The November image of the 2021 Photography 139 Calendar is actually a combination of 3 panoramic images taken with Rodan139. Something that was rekindled in 2020 was a love for panoramic photos. However, it is hard to include such an image in a calendar, so I combined 3 of them to fill up a page. I don’t know if it works, but at least one person told me that this was their favorite month in the calendar. So, that is something at least.

2021 Calendar - November

The top image is of Horseshoe Bluff in Mines of Spain. The middle image is of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in northeast Boone County. The bottom image is of the Loess Hills, taken in Monona County.


When I looked the map for the TOWN SIGN PROJECT and knew that getting the town signs in Polk County was going to be next, I wasn’t overly excited. My excursion to West Des Moines to complete Dallas County was less than enjoyable and I anticipated finding town signs in places like Windsor Heights and and Pleasant Hill was going to be equally horrible. And it was. Only, I actually found decent signs for Windsor Heights and actually like the sign for Pleasant Hill. Now it took some time with Google Maps Street View before I even left on the trip to find those signs. Strike that, before I left on my second trip. I ran out of time and couldn’t find signs for Altoona, Pleasant Hill, Des Moines, and Windsor Heights on my first trip. I had to research it at home before I made a second trip, that doubled as a calendar delivery trip for Baier, Russell, Dre, and Sara. I don’t like doing that much research ahead of time. I like being surprised by what I find, but there is no way around it in Suburbia. Besides, this really is more of a small town project.

I will concede, I never really found a Des Moines “sign”. So I’m throwing in a downtown Des Moines Mural. I’m not going to consider it for Best in Show for Polk County though. Even though it is a pretty sweet mural. Think there is a fair chance that this spring I’m going to spend sometime photographing the murals in downtown Des Moines, cause there are some pretty cool ones.

If you don’t know Polk County, here is a look at it on the TOWN SIGNS PROJECT PHOTO MAP:

Polk County

Polk County is the 7th County I have completed:

7 Counties - Town Sign Project

Here is a look at the town signs of Polk County. Population Data is from 2010, so it is probably not remotely correct for Polk County:

Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
Greater Des Moines – Better Together – Better Forever
Population: 203.433

West Des Moines, Iowa
West Des Moines, Iowa
The City of West Des Moines
Population: 56,609

Ankeny, Iowa
Ankeny, Iowa
Population: 45,582

Urbandale, Iowa
Urbandale, Iowa
Welcome to… Urbandale – Uniquely Urbandale

Johnston, Iowa
Johnston, Iowa
Population: 17,278

Clive, Iowa
Clive, Iowa
Clive – District by Nature
Population: 15,447

Altoona, Iowa
Altoona, Iowa
Population: 14,541

Norwalk, Iowa
Norwalk, Iowa
Norwalk Welcomes You
Population: 8,945

Pleasant Hill, Iowa
Pleasant Hill, Iowa
Welcome to Pleasant Hill
Population: 8,785

Grimes, Iowa
Grimes, Iowa
Population: 8,246

Windsor Heights, Iowa
Windsor Heights, Iowa
Welcome to Windsor Heights – the heart of it all
Population: 4,860

Carlisle, Iowa
Carlisle, Iowa
Carlisle – The Natural Choice – Established 1851
Population: 3,876

Bondurant, Iowa
Bondurant, Iowa
Population: 3,860

Polk City, Iowa
Polk City, Iowa
Welcome to Polk City – A City for All Season
Population: 3,418

Mitchellville, Iowa
Mitchellville, Iowa
Welcome to Mitchellville
Population: 2,254

Granger, Iowa
Granger, Iowa
Welcome to Granger
Population: 1,244

Elkhart, Iowa
Elkhart, Iowa
Welcome to Elkhart – Est. 1902
Population: 683

Runnells, Iowa
Runnells, Iowa
Runnells Welcomes You
Population: 507

Alleman, Iowa
Alleman, Iowa
Welcome to Alleman
Population: 432

Sheldahl, Iowa
Sheldahl, Iowa
The People of Sheldahl Welcome You – Biggest Little Town in Three Counties
Population: 319

So what is Best in Show for Polk County. Normally the no-brainer would be Sheldahl or Granger. There are 21 town in Polk County or partially in Polk County. It is amazing that most of them are below average. My biggest disappointment is Mitchellville. There is a prison in Mitchellville! How does a town that has a prison not have a cool sign?

However, since Granger is really almost entirely in Dallas County, I’m going to put it aside. Sheldahl is fairly evenly split amongst Polk County, Story County, and Boone County. However, while I was driving home from Polk County, I made the most alarming discovery cruising through Sheldahl. They took down their town sign! It doesn’t exist any more. I’m going to assume that it was a victim of the derecho and the good people of Sheldahl will make amends for this and get it back up in the very near future.

