Nebraska Center for Writers

IN BENTON
by Mary Ridder

SCRAPING IN THE DIRT was helping. Getting dirt under my fingernails and stains in my jeans was forcing my mind to get down to earth. Some people take over companies for that thrill. Others beat their opponents in court for that "I won and you lost" high. Forget the people and their cases. Justice? Lord, no. This is about winning.
But lately, Iíve been digging in the dirt. My killer instinct is aimed at vanquishing those tormented portions of my brain and leaving everyone else to their own problems. Digging in s oil is doing that for me. At the same time Iím getting dirty on the outside, my insides seem to be getting a lot cleaner.
Thatís how I came to find myself in Benton, Nebraska. The basic facts read like one of my client sheets: Thirty-something female with three dependents, if you count Ben. Ben is very independent, but at nine he still qualifies on my tax returns. Then there is Jane, seven, and five-year-old Tess.
We live in the Midwest in a town of fifteen hundred people surrounded by several thousand cows, rural vistas, and peace. Peace and quiet. Just what the doctor would have ordered, and exactly where I had to go if I was going to make it.
Exactly what Iím recovering from takes some untangling. Like Justin Melcherís kite in yesterdayís sudden windstorm, I have some serious unraveling to do.
Oh, sure, I miss Minneapolis — the rush of a high-powered job, my friends and family. And I miss my marriage, or the one I though I had.
But ... I like Benton. Itís the antithesis of what I was living before. Here you know who gossips and who doesnít, whoís a public servant and who self-serves, and you share that big family feeling on a Friday night at the football field.
Of course I know all this simplicity is misleading; all people are complicated, all places have their problems, all of us have our own journeys to navigate. But you could do worse than Benton. I felt that the minute the kids and I arrived in my friend Annieís hometown.

Reprinted with permission
from In Benton
Copyright © 2002
by Mary Ridder


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