Prairie Rivers of Iowa Has Had a Busy and Productive 2023

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Has Had a Busy and Productive 2023

Hello and Happy 2023,

Prairie Rivers of Iowa has had a busy and productive 2023 in Iowa, working on a variety of important initiatives related to creating a healthier natural environment and preserving the rich cultural heritage of Iowa.   As we end this year, we have touched kids, families, landowners, historic homeowners and business owners, communities, natural resource professionals, like-minded not-for-profits and oversaw a national prairie conference in Iowa.

Here’s a summary of some of the key accomplishments and initiatives this year:

EDUCATIONAL VIDEO SERIES – We created a weekly video series for YouTube and Instagram The Clean Water Act: 50 Years, 50 Facts. We produced 45 short videos filmed at dozens of locations (including knee deep in a marsh) and featuring 5 music parodies.  The educational videos covered various aspects of water conservation, law and policy.

Water Testing Ioway Creek Near Stratford in Hamitlon County

MONTHLY STREAM MONITORINGConducted monthly monitoring of at least 15 streams, providing updates in the Prairie Rivers monthly newsletter.  Additionally, coordinated volunteer “snapshots” with neighboring counties and supported school groups interested in water monitoring. Additionally, we published a 65-page report analyzing water quality data, including a novel way of looking at the data.

SECURED A NATIONAL FOUNDATION GRANT – This grant assists us in building a network for interpreting water quality monitoring data.  Seven partners joined Prairie Rivers to focus at sharing best practices, looking for tools to monitor E. coli in our streams, providing a monthly opportunity to express their concerns and planning for an Iowa Water Summit in 2024.

Ioway Creek Cleanup

TWO TRASH CLEANUPS — (1) May 2023 — Cleaned Ioway Creek by canoe, S. Grand to S. 16th St (Ames), 40 participants.  The trash collected weighed 3,020 pounds and included 20 tires and three rims. Partners included: Story County Conservation, Skunk River Paddlers, the City of Ames, Outdoor Alliance of Story County.  (2) August 14, 2023 – Cleaned a tributary of Ioway Creek in Stuart Smith Park (Ames), on foot, nine volunteers, 350 pounds of trash removed.  Partners included Iowa Rivers Revival, Green Iowa AmeriCorps and the City of Ames.

POLLINATOR CONSERVATION Launched a 10-year plan involving over 40 persons serving on a committee to support pollinator conservation.  This plan is aimed at conserving pollinators and their habitats, which are crucial for the environment.  You can see the plan at

Monarch Magic Family Fun Event on September 9th, 2023

MONARCH MAGIC Held the first Monarch tagging event in September, where over 300 kids, their families, and others learned about pollinators and tagged 146 Monarchs.  We had 10 sponsors and partners at Ada Hayden Heritage Park and plan to do it again in 2024.

HISTORIC RESOURCE PRESERVATIONReceived a grant from Iowa Cultural Affairs and successfully surveyed 319 historic listings on the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway.  In 2024, we will present the findings to elected officials and other interested persons in the 43 communities along the Byway to inform and develop a plan for the restoration and preservation of these important Iowa heritage properties.

BYWAY COORDINATOR AND PROJECTS – Hired a new Byway Coordinator, Jeanie Hau, who is actively working to support our Byway projects.  Prairie Rivers signed a new contract with the Iowa DOT to support work on the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway extending our efforts to preserve Iowa’s heritage.  This Byway begins on Highway 30, Montour turnoff, and travels through the Amana Colonies for a total of 77 miles.

TRAVELING EXHIBITThe Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway traveling exhibit called The Promise Road:  How the Lincoln Highway Changed America has been displayed at various locations, allowing visitors to learn about the rich history of this historic road.  It’s available for display in museums, libraries, and other community spaces.  So far the exhibit has traveled to Jefferson, Grand Junction, State Center, Nevada, Linn County Historical Society: The History Center, Cedar Rapids History Museum, Nevada Library, Marion Public Library, Carroll Public Library, Harrison County Welcome Center, and currently at the Council Bluffs Public Library.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Traveling Exhibit

We cannot do this work without your support!

