The Ayatollah Khomeini cost Randy Leadley his job.
Gas guzzlers ruined John K. Hanson's retirement.
America's insatiable appetite for oil slowed down the soyabean planting and will probably keep the Crystal Lake Blacktop from getting paved on time.
Energy shortages put the Farmer's Co-op in the gasohol business, got Cal Peterson quoting federal regulations he'd never heard of six weeks ago and forced Goldy Knapper to consider laying off his own son.
The energy crisis has come to Forest City.
Forest City, population 3,835, is the seat of Winnebago County and calls itself "The Recreational Vehicle Capital of the Middle West."
They make Winnebago motor homes here, or did until a week ago when the big plant on the south edge of town laid off 1,500 production workers for an "inventory adjustment."
Winnebago has so many unsold motor homes parked in its gravel lots that all the licensed drivers in Forest City couldn't drive them away. There are 2,000 by the company's count, and that doesn't include the hundreds of naked chassis and vans waiting to be completed.
The layoff is supposed to last only six weeks, but Winnebago workers are worried it won't be that short. "I'm afraid we could be out for the summer," said Randy Leadley, who has a wife and two children to support on a $133-a-week unemployment check.
Leadley picked up his final paycheck a week ago and filed for unemployment at a special office set up in the Forest City Municipal Auditorium. The county doesn't even have an unemployment office; the local jobless rate runs about 2.5 percent most of the time.
But the unemployment rolls are growing and the layoffs will leave Winnebago workers looking for jobs in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota towns for 60 or 70 miles around.
The motor home makers are not the only people in Winnebago County whose lives have been changed since the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary government cut Iran's oil production, one of the factors that have helped tighten crude oil shipments to the United States.
There are dozens of victims of energy shortages within a mile of the white grain elevator that gives Forest City a skyline.
In the shadow of the elevator is Goldy Knapper's Mobil station, where a lot of the Winnebago commuters get their gas. The layoff will cost him business, but that doesn't matter much, he says. He doesn't have enough gas for them anyway.
"I'm getting 80 percent" of 1977 gas gallonage, Knapper said. "I was getting 85 percent until a couple of weeks ago when they cut me back again.
"We cut an hour in the morning and an hour at night and closed on Sunday," in the process reducing the number of hours his part-time workers put in.
Goldy's son Douglas, a Vietnam veteran, was working full time at the station until the gas shortgage. Now he's down to 10 hours a week and probably will be out of a job entirely soon.
"If we get enough gas I'll keep working," said young Knapper. "If we don't I guess I'll stay home and play cards."
To get more gas, his father has been buying from independent suppliers, but his last truckload from them cost 72.25 cents a gallon and he was selling Mobil regular for 73.9. "It's barely worth it," Knapper admitted, "but I can't see raising my prices any more."
Running through the ledger that records the incessant increases in prices, Knapper shakes his head. "If you asked me five years ago what would happen if gas went to 70 cents, I'd have said we'd all be riding bicycles. But we aren't."
The big grain elevator behind Goldy's station belongs to the Farmer's Co-op of Forest City. The farmers own the co-op. It's the place where they sell their grain and buy their supplies, pesticides, fertilizer and fuel.
In December the co-op added a new product - gasohol.
Ninety percent gasoline and 10 percent grain alcohol made from corn, gasohol is considered an exotic fuel at the Department of Energy, but in Midwest it's literally a home-grown solution to the energy shortages.
Cliff Ruter, the co-op manager, said he's sold 200,000 gallons of gasohol in the last six months. "To begin with we were selling as much out of that one pump as from the other four."
It takes 2.6 bushels of corn to make a gallon of alcohol, Ruter explained, so 200,000 gallons of gasohol represents 52,000 bushels of corn. Farmers figure gasohol not only can relieve dependence on imported oil, it also can open up a new market for their corn and boost its price.
Even at $2 a bushel for corn - a price so low farmers can barely afford to grow it - gasohol costs a lot more to make than gasoline. But the co-op sells it for the same price as premium - 87.9 - partly because they make less money on it and partly because the state of Iowa doesn't tax gasohol.
Besides putting in a gasohol pump, the Farmerhs Co-op has supplemented its gasoline supplies by switching sources. Now all the gas comes from Land O' Lakes Co-op, better know for its butter.
As a result, Ruter said, "we're probably a little higher priced than everybody else, but we've got fuel and they haven't. The nearby Crystal Lake Co-op is 3 cents a gallon cheaper on diesel fuel, he admitted, but for much of May it was limiting farmers to 150 gallons at a time. That's barely a day's worth during the spring plowing and planting season.
Cal Peterson, the local Phillips 66 jobber, had to invoke federal emergency fuel allocation regulations to force his supplier to sell him enough fuel for his farm customers.
