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Posted on by howard martell

by  Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Winter nights in Iowa make it easy to believe that hell is not a fiery place with unrelenting flames that burn for eternity but rather an untold immensity of ice and snow; a place where every word you know for such boundless cold is inadequate. And when to the cold you add the disorienting reality of unmitigated darkness with its agile ability to distort everything, you have the crucial ingredients for fear, for hopelessness, for a loneliness that is cruel and wanton. You need human contact but there is none to be had. Just the piercing winds of the prairies which play with your brain, scald your breath, and make you ready to confess, even to crimes you did not commit.

This is winter in Iowa… and mere fortitude is not enough. You need, you must have and will pledge anything to get, any token that God has not abandoned you. For such moments, constantly recurring there are garden catalogs, catalogs filled with riotous color, with an Eden of plants, each more attractive than the one before, and, above all, there is hope that this dismaying season will pass, leaving you to breath easy again and embrace the promise of spring to come. With such catalogs in hand, hope and the future stand against the winds that would otherwise distress and dishearten you.

Yes, the flimsy pages are enough, a life preserver thrown to you at the moment you most require it. And so, with every light on, with the fire lit, with all the comfortable accoutrements you can find, you take catalog in hand and…. dream. For that is what such catalogs are…. dreams and the promise of a future where these dreams will live in all their glory. Now let the cruel winds howl as they might, you have that which will bring you through the night.

The man who turned the pages.

Have you ever wondered who reads these garden catalogs in dead of gelid night? I’ll tell you of one such reader, for if I did not you would go through your entire life without knowing him, and that would be sad, unacceptable … for he is a man you will be glad to know. I intend to tell you about him here and now, for you will never understand this tale without understanding this human, being one of the three protagonists. His name is Robert and he is easy to overlook. His looks are in no way distinctive; he lives in a house that is not remarkable. He is a good neighbor by which people mean he keeps his lawn reasonably cut and clipped, has only bad habits which are quiet and do not disturb, and never acts as though he was better than you are, for he is not. You would call him an average man… but you would be wrong. For this is a man of fierce memories and fiercer loyalties, a man of profound affections, a man of passions, burning deep, known only to himself; a man for whom a thing of beauty is a joy forever and who is willing to do what is necessary to bring this thing into the light. Such a man is not average… for no one who brings beauty to a roiling world is that.

“Der Rosenkavalier”.

In 1911, the city of Dresden, one of the most cultured places on Earth, thrilled to a new opera composed by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It was called  “Der Rosenkavalier” (the Knight of the Rose), and it was an unqualified triumph in every way. It is a story of pathos, aging, love, generosity and loss…  all conveyed by some of the most lush and evocative music ever written. If you have even a molecule of sentimentality, this opus will move you and you will never forget it. Go now to any search engine and let this balm of music overwhelm you… for my story about a real life Knight of the Rose continues…

The knight selects his rose.

Before there can be a Rosenkavalier there must be a rose. And this rose must be rich, glorious, capable of giving all, attracting all, enhancing the life of all who see it… and the fortunate one who receives it. Such an important matter takes time and cannot be accomplished in an instant. No one knows this better than Robert, for his habits are tenacious and his work thorough. And he is intimately acquainted with the soil and circumstances in which the rose must grow, the soil of Eldon, Iowa.

Most likely you have never heard of Eldon or Wapello County and will never visit. The population was just 927 at the 2010 census; it was 729 in 1880 and has lost population in each census since 1930. It is celebrated as the location for the small Carpenter Gothic style house that has come to be known as the American Gothic House because Grant Wood used it as the background for his famous 1930 painting “American Gothic.” The farmer and his wife featured in the picture look grim, gaunt, self-righteous… and desperately in need of a Rosenkavalier and the liberal beauty of his sweet-smelling rose.

In this they stand for every citizen of Eldon, of Iowa and of all other places. For we all need more beauty in our daunting lives… and a Rosenkavalier eager to present it to us, arriving just in time before our challenged spirits sink.

The John F. Kennedy.

In 1965 Eugene S. Boerner’s hybrid tea rose was released to the world by Jackson & Perkins Co. It is a grand thing with 48 petals and a string of beneficial features, including strong fragrance, disease resistance and the ability to withstand the pervasive heat of a punishing Iowa summer. Moreover, it had three unrivalled benefits… its petals were perfectly sculpted creating the effect of timeless grace, elegance and sophistication; its white color was cool and detached from every aspect of squalid life and daily struggle, and it was named for a president who died too soon and left a nation wondering about all that was lost, all that might have been. Such a man deserved such a radiant thing. And so Robert, along with many others, selected it to enhance his life, beautify his environment and make it clear to all that making the world a better place, rose by stunning rose, was his credo. And thus he planted… committing himself to improvement, perfectibility, and joy.

Unrelenting heat, searing temperatures, no relief in sight.

The farmers of Iowa, of all the rich heartland of the Great Republic, are cast from sterner stuff than most. They are equipped for challenge and delight in their collective ability to surmount it, gallantry always a part of their kit. It is no wonder that a great nation and much of the world depends upon their apt husbandry of the land and its potential. Nowhere is this more true than in Iowa, the greatest corn producing area on Earth, where the “tall corn grows.”

Now, thanks to drought of near Biblical proportions, the great arable fields of Iowa, so organized to feed millions, are dying unable to help themselves, soon so parched they will be unable to help anyone.

The essence of Iowa at this moment is heat, more heat, heat oppressive, heat destructive… and no rain at all. And so men and women of deep resilience and can-do attitude awake with a prayer on their lips, “O, God, succor Thy children and give us the water of life!”

But God, perhaps Himself overburdened by human needs, has given no sign of hearing… and so long weary days of heat and sweat, become longer and more weary still.

One man, one rose, one day at a time.

The heat that burns Iowa and its fields alive, no end in sight, burns Eldon, too, and a creamy white rose named after a dead president. Robert works and waters, but the rose is sick unto death. He opines that mere well water lacks something of the potent properties of the soft rain that falls from Heaven. Still, each night when the heat subsides just a little, he is out amongst his slow-dying plants offering the best he has…. heart and grit and the kind of certain belief that, in time, moves mountains.

He is the Knight of the Rose…and he does what is necessary to save his charge, difficult though that can be. But he does what must be done, tending the land and what should grow in it. This is what the true knight does, and he is a true knight, sans peur et sans reproche, a very Galahad for the acute need at hand. And thus, without any guarantee of success, he draws from his good heart, accomplishing God’s work, kneeling as if to Heaven as he labors, showing us all what one good man can do… and is doing now for us all.


This article the author dedicates to Robert Rehling. Know that I am by no means the only one who clearly sees all you do in quiet dedication. Friend, accept my thanks and the thanks of all of us at, insufficient though they may be, they are yet profoundly sincere. Never stop growing your roses, for they brighten a world in need of what you do so well.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.

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