How to Perk Up a Small Town

Chris, Kathleen and Jean waiting to eat their meat.

Last night I went to the Cameron Chamber of Commerce banquet. When you are in a bunch of organizations, as well as more than one business, that’s a member, you sort of feel like you have to go. Since Hearts Homes and Hands was a Gold Sponsor, we got to sit up at the front of the place, which I’d never done before (never having spent the money to sponsor anything). At the event, I learned lots of ways to get things going and make small towns better. The first one was the most fun.

Surprise Someone

There we are, right under the BIG sponsor.

Lee, Kathleen, Chris and I were the HHH representatives, but we invited two of my Milam Touch of Love Board members to come, as well (wish we could have invited them all). It was nice to bring Jean Schara and Mark McKibben along with us for a fancy meal and some beverages. (Once again, though, there was nothing for non-drinkers in the wine and cheese time before the meal.)

Lee and Mark paying attention to Judge Young.

At the end of the evening, the Chamber gives out awards to citizens and groups. After the big awards, they give out Excellence Awards to groups or people who didn’t quite make the cut, or aren’t in the in-group of Cameron movers and shakers, which is who usually gets things (not complaining, just noticing). In fact, Lee won one of these last year for our work renovating houses and buildings in the community.

It was really great, then, to see the look on Mark’s face when it was announced that Milam Touch of Love received an award for the work we have done for animals in the area. Jean had a clue something was up, because I’d told her it would really be a good idea to reschedule her Facebook Live event for her essential oil business. Mark just showed up for the food and friendship, but hooray! We were recognized. Both Jean and Mark have spent SO much time, effort and money for the group. It was great to have them join me.

We are very happy to get our award.

ALL the volunteers and donors for MTOL are part of the recognition, though, because, as with all nonprofits, it takes a lot of work to succeed. I am really proud of them.

Remind Them It Doesn’t Suck

I have to admire Judge Young, who has been personally dragging the county into modernity by courting businesses and proposing things that disrupt the status quo. He spoke for “two minutes” at the banquet, and reminded everyone how much good has happened in the past couple of years.

Melanie is timing the judge, who I don’t recognize without his cowboy hat. There were lots of them in the audience! Texas, y’all.

He’s not kidding. All sorts of solar power companies are moving in, and I can’t complain about that. We in Milam County are also some sort of bitcoin mining capital of the country, and wile I’m not the biggest fan of that sort of thing, it does bring in jobs. And while a lot of people complain about moving the city offices to the former hospital in town, it WILL provide opportunities for new businesses to come in and make downtown Cameron an actual destination.

I hope he perked up a few people…

Bring in a Motivational Speaker

Sarah collects vintage hats. Flowers came from down the road from us at Silver City Flowers.

Another way to perk up a town like Cameron is to get the movers and shakers to think differently. So, this year, Melanie Reed brought in a young woman who has worked with small towns throughout Texas to improve their images and such.

Sarah O’Brien had actually done her homework, and presented a talk that wasn’t just ideas, but had concrete suggestions. She’d taken a tour of the town a few weeks ago (including the Pope Residence – so THAT was the lady who Melanie dragged through our construction zone).

Sarah used local buildings as examples of positive and negative mindsets. We laughed when Jean’s business was used as the negative (Ms. O’Brien has NO idea what’s in there).

One thing she said, in a talk about Lee’s favorite topic of mindset, just geared toward small town leaders, was that to get people to be positive about Cameron, we have to be positive. I saw myself and my blog about potholes in that one! Oops.

We laughed even harder when OUR building was used for abundance. I guess she didn’t notice the peeling paint on her tour.

You do hear a lot of folks around here saying how hard it is to get good people to work for you, how the poverty mindset has made the citizens unmotivated to do better, etc. I see how being more positive might very well rub off! I’m going to make an effort to portray Cameron more positively and to continue to work to make it a place where people enjoy living.

Look! It’s our award. If only we had an office to hang it in.

Hey, at least I’ve helped increase the population by about ten people at the moment, some of whom are eating LOTS of donuts (the construction guys) and all of whom are buying things here! Thanks to Canova, Martha, Mike, Kathleen, Chris, Jim, Nicole, and Easton for saying yes to Cameron, even if you aren’t all here forever.

It’s fun being part of a small town trying to re-invent itself. No one gives a flip about me in the leadership of Austin, and that anonymity is nice, but it’s also nice to feel heard here in Cameron. I say YES!

Classism Today: Keeping the Good Folks Down

Caveat time: I am aware that classism is a fact all over the world. Today I focus on small towns and use Cameron as a specific example. This doesn’t mean I think less of its citizens. It’s a great place full of many kind, caring friends and with much warmth.

Yesterday I talked about how my father came up from poverty thanks to hard work and talent. Yet, you couldn’t take the Chattanooga out of the boy; he had a rather intense (and sometimes incomprehensible) accent, and his broken nose and funny ear testified to his past as a boxer. He didn’t always look middle class.

The moon was lovely last night. I’m grateful for its calming energy. All pictures in this post are designed to make me remember good things in my life.

But, he was allowed out of the shackles of his past by kind friends, coworkers and others who saw his kind heart, great humor, and intelligence. He was lucky. He also moved away from his hometown where the Kendall boys had quite a reputation for mischief, from that I hear.

What If You Aren’t So Lucky?

While I’m noticing many newcomers to down, Cameron is a place where many of the families have been there long, long time. There are surnames in this town that I see in the newspapers from the early 1900s (by the way, this includes Mexican names whose families were here before this was the United States and long-time black residents). Some families have done well, and are the scions of the community, populating all the right churches, the right organizations, the country club, etc. Others are respected business owners known for their charity and work for the community. Many are successful ranchers and farmers who live outside of town behind gates proclaiming their ranch names and fencing that costs more than many homes.

Ah, trees shining in the winter sun. I love going for walks on brisk meteorological winter days.

The children of these families are beloved by their school teachers, who come from the elite families or are their friends. These children dress well, participate in the important clubs, win dozens of 4-H ribbons, are in the prom court, play on the football team, are cheerleaders, etc. Nice kids. They also enjoy some leniency at school, since everyone knows they are good kids from good families. Sound familiar? Sound like where you came from? Sure! This is the norm in the US, especially in small towns.

What about the others? Some of the surnames in town have different reputations. They are assumed (because of how their parents, grandparents, or distant relatives were troublemakers, lived in the “bad” part of town (literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Cameron), or had other nefarious connections) to be the kind of folks you don’t want to associate with. These kids may not have parents who can afford all the activities. They are the ones who get picked on because they smell funny, live in an ugly house, have parents with drug or alcohol problems (or their relatives do). They go to the churches who dare to accept everyone, no matter what their family history. This, too, is not surprising.

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Grumpy? Not Us!

The intrepid travelers are heading back to Texas, so most of yesterday involved driving and looking out the window. And making sure to talk frequently so Lee wouldn’t sigh loudly and turn music on, because we were too silent. There’s not a lot to say about trees and more trees. I guess he thought we were choosing Facebook over him, but we were reading (Anita) or playing Wordscapes (me), something easy to interrupt. Other than that, not too much grumpiness occurred.

Patriotism at the courthouse (through a window)

Speaking of grumpiness, we decided to head off the beaten path and go into the small town of Madison, Florida for lunch. There we found Grumpy’s Restaurant. It was a hit with all of us.

Grumpy’s! Because when you’re hungry, you’re grumpy.

Every menu item was interesting and had a twist. My grilled cheese had a jalapeño sauce and homemade jelly on it. Sound bad? Well, nope, it was fantastic. In fact, Lee ordered one after his own meal!

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