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The Peak: 1,670 feet
Fifty years ago, when Donna and Merrill Sterler built their house near Sibley, Iowa’s high point was the distinctive Ocheyedan Mound, once used as a lookout by Native Americans and later as a landmark by settlers heading west. In 1971, however, a USGS survey confirmed that the gentle rise at the end of the Sterlers’ feed trough was 57 feet higher. The view is high on soy and corn and low on drama. But as Ian Frazier waxed in Great Plains, “The beauty of the plains is not just in themselves but in the sky, in what you think when you look at them, and in what they are not.”
The Sterlers offer complimentary Iowa-shaped keychains to the hundreds of visitors who arrive each year, but they also sell baseball caps with the Hawkeye Hill logo for $7 each. How much dough do the prairie entrepreneurs rake in? Donna Sterler, a grandmother of six who was born in Sibley in 1933, says: “Gosh…we probably sold nearly two dozen one year.” Then she pauses and giggles. “Actually, we gave most of them away.”