Sour Town

Resident dreamer Robert Bledsoe has a plan to keep his hometown of Ladonia from disappearing off the map. His neighbors want him to wake upóand shut up.

"I contacted one of the chicken processors," he says. "They're not interested in moving west."

Bledsoe, who seems downright pissed off sometimes, says, "We pretty well nailed it down this morning of what the difference is between this community and others. There are 100 percent negative people here.

"The thing that stops you from making real progress is pulling the arrows out of your ass...Everybody thinks you're out to make a fortune. I've spent more money out of my pocket for this town in phone calls, in printing and time and travel, out of my pocket, with no reimbursement, to try to help this community. The mentality here is that because you're successful at something, you've got to be a crook...You understand?"

Robert Bledsoe at the site of what was once Ladonia's train station, which he hopes to rebuild as a community center.
Robert Bledsoe at the site of what was once Ladonia's train station, which he hopes to rebuild as a community center.
Robert Bledsoe at the site of what was once Ladonia's train station, which he hopes to rebuild as a community center.
Robert Bledsoe at the site of what was once Ladonia's train station, which he hopes to rebuild as a community center.

Orman Roderick, who has lived in the area for 67 years, is not among Bledsoe's fans. He says it's good to have ideas. Bledsoe's problem is that he just doesn't have any good ones. The trail would be too hot to use most of the year, and the lake would remove thousands of acres from the county tax rolls, Roderick says.

"Everything he does, I can't see that it's helping the community," he says. "I definitely get irritated with him, because I haven't seen anything good he's done yet."

Bledsoe steps down from the railroad station foundation and starts toward his shop. He stops to talk to the city's remaining water department employee, who at the moment is leaning out of the driver's seat of an idling backhoe. They laugh about how as a boy, the worker once rode his bicycle on the railway station platform. Walking away, Bledsoe acknowledges that it is a struggle to change a small town.

"There's lots of other things we're working on, but to make them happen is a whole different ballgame," he says. "We still have hopes and dreams. Somebody has to be a dreamer or a visionary, because that's how things happen." Resident dreamer Robert Bledsoe has a plan to keep his hometown of Ladonia from disappearing off the map. His neighbors want him to wake up--and shut up.

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