The Woman who bought a town
There is a new sheriff in town. With a gun in her hand and a Stetson on her head she patrols the empty streets of Country Town. There is not a lot to patrol. Most of the houses are empty and the current population is below three. The sheriff of Country Town, who also goes by the name Lisbeth Hermansen, bought most of this place four years ago, changed its name and announced herself as the sheriff.
Country Town is located on the west coast of Denmark. The sheriff – or Lisbeth Hermansen – who rules here is a rebel at heart. Most likely she came out from her mother’s womb with her fists ready for a fight. That was 60 years ago. Today her hair may be gray but her eyes tell the story of a woman who never stopped fighting for her values.
Farmland, windblown trees and empty houses
Country Town is a small gathering of worn out houses and an old inn located near the Danish west coast. If you stand on the balcony of the inn looking west you will see the waves of the North Sea brake against the shore.
Looking in any other direction you find yourself surrounded by farmland, wind blown trees and empty houses.
This part of Denmark is mostly known for its fast depopulation. There are no jobs and the young generation move away to the city as fast as possible looking for work.
The Sheriff does not give a damn
Maybe because this area mostly is known for offering nothing but Danish bacon and a strong wind from the west the story of Lisbeth Hermansen has become massive in the media. Here is a story about a woman who purchases a village and appoints herself sheriff.
If you do a quick Google you will find numerous photos of the sheriff dressed like a cowboy, riding a horse through the village. Lisbeth Hermansen does not own a horse – some journalist went the extra mile and brought one to the photo shoot.
A lot of people call her crazy. Many shake their heads at her doings and some even laugh at this middle aged woman who dress up as a sheriff, carries a toy gun and rides a rented horse.
But let them laugh. Neither the sheriff nor Lisbeth Hermansen gives a damn.
Moving into an empty house
This is a story of a hard working woman who has fought throughout her life for her right to live her life her way. She grew up near the streets of Country Town and already as a young girl she found it difficult to fit in with the strict religious way of living that also is characteristic of this region. At an age of 19 this got more difficult when she became a single mother and her child was mulatto.
Being extremely poor with a new born baby she decided to occupy the most exquisite house in the city of Lemvig.
“I was living in a small basement room. I shared the bathroom with the rest of the tenants which made it problematic to change diapers and wash my baby. Every day as I went to school I passed by this enormous house that was abandoned.
One day I decided to move in. And so I did. I knew I would not be able to stay there for long but I just wanted to feel how it was to live in a nice house”.
A fight from coffee cup to coffee cup
When I meet with Lisbeth Hermansen the story of moving into the empty house in Lemvig was just one of many stories she has to tell. As her child grew up and Lisbeth had more time she joined the fight for women’s rights. Or as she calls it: “The right not to serve coffee”.
“Back then it was expected of women to serve coffee for the men at the office. Even though we did the same work as our male colleagues they expected us to serve them coffee.
We fought from door to door or actually it was more like from coffee cup to coffee cup. To get the men to get up from their butts and fetch their own coffee”.
The nutty sheriff
Most media likes to portray Lisbeth Hermansen as she nutty Sheriff of Country Town. But as she takes of her Stetson hat and pours me a cup of peppermint tea – made of fresh leaves from her garden, her body relaxes and she turns into a very different person.
It becomes clear to me that the role of the Sheriff is a role Lisbeth Hermansen is playing and she does it well. The Sheriff is a part of the narrative of Country Town and it is a part of what helps her get the media’s attention.
Lisbeth Hermansen has no plan for the future of Country Town. She describes it as a place that evolves with the people that stop by. During the summer the Saloon is fully booked with guests that want to experience the town and the raw west coast of Denmark: Artists, bikers, tourists – everyone is welcome to stay here.
The Sheriff only has one criteria for accepting bookings at the Saloon: “If you are a boring person this is not the place for you. I do not want to have boring people here”.
The Nice Girl
As we sip the delicious peppermint tea she explains: “What drives me is the urge to play the leading role in my life. I do not want to be a passive spectator. Our time here on Earth is limited and pass by so quickly”.
“When I look at so many of the young women today they are busy playing the role of ‘The nice girl’. So afraid of stepping outside of what they think society expects of them. They are trying too hard to make everybody like them”.
Lisbeth Hermansen sighs, shakes her head and continues: “These women are missing out on so much in their lives: I know a lot of people think I am crazy. But you know what: At the end of the day I have a lot of fun playing the Sheriff. I don’t waste time impressing people I don’t like. Life is short and I do whatever I can to get the most out of it”
Her back against the wall
When Lisbeth Hermansen bought these empty houses people said to her: “Lisbeth, you are a grown woman and your hair is grey. You should stop playing around and grow up”. But her answer has always been: “What for?”
“As a young woman I had my back against the wall. The choice I was given was to surrender and fit in. But I tell you this: I do not want to fit into someone else’s agenda. I do not surrender to anyone”.
“When I bought this place and looked around at the beaten landscape it felt like Klondike”. And with these words she realized that if this was Klondike – she naturally had to be the Sheriff.
What I hope you get from reading about Listbeth Hermansen, the Sheriff of Country Town is this: Remember life is short. Go out and have fun.
Move to another city. Try a different job. Order something new on the menu. When ever you worry about what others might think or say, ask yourself: “Will this person cry at my funeral?” If the answer is “No” – well, then go ahead with whatever you had planned to do.
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