Putting those aside, I’m going to give Best in Show to Bondurant:

Bondurant, Iowa
Best in Show – Polk County

I know it definitely isn’t my style of Best in Show, but while it has no art or a snappy town slogan, it is original and cool looking. I give the highest marks for originality and I have never seen a sign like it.

The worst signs in Polk County? Take your pick from Urbandale or West Des Moines or Norwalk. Although Grimes and Johnston are literally on the opposites sides of the same brick wall, so maybe they should share last place.


Collins, Iowa
#10. Collins

Sheldahl, Iowa
#9. Sheldahl

Badger, Iowa
#8. Badger

Granger, Iowa
#7. Granger

Scranton, Iowa
#6. Scranton

Boone, Iowa
#5. Boone

Dexter, Iowa
#4. Dexter

Farnhamville, Iowa #3 - East Side
#3. Farnhamville

Pilot Mound, Iowa
#2. Pilot Mound

Moingona, Iowa
#1. Moingona

Nothing has changed. However, I’m putting Sheldahl on notice. If the sign doesn’t return, I’m going to have to drop them from the power rankings. They’ll still make a book, but with several demerits.

The next time we visit THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT, we will visit Marshall County, the site of the deadliest train crash in Iowa history.


  1. I also really dig the Bondurant sign! And you’re right – the Pleasant Hill one reminds me a little of the old Engineering Animation building on 30. They can’t crack the top 10, clearly.

    Let’s hope Sheldahl’s sign is just out for a repair or a cleaning or something?

  2. I’m just glad to be done with Polk County.

    If this project gets so far, I’m not looking forward to doing anything around Couniltucky, the Quint Cities, or the Crapids.

    I’ve been poking around the bottom and top tier counties. Some of those counties only have like 4 or 5 towns. Particularly on the top tier.

    Bondurant sign is definitely unique. I still can’t put it words how disappointed I am with the Mitchellville sign. Hopefully another prison town delivers the goods.

    I actually think that a house might have been build where the Sheldahl sign used to be. However, that is completely connected to a hazy memory of the layout of Sheldahl. But it feels like Sheldahl has expanded south along that county road that is along the High Trestle Trail.

  3. Norwalk and Carlisle are in Warren County. How did they make the Polk County list? Also, I guessed that you would have liked Runnells’s sign. I was off on that one!

  4. Excellent question! I use the Wikipedia page for each county to determine what towns are in a county.

    Norwalk and Carlisle are partially in Warren County and partially in Polk County.

    Just as Urbandale, Clive, Grimes, and Granger are both in Dallas County and Polk County. Mitchellville is in both Jasper County and Polk County.

    Now I may make an adjustment to this scheme in the future and leave towns that Wikipedia says are mostly in a different county for that county. For example Wikipedia lists Norwalk as “mostly in Warren County”.

    For example, if you were to go to the Warren County Wikipedia page:,_Iowa

    It lists Pleasantville as being in Warren County, but mostly in Marion County. So when we join forces in the future to tackle Warren County, my new plan would be to leave Pleasantville for Warren County. Unless the route around Warren County takes us painfully close to Pleasantville. Then, I would be forced to harvest that Pleasantville sign!

    Whereas, Bevington is listed as being partially in Madison County. I’d have to include that sign in the Warren County Harvest.

    There are 16 cities in Warren County. 4 of them have already been harvested as being part of Polk County. It saves time. There are also 4 unincorporated (maybe 5) in Warren County, but I no longer pursue unincorporated communities, since they next to never have signage. But if one happens to be along the route, then it is pursued.

    As for Runnells. You aren’t far off. Runnells is probably my second favorite sign. What is holding it back is the lack of a pithy slogan of the some kind.

    In fact, Runnells has a slightly different sign, that is in better shape on the other end of the town:

    Runnells - Town Sign Project Alternate

    I chose the sign I did to represent Runnells because the background is better I feel on the other sign.

    Polk County is kind of a barren wasteland for good signs though. I think you’ll really like the signs of Marshall County and I think you’ll have no problem predicting Best in Show for that county.

  5. Doesn’t Ft Dodge have a prison these days? I guess their sign was a little grim?

    Can you get the photos over near Counciltucky from the car with the windows rolled up? That may be the best way to accomplish that.

  6. The deal with Fort Dodge is that, while it has a prison, it isn’t what people think about when they think about Fort Dodge. They think about people from Fort Dodge never shutting up about Taco Tico.

    While Mitchellville literally is only known for having a prison. It is by far the largest employer in town, based on research I haven’t made, but an assumption I’m willing to make. Plus, it is a women’s prison.

    So it is it too much to ask for something like this on the sign:


    If you want something “classier”. I don’t know about a town slogan but maybe something like, “Welcome to Mitchellville – Stay 10-20”.

