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  • Last modified 66 days ago (March 21, 2019)

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Wholly about holes

Spring has sprung, giving your favorite tar-and-feather target — yours truly — a welcome week at home, away from trying to coach others to become tar-and-feather targets on their own.

Before stomping off to preferred stomping grounds, a final task in a distant ivory tower was helping a recent graduate understand why he wasn’t getting job offers.

His cover letter looked great; it wasn’t about him and what he wanted but rather about what he offered a potential employer. His resume was solid, filled with high-quality professional work performed in lieu of the traditional revelries of student life.

An unconditional surrender to an uncomfortable feeling of not being able to help almost took hold until the “reply” button on the former student’s plaintive email revealed his address: “slackerboy@” whatever Internet service he was using.

Second chances at first impressions rarely happen, whether we’re talking about young graduates looking for jobs or older communities looking to spur economic development.

Fortunately or otherwise, our community’s first impression is almost wholly about holes — holy and otherwise.

Marion County is hardly without its attractions, but the one that truly sets it apart is the Father Emil Kapaun Museum and the saintly Korean war chaplain’s home church in Pilsen.

Unfortunately, a trip to the holy recently meant a trip through the holey. Traversed by dozens of buses of pilgrims, Remington Rd. from US-56 to Pilsen has been transformed by traffic, weather, or design flaws into a shrine for potholes of Biblical proportions.

The thump, thump, thumping of the route became even more mysterious Monday as it and what otherwise would have been a cloudless spring day were shrouded not by a relic from Turin but by acrid haze from an overabundance of mostly controlled field fires that commonsense might have spread out beyond a single day.

Fortunately, crews came along later in the week to toss pitch into some of the larger chasms on the pilgrims’ path, but the image of shoving sand into rat holes remains.

This section of roadway is Marion County’s front porch to thousands of visitors annually. The state should make it a designated highway — though that might require our legislators to do something other than pontificate on hot-button issues that don’t really impact us. Failing that, Remington needs to become as much a priority for high-quality rebuilding as are the access routes to our other front porches — Marion Reservoir and Marion County Park and Lake.

Just a few blocks away in Marion, other holes have opened up, but these appear to be holes that precede progress.

Whether it’s just another way to suck up loose change from state and federal coffers or a truly revolutionary redesign of the town’s streetscape remains to be seen. But the presence of construction cones and signs pleading for donations to a new message board are tangible evidence of a community trying to move forward rather than remaining the same.

Other holes also are being filled in exemplary fashion.

Where Flint Hills Gold once was located is becoming home to an equally unique enterprise, plugging not only a physical hole on Main St. but also a hole in the array of unique shops that make Marion a boutique shopping destination.

Most encouraging was to see mad-as-hatters workers busily preparing the new store at nearly 11 o’clock on a Saturday night, even after kids dragging Main had called it a day.

Running a boutique business is nowhere near the cushy, part-time task that many think it is. If this weekend’s work marathon is any indication, the proprietors of JR Hatters understand this and, as a result, are likely to be not only a brief new addition but a successful long-term one.

Another hole at least partially being plugged is the need for additional dining opportunities.

Dorothy’s House, across from the Historic Elgin Hotel, may not be the ultimate destination restaurant the area so desperately needs, but adding its comfortable décor and dining to the lineup of local restaurants is a welcome shot of espresso to the area’s gastronomic palette.

Even more encouraging was the parade of shiny new implements being delivered Monday on the north edge of town to Prairieland Partners.

Although government is by far the area’s biggest employer, it’s wise to remember that it’s a house of cards built almost entirely on the plowed fields and fallow pastures of agriculture that surround it. What’s good for implement dealers is good for Marion County.

As spring brings the first buds of progress, both literally and figurative, we all can take justifiable pride. Hope always has been the best replacement for despair, and clearly, “slackerboy@” isn’t the reply address for our community any longer.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified March 21, 2019

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