Waves of rich plowed soil lap at the edges of this small Illinois town like a brown sea, and like other island dwellers, the people here don't take easily to some of the changes of the outside world.
So it was that a home town boy named Nord Swanstrom returned last weekend to a hero's welcome at the annual Memorial Day parade.
Swanstrom is a personable 31-year-old bachelor, a freshman Republican in the Illinois state legislature, and the man who made headlines last week by claiming that a volunteer organizer for the National Organization for Women offered him a bribe to vote in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.
In a corridor encounter at the state capitol in Springfield, the woman tucked a business card into his pocket, he reported, on which was a scribbled offer of $1,000 in return for a "yes" vote.
Swanstrom's charge of attempted bribery -- and angrily denied by ERA leaders -- broke in the Chicago Sun-Times and postponed indefinitely a crucial vote on the 27th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which wouldguarantee equal rights regardless of sex.
ERA supporters insist the doomfilled press "obituaries" for their cause are greatly exaggerated. The troops are regrouping to push for another vote, possibility by the end of this session on June 30, according to NOW officials.
"We have mounted one of the most massive direct campaigns the Illinois legislature has ever seen," said SheilaStoll Clark, president of NOW in Illinois.
But it is the reality of attitudes in the pecatonicas of this state, the kind of traditional grassroots perceptions of ERA, that have moved the legislature to defeat the amendment in each of the last eight years.
Shirley Doner watched the latest battle only fitfully from her waitress station behind the counter at Rockey's on Main Street.
She and her neighbors, for the most part, don't trust the feminists, even though many of these women bear the sort of burdens that ERA supporters say the amendment might relieve. unequal pay for equal work is the foremost such target.
"I don't like those women," Shirley said during a break at Rockey's. "They're pushin' it. They're pushin' it too hard."
Frank and sometimes profane, divorced from her truck driving husband, mother of four, she dropped out of high school when she was a freshman to get married because she was pregnant. She has worked since she was 15.
"ERA -- that's women lib, right? Well, i'd like to give those men back some of their jobs," she said with a snort.
"Anyway, we've already got equality, don't we? That equal opportunity office you can call?"
"They've got some women electricians, now. Electrical workers come in here talking about how they can't do their jobs and the men have to help them. Well I don't think that's right . . ."
"I don't want to knock some man out of his job when he's got a family to support." She enumerated the layoffs among friends at the local feed store and other employers in the area.
"There are ways to make it without ERA," she added, describing proudly the struggle of a friend to overcome the feed store's resistance to hiring a female hand. "They had her lifting 100 pound sacks . . . but she stayed. Now, she's been there eight years."
A number of Pecatonica women are convinced, as anti-ERA forces have charged on radio and TV, that ERA would send their daughters into combat. (ERA supporters, of course, respond that this is a totally misleading interpretation of the amendment.)
Perhaps the closest thing to a feminist is Barb Ames. She operates her own modest business, a shop called The Church on Main Street, "specializing in cake decoration and instruction." Her business is housed on a picturesque white frame former church with a steeple and fancy windows.
She and her husband have worked out a system of give and take, with him sharing cooking and other duties, It is a system which contrasts sharply with the routines of most of her friends, she said.
Barb Ames supports ERA. Of lastweek's events, she said, "i'm not shocked that anybody would try to bribe . . . I'm disappointed that the fanaticism is so high on both sides. It's come down to an emotional dispute over bathrooms and things instead of about the real problems."
The incident climaxed a free-for-all fight by opposing women's groups for the hearts and minds of Swanstrom and other Illinois legislators who had not previously taken a stand on ERA. The campaign had become increasingly tangled in political bickering and what one lawmaker called a "prairie fire" of rumors about corrupt lobbying tactics.
President Carter, Vice President Mondale, Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne and other powerful officials lined up with the pro-ERA forces.
Illinois congressman and independent presidential candidate John Anderson led a march of thousands of ERA supporters, many clad in suffragette white, through the streets of Chicago on May 10. The opposition was led by native daughter phyllis Schlafly, the militantly anti-feminist lawyer from Alton.
Her forces countered with homemade breads and anti-ERA media broadcasts.
Swanstrom, elected in a tight 1978 race by just seven votes out of nearly 70,000 denies charges by feminists that he made the bribery allegations just to get headlines, although he acknowledges they are indeed his first headlines.
"I can't help that what happened happened -- but it did. I don't like being caught up in this."
There is, as ERA supporter Mayor Byrne indicated this week, a fine line between a legitimate campaign contribution offer and a bribe attempt, he agreed.
"This was highly improper . . (law enforcement officials) must feel there's something here . . or they wouldn't be taking it to a grand jury.
"I feel I did the right thing."
Swanstrom, a graduate of State A Valley Junior College, worked as chief clerk in the Illinois state police office near Pecatonica, and later was deputy circuit clerk for Winnebago County.
He says he will vote against ERA, in keeping with the feelings of his constituents.
ERA was first proposed to Congress by the late suffragette Alice Paul in 1923.
In this go-round, 35 states have ratified and three more are needed for adoption by the June 30, 1982, deadline.
Illinois is the only industrial state that hasn't ratified the amendment. ERA supporters say it is important not only because of press emphasis on it but also because Illinois is the home of archenemy Schafly.
It is the only state that requires a three-fifths majority for passage. Pro-ERA oranizers are busy this week looking for the two votes they say they need for a victory in Springfield. But they are not looking in Pectonica.