By Molly Moser
A decades-past trade of beef for tires in Guttenberg has inspired the newly released novel The Secrets of Clayton County, authored by Iowa native Don Wooldridge.
The novel’s main character, Sarah Hunter, is an IRS examiner and self-proclaimed city girl who’s been sent to a small river town in Iowa to investigate the locals, who may or may not be tax resisters. Using a system of bartering, citizens may be trying to avoid paying the government their due – or they may have found a simpler, more pleasurable way of life.
“My interest in the story line came about when my dad and I were recalling his barter with Dave Brown,” Wooldridge told The Press. His father, who owned a meat market in Guttenberg, traded Dave Brown four new tires for a side of beef. “I always loved that story. Dad said, ‘That’s nothing – everybody bartered, even Doc Meder.’ My interest led me to some research and I learned that the IRS actually had a 1982 law to tax bartering. Really! Knowing Guttenberg I wondered how in the world they would do that.”
Raised in Davenport and educated in Texas, Wooldridge returned to Iowa in 1966 working for the John Deere Industrial Equipment factory in Dubuque. Soon after, Wooldridge’s father Robert began managing the Guttenberg Care Center. His younger sister, Connie Wooldridge, graduated valedictorian of Guttenberg High School in 1969.
“For the next 15 years, my wife and children spent many weekends and holidays in Guttenberg. I met locals like Cornie Tuecke, Doc Meder, Dave Brown, and others,” Wooldridge recalls. His father was elected to Guttenberg’s city council and developed land and housing along Acre Street.