Does it change who we are; this change in municipal classification? Is it really just a change in government structure or does it go deeper than that? Or is this new name a reflection of the change that has already taken place in our community?
I remember the swift correction that would follow anytime
someone mistakenly called Ruston a “city” in my early years here. There was a
pride in being different from the big city around us. We didn’t mind shaking
our fist at the outside world and being a town in the midst of a city was one
way to show that. “We are a town, with a capital T, thank you very much. Just
you remember, we are different, not like those uppity know-it-alls out there."
I miss that spunk. It got us in trouble a time or two. And I
fought hard over the years to encourage our leaders to act professionally and
portray the town with dignity. But I miss that willingness to stand out, to be
different – to not have to be the same or better than the others. Just be
ourselves; dirty, scrappy, blue-collar, proud of our history and roots.
I guess my undefined sorrow at this change for Ruston goes
deeper than the new designation as a city. So few remain who value our past.
There is a shunning of our heritage. The image of the old smelter stack brings
shame or makes us cringe. We want to pretend we are better than our
forefathers, that somehow we are smarter and more sophisticated.
I wish my new neighbors could meet Ike, or Doc, or Buck, or
Pete, or Loretta, or Owen and Tim, or Mary Joyce, or Tommy, or Lucille, or Phil,
or Norma and Clint, or so many countless others. Quirky. Stubborn. Proud.
Outspoken. Faithful. They’d let you know if you were wrong, but defend you to
their dying breath if need be.
They built their homes with their own hands, then turned
around and helped their neighbor do the same. They stood their ground when they
believed they were right. They held bake sales to raise money for the fire
department. They fought and loved and built this Town from the ground up.
Somehow they managed to survive with all the restrictions
that come with being a Town. They didn’t need the right to a referendum. They
talked to their elected folks and got things changed; or found a way to live
with it if it couldn’t be changed. The mayor didn’t need veto power. We
survived without a hearings examiner or parks department. Smaller and less sophisticated
was ok – preferred even.
I guess its water under the bridge. I can almost see Owen shrugging
his shoulder and muttering something under his breath, but he’s straighten up
and move ahead regardless. And Mary would say her peace loud and clear, then dig
in and get the job done. So I’ve said my peace now. Let’s get to work building
the best little city we can.