Today, we are asking you as a supporter to make an end-of-year gift of $50.00 to Prairie Rivers of Iowa.  Your support shows us to keep up the good work!   You can make a gift here online or by going to our donation page for additional options. We know that as good stewards of the land, you see how important this work is today.

It is so important for a not-for-profit to receive gifts from individuals. Hearing from you encourages and supports our very difficult work in support of the natural and cultural resources in Iowa.
Thank you!

Board of Directors
Reed Riskedahl, President
Mark Rasmussen, Treasurer
Doug Cooper, Secretary
Erv Klaas
Bob Ausberger
Chuck Stewart
Rick Dietz
Jim Richardson
Christopher Barber

Mike Kellner, Marketing and Public Relations
Dan Haug, Water Quality Specialist
Jessica Butters, Pollinator Conservation Specialist
Jeanie Hau, Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway & Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Coordinator
Carman Rosburg, Office Manager
Daniel Huber, Technology
Shellie Orngard, Historic Properties Consultant

One-Time Donate to Prairie Rivers of Iowa
110 Years of the Lincoln Highway

110 Years of the Lincoln Highway

From Its Beginnings to Where We Are Today

The Idea
The idea was simple yet big. Carl Fisher wanted to gravel 3,400 miles of road across the US.  He planned to use communities to provide the equipment and manpower and in exchange for the work, the communities would receive the material free of charge. To fund the estimated $10 million for materials, Fisher appealed to auto manufacturers and parts companies to donate one percent of their revenues and to sell membership certificates to the public at $5 a person. There was even a timetable for the road to be done by the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition so that the host town of San Francisco would be accessible by New York City. Frank Seiberling, founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Henry B. Joy, president of the Packard Motor Car Company, were on board. Joy suggested naming the road after President Abraham Lincoln to gain patriotic support.

The following year on July 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association was officially established and the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway was given the name: The Lincoln Highway. Joy was the president and Fisher the vice president so it did not appear that it was only one man driving the plan.

Carl Fisher
Henry Joy Navigating the Official Packard i "Gumbo" near LaMoille, Iowa

The route would be the fastest and most direct route across the country. The Lincoln Highway Association set up consuls in each state who played a role in defining the precise alignment. The preliminary route was announced on Sept. 14th and the first official “contributor’s ticket” (member card) was issued to President Woodrow Wilson on Sept. 19th. With the route being announced, communities were pulling for their towns not to be left out, so the route was adjusted quickly and often but on Oct. 31st, the official route was dedicated so that celebrations could be had to promote the highway.

Henry Ford would not give his support for the plan because he believed that the government should build the roads. Support was low without Ford, so Joy and the Association came up with another promotional plan to generate interest by hosting “Seedling Mile” demonstration projects. The Portland Cement Association was pulled in to donate materials for mile-long paved sections of roadway in hopes of getting work to finish the roads. They were strategically placed near enough for communities to access but far enough that the rough roads had to be traversed to reach them. It was also hoped that this scheme would produce government interest in paved roads with the Lincoln Highway as an example. The first seedling mile was paved by October of 1914 west of Malta, Illinois. Iowa’s official seedling mile located between Mt Vernon and Cedar Rapids wasn’t completed until June 1919.

Seedling Mile Under Construction in Linn County, Iowa

Publicity & Branding
Several celebrities were drawn in to take trips across the Lincoln to advertise the entertainment industry while promoting the highway. To follow the route, the Lincoln Highway’s signature marked the way on telephone poles with the red band on top and blue on the bottom with the letter L in the center. By the 1920’s the telephone poles sported several roadways’ painted colors. Interest was growing in road trips.

