By Gery L. Deer
Deer In Headlines
Because of the different kinds of work I do, from writing to my involvement in film and television projects, I am asked regularly why I remain in Ohio, rather than moving to New York or the West Coast. The way people ask, it’s almost as if my skills aren’t worthy of recognition or my work’s value is somehow reduced because I choose to live where my family has its roots. In fact, if you pay attention to how Ohio is treated by Hollywood, one might think all we produce here are backwoods rednecks and serial killers. Of course, that perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
My diverse career has taken me from the stages of Las Vegas resorts to the decks of oil tankers. I’ve seen Hollywood Blvd. at midnight and worked alongside stars like Bonnie Hunt and Steve Harvey. I’ve watched as cranes placed the giant Oscar statues and workers rolled out the red carpets outside the Kodak Theatre the day before the Academy Awards. Suffice to say, I’ve seen a lot. But nothing has ever made me want to leave Ohio permanently.
I’ve known people living in the Buckeye State who can’t wait to get out of it, longing for the greener grass somewhere else; Florida, South Carolina, California. But they never seem to go. They just continue to complain. In fact, most of the people I know who behave this way have never really been anywhere else.
Most people forget what Ohio has produced since it was added to the Union in 1803. Even if we overlook the obvious contributions Ohioans have made, like powered flight, the advancement of minority rights, the first electric starter for automobiles and more U.S. Presidents than you can shake a buckeye branch at (8 in all), Ohio still has much to offer.
While we may not be surrounded by oceans or have perfect weather year around, Ohio offers some of the most amazing country anyone has ever seen. The name “Ohio” comes from an Iroquoian word meaning “great river” and that would certainly be hard to argue. The Ohio River connects the eastern states to the Missouri and finally the Mississippi, making it vital to trade and commerce for many regions. Other major waterways such as the Scioto and Great Miami Rivers also provided opportunities for growth to Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus.
Incidentally, everyone who just cleaned up after a Superbowl party owes a world of debt to the never-ending ingenuity of Ohioans. If not for Dayton engineer Ermal Cleon Fraze, your guests would still have been fighting over the can opener! On a sleepless night in 1959, “Ernie” Fraze invented the pop-top opener, now common on beer and soft drink cans.
With the Oscars coming up, it wouldn’t be right to ignore Ohio’s contribution to Hollywood, seeing as how that’s where most of the glib remarks about our fare state originate. Oscar winners Paul Newman and Halle Berry both called Ohio home, as did MASH’s Jamie Farr, comedian Drew Carey, film director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter), Jerry Siegel and Joe Schumacher (the creators of Superman), and Jack Warner, founder of Warner Brothers Studios. My father even grew up with country and western star Bobby Bare, not far from Roy Rogers’ childhood home near Portsmouth, on the banks of the Ohio River. The list is practically endless.
No place is perfect and, like anyone else, I have my share of complaints about how things are run here. In my experience there is far too much small-town, good old boy politics, and little doubt that the people we have sent to Columbus need to be reminded that they work for us, not the other way around, as seems to be the case lately.
But in spite of these shortcomings, Ohio is a good place to call home. We have weathered floods, tornados, a Great Depression and numerous recessions. But Ohioans are of America’s most creative, innovative and intelligent people and we always seem to come out on top. So the next time you start your car, pop open a soda or fly away to your favorite vacation spot, give a little nod to the Buckeye State, truly, the Heart of it All.