My late father-in-law, one-time soldier and long-time farmer, had a tactic that worked as well for urban planning as for farming. He called it the “one fence post a day” approach. If you wanted a pasture fenced and the task seemed too great to undertake, you just put up one fence post a day and one day you would have the thing done.
We saw the results of this the other day, Rob Middleton and I, in the Delta town of McCrory, Arkansas.
While other Delta mayors are wringing their hands over the fact that times are hard for farm country towns, this one is doing something. That is to say Mayor Fowler and the town leaders are, figuratively, putting up one fence post a day.
They didn’t have a public space to meet and have community events, so they converted a glorious old mercantile store building into a local civic center.
They converted another downtown building for community use and now have a performing arts theater, maybe the smallest city in the state or country to have one.
In June, they opened a town library in a deserted building. It’s downtown of course. After only two months, they are averaging 30 visits a day by folks wanting to read, check out books, enjoy the WIFI system, or use one of the computers available there.
Says Mayor Fowler, “I almost cried one day last week when I walked in and saw a grandmother sitting at a table reading a book to her four-year old granddaughter.”
The old industrial building that once helped support the community sits empty at the edge of town. Who knows if it will ever serve again?
But maybe the future of Delta towns is to work on being just a damn nice place to live. Now that’s a new concept in these days of “build it and they will come,” or, worse still, “bribe them and they will come and maybe even stay awhile.”
No, I think McCrory is doing it right, one “fence post” at a time.
Oh, and did I mention that when the Mayor treated us to lunch downtown we had our choice of two restaurants? It would have been three but illness has one temporarily closed.
That’s not bad for a town of 1,900 in the Arkansas Delta.
My plan is to have a theatre in some small town or something and I'll be manager. Ill be the crazy old movie guy. - Quentin Tarantino