by Steve Clem on May 23, 2013

Corn_field-1024x682The boy came to rest in a cornfield in my hometown.

He had, quite literally, fallen from the sky. The winged rocket dropped from the heavens and slammed into a runway and a cornfield. In Iowa. This is where the boy would see his final moments. At the age of 12.

The boy wasn’t alone. One hundred ten other people died that day. But he was the All-American boy. Loved baseball.

In fact, the boy loved baseball so much that he’d gone to see the newly released movie, Field of Dreams, with his family just a few months earlier to celebrate his 12th birthday. The dad and the boy bonded through baseball. The dad coached the boy for his first six seasons of learning the game.


The Field of Dreams is real. It’s in a cornfield, 282 miles due east of the cornfield where the boy died. In fact, the cornfield where the DC-10 crashed is only a 30-minute flight from the cornfield where the movie was filmed.

I visited the Field of Dreams once. On my honeymoon. I was drawn to it for many reasons, not the least of which was hearing stories of amazement from my college buddies, who made numerous drunken trips from Grinnell to Dyersville in the middle of the night (with sober drivers, mind you) to hit baseballs.

And I loved Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, an esteemed member of the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop — the book that led to the screenplay for Field of Dreams. And the movie . . . well, I still can’t make it through this scene without bawling like a Mr. Bawler McBawlerson:

The field was originally built just for the movie. But the farmer kept it up, because mysteriously — life imitating art — he had people coming from all over the world to visit the field.

Little did I know at the time that a few years before my honeymoon visit to the field, the dad visited it too. With the mom. And the girl. They packed up and drove west from Pennsylvania. It was exactly one year to the day since the boy had died. They went onto the field, and the dad took some baseballs that he used to throw and catch with the boy. He brought a glove. A bat. Things that reminded him of his son.

He scattered them in the cornfield that is the outfield wall of the field. And he waited. Waited for the boy to come walking out of the cornstalks for one last game of catch. It didn’t happen.

A dad. A boy. A game. A ball. A field.

So simple. And yet so complex.

If I were W. P. Kinsella, I’d write it so the boy and the dad got to play one last game of catch on the Field of Dreams. I’d write it so. But I’m no W. P. Kinsella.

The best I can do is offer that the dad, the mom, and the girl pack up and drive west to play a game of catch with me and my boys. Including the one who is an All-American boy. Who loves baseball. Who will turn 12 the day before the next anniversary of Flight 232.

* * * *

Steve Clem is a divorced dad, a recovering Republican, and a Prisoner in the Tundra. He is in The Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the largest Hokey Pokey of all time. He was the founding editor of the Iowa City weekly The ICON and is a contributing editor of The Spleen.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Idstrom May 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm

The story of UAL Flight 232 is truly amazing. Listening to Captain Alfred Haynes recount his experience that day was something I will never forget. Unbelievably, he returned to the cockpit just three months after the crash and flew until mandatory retirement age. He now is a public speaker as therapy for his PTSD. Anybody who has the chance to hear his presentation should do so.


Steve Clem May 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

John, I’ve been lucky enough to meet Captain Haynes. He was there for the one-year anniversary of the crash. He’s an amazing man. And he and I both learned about PTSD from the same event. I agree he is an inspiration to anyone he comes across.


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