Originally published in
Rock Island Argus &
June 5, 2014
As a New Yorker, I grew up believing the Midwest was behind the times, last to the table when progress was being ladled out. Maybe this was true in the days of corsets, sickles and Professor Whitaker's Cure-all Tonic. But I’m here to tell you that within the last six months, the Midwest has produced a pair of achievements that give us plenty to brag about.
Last winter's Arctic temperatures and blizzards brought much of the the country to a standstill, particularly in the Midwest. One small Michigan town was so cold in January that everything came to a stop. Even the snowplows were frozen in place. In a brief lapse of judgment, the mayor, according to BBC radio, put his car key in his mouth. He said he “had to go and throw water” on his mouth because the key “stuck to my lips.”
Why did the story of a cold snap in a Midwestern hamlet make international news? Because the town that frigid temperatures brought to a standstill wasn’t just any town. It was Hell. Hell, Michigan. The thing we’ve always considered unlikely to happen in a million years has come to pass. Not in Dallas or Seattle, but right here in the Midwest.
Hell has frozen over.
The effect was immediate in Illinois. We scrambled to find a new saying to describe the likelihood of the Cubs winning the World Series or a governor meeting his maker without first doing time in the Big House. “When pigs fly” was voted into office, but its term expired early. Why? Because once Hell has frozen over, anything is possible.
And just a week ago in eastern Iowa, pigs flew.
It happened as a truck full of pigs was approaching an intersection on Route One in Iowa City. According to an ABC story at www.kcrg.com, “The truck driver said he hit the brakes at a stoplight and the pigs went flying. The semi driver described it as ‘raining pigs.’”
I should mention that the pigs in question were dead. My curiosity has its limits, so I have not looked into the details of why this guy was driving around Iowa City with a truckload of pigs whose souls were, shall we say, in hog heaven.
Nor do I understand why it took so long to clean up the carnage. The cops and the driver got the carcasses back into the semi but left the truck and its deceased occupants sitting there overnight. By the following afternoon, the neighborhood, once a nice place to live and raise children, was swarming with flies, maggots and residents who weren't seeing the humor in the situation nearly as much as you and I are.
I guess the folks on the so-called “progressive” East and West Coasts are changing their opinions about the Midwest. No matter how you try, you can’t minimize this accomplishment. Any jealous New Yorker or Californian who tries to downgrade it--“Well, that doesn't count; the pigs were dead”--will have to face an uncomfortable reality:
The flight of dead pigs is the ultimate rarity. When you say to someone, “When pigs fly,” you’re saying that the chances of her assertion being realized are remote and hardly worth consideration. But to say “When dead pigs fly” is saying Not Gonna Happen, Period. Can't Happen, No Way, No How.
But it did happen. Take that, New England. How does it feel, Pacific Northwest? We in the Midwest aren’t waiting to catch up. The waiting is over.
Hell has frozen over and pigs have flown.