    I’m hoping that there are some good small town signs around Counciltucky, but I haven’t even researched the area. It isn’t high on the list.

    Maybe I’ll just make my own cardboard sign that says “Welcome to Counciltucky – It Could be Worse. It could be in Nebraska.”

    And try to pass that off as their town sign.

  7. I assume I am not the Ft Dodge native in your sphere who has a deep, abiding love for The Tico? I just think that, even with the actual Mexican food aside, Krustos should be their own food group. But you’re right – the prison is fairly new, and nobody really cares about it, so it doesn’t really represent the town.

    I am glad you didn’t post a photo of Orange Is the New Black. I have never seen it, but I can’t bring myself to care enough to watch it for some reason. Those look far more… fun, I guess is the best word? “Stay 10-20” is perhaps the best possible slogan they could have, and you need to send it to Raygun STAT. I am positive that cardboard Council Bluffs sign would stand for months before anyone noticed, weather conditions aside.

  8. I don’t even really consider you a Fort Dodge native. Even though you are. I think of you being an Ogdenite. The Tribe of Bulldog.

    But you would be surprised how many Fort Dodgers I know. And all of them swear by Taco Tico. I know of a party involving Fort Dodgers that was took place in the Des Moines area that was “catered” by Taco Tico. I also have a bunch of relatives that live in Fort Dodge, but rarely have any kind of interaction with them.

    I actually do love ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. But, it just isn’t sexy enough for the kind of town sign I want. The first 3 season are really good and in the later seasons they really do a good job of showing how evil for profit prisons are. Plus, the last season really shows how evil our immigration system and in particular ICE is.

    They’re “Bustin'” out! Get it? Or do I need to mansplain it to you? You see mansplaining is when… I’ll tell you later.

    I did look up what other towns are in Pottawattamie County out of curiosity. It is a HUGE county. 15 cities and 3 “Census Designated Places”. There are some good towns in there that I do have high hopes for. Walnut. Crescent. Macedonia. Carter Lake. Carter Lake is the only town in Iowa west of the Missouri. I know this because it was Andrea’s first church, so she has some great stories about it. The bathroom was located right behind the altar, so if you had to take a number 2 in the middle of church, everybody knew it and depending on how you discretely you handle such things, everybody heard you.

    Maybe the Catholics at St. Patrick had the right idea with their outhouse.

  9. No, I don’t really consider my self a Fort Dodge native, either. I left halfway through second grade, then went to Webster City for a year and a half, then Boxholm for a little bit. Ogden was my home, though, and what I think of as my hometown.

    I don’t think that this is surprising. There is some Tico Love. I’m surprised there aren’t t-shirts about it, in all honesty – you’d have received one at a family gathering from a Dodger. They likely don’t contact non-Dodgers because they can’t enthuse about Taco Tico with you, so they probably just cut off relations. I do love Tico, but it’s really nostalgic at this point – I haven’t had it more than once (at my grandma’s funeral) in about 25 years. I think we got Krustos up in Mason City once. Alice loved them, which proved how much she is my child.

    I don’t know why I haven’t watched OITNB yet – so, I don’t like people telling me “you’d really like this” when it’s people who don’t know anything about my likes. There are people I trust – if you’re not in that circle, please don’t tell me that I’d just love “The Big Bang Theory.” I won’t. So it’s when some of those same people enthuse about OINTB that I assume it’s also terrible? It can’t get this much critical acclaim if it’s that bad. I should give it a shot; it’s just down the list. That’s awesome that they show how terrible the system is – I did like that even “13 Reasons Why” took on ICE. Trump’s presidency has certainly showed just how awful they are at a more visible level.

    I do appreciate the mansplaining offer! I believe I can see what is busting! Clever boys.

    I had no idea it was so big – yeah, as soon as I pull it up, I can see that! I sort of remembered all of the counties as being roughly the same geographic area (just some were taller/skinnier, and others were shorter/fatter). Pottawattamie is definitely NOT on-trend. I absolutely love the idea of someone (not poor Andrea) preaching the first time at the church and someone interrupting mid-sermon to just ruin the pulpit bathroom. Why on earth would they ever do that? I do remember the Duncombe church, when we lived there for a while, having the men’s and women’s changing rooms right on either side of the pulpit. I don’t remember, but I don’t think there were any bathroom accesses anywhere else, now that you mention it. Just googled:

    That brightly-lit wall at the back is the back of the church, so it’s entirely the two doors at the front. But you don’t have to go behind, and there is a hallway after you get through the door! It’s not literally the bathroom right through the door!

  10. My Fort Dodge relatives are kind of distant for reasons other than my disdain for Tico. They are on my Dad’s side of the family. My Dad’s side of the family was never particularly close for a variety of reasons, including the tragedies that seemed to tear through that side of the family.

