2007.05.16 Out in the country where the living is easy

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I have lived in Morenci for more than 25 years, longer than I have lived anywhere else in the world. I love a lot about small town life in Morenci. People are kind and friendly, I don’t own a key to my house, my children have flourished with boundless opportunities both academically and athletically, my in-laws are just blocks away, I can walk or ride my bike to work.

Wonderful people like Jeff Ort, Ed Rupp, and Wes Clark can move heaven and earth in just a few days to help you out when your husband tears apart your bathroom and it becomes increasingly apparent that he isn’t going to put it back together in a week while also putting out a paper, mowing a yard of wicked thick grass, and doing a million other odd jobs.

I’m just at the tip of the proverbial iceberg in my list of what I love about this great Midwestern enclave. Still, I don’t always feel like this is my town. Home still feels like New York, specifically the tiny apartment at 1580 Thieriot Ave. in the Bronx where I lived with my four siblings and my mother who raised us by herself after she and my father split up. My neighborhood was predominately Irish and Italian Catholics with a smattering of Jewish families; I never knew a Protestant until I went to high school in Queens.

It wasn’t the roughest of blocks, but we had our share of heroin addicts dying in the street and as a young teen, experiences that I can’t imagine my children confronting, I accepted as ordinary—a strange man following me home from the subway station, my brother Kevin and I fist fighting in front of our building, my sister’s friend dragging me by my hair down the street, men on the subway exposing themselves.

I don’t think it was those kind of experiences that made me want to get out of the city and live on a farm, but I did go to a special school in Queens to study agriculture. Our teachers made it pretty clear that we would all go to college and encouraged us to learn about and apply to schools all over the country. I was the first in my family to go to college; I surmised that going out of state was par for the course. It was easy for me to leave Thieriot Ave. behind for new adventures.  

But would I do that now? With the last child about to head off to college, would I leave behind family, friends and connections and go somewhere new and different?

My friend Kay is in that position. She just sold her house in Queens and had to split the proceeds (more than $800,000) with her ex-husband. She has a little over $400,000 to buy a new place and there’s nothing at that price for what she wants where she’s looking in New York.

I keep telling her she could spend half on a great house out here and invest the other half. To which she replies, “What the hell am I going to do in Morenci? You don’t even have a Greek church.”

Her cousin Tina took the leap. She sold her house, left New York, and built a big new house in Kentucky. “So, why don’t you go to Kentucky?” I ask.

To which she replies, “What the hell am I going to do in Kentucky?”

To Kay, like many other New Yorkers, there is nothing to do anywhere but New York. But most New Yorkers don’t even visit all the wonderful attractions or take advantage of all the festivals and events going on. I suggested she could move out here, take frequent trips to New York and still be better off financially.

But I don’t think I’m going to make any headway. That New York City chauvinism is tough to crack. A few months ago she took her son Greg on a tour of upstate New York college campuses. He liked the campus at Albany, where, as Kay described it, there are 20-story towers at the corners of a block of land and the buildings are connected by underground tunnels.

They were both appalled by the more rural Binghampton campus.

“Where are the big buildings?” Greg wanted to know.

“From the dorms you open the friggin’ door and you’re out in the woods!” Kay complained.

Another New York friend, Adrienne, still laughs about the time she came here for a visit and I told her we were going to visit Pat and Bob Dister out in the country.

“And where the hell are we now?” she wanted to know as we sat on my front porch in town.

It was all country to her.

They don’t know what they’re missing.

And sometimes I wonder what I’ve lost.

    – May 16, 2007 
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

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