Friday, December 14, 2012

A Drive Across the Plains

Abandoned homesteads and farms.
It was a long drive to the first lake, and I took the time to inspect some of my surroundings. This is still a young part of the country compared with other regions. Our local town just celebrated its hundredth anniversary a couple years ago. Sometimes towns seem to follow the same life cycle of a blade of grass. Towns spring up with great promise, prosper, flourish for a bit as they live out their season, and then wither, die, and disappear, often with the loss of their history. Some wither and die long before they disappear. Schools, businesses, whole towns vanish as if their very existence were the delusion of a faulty memory. Only those who have lived their whole lives here know where to go out and find the relics of some crumbled foundations. Nothing remains. Like the biblical image of a town being wiped away until no two stones stand one atop another, they are scattered, and the people disappear.
The structures that were the center of life, commerce, and culture, and those that provided shelter, warmth, and were the center of family life, holidays, the growth of children, are just left to lay in waste, are vandalized, or demolished. It was explained to me that towns were located about every ten miles, or the distance that a team of mules or ox could reasonably haul a freight wagon in a day. A livery, a church, and a saloon will become the nucleus of a community, but to sustain a town, there would need to be something to maintain commerce, like grain elevators, primary trail or freight road, or a railroad. Once the commerce goes, so do the towns unless their existence is marked by a gas station/convenience store, or it remains only as a bedroom community for some other town..

The countryside is littered with more such melancholy sights than I could warrant reasonable. Some may look and just see crumbling buildings, but I can’t help but wonder at the lives that were lived out in such places. There are many homes where the people just walked away, the piano just left in one perhaps because no one in the family plays any longer, the bedsprings left lying on the floor, and the stove shoved out the back door. There is a shop or a barn, where some man spent the fruitful years of his life toiling away to support his family, from which fields were tilled and livestock tended, which now lies empty, forlorn, and crumbling.

How many years did a farmer look out the end of his barn at this view?
Can you imagine how long a mother sat at this window knitting, mending
clothes, watching kids play in the yard, or waiting for the canned fruit lids to seal?


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