Why do we live in McCook?

Friday, September 11, 2020

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ďI would rather sit in a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.Ē Along with the typical accouterments of my fourth-grade classroom; a US flag, an alphabet posted above the blackboard (upper and lower case, in cursive), and a rotary pencil sharpener mounted to the wall, my matronly, gray bunned and skirted stereotypical school-marm teacher posted a few famous quotes above the green letters of the alphabet. One was Thoreauís stab at overpopulated velvet cushions.

It appealed to me then, and it has stayed with me since. I donít like to drive in heavy traffic. I donít stand in lines. I am given to road-rage when tailgated. I donít want to be crowded, ever.

A few weeks back, a reader who is a member of our economic development community reached out to me and suggested that I weigh in regarding McCookís amenities and possible projects going forward. Having had some formal education in the economic development realm, I was genuinely flattered to be asked and more than willing to contribute. What struck me as awkward, however, was that under the current lockdown, the enjoyment of our amenities is mostly verboten.

I gave her kind of a perfunctory reply because I have had a backup article on hold since well before our entry into a new world in March. Itís snarky even by my low standards, but the gist of it is that the mating call of the intellectually unremarkable in our community is that ďThereís nothing to do in McCook.Ē What follows is a laundry list of every museum, park, playground, club, event, etc. Itís not really a nice article, but I thought it needed to be said. When I wrote it, I didnít think it was time-sensitive, so it would be a perfect backup article. Got that wrong.

So what is it that brings us here to McCook? Where is the draw? What is the magic? Well, many of you werenít drawn here at all. You are the offspring of homesteaders and early immigrants who carved out a community from a barren prairie. Iím more than a bit jealous of you folks. Itís a proud heritage, and you are a proud people, and I am privileged to be allowed to share your culture.

The rest of us, carpetbaggers that we are, were drawn here by one circumstance or another. My story is easy. I drove from Maryland to Denver in a 1969 Sedan de Ville to attend college. I never went home. Somewhere along the way, I married a girl from Oberlin. Here I am, but the fundamental driver in the middle of all that is the sign I saw posted above the alphabet in fourth grade. ďI would rather sit in a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.Ē

I learned to drive in the congested traffic of Washington DC. There is no bigger waste of time than being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the DC Beltway, yet people do it twice per day and write it off as the cost of living in Valhalla. I have also waited in the lobby of some corporate feeding trough for thirty minutes, waiting for a hostess (usually named ďTyffany) to call my name for a table where I could eat lousy seafood or over-priced pasta.

Personally, I would rather have a fish head and a well-seasoned root vegetable than wait thirty minutes for a table.

Amenities are important. We canít afford to be short-sighted about what we offer to our residents. People who are accustomed to having walking trails will appreciate our walking trails. People who are accustomed to art and theatre and a vibrant, interesting downtown, we need that too.

I have always appreciated McCook for what it is, but for me, the really magnetic attraction is what it isnít. Itís not congested. I am not stuck in traffic.I drive 1.8 miles to my office. I donít have to wait thirty minutes for a table at the dead lobster. This is home.

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