Which Way to Paradise: A neighbor on guard

Oct 14, 2015

Thompsonville is a small town of roughly 450 people. The village center is just down the road from Crystal Mountain.

And while some people are enjoying the quiet life of a small town, Ron Osga is worried about police protection and a rise in drug use.

He says things got really bad in Thompsonville when heroin hit five years ago.

"For a while they were burying somebody once a year from an overdose," he says.

 


"For a while they were burying somebody once a year from an overdose."

Ron wears a bright blue shirt and a baseball cap that says Carhartt Racing. He’s a machinist. He fixes broken machines like snow blowers or lawn mowers. But he says business is "non-existent, mostly because everything that they make anymore is built so cheap that it’s not worth repairing."

Ron stands in his scrap yard with a steaming cup of coffee surrounded by Chevys: Chevy Nova. Chevy Camaro. Chevy Monte Carlo. Some cars are skeletons of rusted metal. Others are ready to drive, like his daughter’s drag racing Chevy.

 

A Chevy Nova waiting for repair in Ron Osga's yard.
Credit David Cassleman

Ron also has a son who is biracial. He says after Barack Obama was elected president, the n-word came back, and his son got the brunt of it. 

Ron says he got his kids into drag racing so they wouldn’t get into trouble. Because other than drugs, there isn’t that much else to do in town. Drug-related crime is a big concern for Ron.

"In the last 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve had $10,000 worth of vandalism from people stealing and smashing stuff," says Ron. "So it’s almost $1,000 a year."

A Chevy Ron Osga rescued from a farmer's field to turn into a rat rod.
Credit David Cassleman

Ron moved here because the property was cheap. He needed it cheap because he’s sick. Ron has Stiff Person Syndrome, and he’s been sick since he was twelve. It’s this rare, neurological disease where his muscles get progressively stiffer over time. It’s hard to walk.

But with cheap property can come the problems that often haunt low-income areas, like the vandalism and theft Ron’s talking about. Ron says the elderly woman across the street just put up security lights. She was afraid to come home at night. She saw a flashlight moving behind her garage once.

"And I actually caught the people that did it. Took them to court. Unfortunately, you can't sue somebody that doesn't have any money. And that was all fueled by drugs. Kids trying to get money for drugs."

"She called me over," Ron says. "So I, being barely able to walk most of the time, I’m not going to go over and fight somebody. So I just grabbed my rifle and went over there and chased them off."

Ron says they didn't succeed in breaking in, but he says the house next door was broken into twice and his house was broken into once. 

"I actually caught the people that did it," he says. "Took them to court. Unfortunately, you can’t sue somebody that doesn’t have any money. And that was all fueled by drugs. Kids trying to get money for drugs."

Ron says in Thompsonville you don’t open your door without a gun after dark. And if you’re a friend, you know to call before you come over.

"That’s why people protect themselves because there’s no police presence at all," says Ron.

It’s not that there’s literally no police presence, but it is limited. A sergeant at the Benzie County Sheriff’s Department says with a small staff the way patrolling typically works is they end up covering the areas they get calls in. So if they get a call in Thompsonville, they’ll patrol Thompsonville. But if they get a call in Honor. They’ll patrol there.

The sergeant says he’s not surprised that in Thompsonville someone would answer the door after dark with a rifle nearby.

The original post has been changed after considering listener comments. The audio clip reflects the original piece that aired.