“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
On this spot…
The sesqui-centennial series began here in October 2006. Continuing off and on since then and following the celebration itself a year later, this column has helped me know our community better than I could have imagined.
So much more pleasure than responsibility, writing “A few figs from thistles” has never been a chore. And thanks to loyal readers like you–your queries and comments, suggestions and criticisms–I am no longer able to walk from home to office without thinking of people and the marks we leave along the way. Special thanks must go to the late Hal Holt, friend and mentor who was always forthcoming with wisdom and gentle corrections to my ignorance. I may be no smarter than I was five years ago, but I’m a damned site better informed.
Now I can share with you last week’s conversation with Antonia Benedetti.
To celebrate the anniversaries of her great-grandfather’s birth and the founding of their family business, Toni announces a competition. She proposes combining two simple ideas:
- Staff at the Fennimore County Heritage Center are already working with students in all levels of our public and private schools. Their goal is a local history unit–an ongoing teaching tool–and their process involves writing stories; uncovering the exceptional events of ordinary lives and understanding how they shaped this place.
- Phase Two (here’s the competition) invites the artistic talents of our people to show those stories in cast metal; not sculptures that block our path but relief panels that become it. We’re invited to interpret those stories as (pardon the political incorrectness) manhole covers! The artists’ maquettes at 6-8 inches will be cast as full size iron disks and be placed throughout the city near the life or event they celebrate.
Imagine the richness of a city and its narrative complexity told this way. Cross a street and find a link between Agincourt and the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. Pay your power bill and see the trolly cars that once drove through the building you just left behind. Park you car and know that thirty feet away a whorehouse once met our carnal needs–outside the law.
Footnotes. The places where we live and work, worship and learn, shop or entertain ourselves will be footnoted. The past will be present in ways this humble human interest column could never achieve.
Toni Benedetti’s gift will be ourselves.
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