her. 

 Dan Kaercher:  No fair.  My arrow bounced.  You set that up!  Hey, I am not too bad.  We are going to head out into the timber, shoot a round of archery and see if I can catch any game.  What can I say?  Where do I get my medal?  Whoa.  Well, Gary it looks like I landed right in the head and neck area and I tried to knock the horn loose.  Tell me how does scoring work?

Gary Thompson:  Well, every target will have three different rings here.  This one right here on the out represents the eight ring.  The lung area which this would be an eight.  This ring here is the ten area.  This arrow here would be a ten.  This arrow here - shot.  This small ring on the inside of the 12 ring.  And anything outside of those is a six. 

Dan Kaercher:  So, I would be a six with both of mine.

 Gary Thompson:  Right you got two sixes. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Ok, I am just glad I hit the animal. 

 Gary Thompson:  Yeah.

 Dan Kaercher:  Maybe my aim could improve.  Archery is a great sport for anyone who wants to improve their hunting skills or is just looking for a little exercise and fun.  The best part is that you can do it alone, with a group of friends, or as a family outing.  I can't wait to come back and play again.  In Waterloo, I tour a spot devoted to the history of wrestling and learned this favorite sport actually dates back to ancient times.  Dan Kaercher. 

 Kyle Klingman:  Kyle Klingman.  Glad you are here.

 Dan Kaercher:  Happy to be here.   I sure didn't expect to see Abraham Lincoln on the wall right away when I walked in the door.  What is that about?

 Kyle Klingman:  Well, this is a depiction of Abraham Lincoln wrestling Jack Armstrong in 1831 in New Salem, Illinois.  And this match, this is a wrestling match that took place between these two.  Between what is called the Clary’s Grove boys.  This is what Jack Armstrong was a part of and then Abraham Lincoln of course he would be come our president.  Probably our most prominent figure in the United States.  A lot of people don't know what happened in the match.  But the thing that we know is that Abraham Lincoln grew in confidence from this match win or loss and it helped him become who he was and helped him become President of the United States.

 Dan Kaercher:  Well Kyle, I am probably not as well versed in wrestling as I would like to be.  So, I am looking forward to learning a lot today. 

 Kyle Klingman:  Well, we're excited to have you here.  This is a museum about history but we also want to make sure that we build the future.  That is why we have a lot with the Dan Gable Teaching Center.  So, we want that future to become our history and we are going to show you why that is going to happen.

 Dan Kaercher:  Lead the way!  Wrestling dates back to ancient times.  So, Kyle starts us off where it all began.  Well, Kyle it looks like wrestling roots go back a lot farther than just the early days in Iowa. 

 Kyle Klingman:  This is the part that really excites me about our museum is the history because wrestling is the oldest sport.  And when you think about it when you look at the ancient style of thinking and what you would do it just makes sense that you would engage someone else in a combat form.  Wrestling was going to happen.  It was an incidental sport that you were going to have wrestling and it just makes sense that it would be the oldest sport known to man.

 Dan Kaercher:  Now, I don't need a map to tell me that Greece is a long way from Iowa.  So, why did Iowa embrace this ancient sport?  There is one man credited with sparking the wrestling fire here, Frank Gotch.

Kyle Klingman:  Frank Gotch, who was from Humboldt, Iowa was an early day professional wrestler.  People loved Frank Gotch in the state of Iowa.  He was that person where people wanted to be like Frank Gotch, and he really kind of started this trend worldwide about how great wrestling was.  And Frank Gotch is really the reason that we got good in wrestling and why it got so prominent.  And it really is the reason why we have the great tradition that we have.

 Dan Kaercher:  For some wrestling brings to mind high flying acrobatics and crazy stunts.  For these folks there is the George Tragos and Lou Thesz wing of the museum.  When we think of pro wrestling it is a lot more theatrical and showbiz.  But that really has nothing to do with the other stuff going on here at the museum?

Kyle Klingman:  It doesn't but it is important to show the evolution because there is a split.  College wrestling stayed its course as the legitimate sporting contest.  Professional wrestling went to the entertainment side.  But we recognize that split and it is an important part of our history.

 Dan Kaercher:  Now when I was a kid two of the big pro stars on black and white television every week were Dick the Bruiser and Vern Gagne.  Do you have anything relating to them? 

 Kyle Klingman:  Vern Gagne is a great historical figure not only for college wrestling but professional wrestling as well.  He was part of the AWA and is a two time NCAA Champion for the University of Minnesota. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Minus the theatrics, Iowa High School Wrestling has a rich history and the museum celebrates the accomplishments of theses school boy superstars. 