In 1919, to test roads and military mobility, a US Army Convoy of 72 vehicles and 297 men traveled across the Lincoln Highway (having joined up in Gettysburg). Among the men on the trip was a young Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower who was greatly affected by the arduous trip. This trip was very heavily publicized and after the comments by the men on board, the government had to take notice.

Lincoln Highway Association Telephone Pole Sign
1919 US Army Convoy along Lincoln Highway in Tama, Iowa.

In 1919, to test roads and military mobility, a US Army Convoy of 72 vehicles and 297 men traveled across the Lincoln Highway. Tama, Iowa shown here.

MVPA Following Convoy Route During 2019 Centennial

Military Vehicle Preservation Association 2019 100th Anniversary Transcontinental Motor Convoy on Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa.

The Government Gets Involved
The 1920s brought the federal government’s interest in building roads and the creation of numbered U.S. routes. In March 1925, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) created a federal highway system identifying roadways with the official shield and number. They had now asserted control over the transcontinental route.

The Lincoln Highway Association was no longer needed and ceased operating on Dec 31, 1927 with 42 miles yet to be improved in politically charged Utah. As their last promotional stunt, they enlisted the Boy Scouts to install nearly 2,400 concrete markers along the Lincoln Highway and 4,000 metal signs in what is rumored to be a one-day installation in 1928.

In 1938, by the 25th Anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the paving of the roadway in Utah was finally underway. But was it still the Lincoln Highway? Or was it a US highway? Was the Lincoln Highway then ever really completed? Or was it an entirely different highway by then? There is a difference. I will let you enjoy the struggle with the argument.

Lincoln Highway Boy Scout Marker Installation Collegiate Presbyterian Church in Ames, Iowa

The Rebirth
A group of individuals from seven Lincoln Highway states met on Oct 31, 1992, in Ogden, Iowa, to discuss the need “to identify, preserve and improve access to the remaining portions of the LH and its associated history sites.”  They soon formed a revived National Lincoln Highway Association, which today maintains a road map with a 1913 route, 2nd and 3rd generation routes, and auxiliary and detour routes.

In 2006, the Iowa Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, along with community leaders, and the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) designated the entire Iowa route as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. This gave the Lincoln Highway visibility through the use of signage along the roadway and a managing entity (Prairie Rivers of Iowa) that would promote the intrinsic qualities of the historical, cultural, and natural resources of the Byway through education and economic improvements.

In 2021, then coordinator, Jan Gammon, with help from the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, was able to obtain National Scenic Byway status. The Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway was now alive.

Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa

In Summary
The popularity that the Lincoln Highway experienced in its beginning has not been matched since.  So how can we change the narrative and bring the Lincoln Highway back in people’s mindfulness when we talk about historical roads? At a time when the Lincoln Highway is losing its’ few remaining greatest assets, aging historical structures and bridges, the mindset to value, rehabilitate, and creative reuse is the route to a new narrative for the next 110 years.

So when you see an anniversary date, take a second look. Celebrate it, talk about it, and change the public mindset to value the historical idea. And don’t forget to take a road trip!


Historical Note: Henry Joy wasn’t the first to suggest Lincoln as the name for America’s coast-to-coast highway. Read more here in Brain Butko’s Lincoln Highway News.

Lincoln Highway Map
Pritchard Companies Traverse the Lincoln Highway Celebrating 110 Years

Pritchard Companies Traverse the Lincoln Highway Celebrating 110 Years

Pritchard Companies Traverse the Lincoln Highway for their Historic Innovation Relay to Celebrate 110 Years

Nineteen hundred and thriteen was the year that Walter Pritchard opened Garner Auto Sales in Garner, Iowa. 110 years later the company is still run by the Pritchard family only on a much larger scale having 350 employees and seven divisions. Now known as the Pritchard Companies, the founding family wanted to make a big gesture to highlight the innovation of the auto industry after such a long history of a single-family business. When the Pritchards found out that the Lincoln Highway was not only the first improved transcontinental roadway across the United States but that the Lincoln Highway Association was also celebrating an 110th anniversary, the idea was set.


