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Another Day in the Country

Hot soup in a can

© Another Day in the Country

I’ve been saving a matched set of empty tin cans for years. I wanted to use them for some occasion: a family reunion, supper with friends around a bonfire, maybe a “stone soup” supper in the neighborhood, or hobo stew with the cousins.

To do so, I’d need to reach out.

We experienced neighborhood reaching-out early on when we came back to Kansas from California and were an oddity in town.

Others never dreamed we’d stay. It was those girls from California, muddling around over on D St. Once this unknown commodity that we were stayed around, their enthusiasm waned.

If I’ve learned anything about small-town living in rural Kansas, it’s that being inclusive is not the population’s strong suit.

Maybe in the far distant past, when neighbors were fewer and farther between, reaching out was more easily practiced.

Whenever there’s a tragedy or other extreme circumstances, rural residents are johnny-on-the-spot to give a helping hand. But doing something at the last minute, that maybe you’ve never done before — probably not!

I’m afraid that people in general find the anonymity of reaching out on social media the easiest thing to do.

Facebook or texting feels like communicating. It’s quick and simple. We don’t even have to get dressed and can flash a message, “Anyone there?” like lightening bugs down by the creek.

Because I worked a lot of my life on a college campus, there always were “kids” close at hand — my own and everyone else’s.

There were friends I worked with who’d drop by unannounced or would call at the last minute and say, “We’re going for pizza. You wanna go?”

There always was someone dropping by, so much so that sometimes I used to get impatient with the volume.

Some people I know hate drop-by’s. I rather miss them.

I didn’t live in an organized town for more than 50 years. I didn’t really have close neighbors who could lean across fences and chat as I did when I lived in Denver in my 20s.

When I came to Ramona — which sort of qualifies as organized — I envisioned people walking by in the evening, stopping to chat, coming to sit on the porch. But that rarely occurs unless I invite it.

The good old guys in town do some chatting with each other — usually in their pickup trucks, in the middle of the street, with a window rolled down.

Once in a while, a neighbor cruises by in the evening in a golf buggy or walking dogs and waves.

In many ways, I don’t have a long list of things I have in common with my neighborhood — except for living in Ramona.

We don’t have kids in school in common. We don’t go to the same church or even the same food store. I don’t go to football games or even watch football on Sunday.

Thankfully, I don’t volunteer in city government anymore. It seems to be getting along fine for a change, so we vote and leave others to it — gratefully, appreciatively.

Believe me, anyone who volunteers to do anything organized — in or out of government — deserves kudos. It’s a thankless job.

It almost seems that folks would rather fight than accommodate. They’d rather believe bad than good. They’d rather bicker than belong.

Actual cooperation seems to be a lost art in times like these. And we’re terrified of change. Me, too. I have to admit it.

We also are afraid of failure and hate feelings of being rejected, which brings me to soup cans.

My light isn’t working in the pantry. While I was hunting for barbecue sauce, I ran into a flat of empty soup cans, all the same size.

These need to be used, I said to myself, or thrown away.

“Let’s have a soup supper on Halloween, since we get so few trick-or-treaters in Ramona,” I said to my sister, “and I’ll finally use these soup cans for serving soup.”

My buddy and event-planning partner looked dubious.

“Whose going to come?” she wanted to know, getting right to the point. “Remember how tricky it is to get people to join in? Remember the pie supper we tried? Remember all the things we’ve initiated through the years to bring togetherness in Ramona? And, furthermore people want to stay home for tricker-or-treaters.”

‘I don’t care who comes,” I said. “I’ll just text a few people and say that a witch and a black cat are serving soup at sundown, at the corner of 5th and D, and dare anyone to take me up on it.”

Who could resist at least being curious?

It was All Hallows Eve — another day in the country — and a witch served soup from a caldron, cackling with delight, giggling with glee. Did we use the cans? No! Try holding a hot can of soup. I’ll have to repurpose those cans — maybe for dribs and drabs of nails and screws or something out in the garage. The cans have left the house.

Last modified Nov. 10, 2022

 

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