Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Painting, A House, and The Pitchfork Pie Stand

I think we are all familiar with the painting
"American Gothic"
You know the one with the dour farmer
and his spinster daughter
standing in front of their farm house
with the Gothic window?
image source
 It was painted in 1930 by the self proclaimed
"farmer-painter" Grant Wood (1891-1942).
He used his sister Nan and the family's dentist
Dr. Byron McKeeby as the models.
Wood's sister insisted she was the farmer's
daughter and not wife, because she did
not think of herself as old enough to be
his wife in the painting.
Wood used one other model in his composition,
The one that actually inspired the painting.
The 1881 cottage, designed in the Gothic Revival style
with an upper window in the shape of a
medieval pointed arch, provided the background.
It really exists!
Known as the Dibble House, Wood
found it in Eldon, Iowa while visiting
a local artist friend, John Sharp
Wood was amused by the window 
and remarked at how "pretentious"
it was on such a small house.

(The windows on each end of the house are
believed to have been mail ordered out of a
Sears Roebuck & Co catalogue.
Why they chose Gothic church windows
is any one's guess.)
 Wood decided right then to paint a portrait of who
he imagined would live in a house like that.
As for the painting, the rest is history.      
As for the house,
it's a rental property...
with a visitors center.
Find out more about the Dibble house HERE
But don't try renting it now, there's
already someone living there.
Iowa pie lady, Beth Howard.

Find out more about Beth Howard after the jump

I first learned of Beth Howard in 2011
on a flight from Virginia Beach
to Las Vegas.
In the Southwest Airlines,
Spirit Magazine
In a great article written by
Katherine Lagomarsino,
Beth credits pie for her life.
If her mom didn't make that banana cream pie
for her sweetheart so many years ago, he
wouldn't have become her husband, and
Beth wouldn't be here today.
The article tells about Beth's life.
The years of trying different careers,
including pie making in Malibu for the stars.
A move to Seattle
as an online producer for MSNBC,
How she met Marcus Iken while on assignment,
baked him an apple cinnamon pie,
married him,
image sourceand moved to Germany for his
work with automotive giant Daimler.
About their five years hopping
from Stuttgart to Oregon to Saltillo, Mexico.
Catedral de Saltillo (Mexico)
The article explains how Beth tried writing and teaching
pie making classes as a way to occupy her time.
And how she grew tired of the travel, his long hours,
 and the language barriers. 
How she took a job in LA for some relief
and continued to see Marcus often.
At least until he was transferred back to Germany.
She then moved to Texas to begin writing
a manuscript about pie making in Malibu.

Terlingua, Texas

The article tells of her loss in 2009 when Marcus was on a
3 week sabbatical and planned to visit friends in Oregon then
swing down to Terlingua, Texas to visit Beth.
But he would never see her again.
Marcus had died suddenly in Portland of a
ruptured aorta due to a congenital heart condition.
A grief stricken Howard soon found
Texas too quiet and moved to Portland
where she felt closest to her husband
and turned to pie to find some peace.
A year later she found herself unemployed
and untethered.  Feeling she might find comfort in
her home state of Iowa, she volunteered as a pie judge
at the 2010 Iowa state fair.
image sources
It was on a drive to her hometown of Ottumwa
when she found the American Gothic House.
She was driving along U.S. Route 34
when a national monument marker piqued
her interest and she turned off the interstate.
At the visitors center
 image source
Beth saw that someone had lived in the house as recently as
2008 and that meant you could probably rent it.
She persuaded a staff member to show her the house.
The floors were dusty and sprinkled with mouse droppings
but when she saw the Gothic windows
on the second floor
image source
she knew she wanted to live in the 509 sq ft. home.

 image source
 After a few phone calls to the property's landlord,
the deal was done in a matter of hours.
Beth signed a lease for $250 per month and an
assurance that the house would not be open to tours,
but required that she at least be friendly to
curiosity seekers.  She also had permission
to sell pies out of its front door.
That was it! Beth made a phone call
and had her stuff shipped.
For someone who swore she'd never return
after she left Iowa at 18 the place was
just the medicine she needed.
Today Beth keeps busy with her two terriers,
her country neighbors, and an occasional
unexpected sightseer walking through her home.
She also puts on pie making demos,
and has book signings for her memoir
"Making Piece".
She also had a Pie Across The Nation Tour,
to promote her book and
the healing power of pie.
She now spends her weekends baking pies
for her Pitchfork Pie Stand.
Where each pie might be marked with a
pitchfork design in the center

image source

and sold either out her front door,

image source
or around back.

Beth also produces 
The World Needs More Pie website,

Check it out HERE 
She also writes about her thoughts and
experiences in a blog she started in 2007!
And she has a Facebook page,

with very funny entries.
She just might lose her temper
when prepping the fruit,
Don't ever mention gooseberry
pie to her again!
image source
And sometimes Beth will put out calls
for help with pie making...

"If anyone in the Eldon area is looking for
something to do on this gorgeous day,
come join us at the table in the back yard.
We have apples to peel,
strawberries to hull,
blueberries to de-stem,
lemons to slice,
It's very sweet and relaxing work to do
while sitting and chatting."

Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me!

She's quite a inspirational person,
Click below for a short video
by Beth Howard
on the therapeutic power of pie

That article I read stayed with me
all this time, I was amazed by her ambition,
and how she just started a pie shop
right in her very famous home.

I got to thinking, I just had to share her
story with you.  I want to thank
all the image sources that helped enhance
my post.  Please click on any one of them
to read more about the artist, the house,
and Beth Howard.

Now I want me some Pie!
image source
Thanks for stopping by! 

1 comment :

Nita Stacy said...

What a great story! I love what she has made of her life after experiencing tragedy. So inspirational. Thanks for sharing!

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