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Recliner is a good place for reflection

Hand-painted, red no-trespassing signs adorn the crumbling yellow house and the wood fence that blocks the driveway. Paintball colors splashed on the house attest that it once was a party place.

Hand-painted, red no-trespassing signs adorn the crumbling yellow house and the wood fence that blocks the driveway. Paintball colors splashed on the house attest that it once was a party place.

The no-trespassing signs are pointless, given that broken windows exposes the home's empty insides. More than a decade ago, a family with young daughters who dressed nice on Sundays lived in it and kept it up as best they could.

What has become junk stands in contrast to its neighbor, a fertilizer plant with a lot filled with cigar-shaped anhydrous ammonia tanks that inject fertilizer into farmers' fields. Trucks, tractors and combines add bustle in spring and fall, but it is otherwise quiet enough that security cameras are needed to expose thieves seeking meth-making ingredients and cash.

The neighborhood might be better off if the abandoned home and its outbuildings were razed, like so many others in a rural world where old things are unable to survive new ways. The fences and tree lines that once separated small farmsteads have been removed so four-wheeled monsters and the equipment they pull can work with ease in bigger fields.

The big families that once filled homes on 360-acre farms once served West Concord well. But the old houses and barns are mostly gone, as is the Main Street traffic that supported cafes, hardware shops, grocery stores and gas stations. The railroad that moved through town carried cattle across the country and brought with it consumer goods.

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West Concord's population is about the same as it was in the 1950s, but the rural families that supported it are gone. The 1980s were a killer for the town and others like it. Land values crashed, farms were lost and dreams were crushed. The financial disaster matched and even exceeded the Great Recession the nation is now slowly digging out from.

We strive to hold on to what remains. So it was a blow when our hardware store closed this summer, with little hope that it will reopen.

Yet, it is not all gloom and doom. Families with young children are filling homes that have been on the market for a long time; The swimming pool — so important as a magnet to draw children — remains viable and the softball field has been renovated with new dugouts and signage. The bowling alley, which in the 1920s was an entertainment center that attracted country western stars, Hollywood entertainers and vaudevillians, has been remodeled.

Those who consider themselves to be locals gather over coffee and talk in the cafe. When there are few businesses and people, each one counts all the more.

It would be nice — in a selfish sort of way — if son Sam would come back to live here. The girls are close by, but he is in South Dakota. He found West Concord a boring place. A young person must find his own way without a parent's restraint. The world is his to be conquered. I tried to do the same and failed.

As I age, the world and its ways grows smaller in importance. Sam calls to say he'll be home for Thanksgiving and asks what's been going on.

Kathy was at turkey bingo, a gambling game that rewards winners with a bird or a carton of eggs. She insists that she will win at least one and perhaps two birds before she gets home from West Concord. The event was a fundraiser for the charter school and drew a full-house crowd.

"That sure sounds exciting,'' Sam said, when I explained where his mother was. "Why didn't you go?"

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The recliner seems awfully comfortable on a cold, clear night when the neighborhood is quiet except for the lone voice of a wandering coyote.

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