    The Dodgers are my Dad’s half sister’s family. My Aunt Barbara’s family. Barbara was from my Grandma Bennett’s 1st marriage. She was quite a bit older than her siblings. I think she must be about 90 now. Where, I think, if my Dad was still alive, he would be 76, I think.

    I don’t know all the details because I really only know my Aunt Linda’s version of the story, but Barbara didn’t really get along with my Grandpa. She really wanted a relationship with her bio dad. In fact, she actually did meet him once. In a restaurant in Iowa City (I think). He told her he didn’t want anything to do with her and to never contact him again.

    She ended up in Fort Dodge and married a guy named Bob. Bob was super rich. When his parents passed away they left him and his sister both a million dollars. Now I’ll probably never see a million bucks in my life, but this was back when a million dollars was A LOT of money.

    In addition to being super rich, Bob was also SUPER Catholic. Always trying to get members of our family to convert. Well, first my Uncle David died and his wife pretty much prevented his kids having anything to do with the Bennetts.

    We used to go to Fort Dodge for Easter, but that pretty much stopped after my Dad died. So we already had no contact with David’s family. My Aunt Linda and her family basically disappeared for awhile. Just kind of floated out of contact with the people with Fort Dodge.

    One of my sisters does have at least a Facebook relationship with them. I think Barbara came to a baby shower for my niece last year.

    On the positive, I do have a pretty good relationship with a couple of my Aunt Linda’s kids. But they live out of state. One in Leavenworth and the other in New York City.

    I really liked the first season of 13 REASONS WHY, but everything after that was the worst thing ever. I haven’t made myself watch the last season yet.

    I don’t know if you would like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, but it is loaded with fascinating characters. It does lose its way a bit in the middle seasons. I will tell you that there is a character death in there that effected me more than any other television character I can remember. I had to turn the show off and come back to it later. It was devastating.

    That is a very small church. Seems like it needs a basement bathroom. I’ve seen those in tiny churches before. Seems like the best option.

  11. That’s too bad that Barbara clung so tightly to a father who wanted nothing to do with her. I remember thinking that there were redeeming qualities in my biological dad when I was very small, but quickly being disabused of those notions. I think there’s something of an arrested development when you don’t ever outgrow it. Man, a million dollars would go a long ways in Ft Dodge – the cost of living there is relatively low because it’s sorta garbage. I am glad that you are in touch with Linda’s kids. I bet it makes it fun if you head their ways at all to see them, and have it be fun rather than terrible and awkward.

    I hate all of that awkward family stuff that happens after a divorce or estrangement. My mom’s brother left his first wife. I’d been super close to her and her kids. My grandparents tried to continue to have the same relationship with my cousins, but the eldest never really was close again to them. I can imagine you have that situation where you harbored no ill will until you guys were ignored over and over.

    The second and third seasons of 13 Reasons were not great. Third season was legitimately weird – it had some good moments, but not a ton. But I can be a bit of a completionist once I start a series.

    I might have to give it a try. I don’t know that I would be able to handle a death of that magnitude well, though – I will say that killing off characters in truly devastating ways can kill a show for me. I love Breaking Bad as a complete arc, but Jon couldn’t watch after the episode in the first season with the little neglected boy and the ATM. (Not sure if you’ve watched it, but I assume so.) And I couldn’t really blame him.

    Man, I’m trying to remember, but you might be exactly right on that – I want to say that the door off to the side had a brief landing/room area where you could stand, I think maybe the acolyte lighters were on the wall, and then a set of stairs that went to the basement. You just made me remember that – we had to get my mom in her wedding dress in this tiny dark room by the toilet downstairs. Good call!

  12. I wouldn’t say that we are estranged or anything like that. It is just we don’t really have that much of a relationship. Part of that can be the huge age difference. Their youngest kid was going to college when I was like 7 years old.

    What is funny, is every once in a while, I get an email or text that goes, “How do you know person x? I hate person x.” I got one of those once for one of my cousin’s kids. Who apparently sorta bullied a friend of mine when they were in high school.

    The last time I saw any of them was, we went to Fort Dodge for somebody’s graduation party.

    But on the positive for Barbara, a few years back a half brother contacted her and now she has a relationship with him.

    I’ve never seen a minute BREAKING BAD. I think it came out before I started watching television. That is one of the reason I’ve never watched it.

    I pretty much gave up on 13 REASONS WHY the moment they decided to cover for the kid that was going to shoot up the school. I can’t remember the name of the main character, but I hate him more than I hate Rick from THE WALKING DEAD. Which is saying something. Just a completely self-righteous piece of garbage. I’m sure I’ll watch the 4th season at some point, but I just really badly want pretty much every character in the show to go to prison for murdering that kid and then covering up. The British girl is also crazy annoying too.

    Also, of course, make the photographer character a creeper. Like they do.

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