When Laetitia arrived at the Emerald Victorian and sat in front of the computer next to a steaming cup of Mexican shade-grown dark roast, she found an email from Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours suggesting that since she was touring Iowa, she should go to the towns of Manly and Fertile. Attached was a link to a website in which a columnist from the Mason City Globe Gazette attempted to track down an urban legend.
It is part of the folklore of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota that at some time in the past, a man from Manly and a woman from Fertile became man and wife and the event was heralded in a local newspaper with the headline, “Manly Man Marries Fertile Woman.” The columnist found that indeed there were several instances when Manly men married Fertile women, which is not surprising since the towns are 15 miles apart. That all the men from Manly were manly and that all the women from Fertile were fertile was assumed and not investigated further. No one produced a copy of a newspaper with the fabled headline. The email from Mind’s Eye was, as always, unattributed, but Laetitia decided that she had better follow instructions.
Manly is a town of about 1,300 residents. One of its distinctions is that John Dillinger and his gang stayed there in 1934 before robbing the First National Bank of Mason City. Fertile is smaller, with fewer than 400 people. The group went hiking in several wildlife areas that are near both towns before returning to Manly for the evening. During happy hour at a local Manly cocktail lounge, Laetitia heard some gossip about a woman from Fertile. It became the limerick of the day.
An Iowa lady named Myrtle
Who sat on an anthill in Fertile
Gave the town’s men a thrill
When she shucked her chenille
And jumped in a pond in her girdle.