Electric Vehicle During Pritchard Companies/Iowa Lincoln Highway 100th Anniversary Relay

Two short months later, on Oct 31st, on a very cold Tuesday morning at sunrise over the Mississippi River, Pritchard family member Angela Pritchard (5th generation), headed west out of Clinton, Iowa driving a Ford Mustang Mach-E (electric vehicle) on her way across the Lincoln Highway. Before she took to the road, the city of Clinton presented her with a flag to the city.  In the days leading up to the drive, Bill Pritchard (3rd generation) had previously handed off the baton for the relay in a dramatic gesture captured here from his antique Model-T Ford (the original dealership car of 1913).

Clinton Iowa Sunrise During 110th Anniversary Relay
EV Vehicle Charging During 110th Anniversary Relay

A few hours later Angela arrived in Cedar Rapids to a news crew and was interviewed by KGAN, a CBS affiliate. Angela handed the baton to CEO Joe Pritchard (4th generation), and along with Pam they took off on the second leg of the relay in a Ford F-150 Lightning (Ford’s electric truck). Ames was the lunch stop where the Pritchards handed the baton to an “extended family member,” employee Brock Thompson. Brock drove a Chevy Bolt EUV to Jefferson where the caravan greeted the statue of Abraham Lincoln before heading on to Carroll. As most central Iowans know, the figure is a long-standing homage to the Lincoln Highway’s namesake.  In Carroll, the baton was given to the newest Pritchard family employee Matt Bradley. Matt brought the Lincoln Highway idea to the Pritchards.

He was honored with driving the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid on the final journey through western Iowa where the EV infrastructure is just getting started. Shortly after sunset, twelve hours after the relay started, , the Missouri River was reached by taking the 3rd generation Lincoln Highway route from the town of Missouri Valley.

As the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway coordinator here at Prairie Rivers of Iowa, I would like to express our gratitude for the inclusion of the Lincoln Highway in such an iconic drive. We are thankful for your choice to use the Iowa Lincoln Highway route for your 110th Anniversary Innovation Relay and for the attention you brought to the 110th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway Association’s official dedication date for the Lincoln Highway route.

The Pritchard CompaniesHistoric Innovation Relay drive was a success and a milestone. We can’t wait for the next celebratory drive.

Pritchard Companies Historic 110th Anniversary Innovation Relay
Top 11 Haunts Along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway

Top 11 Haunts Along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway

Our Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway coordinator’s top 11 choices for haunts along or near the Lincoln Highway in Iowa:

#11) Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge is just south of Lake City (14 miles north of the Lincoln Highway at Glidden). This haunted bridge has a ghost after my own heart. It is said that if you visit this bridge at night and leave a candy bar (particularly chocolate) on the road, that the chocolate will be gone the next day but the wrapper will still be completely intact and unopened. Once I am gone, please leave Reese’s Peanut butter cups, and I will come visit!

Haunted Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge

#10) The Boone News Republican Building, Downtown Boone
Workers at night would hear footsteps running on stairs or hear their name called when the place was empty. The historic building was to be renovated and made into apartments in the fall of 2023.

Haunted Boone Times Republican Building

#9) Riverside Cemetery, Marshalltown
There is a concrete chair in the cemetery that looks like wood. If you dare to sit upon it, you will have bad luck or even die within the year.

haunted Cursed Chair

#8) Coe College, Cedar Rapids
Getting a good night’s sleep at this college has been challenging for some due to a ghost’s midnight antics. Helen, who was a victim of the influenza outbreak of 1918, is said to haunt the campus. She likes to come out at night and play piano in the parlor or take the covers off of students while they are sleeping.

Haunted Coe College

#7) Granger House, Marion
It has been said that the white figure of a young woman can be seen sitting in front of a window at midnight.

Haunted Granger House in Marion Iowa

wdd#6) Periwinkle Place Manor, Chelsea
The 3-story, 9-bedroom inn occupies a former funeral home that operated from 1892-2003. Now, the manor is a bed and breakfast that hosts events such as murder mystery dinners, weddings, concerts, wine tasting, and of course ghost hunters.

