MOTEL

Pull’R Inn

Kalona, Iowa

A John Deere dealer by trade, Ernie Ropp started hosting tractor pulls in the vast fields of southeastern Iowa in the 1970s. These events commanded crowds, and in 1977 Ropp built the Pull’R Inn at the intersection of Highways 1 and 22 in Kalona, the “Quilt Capital of Iowa.” With a population of approximately 2,300, Kalona boasts the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi.

Ernie Ropp passed away in the mid 1990s; Dick and Pam McGriff have managed the Pull’R Inn for the last four years. “We get a bus tour through from England every year, and two from Texas,” says Pam. Though appreciative of tourism revenue, Dick is dismayed by those visitors who seem to view the Amish “like they’re circus animals on display.” The 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame Patty Duke–showpiece Harvest of Fire was filmed in Kalona, and visitors often request the “movie room,” where FBI agent Sally Russell (Lolita Davidovich) stayed during the arson investigation into a rash of Amish barn burnings. Pam McGriff still has a movie poster that she thinks about hanging up in the Pull’R Inn lobby, recently expanded and redecorated in hunter green and burgundy, tractor memorabilia and quilt samplers. “It’s homey,” Pam says. “People come in and say, ‘It’s so homey.’”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen

Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen are co-authors of The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook. Erin lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is spending an inordinate amount of time working on Phil Busse’s mayoral campaign (www.meformayor.com). Her essay, “The Closet,” might be forthcoming from the Missouri Review. Thisbe lives in Iowa City; her novel, Osprey Island, will probably be published this summer by Knopf. Erin and Thisbe are both graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop who love their cats, and rubber cement, and can’t seem to throw anything out, ever.

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