Leather Life: Corn Haulers of Iowa Disband

Very sad news: After 45 years in existence, the members of the Corn Haulers Leather & Levi Club of Des Moines, IA, have voted to disband the club. By the time you read this, the Corn Haulers will have passed into history.

For 45 years the Corn Haulers L & L Club has been a social organization of men and women celebrating the Leather & Levi lifestyle. The Corn Haulers were the oldest LGBT organization in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest leather clubs in the U.S. The club’s 45-year span is a good long time, but it still saddens me to see the club disappear.

Because the Corn Haulers were the closest southern leather club neighbor to the leather clubs of the Twin Cities, there was a lot of socializing over the years between the Corn Haulers and our local clubs—The Atons, The Black Guard and Minnesota Storm Patrol. The Corn Haulers were also close to leather clubs—and the leather and bear communities—in other Midwestern cities, including St. Louis; Kansas City; Green Bay, WI; Nashville, TN; and Canton, OH.

The Corn Hauler’s run was called Cornball and was held every other year. In May of 2020 the club announced that, due to COVID-19, “We are cancelling our 44th Anniversary Run scheduled for September 11-13, 2020.” The club’s next run would have taken place in 2022.

The decision to disband was announced in an open letter to the community posted on Facebook and dated October 11, 2021. I found the letter truly touching, eloquent and dignified. Because I cannot improve on how the letter expresses the thoughts of the club’s membership, I will quote from the letter:

 “On Saturday, October 9th, 2021, the membership of the Cornhaulers [sic] Leather & Levi Club cast the difficult vote to disband as a formal club.

“For the past 45 years we have had the pleasure of being a true cornerstone of our community and an entrance point for many into the leather and fetish scene in Iowa, but it is now time for us to take our final bow.

“In our lifetime we have seen the march of the Gay Rights Movement sweep the nation, we survived the AIDS epidemic, we have played hard, worked tirelessly for charity and helped to educate our community on the leather and fetish lifestyle.

“Our members have been key in the founding of Capital City Pride [the Des Moines-based GLBTQ organization that presents programs and events including the annual Des Moines Pride Fest weekend celebration], Iowa Leather Weekend and the All-Iowa AIDS benefit, to name a few. We have had the privilege of being a sustaining member of the MACC [Mid-America Conference of Clubs, a planning and coordinating organization for leather clubs in the Midwestern U.S.], and helped our sibling club, The Titans of the Midwest, grow into the amazing little sibling it has become.

“This decision was a tough one, but we have reached the time where this torch must be carried on by those who are next to lead. Please remember we are here for you! We are here to share the lessons of our past, the knowledge we have learned and [to] celebrate with you as our community moves into its next phase.”

The club’s final appearance and presentation of colors was at the 2021 benefit gala for the Community Aids Assistance Project (CAAP) on November 20th, 2021, in Cedar Falls, IA. CAAP is described in the Corn Hauler’s letter as the state’s “only remaining benefit [organization] to support those living with HIV/AIDS in Iowa and a fully volunteer run organization.” The letter goes on to say, “It seemed only fitting that we celebrate with them one last time.”

The club planned to complete all its official business by Dec. 31st, 2021. The letter stated the club’s intent to “consolidate our remaining assets for donation, work to preserve key pieces of our history with the Leather Archives and Museum and celebrate with our membership on one HELL of a ride these past 45 years.”

The letter from the club thanked “all who have been members, partners and friends who have engaged with us over these years.” Even though the Corn Haulers have disbanded, they leave a 45-year legacy that will live on, as will the memories and friendships formed during those 45 years. 

The Corn Hauler’s final letter ended with this request: “Please join us and raise a glass as we make our final donation to charity and […] to this amazing ride.”

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