Nevada City, CA — Area community activist Saihra Ramun is not shy about her accomplishments. For a good reason. The Nevada County native has done more in her 39 years on Earth than anyone could ever dream of. She’s been an active voice on the gold rush streets of Nevada City for over 14 years, having spent the formidable years of her life away, in her words, re-discovering herself on adventures across this great country.
Although many locals know her for her outspoken views on what many believe to be uncomfortable topics, Ms. Ramun has never let criticism from anyone slow her indefatigable spirit down. From going door-to-door collecting citizen’s toenail clippings to test for chemtrail residue, to a lengthy and controversial campaign to rename Nevada City’s “patriarchal” Broad Street to Nisenan Street, after the area native American tribe, Ms. Ramun is a fighter by any stretch of the imagination. Both friend and foe admire her commitment to all things Nevada County.
However there has always been those missing years; that time when she simply disappeared over a decade back for 4 years. No one knew where she went, as she didn’t tell a soul. She simply wasn’t there one morning picking up cigarette butts on Commercial Street, a daily ritual the town had grown accustomed to. That was 18 years ago when she was 21.
Today, like many other days in Ms. Ramun’s recent life, found our activist out in front of the New York Hotel on Broad Street with her trusty bull horn announcing to locals and frightened tourists that she was finally going to document what she is now calling “They Called Me A Dumbass“.
“Listen up people,” shouted an amplified Ms. Ramun on the sidewalk out in front of the historic hotel, “I know many of you want to know what happened 18 years ago, and I want to know too. At least, I want to make sense of it. This is why I’m announcing my intention to film my adventures across Kansas and share them all with you.”
The documentary features an unknown Southern California actress Delma Constantine playing the role of Ms. Ramun. During her original journey, Ms. Ramun had her trusty sidekick dog Dusty Rose, however due to budgetary constraints, she will be played by a stuffed animal in a similar way Tom Hanks’ character talked to his volleyball “Wilson” in the film Cast Away.
This is the third time Ms. Ramun has attempted to film her journey across Kansas. The previous two were kept quiet for good reasons, mostly financial reasons. According to childhood friend and area lawyer Katherine Lucy-Elizabeth Tatum-Stonehousefelder, she had two unsuccessful crowd sourcing campaigns which ended in disaster.
“Over the past five years, she started two gofundme.com campaigns to raise money for her project,” said Ms. Tatum-Stonehousefelder from her attorney’s office near the courthouse. “She didn’t tell anyone what they were for, but she had a strange code name for the project. Project-Clandestine something. I can’t remember. Anyhow, people didn’t care because they loved her and just gave her the money.”
According to Mr. Tatum-Stonehousefelder, the first round of funding raised over $24,000, but Ms. Ramun spent measuring what she called “tomato energy” with a borrowed Scientology E-meter she bought from a friend for $20,000. The $4,000 balance was never accounted for.
“It was her second attempt about three years ago that really caused some concern,” continued Ms. Tatum-Stonehousefelder. “For this time around, she raised around $31,250.00. Don’t ask me how she got people to donate this time, given what happened the first time around, but they did. Some of the local blogs even chipped in. I love her, but I thought this was a bad idea.”
According to several people who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being publicly shamed by Ms. Ramun, the money simply disappeared and there was nothing to show for it other than a few gratitude awards for their donations.
“I have to tell you I’m pretty upset about this,” said Nevada City resident Stacy Grant from the porch of her Cottage Street home. “We gave her almost $500.00 for her project. And we think she took that money and used it to open her yogurt shop on Commercial Street. We were expecting some kind of documentary. At least that’s what she told us. I confronted her on Broad Street about it, and she told me it’s in progress. She offered me a coffee mug with her face on it as some kind of gift for contributing, which was weird you know? I wanted my money back.”
But what bothered Ms. Grant more than anything, is the feeling that she had been taken advantage of.
“But in retrospect,” continued Ms. Grant, “it looks like we were played for the fool. We contacted the DA, but then withdrew our complaint. I mean, who wants to be that person in town? Not me, that’s for sure.”
Even the many accusations of impropriety and fraud have not deterred the resolute Ms. Ramun.
“I have strong opinions and those opinions aren’t going to agree with everyone, you know? But it’s not going to stop me. It never stops me,” continued a somewhat indignant Ms. Ramun “These people are just paid shills trying to take me down. I deserve to be heard, not challenged. This is why I had to disable all commenting on Facebook when I post something. You have to understand there are paid operatives out there who don’t want you to hear the truth. The truth that I have. And by having an open and transparent dialog, that allows all this paid shills to talk over my important discussion. Do some research, OK?”
At this point Ms. Ramun wanted to turn the attention away from her every day controversies, to her documentary.
“Look, this film is about my struggle to overcome the odds. It’s about the human spirit and what one person can accomplish against the odds. When I set out across Kansas, people called me a dumbass. Which is what I’m calling my film by the way, They Called Me A Dumbass. It’s supposed to be , you know, tongue and cheek because I’m not really a dumbass.”
Ms. Ramun recounted a time when she got trapped in a corn field about 100 miles outside of Topeka.
“All the locals were telling me not to cross that corn field. They were like ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Bill Jones doesn’t take lightly to trespassers and them fields are gonna be real muddy.’ Something like that. It’s all in my unpublished book. Anyhow, sure enough, they were right. I got stuck about 400 yards into the corn. I was up to my waist in the mud,” continued Ms. Ramun laughing to herself. “So I started screaming for help, and I’ll be damned if that Jones person started shooting at me. It was really hilarious.”
According to Ms. Ramun, she managed to talk Mr. Jones out of shooting her and he eventually helped her out. She said he was polite, but according to his neighbors, he was irate at Nevada City’s prodigal child ruining several acres of his crop.
“Oh Jones wanted to kill her, and he probably would have if it wasn’t for Daisy [Mr. Jones’ wife],” said neighboring farmer Davis Lipton, a 4th generation soybean farmer. “He said he was tired of all these ‘California hippies trying to discover them in his corn field.’ Needless to say, he had to yank her out with a winch which took out several bushels of corn. She didn’t have any money on her, but she promised to pay him back. I don’t think she ever did.”
The filming, which has been going on since last February, was filmed around Nevada City and the surrounding area. According to production manager of They Called Me A Dumbass, Debra Collinfelder, it was a challenge to make the rural, former Gold Rush mountain town look like the plains of Kansas.
“We have a lot of pine trees around here in case you haven’t noticed,” snarked Ms. Collinfelder who seemed annoyed as if she’s had to explain this a 100 times before. “So we had to take some liberties. We had to clearcut an entire grove of cedars for one segment, which ended up being a problem because everyone on the crew was allergic to them. Poor Saihra had to get a steroid shot to keep breathing. It’s almost like the documentary almost killed her like her real journey did. The good news is a developer wants to put a shopping center where we shot the scene. We haven’t told Saihra about that yet, but we needed some way to recoup some costs since we ran out of money 2 months ago.”
When asked what she wanted people to take away from They Called Me A Dumbass, Ms. Ramun grinned ear-to-ear.
“I want people to feel inspired to follow their dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem. People will make fun of you, ridicule you and call you call kinds of names for speaking the truth. I hope that someday kids will follow in my footsteps, wherever that may lead them. There are powerful forces doing things without our consent, and it’s important to know that powerful individuals can change the world.”
They Called Me A Dumbass is set to premiere next year at the Nevada City Film Festival.