Decorah, IA - Long-simmering tensions in the volatile Midwest erupted into violence yesterday, as Lutheran extremists from the shadowy Uff Da group claimed responsibility for the early morning egging of Doug's Dairy Freeze and igniting a bag of dog excrement that claimed the left shoe of Decorah Mayor Harold Zander.
In a taped statement broadcast during the Morning Soybean Report on radio station KOEL in nearby Oelwein, an Uff Da spokesman identified only as 'Commandante Greg' said that "the infidels have desecrated the Holy Land and now they have paid for their heresy," adding that "God is pretty great, you betcha."
Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register reported that the flare up would likely stall negotiations for the historic Midwest Accords.
Reacting to the latest Presbyterian offer, Urbandale Honda-Acura spokesman Kevin Westergaard released a tersely worded statement declaring "I dunno, I better talk to my manager about dat."
Last night's attacks further cemented the Middle West's reputation as a powder keg of ethnic antagonism, religious extremism and delicious dairy products.
While the recent events have focused public attention on the region, the roots of the current crisis can be traced back decades.
Once described by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as "an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by mystery, deep fried and covered with melted cheddar," the Midwest has long baffled outsiders.
The region was first discovered in 1956 by Mark Polo, a Levittown, N.Y. accountant, while searching for an overland passage to Anaheim and the famed treasures of Disneyland.
"Polo's young daughter had a notoriously weak bladder, so he was forced to seek emergency refuge at the ancient Stuckeys Oasis near Bettendorf, Iowa," explained Julian Whitby, a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Institute for Midwest Studies. "He was impressed by the region's rich culture, gigantic pecan logs and sparkling clean restrooms."
So impressed, in fact, that he wrote many postcards praising the area. Soon, dozens of station wagon caravans would venture west on Interstate 80 - the legendary "Cornsilk Road" - in search of exotic jackalopes and comically giant ears of corn.
This wave of strange outlanders from the East caused alarm among Midwestern traditionalist.
"Many, especially the Lutheran hierarchy, came to see the outsiders as a threat to their culture and way of life, infidel crusaders bent on pillaging their cinnamon rolls and Old Style," said Whitby.
A Turning Point
Regional tensions further escalated after the 1964 settlement of Presbyterian refugees from Pennsylvania near Zionsville, Indiana. Those tensions simmered steadily before finally erupting nearly a decade later.
In 1973, enraged Lutherans challenge the Presbyterians to a slo-pitch softball game, and were subsequently humiliated 463-2. Adding insult, the Lutherans were forced to cede five kegs of Hamms to the victorious Presbyterians.
While the fateful "7 Inning War" secured a Presbyterian presence in the region, it also stoked a new wave of resentment among Lutherans.
A new generation of disaffected Lutheran youth from South Dakota to Ohio turned to violence, smashing Presbyterian mailboxes and crushing themselves under Presbyterian holsteins during kamikaze cow tipping missions. But nothing has stoked Lutheran rage more than the influence of California.
Many here see the state as the embodiment of evil, a dark force funding the Presbyterians of Zionsville and corrupting Lutheran youth with its decadent culture.
Pastor Duane Gunderson, the enigmatic spiritual leader of the Uff Da movement, is outspoken in his condemnation of Californianism.
"Does not Zionsville get its decadent softball uniforms from California?" Gunderson asked in a recent interview with the French newspaper Le Monde . "The West blasphemes the holy land with its extreme skateboards and pretentious shrimp and goat cheese pizzas. It is the infidel of a thousand infidels, dontcha know."
The Voice of Lutheran Rage
Although he disavowed any prior knowledge of yesterday's attacks, many believe the brooding, charismatic Gunderson was their mastermind.
The son of a wealthy Minneapolis basement paneling contractor and school secretary, analysts say Gunderson was radicalized after a chance 1972 meeting with teen actress Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady in the television program The Brady Bunch.
"He was a gawky, 14-year old Midwesterner on his first California vacation," said Stanley Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Intra-national Strategy.
"During a studio tour, he saw McCormick in a studio commissary, and became tongue-tied when he tried to ask for her autograph. When the young starlet laughed at his stammering, he wet his pants and ran away in tears," said Shapiro.
"That's the key to understanding regional tensions," adds Shapiro. "It's always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia."