Haunted Periwinkle Bed and Breakfast

#5) Farrar Elementary Schoolhouse, Maxwell
(approximately 17 miles south of Lincoln Highway) Jim and Nancy Oliver purchased the abandoned schoolhouse in 2006, in hopes of making it their home. While working on the soon-to-be home, Nancy, after becoming unbalanced on the stairs, felt someone helping her. She assumed it was her husband. She turned only to see a small boy standing on the step, only to disappear a full two seconds later. Visited by dozens of paranormal groups and individuals.

Haunted Farrar Elementary Schoolhouse

#4) Black Angel Statue, Fairview Cemetery, Council Bluffs.
Built as a memorial to General Dodge’s wife, Anne, the statue’s eyes follow those who look upon her. Many people believe that those who touch the sculpture may be cursed. Others have said that the angel flies off the pedestal at night. Other haunted locations in the area include General Dodge’s House, the Lewis and Clark Monument, and the old library that is now the Union Pacific Museum.

Haunted Black Angel in Fairview Cemetery

#3) Farm House Museum at Iowa State University. The Farm House is believed to be haunted by two women, Edith Curtiss and Esther Wilson. It is thought that Edith Curtiss will open closed curtains on the second floor every night while the house is locked up. Every morning the curtains will be open even if they were held by safety pins. Esther will turn flatware to a 45-degree angle; the curators have since sewn down the silverware to the tablecloths so that they cannot be moved. Many other locations on the campus are also haunted, including Shattuck Theater, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, the Gold Star Hall, and several dorm buildings.

Haunted Farm House Museum at ISU

#2) Squirrel Cage Jail, Council Bluffs
This one-of-a-kind, three-story jail was in use from 1885-1969. One of eighteen revolving jails in the US, the floors were divided into dark and damp pie-shaped cells that were extremely small. The jail is said to be haunted by former jailers, the original construction supervisor, a woman, and even a little girl and two ghost cats.

Haunted Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail<br />
Council Bluffs, Iowa

#1) The Black Angel Monument, Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City
Angels in cemeteries are almost always positioned looking upward as if toward heaven; however, the angel monument at Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City was created with the face looking downward and the wings poised over the graves below. Since the eight-and-a-half-foot-tall burial monument was erected over 85 years ago, it has been the subject of many stories and legends. A once golden or perhaps ivory color, the monument is now completely black and has gained the reputation that kissing, touching, defiling, or even staring at the angel too long will bring about a terrible accident, disease, miscarriage, or death. Even so, the angel attracts thrill seekers who can’t help but tempt fate and the Angel of Death.

The Black Angel Monument, Oakland Cemetery

Here Stands the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial Known as the Black Angel

Here Stands the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial Known as the Black Angel

High atop a ridge overlooking the Missouri Valley is Council Bluffs’ Fairview Cemetery, where stands the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, also known as the Black Angel. Legend has it the spot is haunted and visitors sometimes report unusual occurrences. Nevertheless, the site is worth a visit as the beautiful bronze sculpture, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the work of Daniel Chester French, who created Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial and the minuteman in Concord, Massachusetts.

Ruth Anne Dodge was the wife of railroad baron General Grenville Dodge, an honored figure in the history of Council Bluffs and the westward expansion of the railroad. 

The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial Known as the Black Angel

Born in 1833 in Peru, Illinois, into a family that could provide a ladies’ education, she was a multi-talented woman. Ruth Anne could not only play piano and write poetry, she could ride a horse and shoot a gun with the best of them, a talent that held her in good stead during the years she joined her husband on the prairies of Nebraska.

Ruth Anne and General Greenville Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa

The Dodges built a grand residence in Council Bluffs, where General Dodge influenced the development of the Union Pacific Railroad. He died in January 1916, and September of that year found Ruth Anne also on her deathbed.

