This situation entitles us to a subscription to "Texas Co-Op Power", a charming magazine about the rural Texas life. I read this magazine for the Classified Ads, which remind me, vaguely, of sitting in a barber shop at age 6, reading the earthworm farm ads in Field & Stream.
These ads sometimes diverted the men in the shop from their favorite topics (trucks, blue-tick hound dogs, and the perfidy of elected representatives) into full scale reveries about the money-making potential inherent in the earthworm. Only the quavering voice and fluid profile of Dolly Parton on the Porter Waggoner show, back before Dolly got "mainstream", could excite as much sheer desire in those fellows (I still hear, in my mind, a rather cinematic deep voice saying "Dolly Parton--what...a...woman").
My favorite "Texas Co-Op" ads are not for the "Root Grubber", which kills trees by cutting roots 6 to 8 inches underground, nor even the ad offering custom machine-made quilts. Instead, I am always drawn in by the ads offering to sell steel buildings.
Steel buildings have such possibility. They can be barns or carports. They can be wood shops or even the ribs of a greenhouse. But I love it when they are community things--churches, businesses, or classrooms. The ads always promote buildings for as little as 4,000 dollars or, for massive structures, as much as 40,000.
During our recent drive through rural Kansas and Oklahoma, I saw metal building church after metal building church in town after town. These little towns in some cases don't have ready sources of wood or brick, as they are in scrub timber regions far from brickworks. I imagine, moreoever, that the one hundred dollars per square foot that custom buildings can cost are beyond the means of facilities with names like Church of the Incarnate Word. For a fraction of that cost, one can put up a steel building, although the ads do warn "codes may affect prices".
To me, steel buildings say something about community. People put them up for churches (or rural schools or other worthy purposes) because they want a meeting place, even though they do not have the means to build the cathedral at Rheims. Lately, I've focused on the elusive quality of meeting places, as I've been assiduously pricing spaces for potential chess tournaments. In my memory, places for people to meet were largely available from communities and churches on an "anytime we are not using it, you are welcome to use it" basis. But maybe my memory is tarnished by a child's lack of sophistication.
In my mind's eye, though, I wish I had the resources to build my own steel building, where gatherings for all worthy things could occur.
My town is back on its "let's spend millions on a bond to go in with other cities for an arts hall" jag. But I wish to write them and tell them to just put up a steel building instead.
I've got the ad--right here in the co-op magazine. "Farm*Church*Sports*Horse*Car*Plane", it says--surely "Culture" will fit in there someplace.
I suppose steel buildings are temporary, and not really attractive. But something appeals to me about the idea of structures erected merely to create community, which may not last forever, but is worth putting up a steel building over.