THE LITTLE TOWN THAT COULDN’T

Don’t you get tired of inspirational tales of people who re-build after a disaster? Families whose stories are  uplifting paeans to The American Spirit. Excuse me, but what else is a guy who loses a limb or two gonna do but carry on, after a fashion? Nature whacks you, you get back up, no big deal. But common folk dealing with trouble are the staple of prime-time these days, and the announcers always praise their pluck, courage, bravery, and pull-together-as-a-family-and-a-community-and-make-this-a-better-house-town-commune-home-for-adopted-crack-babies-ness. For all the praise to make sense, there has to places and people that just surrender to fate, give up and go on the dole. Places that can’t take any adversity, people that throw up their hands and move back in with their parents. People like these…

WBNL LIVE at  Eleven

Tad Upptite: “….and we will bring you more details as they are released. Now, a story we’ve been following since the disastrous floods of three months ago. Federal, state, local and volunteer aid have all played a hand in bringing many communities back to some semblance of normalcy. The main ingredient in the recipe for recovery is the people. The people who suffered the loss, sighed, put on their hip boots, and went to work reclaiming their lives and livelihood. We’ve been bringing you stories of inspiration, tales of courage, pluck, and resilience. Sagas, really; epic tales of a citizenry that wouldn’t say die, but fought bureaucracy, despair and tremendous loss, and rebuilt their lives and homes. Tonight, however, we report from a town that took a different path. Cash Kerry has this report from Summerville. Good evening, Cash. How is the re-building going?

Cash Kerry: Here, not so well, Tad! Not here in Summerville, where not much has changed since the night that changed so many lives. Few of the residents have returned to their homes. You can still see the high-water marks on the homes, some that got as much as 2 feet of water in them….”

Tad Upptite: “Two feet, Cash? Doesn’t sound so devastating.”

CK: ” Well, it wasn’t, Tad. In fact, Summerville suffered less damage than Fall River, Winter Lake, or Spring Run-Off. But nothing much has been done. Here we have a fellow with some lumber and a hammer. Maybe he has some answers…. Afternoon sir, Cash Kerry with WBNL-News. I see that you are battling back after Nature’s onslaught.”

(The guy turns the wood around, revealing a For Sale sign, which he begins to hammer into the ground in front of his home.)
Hammer Guy; Nope, had it. Since that church group helped us that first week, ain’t nobody been by with no lumber, no assistance, no food…”

CK: Excuse me, sir, but the waters receded overnight, the power was restored a few hours later.”

Hammer Guy: “Yeah, but everything was dirty. We’da hadta clean all this up, wash everything. Don’t the Red Cross have hot meals anymore?”

CK: “And this refrain has been repeated all over Summerville, a town full of people who just couldn’t suck it up, Tad. A town with no fortitude,  no gumption, no resilience in the face of adversity. Take Ida Mae Cornstover, sitting here on the porch of the house in which she was born. The only home she has ever known. Mrs. Cornstover, surely you want to see your house restored to its former glory?

Ida Mae: It’d be nice, I guess.

CK: So you and the family have pulled together, and how soon will you be able to watch TV again in your own living room?

Ida Mae: “My family?!? Still in the motel the gub’mint put’em up in. Shucks, I just wanna sell out, move in with my sister in Bigelow. First the big wind of ’78, now this. It’s all too much. My easy chair needs to be re-upholstered, I need new throw rugs, new baseboards. How much can a person take? My Bible got wet. Now, ain’t that a sign to get out, when the Good Book is soaked from Genesis to Corinthians?

CK: “Truthfully, a lot of people suffered far worse. …”

Ida Mae: “I ain’t them, and they didn’t have all, all this, mess! Down the hill, they get new houses! We gotta clean the old ones we’re stuck with! Whhyyyyy-yy?(Ida breaks down, her sobs swallowed up in the sound of yet another moving van rumbling by).

CK: I’m talking to the mayor of Summerville, Walt Chaff. Mr, Mayor, can you explain the reaction of your town to this calamity?

Mayor Chaff: It’s simple, Cash. Pluck, fortitude, a stubborn streak a mile wide. ‘Never Give Up’. A tie to the land that is stronger than blood. We have none of that here. We’re an unplucky people who would rather show adversity our backside. We’d rather pull up stakes than put on our work shoes. Look, I hate to cut this short…

CK: “I understand, Mr. Mayor. Go tend to your flock.

MC: Flock? Flock the lot of them!  I ‘m taking that teaching position in Tempe. I resigned. I didn’t run for office expecting anything like this! Any more questions, ask the assistant Mayor, Emily Bagasse. She will be here until her house is sold. Plucky gal. I think she was waiting for the Extreme Makeover guy to show up. But he’s so picky, doesn’t care that weak, whiny people need help too.

CK: “And there you have it. A town that can’t take it, can’t dish it out. A city-wide shrug of the shoulders by those who refuse to battle back against Nature’s mild fury. But you know, Tad? There has to be a town like this, or how can we appreciate the rest of us, The Americans that roll with the punches? The towns that re-build over and over, that come together to help one another. They look better tonight, thanks to the people of Summerville, the town that gave up, the town that said die. A town with no pluck. Back to you, Tad”


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