After her death, Ruth Anne’s daughters, Anne Dodge and Eleanor Dodge Pusey, had the sculpture made to depict the series of three nighttime visions experienced by their mother before she died. Ruth Anne had told them of the recurrent visions where she found herself on a rocky shore when through the mist she saw a small boat approach, carrying a beautiful angel holding a small bowl with water flowing forth. 

Each night the angel encouraged Ruth Anne to drink the water. “Drink, I bring you both a promise and a blessing,” the angel said. Twice Ruth Anne refused to drink, but the third night she did drink the water, and after partaking she said she felt “transformed into a new and glorious being,” telling her daughters she had drunk the “water of life” and now had immortality. She died a short time later.

Who haunts the site today is unclear. Is it Ruth Anne Dodge? Or perhaps it is the beautiful but tormented young woman who served as the model for the sculptor. According to Tom Emmett, executive director of the Historic General Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Audrey Munson was the most oft-sculpted woman of her time.

Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial

But apparently, fame did not bring her happiness, for a decade after modeling for the artist she tried to commit suicide and was subsequently committed to an insane asylum, where she lived another 65 years without visitors, dying at the age of 104.

Emmett says some people believe that those who touch the sculpture may be cursed. Others say the angel flies off her pedestal at night, and still others say the angel’s eyes follow a person as they walk past. One way to find out is to go and visit. The sculpture is considered likely the most valuable artwork in Council Bluffs, and it is just steps from a spectacular view of the Missouri River Valley and the expanse of Nebraska beyond.

“The Black Angel of Council Bluffs: The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial.” Spiritual Travels: Practical Advice for Soulful Journeys. Accessed Oct. 15, 2023.

“Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial – The Black Angel.” History Online, The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County. Accessed Oct. 5, 2023.

Williamson, Zach. “The History, and Haunting, of Council Bluffs’ Black Angel.” KMTV 3 News Now, Local News, Oct. 15, 2022.

Ten Things I Didn’t Know About Rolle Bolle

Ten Things I Didn’t Know About Rolle Bolle

Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out with the group of Rolle Bolle enthusiasts who play this game every weekend of the summer rotating between courts in the Iowa Valley, Minnesota, and Illinois. They are such a welcoming group who made me feel at home. If only I hadn’t been fighting a cold at the time, I would have accepted the beverage of Rolle Bolle choice and then been able to call myself family. This truly felt like a family sport, not only because there was a mom, dad, and daughter playing, and many of them were related, but because they encouraged each other, gave tips, and maybe had a little bit of rivalry.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out with the group of Rolle Bolle enthusiasts who play this game every weekend of the summer rotating between courts in the Iowa Valley, Minnesota, and Illinois. They are such a welcoming group who made me feel at home. If only I hadn’t been fighting a cold at the time, I would have accepted the beverage of Rolle Bolle choice and then been able to call myself family. This truly felt like a family sport, not only because there was a mom, dad, and daughter playing, and many of them were related, but because they encouraged each other, gave tips, and maybe had a little bit of rivalry.

Those of you who have grown up in the Iowa Valley have most likely heard of Rolle Bolle and know how the game is played. For this central Iowan, I had never heard of the game and was quite surprised by many details I hadn’t noticed just by viewing the game in photos.

In simplistic terms, the game is played by teams of three or four people rolling bolles down an alley aiming to land their bolles closest to a pole. The object is to have the most bolles* the closest distance to the pole than the other team by the end of everyone’s turn.

*One of the defining characteristics of Rolle Bolle is the beveled wheel-like shape of the ball or bolle. Bolles are manufactured in a way so that they do not roll straight but in a curved, elliptical path.


The 10 Things I Learned 

1: Although the bolle looks like a greatly enlarged hockey puck to me, it is not the same diameter on each side. I even rolled the bolle down our hallway here at Prairie Rivers and did not notice that there is a smaller side and a larger side. So why the beveled shape? The origin of the shape is not known; a fun theory is that the first bolle was a wheel of Gouda cheese, although this is probably not true. Whatever the origin, the shape is what makes the game unique to horseshoes, bocce, bowling, or curling.