"I got what I needed through Rule 9 and I'm all right now," said Peterson, "without that I'd have beeen out of business." In a lifetime as a small-town oil distributor, Peterson never before needed federal aid.
Plenty of Winnebago County farmers had to wait for fuel deliveries to begin their corn and soyabean plantings. Late plantings mean smaller crops and smaller crops mean higher prices. That's why speculators on the Chicago Board of Trade are paying $7.33 a bushel for soyabeans that haven't even come up yet, said Norm Stromer, one of Forest City's two stockbrokers.
If farmers and fuel dealers have petroleum problems, consider Ron Dorning.
He's the foreman for Everds Brothers Construction Co. of Algona, the company in charge of resourcing County Road B14, which Forest City folks call the Crystal Lake Blacktop.
Dorning's petroleum shopping list starts with asphalt, a thick petroleum product that is cooked up with limestone to make paving material.
Asphalt he can get, but the cooker runs on No. 2 oil, and No. 2 oil is the same as diesel fuel. Dorning can barely get enough of that for his diesel-powered equipment, let alone to burn in the cooker.
So the asphalt plant had to be converted to No. 6 oil. But No. 6 oil is so thick it won't flow, not even under the hot Iowa sun, so it has to be heated with liquefied petroleum gas, adding another hard-to-get product to his petroleum needs.
Then there are the 18 dump trucks that haul the asphalt. They run on gasoline, which is easier to find than diesel fuel in Iowa, but they need 1,500 2,000 gallons a day.
Normally, Dorning gets all the gas he needs for a project by making one phone call to a local supplier and telling him to keep Everds' tank full. Not this year.
"I've been buying gas all over," the foreman complained. "I was buying gas out of Crystal Lake, but they ran out. Then I bought gas out of Bancroft, but he's short. Forest City doesn't have any."
"I just got 10,000 gallons, but I'll use that in a week. That's the best supply I've had since we started - usually we're only a day or two ahead."
Dornign said his job is to pave the road, not to worry about gas prices, "but the people in the front office will be counting the pennies." In a single day the price he pays jumped from 78 cents a gallon to 81.6 cents, adding $360 to the price to that truck-load of fuel.
On the phone every day scrounging for fuel, Dorning is living a tank-to-nozzle existence with the livelihood of 50 construction workers at stake.
"If we're short of fuel, we'll have to cut back for hours," he said, and that will mean slim paychecks for his crew and delays in paving the road.
John K. Hanson also spends his days searching for fuels and worrying about keeping his crews working.
Hanson is the chairman of Winnebago Industries Inc., the man who founded the company, pratically invented the mass-produced motor home and made himself a millionaire many times over.
Until two months ago he was retired and living in the biggest house in Forest Icty, overlooking the golf course on the road between the Winnebago plant and the corporate headquarters.
His title was vice chairman of the board and he left running the company to the chairman, J. Harold Bragg, spending most of his own time tinkering with alternatives to gasoline engines.
Hanson with Winnebago got burned badly in the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo-motor home sales collapsed and Winnebago built up twice the backlog of unsold vehicles it has today.
So Hanson got interested in alternatives, things like a motor home powered by hydrogen - a gas that earned a bad reputation when the dirigible Hindenberg, a bag full of hydrogen, exploded in flames in 1937. Hanson poured several hundred thousand dollars of his own money into a Utah company called Billings Energy that perfected a safe way to store hydrogen fuel and he often drives around Forest City in a hydrogen-powered Dodge Horizon.
It was all just John K's hobby until April when the oil exporting countries raised prices again.
Frustrated that the company was still vulnerable to energy shortages and totally dependent on its recreational vehicle business despite several attempts at diversification, Hanson went back to work.
He fired Bragg, shuffled Winnebago management so fast that two board members quit, and within six weeks turned out a Winnebago that could run on either gasoline or propane.
There will be 500 dual-fuel Winnebagos on the road by midsummer, Hanson promises.
"I'm back for as long as it takes to get this company on its feet and earning a decent profit," Hanson said as he presided over the unveiling of his propane power system.
Convinced that Americans willing to pay from $14,000 to $40,000 for a Winnebago will not abandon their lifestyle as long as they can get some kind of fuel, Hanson has the company's engineers working on what were once his hobbies.
The hydrogen-powered house on wheels is now a corporate project and the company is researching the Sterling engine, an external-combustion machine that can run on virtually anything that burns.
"We've got to find alternatives. We've got to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," hanson said, making clear he means not only Winnebago, but also the whole country. CAPTION: Picture 1, no caption, by Tom Potts for The Washington Post; Picture 2, Gas retailer Knapper: "If you asked me five years ago what would happen if gas went to 70 cents, I'd have said we'd all be riding bicycles. But we aren't."; Picture 3, Winnebago motor home founder Hanson: "I'm back for as long as it taakes to get this company on its feet and earning a decent profit."