When I first arrived at Red Cedar Lodge in Charles City, Iowa, I kept hearing about a man named Bill Fluhrer. Bill is something of a living legend. He can move a silo from one place to another without losing a brick, restore the bison population, fix the energy problem, reduce topsoil erosion, study the stars, feed the world, and bring peace and happiness wherever he goes.
With every new tale of his feats my expectations of him grew, until he became The Most Interesting Man in the Midwest.
That, of course, is an unwieldy perception. WHO can live up to it? When you’re told over and over how amazing, incredible, brilliant someone is, it’s pretty darn difficult for anyone to meet those expectations.
Unless you’re Bill Fluhrer.
Bill is a farmer from Charles City, Iowa. He’s lived in the same house for all of his 84 years, but nothing about this man has gathered a speck of dust or a spot of moss. I met him, and his bison, with a group of Midwest Travel Bloggers on a trip to the North Central Iowa town.
The herd grazes outside his cabin, a former tenant house that Bill hooked up to a trailer and moved to a grove of evergreens. Then he added on a porch and a family room with reclaimed lumber from an 1850 barn. But he wasn’t quite done with the renovations. Inside the cabin we admired the stained glass window that he and a local artist made, and we learned that the loft was another addition. While at his daughter’s house in Chicago he admired her open ceiling, and his wife Pat said “I know what he’s thinking.” (You could practically see her shaking her head as she said it, even though she wasn’t there.) She was right – he came back and cut the ceiling out. Now the cabin is a getaway and a gathering place for family and friends.
The cabin isn’t the only structure Bill’s moved. See, there was this brick silo – a 34,000 lb brick silo – that he decided he wanted to turn into an observatory and reading room. So he hooked it up to his tractor and brought it to the wooded grove. He’s still working on it. He’s having a little difficulty getting the domed top to turn since the silo isn’t perfectly round, but I have no doubt that the same man who invented a hydraulic ladder 15 years ago to help take down windmills will have no problem figuring this one out.
In between the cabin and the silo is the House in the Trees. More than just a treehouse, every material Bill used was recycled, with the exception of the spiral staircase which he made in his shop. Located a couple of stories above the grove’s ground, visitors are invited to sign boards marking their time enjoying the lofty hospitality.
In addition to creating this fun and quirky getaway, Bill has also used his intellect and vision to help the environment. He added terraces to his farmland to reduce erosion. These are extensive enough that he actually got lost once in the ten acre plot! He was also instrumental in bringing the windmill farm to Floyd County. The Charles City Wind Farm includes about 50 turbines that turn those strong Iowa winds into energy.
Bill Fluhrer is a fascinating, intelligent, generous, and kind man, with a drive to keep creating. It was an honor to meet him and spend a little time learning how this one man has made this world a better place.
Want to learn more about Charles City? Check out more of the places and people the Midwest Travel Bloggers experienced during our visit.