2: There is not a one-size-fits-all regulation size for the bolle. Although they can weigh no less than five and no more than 9.5 pounds and measure no larger than 8” in diameter, they can be different for each player. Doesn’t this give someone with a larger bolle an advantage of being closer to the pole? “Not really,” I am told. A smaller bolle may be able to creep between thrown bolles better, a larger one may be lighter and more easily bumped out of position. What it boils down to is the boller knowing their bolle’s weight and turn and their aim, strategy, skill, and luck. 

3: Bolles are not all made of the same material. Nineteenth-century bolles were made from ironwood, a hard dense type of wood. Fiberglass has also been used. Belgian bolles today are mostly made of phenolic resin which produces a lighter and chip-resistant bolle. Most bolles in the United States are made from rubber and there are only two makers in the United States. One of those makers, De Pauw, makes bolles that are rubber in the center and phenolic material on the outside; he calls it the “Wonder Bolle.”

4: Just as there isn’t one regulation size or material for the bolles, there isn’t a regulation for the material or slope of the courts. The court must be 42’ long with two stakes placed 6’ from the backstop (30’ between stakes). Most of the outdoor alleys are crushed limestone material that may get rolled before a tournament in an attempt to smooth it out. Alleys can also be made from clay, dirt, sand, grass, or even carpet (usually on an indoor court). And the slope can range from court to court, which as you can imagine will change the way you roll the bolle. Remember that beveled shape?

5: The backstops must be 6’ from the pole but a barrier behind the backstop can be any distance. Think of a pit with railroad ties surrounding it. The distance from the backstop line (which your foot can cross but not go over while throwing) and the railroad tie can be different and depending on the length of your legs, this can give you space to take a “running” start or hinder your pace and form when aiming the bolle. One particular boller who has long legs was starting his run cross-legged. When I asked why, he explained that he has to start his approach this way because if the backcourt is shorter, he can’t get a comfortable approach. So by starting cross-legged, he can step out giving him more space to then take his next steps. 

6: You can roll the bolle or you can shoot it! Shooting the bolle is exciting. Perhaps I see it that way because everyone kept telling me to “step back” and “heads up.” Or because the young man shooting kept breaking the poles. Or just maybe, because when I tried to roll the bolle, it went way too far (I have too much power behind my bolle roll). “Just roll it,” I was told while I was thinking, “I am.”

There are typically three types of players with different roles. The “lead person,” the middle person (no official name), and the “shooter.” The lead gets to make the team’s strategic decisions. The lead and the middle person typically roll the bolle to get it close to the pole. The shooter gets to shoot at an opponent’s bolle to knock it out of the area closest to the pole, or at a teammate’s bolle to knock it closer. More power is used when shooting. And a “step back” is shouted to the crowd.

7: There are Rolle Bolle courts in Belle Plaine, Marengo, Victor, Ladora, Blairstown, and Marion. And several have closed in just the last three years.

8: Bollers have a love-hate relationship with the game. One boller I visited with kept saying, “I hate this game.” Then he would tell me that he tries to play the game seven days a week. He was the only player from Illinois this weekend. After explaining that you can’t master this game because of all the variables, all of the bollers expressed how they love it. A love-hate for sure!

 9: This “thing” about Rolle Bolle is something that I know, and you may not know. Did you know that with a library card, you can check out a set of Rolle Bolle bolles at the Marengo Public Library? Yep.

10: This is not the last time that I will be writing about Rolle Bolle. smile

Boller Starting His Run Cross-Legged
Not One Size Fits All
Rolling the Bolle

Thank you to all of the Rolle Bolle bollers who were at the Marengo Court on September 16th. We will continue to educate and encourage a new generation of bollers to carry on your legacy.  — Jeanie