Bacon, eggs, toast and hash browns cooked just the way I like them by food magician Alan Armstrong at Lu & Al’s Café are just some of the Shenandoah things I missed while working in “the city” for more than a year.

El Porton’s chips and salsa were also among the top foods I hankered while sitting in my Bellevue, Neb. office. There’s really no salsa quite like the stuff that comes out of that kitchen. I could drink it by the gallon.

In fact, if anyone ever asks you, “Should we get Kristan a plant?” Always, always, say, “No, never, ever do that. But do pick up a bag of chips and salsa from El Porton.”

There are certain things a person grows accustomed to having that seem all the more desirable when far from home. So tell me, when does Koolerz’ fro-yo shop open?

But oh, the flavors of Shenandoah weren’t all that hooked me to this place.

It was those in the deep-rooted coffee crew downtown, and those who nestle inside The Sanctuary, the post office, the high school and who are in the Family, Career and Community Leaders club, all the other teenagers of our area and those who meet weekly at The Depot, in the museum and at the Elks Club.

It was the singing “Hellos” heard on the sidewalk and the smiles in every aisle of Hy-Vee. It was the trustworthy service received in places like Petersen Auto and the knowing that I’ll find something to buy in any of the clothing shops here, because of the exceptional service.

This Norman-Rockwell-ish town is filled with such unique, quaint shops and fabulous people that I wanted to throw up when I heard of Eaton’s massive layoff.

So what can we do about our town, Shenandoah?

Some of our beloved people have passed, several buildings no longer stand — and only months remain for Nishnabotna High School. But we still have a remnant of people whom I believe have the gumption to make something else of southwest Iowa.

What do we have that will make the n’er-been-heres, the entrepreneurs and the runaways want to visit, set up shop and come home?

To recover, I don’t believe we need to be perfect — or even to have “everything.” We just need to be unified.

Unity is infectious.

If we see an unfamiliar face, we need to remedy that. If there’s angst between us and another or a burr under a saddle, we need to fix that, too. There’s no time for that kind of thing.

Momentum’s fires are being stoked in the schools and hospital, thanks to passionate leaders and staffers who’ve sparked a hunger for more excellence and progress.

So, will someone who’s been laid off dig up a buried dream to start a business here that could revolutionize the area — or the world?

What’s on our list of assets?

What if Iowa Western Community College planted an agricultural-engineering specialty center here that offered dual credit for high school students and partnered with area industries and farmers — and with Northwest Missouri State University?

What people should collaborate for a new project? Is it two old playground pals who’ve had a rift that if they put their hands to the same plow something magnificent would be unearthed — and friendship could be restored?

Will the next “thing” come from a retired citizen with experience and time on their hands or the 10-year-old who has an unsullied perspective and a clever idea?

I’m not sure what “it” is yet, but I know that there’s no room for fear or division — not even inside the walls of our own homes. (Especially there.)

I do believe our coffee shop harmony needs to further spill into our streets and stain them for good. Then, even if nothing new ever comes out of here —we’ll at least go down fighting together — not fighting each other.

One more thing … what ideas do you have? Would you like to write a Letter to the Editor? Send us your thoughts at


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