 Kyle Klingman:  West Waterloo is really important to the history of wrestling because there have been eight individuals win NCAA titles.  Bob Siddens was the head wrestling coach there, won 11 state titles during his tenure, and probably the greatest high school wrestling coach that this country has had.  And behind you, here this is something I like a lot, this is the actual scale that a lot of the legends would weigh in on.  This is the one that Dan Gable would have weighed in on and a lot of the NCAA Champions, All-Americans that came through West High.  This is fun to be able to have this and people will come in and weigh themselves and it is just a neat thing to have.  The gold standard in the state of Iowa is to become a four time state champion and you can go through, you can see the history of who has been state champions.  And this is special to me because this is what is called the barn.  There has been an evolution of where the state tournament has been held.  It has been held at the West Gym in Cedar Falls.  It has been held at the Cattle Congress Grounds and McElroy Auditorium in Waterloo.  But this is probably what a lot of people remember.  It is Vets Auditorium.  It would get packed and as you see here, there were a lot of people just on the mat side and if you tried walking through here it was just complete mayhem.  Eight mats in this really gives a great picture of what it looked like to wrestle in the barn.

Dan Kaercher:  And that place is packed. 

 Kyle Klingman:  Oh, it was packed and the Wells Fargo Arena is where it is now in Des Moines.  This is a pretty special place for wrestling. 

 Dan Kaercher:  It looks like it is not just about the wrestlers.  It is about the fans in Iowa too.

Kyle Klingman:  Oh, it is about the fans because with these small towns, when they have people competing at the state tournament, it is like a ghost town because everyone wants to go to the state tournament.  So, I think it is so cool that it is recognized as the state tournament and when you win a state title in Iowa, you become a legend.

 Dan Kaercher:  Many of these young men went on to wrestling success in collegiate and international competition.  The gold standard of these Iowa Champions is Dan Gable.  This wrestling icon is showcased in several exhibits celebrating his legendary career as a wrestler and coach. 

 Kyle Klingman:  Dan Gable is the quintessential figure.  I have been working around this sport for a long time.  I am still blow away by the statistics.  What Dan Gable has been able to accomplish in this sport.  This Gable Era picture right here explains a lot; 355-21-5 dual meet record over 21 years, 15 NCAA team titles, 152 All-Americans and two that blow me away 98-1 dual meet record in Carver Hawkeye Arena, Big Ten Champions 106.  The rest of the Big Ten combined has a 104.  And when you think about the greatest athlete and coach combination, I don't know how it gets better than Dan Gable.

 Dan Kaercher:  And Dan Gable it is not just about wrestling and winning.  He inspires people.

 Kyle Klingman:  He does and that is what is amazing about Dan Gable is that he has never stopped.  He retired as the head coach at the University of Iowa in 1997.  He is still the biggest sports figure that we have in college wresting, international wrestling for our country, he just keeps going, and he just raises the bar higher and higher and he is never going to stop.  We love the passion of Dan Gable.  He exudes it and we want that for wresting.  We want it for the state. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Eventually we made our way to the Dan Gable Teaching Center to get some hands on experience.  I was ready to compliment my historical perspective with some real wrestling moves.  My teacher this day would be Mark Schwab.  Mark is a four-time champion and current Associate Head Coach at the University of Northern Iowa. 

 Mark Schwab:  Maybe outside -.  Getting in maybe I am going to keep working on that.  Head inside.  Head outside.  Arm drags.  Head snaps.  I mean there is a lot of things I can do to simulate real wrestling just with this Adam Dummy off the wall. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Hey, would you mind if I tried the take down -?  Now what would you like me to just try first?

 Mark Schwab:  How about a head outside shot?

 Dan Kaercher:  Which would be?

 Mark Schwab:  Head outside his legs - coming down. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Ok.  I will just tie into it.  I might not be ready for my first match yet, but that National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum has something for everyone wanting to learn about wrestling and its enduring impact. 

Did you know that Iowa was once part of a large continent south of the equator covered by warm shallow seas?  We're not that far south but the sea beds are still here.  This may look like an ordinary rock bed but it is actually a 375 million year old sea floor.  The fossils found here predate dinosaurs by 200 million years.  With me is Terry Escher who is a Park Ranger for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and she gives lots of tours of this Devonian fossil bed.  Terry, the shear age of this site and its history is just incredible.  Give me a little perspective will you?