The traumatic encounter hardened Gunderson, whose psychosexual rage toward the West was soon channeled into a fanatical vision of Midwestern orthodox purity.
After two years in a Lutheran seminary in Wayzata, Minn., he broke with the traditional church, ordained himself and moved to Iowa, long notorious for its violent strains of radical Midwesternism.
Gunderson's fiery rhetoric and defiant disdain for the Pacific Time Zone found fertile ground in the fertile ground in North Central Iowa, especially among dispossessed young men. He recruited acolytes at local pancake breakfasts and boat shows.
To the faithful who joined his nascent Uff Da movement, he offered an eternal paradise filled with free Leinenkugel and Marlboro Lights, with 72-piece Craftsman socket sets sworn to martyrs.
Many young recruits were dazzled by Gunderson's svengali-like charisma and his fastidious rejection of post-1972 modernism.
He shaves twice daily, and is seldom photographed without the traditional cleric's garb; a striped, short sleeve Towncrest dress shirt, brown rayon tie and half-plastic, half-wire eyeglasses. When outside his vinyl-sided bungalow, he covers his head in the characteristic comb-over of the Lutheran pastor .
Inspired by Gunderson's example, Uff Da members reject modernism as well. Young men of the movement are admonished if they are appear in public without the traditional Farah or Jaymar Sans-A-Belt dress slacks, and must be groomed according to the ancient code of Brylcreem and Lectri-Shave .
The ultra-orthodox Yokel movement goes even further, wearing Big Mac bib overalls and DeKalb ventilated gimme caps.
Strict dress codes also apply to the women of Uff Da society. Females over the age of five wear the traditional outfit, a lime-green pantsuit made from woven polyester, and knee-length down parkas. Eyeglasses must be worn, with a minimum diameter of 6 inches, along with traditional flip-curl bangs or frizz permanents.
Feminist organizations have voiced alarm over the society's strictly proscribed gender roles.
"Uff Da society follows a very primitive hunter-collector model, and its women are forced to do the collecting," says Emily Bruns of NOW. "Mostly Precious Moments figurines and Beanie Babies."
Exporting Midwest Lutheran Radicalism
At first, Gunderson's Uff Da movement claimed only to be interested in self-determination and the nuclear annihilation of Zionsville, Ind. Soon, though, it appeared the group had adopted a much more ambitious and radical agenda.
Utilizing advanced satellite imagery techniques and Osco One Hour Photo kiosks, intelligence services have identified secret Uff Da training camps throughout the region. The grainy images show dozens of Lutheran radicals receiving instructions in advanced techniques of petty vandalism.
Smuggled video shows fierce trainees in Green Bay Packer and Minnesota Viking ski masks, scaling water towers and railroad bridges, spray painting radical propaganda messages like "I [heart] Uff Da" and "Class of '02 Rulz."
"We still don't know where they get their toilet paper and spray paint, but we cannot rule out state sponsorship," said Shapiro. "Jesse Ventura denies any connection to Uff Da, but he may be intimidated by affiliated Lutheran extremists groups in Minnesota, like Hamm-as."
Egging on Terror
Last night's egg attack on Doug's Dairy Freeze was apparently motivated by its new 'California Fruit Shake.'
Investigators believe the attackers may also be linked to the daring mid-day egging of an Abercrombie & Fitch delivery truck at the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines.
The group's recent success and lack of Western response has spawned a growing sense of regional fanaticism. According to recent reports, Uff Da cells have sprung up as far away as Lebanon, Ohio and Palestine, Texas.
Though it is unclear what the group's ultimate aims are, the recent events have given analysts pause.
"In communiques to followers, Gunderson has called for a unified purist Midwestern state," said Harvard's Whitby. "He envisions a vast homeland stretching from the Holy Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, eastward to the Wisconsin Dells. The geopolitical ramifications are unthinkable."
With growing waves of violence moving ever westward, some worry that California itself is now vulnerable.
"There is a large Midwestern refugee community on the West Coast, especially around Long Beach," said Whitby. "Many are sympathetic to Gunderson and Uff Da, and police have intercepted several Winnebagos filled with Lutheran radicals as far west as Elko, Nevada."
"And remember, these men are fueled on a diet of bratwurst, dairy products and 3.2 beer," Whitby added ominously. "We can't rule out a biological attack."