Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Disturbing Trips to Sarilda

I finally got around to watching Sundance-winner Winter’s Bone and it brought back some very disturbing memories.

I grew up in the Fremont County-Yellowstone-Teton nook of Eastern Idaho on a horse and cattle ranch homesteaded by my great grandparents and grandparents more than a hundred year ago and operated then by my Mom and Dad.

My sisters and I never wanted for anything nor did we realize it when our parents were ripped off by a business to whom we had sold our entire year’s inventory took possession, then suddenly filed for bankruptcy before paying a dime.Capture

Ranches are actually small family businesses that rely on one pay check a year.

My Dad refused to file bankruptcy himself and he and my Mom worked years to dig out of that hole but they sheltered me from feeling or knowing a thing about it until years later when I was grown.

During a recent family get-together it surfaced that the guy who ripped them off had received much local praise for donating an organ to a church just after he had weaseled out of paying my parents what they were owed.

Bankruptcy may be the only choice for a lot of people, especially if the Republicans are able to repeal healthcare reform but it isn’t just business creditors that get hurt.

Winter’s Bone reminded me that we used to travel north along the back way toward Island Park to just past an area called Sarilda to help out a distant relative of my grandfather usually by occasionally buying a hog. That family always seemed a bit afraid of me but it was probably more like amused because on the school bus when I was a 1st grader, I had punched out one of their sons who was several years older, for calling me “Eddie.”

Edward is my middle name and I’m proud of it because it comes from my Dad’s cousin and best friend who was killed in World War II action when the B-26 in which he was a tail-gunner was shot down over northern Italy. But my first name was the same as my Dad’s except I went by a shortened version, Reyn, to avoid confusion and I hated the name “Eddie” for some reason long now forgotten.

I obviously had an inkling about branding well before my recently concluded 40 year career in community/destination marketing commenced.

Winter’s Bone brought back memories of some of the people and places up around Sarilda at the time. “Places” is the rural Idaho term for individual farms, ranches and some are solely subsistence. I didn’t realize at the time that I was witnessing the devastating effects of abject poverty so very foreign to my own cozy existence just several miles south of these folks.

The wary glances, seemingly always unwashed faces and clothes, yards cluttered with abandoned equipment and houses and building that looked to be falling apart and the distant thousand yard stares were disturbing to me, maybe a little scary, I’m embarrassed now to say, because nobody smiled, ever, and when they spoke, which was seldom, the words seemed harsh, almost violent.

The movie was filmed in Missouri but those scenes are common anywhere in this nation. My resulting flash-backs reminded me again that clearly we don’t all share the same reality, that as a society we are judgmental of people in poverty, the vast majority there through no actions of their own and why I’m irritated by today’s frequently smug, dismissing, disdainful talk show pontification and accusatory rhetoric about “personal responsibility.”

I love America and the American Dream but I’m pissed off that the richest country on earth still hasn’t found a means to resolve poverty and that so many of us appear so ignorant, or just plain hostile, to its existence.

If you missed it as well, rent Winter’s Bone. It’s not just a movie and more than poverty, it is about courage and resilience and hope.

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