 Terry Escher:  Well, just like you said before, it is before dinosaurs.  Way before dinosaurs.  I tell the kids they will not find any - there will be no dinosaur bones down here.  It was the Devonian Age, the "Age if Fishes". 

 Dan Kaercher:  To really help me get a better sense of the "Age of Fishes", I took a 20 minute jaunt to Iowa City and the University of Iowa's Museum of Natural History where there is a permanent display of a Devonian sea bed. 

 Ashlee Gloede:  Well, this is 360 million years ago and our model here is just a baby.  So, this is a Dunkleosteus and they could get the size of a school bus.  So we call him Dunkey for short because Dunkleosteus is a pretty hard name for kids to say. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Ashlee says lots of school classes visit this exhibit before going to the fossil gorge so they can better visualize the sea life.

 Ashlee Gloede:  It gives you a better visual.  You can see here we have crinoids.  At the gorge you will find just part of their stem.  So, it will look like little tiny cheerios everywhere.  And down here at the bottom we have some trilobites and at the gorge you will just see imprints of maybe their tail or parts of their body. 

 Dan Kaercher:  While it is great to see the big picture of life as it was in the gorge, I really enjoy seeing the actual fossils. 

 Terry Escher:  And just sometimes just like somebody is looking for a contact lens, I say you have to stop and look. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Oh yeah.

 Terry Escher:  And then you can see a little crinoids’ stem pieces, stem plates.  There are some over there.  But you kind of have to stop and look for a few minutes, a few seconds anyway.  There is a really good example of the colonial coral hexagonaria. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Unbelievable.  I had a guide with me but there is informational signage and a brochure to make it easy to do a self-guided tour. Here is the number five. 

 Terry Escher:  A really large stem from a crinoid.  Some people call them sea lilies but again they are an animal related to starfish.  But most of them won't be that big.  This is kind of a cool one here.  Unusual.  Brachiopod here.  It is one of the larger ones here.  Better specimens.  Brachiopods - they were stationary.  They were attached to the ocean floor. 

 Dan Kaercher:  This ocean floor part of Iowa's geologic history wasn't revealed until after the 1993 floods.  The Coralville Dam couldn't hold back all the rain water and the excess flowed over the emergency spillway for 28 days.  The water scoured up to 15 feet of soil.  Then in 2008 flood waters again swept through here widening the gorge and revealing even more fossils. 

 Terry Escher:  Each event, you know it was a very bad thing.  There were a lot of bad things happening all around the state.  But when the water went down we actually got something good out of it.  We had a little silver lining in the cloud.  And down here it is so unique because it is all laid out at your feel.  Most of the time when geologist/paleontologists are studying rocks it kind of - and layers.  But down here it is just all at your feet. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Terry says one of the larger finds after the '93 flood was part of the Dunkleosteus fish we mentioned earlier.  That discovery, part of the neck plate, is on display at the Coralville Lake Visitor's Center.  Whether you have 20 minutes or two hours, take time to turn back the geologic clock by exploring Iowa's ancient sea bed.  In Ida County, I travel back in time and discover some interesting sites on my way to a distinctive Battle Creek B&B.  We are on our way to our feature destination.  An architectural gem of a bed and breakfast in Battle Creek.  But first en route I wanted to get a close up peek of another architectural treat.  The castles of nearby Ida Grove.  Inspired by the late Byron Godbersen, a local business man, these castle like structures are for the most part private.  But some pre-arranged tours are available and anyone can take a drive by look at the exteriors.  You will feel like you are in a medieval village.  Now, on to Battle Creek just eight miles down the road and another architectural era.  A Victorian Bed and Breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In the sleepy town of Battle Creek, population of about 700, Jeff and Nancy Decker own and operate a B&B and a full service restaurant in this charming Victorian built in 1899. 

Jeff Decker:  My wife and I were shopping on the internet.  We were looking at bed and breakfasts literally all over the country and we kept getting drawn back to Battle Creek because of the Victorian architecture.  And we have always wanted a Victorian Bed and Breakfast and we came here to Battle Creek. 

 Dan Kaercher:  With four children, this busy couple gingerly juggles family time with job duties.  Jeff is the culinary expert.  A pretty big job considering the gourmet food served in the restaurant here.  And Nancy handles the daily upkeep and business side of things. 

 Nancy Decker:  We have a 13 step commute to work and our children are close and it makes it doable in the sense that if they need us for any reason we're here and they can come to us.  It works well. It caused us to be closer, I think.

 Dan Kaercher:  As I look around the place, I am impressed by all the glorious architectural details.  It really does feel like I have taken a step back in time. 

