If you build it...
"This must be it," I said to my wife as I slipped the car into park.
We were somewhere near the hamlet of Dyersville, an unremarkable town of about 4,000. Among its claims to fame are the Ertl Toy Company and the National Farm Toy Museum.
But there was also this place, a picture-perfect baseball diamond absurdly situated out in the middle of nowhere. Flattened brown corn stalks from last year's crop were all that lay beyond the outfield.
Stepping out of the car, I was greeted by the cutting wind of a gray spring day. Everything looked exactly as I had pictured: The tidy white farmhouse with its inviting porch, the imposing red granary squatting on a hand-hewn limestone foundation, the rough wooden bleachers alongside the first baseline.
I had found it: The farm where the movie Field Of Dreams had been filmed.
I asked my wife if she would like to get out and see the spot where Kevin Costner's heinie had once rested. She said that the only way she would brave that nasty wind would be if Costner's heinie were still there.
Alone, I strolled the famous field, pausing at home plate to stare down an imaginary pitcher on the mound. There was no sign of life from the house; either nobody was home or they were accustomed to people randomly dropping by. After a few minutes the cold began to seep through my coat, so I clambered back into the car and we drove off.
Why does Field Of Dreams continue to affect us nearly two decades after it was shot? Maybe it's because it's more than just a metaphysical, metaphorical baseball flick; there are also the underlying themes of redemption and second chances, of forgiveness between a father and son. This is why it's also known as The Movie That Makes Grown Men Cry.
After we got home, I did some calling and eventually got in touch with Betty Lansing. Betty, like her brother, Don, was born in the house that was featured in the movie.
When I asked Betty, a chipper-sounding middle-age woman, about the farm's ownership she replied, "This farm has now been in our family for over 100 years."
How did their farm come to star in a Hollywood movie?
"It was pure luck," she replied. "Someone from our local Chamber of Commerce talked to someone on the Iowa Film Board who had heard that Universal Studios was looking for a farm that grew corn. Universal was informed that the state has a lot of corn, so they came to Iowa. They looked at more than 200 farms before choosing ours."
I take it you still get visitors.
"We certainly do. We average between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors annually. Last year we had folks from all 50 states plus 50 foreign countries."
Were those overhead power lines that run from third to second always there?
"Yes, but they were relocated during shooting."
I saw two souvenir shacks, one on your farmyard and one out by third base. What's up with that?
"The outfield is owned by our neighbors, who have leased it to an out-of-state interest."