A fight for survival and a search for healing emerged as dominate themes when reporters asked more than a dozen Marion County residents about the year past and year to come.
One of the questions asked was, “If you could turn 2016 Marion County into a movie, what kind of movie would it be and who would star in it?”
For Marion High School student Hap Waddell, the movie would be atmospheric, naturalistic and avant-garde.
“It would just be a two-hourlong shot of a field of wheat,” he said. “I feel like that would accurately portray the events that transpired over the past year.
“It would star various deer and foxes that wander out in front of the camera..”
Marion resident Karen Egts would seek a different cast, specifically actor Matthew McConaughey as leading man.
“He can make any movie good,” she said.
Egts’ plot would involve friendships between hometown people and the ways they help one another.
If McConaughey were to take the role, Hillsboro resident Glenn Ratzlaff, 67, might serve as inspiration.
Concerned not just about the county, Ratzlaff prays for repentance and salvation for the country’s leadership.
“We’ve become self-obsessed,” he said. “We need to love others as much as we love ourselves. There are needy people all around us, whether spiritually, physically, or financially.”
Every year Ratzlaff’s goal is to get to know people he sees around him and cultivate relationships with them.
From what other county residents said, McConaughey’s character might have to discover a way to time travel.
To portray Peabody police chief Bruce Burke, McConaughey might have to go back to the ’70s.
Burke was asked, “If you could replace 2016 with some year from the past, which year would you choose and why?”
“1977— the year I graduated from Peabody High School,” Burke said. “I had planned for a two-year college education, and I wish I had planned for a four-year education and degree. I have found that it would have been beneficial to have had more education.”
McConaughey might need to go back only to the beginning of 2016 to learn about family values from Marion resident Alicia Nienstedt.
Early this year, Nienstedt said, she struggled to be more patient with her children.
“I’ve been working hard at it the last couple months, but I wish I had started sooner,” she said. “If I just take a few minutes to think, take a deep breath and calmly respond, we have a great day. If I allow myself to get stressed, it trickles down to the kids and — well, the day just ends in ‘ugh.’”
While traveling back in time, McConaughey could run into Peabody-Burns High School senior Samantha Frye, who would impart prophetic wisdom about how 2016 could have transpired differently.
“I would have saved money more, studied more, respected my parents more, and done some crazier things,” Samantha said.
If he were to ask her to look ahead to 2017, the movie might get a bit darker.
“I hope we will still have the right to bear arms,” Samantha said. “And I hope our nation has not been split by civil war.”
Faced with such terrifying prospects, McConaughey might be scripted to get advice from Hillsboro correspondent Arlene Pankratz, who could be filmed mowing her lawn at the time.
Her comment: “I’d do nothing different, ‘cause I got everything fine. There’s nothing to complain about. I mow my lawn with a riding mower, so I’m doing fine.”
Tickled, McConaughey would try to move on to the present, but before he gets there, he would find that Tampa resident Sara Flores and Hillsboro resident Amand Lee, who would recommend making some personal changes
“I’d be a nicer person,” Flores said of 2016. For her part, Lee said: “I would have played more with my kids and neglected the housework more! The time with them is so precious…”
Before perfecting both his character and his time machine, McConaughey might mistakenly visit the end December of 2017 and learn from Marion physical therapist Matt Vermillion that 190th Rd. between Marion and Hillsboro finally has been repaired and reopened.
Jeanette Schafer of Hillsboro would inform McConaughey that a new hospital had been finished and opened in Hillsboro. Somehow more businesses also had opened all around the county, along with a number of new family restaurants.
Waddell would appear again at a new youth center in Marion, telling McConaughey that magic is real as he casts a spell in a board game, making his wish for 2017 come true.
Learning this, McConaughey would feel compelled to visit Pankratz again, finding her still atop her mower. She would tell him, “It’s a good year. Crops are good. Gardens are good.”
How or why McConaughey would eventually return to the present after glimpsing the verdant paradise of 2017 in unclear. Then again, time-travel movies usually has a few plot holes.
In the end, Marion resident Jamie Martinez breaks the “fourth wall” and tells McConaughey the one thing he needs to inject into the movie are plot elements that should residents how to coexist in a more agreeable fashion.
“People in general need neighborly respect,” Martinez said. “We’re all just people and we all need to just get along.”