Nancy Decker:  It was built in 1899 by Dr. Francis Warnock.  He built it for his wife, Nellie and their daughter, Lucille.  The architect of the house is George F. Barber who is a prominent Victorian architect and he designed this house specifically for Frank Warnock.  And so this is the significance for the house being on the National Register of Historic Places.  You can actually still buy plans today of George F. Barber's to build a Victorian home.  But you wouldn't find this one for sale because it was designed specifically for Frank Warnock.

 Dan Kaercher:  There are three dining rooms on the first floor to accommodate large or small groups and upstairs are four bedrooms all with their own private bathrooms and showers.  Decorated with - antiques each room has its own special character. 

 Nancy Decker:  We have the "Rose Room" which has a brass queen sized bed in it.  It actually was Dr. Warnock's bedroom.  The builder of the house.  The "Gold Room" was Mrs. Warnock's bedroom and it has an antique full sized bed that is made of solid hand carved walnut.  And their bedrooms actually connected with the pass-through through the closets which are now bathrooms.  And then the next room over connects to the "Gold Room" and it would have been the nursery of the house.  So that Mrs. Warnock could get to the child.  And then the "Blue Room" is a smaller room on the back of the house with a king sized bed in it. 

 Dan Kaercher:  What I really love most about the Inn of Battle Creek is the food.  The Inn Restaurant is open to the public on Friday and Saturday evenings.  The menu is incredible. 

 Jeff Decker:  We serve a varied menu.  A lot of different seafood.  We are in the Midwest so of course several beef dishes, duck, lamb.  We smoke our own pork ribs in back.  We do a little bit of everything. 

 Dan Kaercher:   I asked Jeff to prepare some of his most popular and favorite dishes.  Do you even need to ask?  Of course I am going to taste them all. 

 Server:  Black and Bleu Ribeye. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Perfectly prepared ribeye steak with Bleu Cheese melted on top.  Divine.  Next the chef brings out Halibut Sofrito. 

 Jeff Decker:  Sofrito is a Caribbean relish and it is made with peppers and cilantro, fresh lime juice, we mix it with the butter and top it off, top the halibut off, and bake it in the oven.  It has a nice sharp flavor but it is nice and light as well. 

 Dan Kaercher:  It is not surprising that this talented and creative chef also specializes in another gourmet delicacy, cheesecake.  Totally homemade.  27 varieties. 

 Jeff Decker:  The one recipe that we used as the base recipe for everything was our raspberry cheesecake on a walnut crust.  The nut crust, savory nut crust, is just a nice compliment to the sweet and creamy batter in the filling of the cheesecake.  But that recipe was such a hit that we had taken that and adapted it to every other cheesecake that we have now. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Yummy.  Not only decadent to taste but pretty to look at too.  I have had such a wonderful meal and dessert and it is nice to know that all I have to do is climb the staircase and tumble into a big comfortable bed.  I know I am going to sleep well tonight.  The best part about staying at this B&B is the complimentary breakfast or in this case morning feast.  Looks great. 

Honey syrup?

 Nancy Decker:  Yes, enjoy your breakfast.

 Dan Kaercher:  Thank you ma'am.  Pancakes, sausage, eggs and fruit.  Such a great way to start the day.  It is amazing how I can be this hungry this soon after that great dinner last night.  I have really enjoyed my overnight at the Inn at Battle Creek.  An architectural taste of the past infused with fabulous gourmet flavors. 

 Dan Kaercher:  Want to learn more about what you just saw on Iowa's Simple Pleasures?  Visit our website at  Here you will discover more about the locations I visited and details on how you can create your own adventure. 

 Funding for this program was provided by "Friends" the Iowa Public Television Foundation.  Generations of family and friends who feel passionate about the programs they watch on Iowa Public Television.

 Iowa Tourism. You don't have to travel far to grow closer to family and friends.  From exploring the great outdoors to discovering a new cultural attraction your Iowa adventure is just around the corner.  Information on planning your trip is available at

 The Gilchrist Foundation.  Founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist.  Furthering the philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in wildlife and conservation, medical care and social services, the arts and public broadcasting, and disaster relief. 

 Iowa Community Foundations.  An initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations.  Connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about.  For good.  For Iowa.  For ever.  Details at 


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Tags: archery bed and breakfasts Coralville Dan Gable Dan Gable Wrestling Museum food Fossil & Gorge Museum fossils gourmet food Iowa IowasSimplePleasures Raccoon Ridge Archery Raccoon River relaxation restaurants Stuart The Inn at Battle Creek tourism travel wrestling


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