© Another Day in the Country
By the time my sister and I moved to Ramona in 2000, we owned three houses in town. We had The Ramona House, which I’d bought in 1992 and we’d made livable once again with new plumbing and electricity, patched plaster and reclaimed floors, flowered wallpaper and cast off furniture. It was lovely.
And then the summer of 1995 we got a loan from Tampa State Bank, bought the house across the street, pulled up old outdated carpets, scraped, painted, redid, refurbished, and filled it up with family memorabilia, calling it Cousin’s Corner — a house with five bedrooms that could accommodate a passel of cousins.
We’d also bought a house across the tracks with an acre of land and a storm cellar, no electricity or plumbing hooked up, which we called Green Acres. We told ourselves, “It had potential.”
“Wouldn’t it be fun,” I said to my sister, “if we had enough houses that we could handle family reunions in Ramona?”
Our own family came back to Ramona every year for extended reunions and maybe we could open up this opportunity to other people as well.
I had a dream! We just needed another old house or two to fix up, save another rickety place from being completely trashed, and just maybe Ramona could become known as the town with nostalgia where folks returned year after year to have family reunions.
I was so naïve, so optimistic. This would be a way for the houses to support themselves, at least. It was an idea that would only impact the town in a positive way. We’d fix things up, have fun events, improve the neighborhood, put Ramona on the map.
I thought to myself, “How could the people living in this tiny town not want to see this place preserved?”
Sadly, I discovered that there was an element in town that really didn’t care if Ramona ever had parades, tea parties, or clean-up days. They just wanted a roof over their head, even if it leaked, and were not prone to cooperation. Whether or not their lawn was mowed, their trash was picked up, or their animals were cared for was up for grabs.
For some, a small town was just a place to hide from the law. It was a house to use up — not repair — some land to hold the garbage cans and the old furniture. Once trashed, they’d move on.
For a few years we fervently believed our dream was possible. Maybe our small town could be saved. Our Aunt Gertie had made friends with a professor from K-State who was doing a study on small communities. She loved having him come visit, gathering information, eager to hear stories of small-town life.
When we met him we asked, “But is there something you can do to help? Small towns were in trouble!” There wasn’t. He could only watch and record our decline.
We were on our own, us dreamers. With two nickels to rub together, advancing age, and declining strength, we wondered if we should just give up. Are we, who want to see our small towns preserved for posterity, pipe dreaming? Are there enough souls who think alike, enough who care about our rather insignificant slice of Americana to actually keep it alive and well? Will we work together, cooperate to protect and preserve?
We’re still working on that dream. Several times a year, we’re lucky enough to play host to someone’s family reunion. A few weeks ago, it was the Tajchman family.
“You’re so lucky to be living in Ramona!” they said. “We just love coming back.”
We smiled. Through their eyes, we could once again see the charm of small town life — the quiet streets, the slower pace, the lack of traffic; just birds singing, grass growing, loved ones in the kitchen. Who could ask for more?
This is exactly what we want folks to feel, those intrepid travelers who visit Marion County. We won’t tell them how difficult it is to keep the dream alive. We hope they’ll notice the charm and not the disrepair, the quaintness and not the mess. We want our visitors to feel at home with fresh-baked cookies on the table, like Grandma used to do. We want them to return.
Maybe not quite as often as we once wished, but still just as we dreamed it, families do return to places like Ramona, they walk the streets, and their kids play in the park; just like we used to do. We need a trend! So, hang in there just a little longer all you dreamers, and let’s keep hoping that any day now, the wider world will see the need to spend another day in the country.