By: Dawn Highhouse
Bud and I were sitting on the steps on my front porch when he told me the story of finding the photo of the Ramaker’s Barn online. He said that he was considering asking the Ramakers if they’d be open to a visit so he could do a little firsthand research for The Drawer Boy, and that’s when I uttered the magic words… “I have a passport.” That’s all it took – before long, Bud and I were planning a road trip.
I don’t know about the rest of you Michiganders but Canada always seems so far away to me. In fact, Clinton Ontario is only about 4.5 hours by car – about the same distance as driving to Chicago. I was looking forward to the trip, not only was it a great chance to hang out with my friend Bud, but as Prop Designer for The Drawer Boy, I was excited to get inspiration straight from the source!
Herman and Johanna Ramaker were absolutely wonderful about letting two nosy theatre people from Grand Rapids into their home. From the minute we got there, they made us feel like family. They gave us a full tour of the farm and the pasture while Bud and I asked questions direct from the script of The Drawer Boy. We asked about the difference between hay and straw, we checked out their tractor to see if Miles (Dylan Harris’ character in the show) would have been able to drive it, we inquired into the realities of dairy farming (which is a lot harder, and more expensive, than Bud or I would have ever guessed) and we got a detailed explanations of how a hay elevator works – all information related to The Drawer Boy! In an instance of life imitating art, Bud and I noticed that although the Ramaker’s home is far more modern, it had a very similar lay out to the one created by The Drawer Boy set designer, Rosanne Steffens – right down to the kitchen table in the middle of the room!
The real story behind The Drawer Boy is a tale of friendship and trust. When I think about our story – strangers, meeting over a photograph on the internet, and becoming friends over the course of an afternoon, I can’t help but smile. Trust and friendship indeed.