Posted by: joshjasper | November 15, 2014

Twelve Mile

twelve mile

I live south of Dubuque off of Twelve Mile Road. The road earned that name due to being located exactly 12 miles south of downtown Dubuque and 12 miles north of Cascade. It’s also the exact distance between two very different realities.

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook news feed erupting about a shooting that took place in downtown Dubuque. Police were once again at a bar called Mad Hatter located on Central Avenue. I had no idea anything had taken place, but again, I live 12 miles from this part of town. I began to wonder what it’s like to live there and how it’s so very different from here.

There’s only one thing that causes members of our family to rush toward the living room window. It starts with a rumbling in the distance. “Hurry up, get over here! Look what’s coming!,” Isaac often exclaims.

It’s all about colors here in Bernard. Before you get to the window, you can assume the disturbance is being created by one of two colors. Red or green. We’re more favorable to green in our house. Grandpa retired from John Deere and says he doesn’t even see other colors. “It’s green or its junk,” he says. Isaac likes both. Tensions flare when the big red Case tractors roll down the road. I can hear some of the neighbors now. “They’re not from here! Probably from some big city. Definitely not from here.”

I wonder about the seven-year old boy who rushes toward the living room window when he hears a disturbance near his home on Central Avenue. What is he expecting to see? What has he already seen? That scares me. It’s the roar of the tractor’s engine that initially warns Isaac of the action that is taking place outside here. It’s gunfire that alerts the boy on Central Avenue that something is happening and that there is more to come.

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(photo taken by KCRG)

The questions start swirling in my head about the little boy from downtown Dubuque.

Who does he assume is responsible for the commotion?
Is he making assumptions based on color as well?
How often has he heard this before?
And at what point does he no longer rush to the window because it has become the norm?

He’s seven years old.  He’s paying attention and he’s learning.

The only gunfire Isaac hears is from the distant farmer trying to rid his barn of pesky pigeons.  He wouldn’t understand why neighbors would be shooting each other.  But somehow we can make sense of it all a mere 12 miles from our home.  We can make assumptions as to why the shootings are taking place, who is involved and where they are from.  Because as my news feed on Facebook reinforces, “they’re definitely not from here.”

Twelve miles.  It might as well be a million.



  1. I would like to comment on this blog. Back in the 1960’s, my dad’s parents had a tavern across the street from Mad Hatter’s; at the time it was the King of Clubs. Dubuque had a lot of taverns and bars, however, no one went around shooting or knifing anyone. If anything was shot off, it was somebody’s smart -alecky mouth or fireworks on the 4th of July. At that time, I was a kid, and understood that no matter where you went, disagreements were settled in a civil manner, with no violent threats. Somewhere along the line, I’m sad to say, we have forgotten what our basic principles should be when it comes to treating each other with compassion and respect. At Isaac’s age, all I knew about gun fire was reserved for tv, the movies, and past historical events, like a major war. It wasn’t something you had to worry about going out your front door. I, too, worry about what kids are learning today. I think the place to begin is in our own homes and cities about violence like the type down on Central Avenue at Mad Hatter’s. Or anywhere else in that respect.

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