Community Columns

Cousins from Tennessee get a look at 'miserable' area

One of my many faults is that I can look at a half empty glass and see two-thirds of a glass of water with ice and a squeeze of lime in it. So it's not surprising that I question the ranking that Modesto is one of the most miserable cities in the country.

Just recently, my wife's cousin and her husband visited from rural western Tennessee. This was Brenda's third and Dannie's first trip out West. I asked their opinions of this area. To understand their comments better, it's worth noting that Brenda was raised on a dairy and Dannie is a landscape contractor.

The negatives first.

They were amazed, or appalled, at the price of land. Houses cost about the same to build in both places, but land and subsequent taxes make houses much more expensive here than there.

The other negative -- the traffic. The traffic on Monte Vista Avenue and Geer Road was more than they were used to and the freeway traffic at all hours of the day surprised them. The 45-minute standstill on Highway 101 while returning from Monterey really pushed it over the edge.

Their positive observations were no surprise.

We picked them up at Sacramento International Airport and Dannie's first comment was about the expansive farmland that he saw in the last leg of their flight.

He was surprised at the many vineyards. I reminded him that one of the world's largest wineries is here.

In western Tennessee, they plant corn one year and wheat the next. Dannie was impressed that we have the weather to plant summer corn and winter wheat.

The variety of orchards that make up our world made them jealous.

The row crops of San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties helped make them realize why California leads the nation in agriculture.

Brenda was not prepared for the family dairies. I reminded her that the largest cheese plant in the world was here. Dannie went home and told the Tennesseans they ought to go to California to see what farming really is.

Another positive is the proximity to so many places. Of course, we took them to Yosemite. We also went to Monterey. Dannie was impressed with the coast. He enjoyed a deep sea fishing trip -- for good reason; he caught the biggest fish, giving him family bragging rights.

Dannie noticed in our Turlock neighborhood a very nice front yard featuring grassy mounds. He may be borrowing that design for some yards in Tennessee.

No matter what the cousins think or a ranking in a magazine published in New York, I like our community and I'm very proud of it.

Belarmino lives in Turlock and works in Modesto. Write him at