Sandra Benedetto: Ode to Rancho Destructo, Now Condos


Immortalized in our hearts, if not in this world,

Rancho Destructo of the Elysian cornfields of Champaign, Illinois

claims its rightful spot in the pantheon of majestic residences,

no less splendid than the temple of Angkor Wat,

no less grand than Apollonia of the Byzantines,

no less noble than the ancient Aztec tecpan.


Whosoever resided there before us,

and whosoever came after us,

shall share in our great loss and have our sympathies.


With one exception, perhaps,

who are the tenants of the summer season

in the year nineteen hundred and ninety-nine,

malefactors who degraded our stately future home,

leaving remnants of Oreo cookies and

Jell-O stickiness in every crevice,

not to mention one soiled tampon in the bathtub.


From those inauspicious beginnings Rancho rose like the Phoenix,

resplendent with picnic table dining and borrowed construction signs.

What worry, then, if the second floor shower sank into the kitchen?

Who can know true camaraderie if one has not

broken wet bread together?


Even now, these many years later,

my nose detects the scent of Febreeze, nectar of the budget-conscious,

soaking into unwashed sheets and smoky clothes,

hanging in the antechamber of my porch room

after a string of debaucherous evenings.


Ah, memories flood back in bittersweet torrents,

of regaling guests with musical performances

that would put Zeus’s Muses to shame —

classic karaoke versions of What’s New Pussycat

and The Young Mexican Puppeteer, to name a few.


Would I not be remiss if I left out dear Herschel,

personification of Rancho’s glory?

O’ gentle curmudgeon — some might say slumlord —

how can we repay you for that golden year of our youth?

Sixteen-hundred dollars monthly seems not enough.


Nor let us forget Herschel’s Workers; Behold!

Hipsters decades before the word crossed our lips,

they arrived within days of our urgent appeals

to set mousetraps or secure a breached door.

If only their names were as memorable as their manes.


The velvety blanket of time has softened all decrepitude,

much like our stained velour couch;

may we look fondly upon that which was once cause for consternation,

such as roaches landing on shoulders in showers,

or the fuzzy entity in the toilet that refused to be flushed.


What other life-affirming events transpired under Rancho’s encompassing roof?

Some well-kept secrets were razed with the structure,

and others belong only to The Little Boy That Lived in the Walls.


Let us raise a glass of watery lager and pour some out for our beloved Rancho,

a casualty of Progress, but never forgotten!


  1. Sandra. Rancho alum here from 1980 – 1982. Your poem could have been written from the 9 of us that lived there during that time. Herschel Klein. Mice. Not much changed. So sad to see our humble abode destructed. Rancho Love.

    1. Wow, this is crazy! So fun to hear from you, Carolyn. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Can I ask how you came across my weird little poem? If you have any good Rancho stories, I’d love to hear them and pass them on to my former housemates 🙂 #rancholove

      1. Sandra, took me 3 years to reply to your reply! I must have seen your poem during a random google search. I will share pix from that time frame if I can figure out how to post.

    1. I think Mr Rush mistyped for I was his roommate at the time. It was 1988-89. I was in the room on the main floor of the living room. Thanks for the memories Sandra

      1. Thanks for the clarification, and for reading my little ode, however you stumbled across it! Many fond memories of that house. It’s fun to share the legacy.

    2. That definitely sounds record breaking! Our best was 8. For some reason I volunteered for the porch room . . . Thanks for your comment. We thought the guys who lived there in ’84 named it Rancho Destructo, based on a yearbook photo we found, but maybe the name precedes them.

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