Archives for posts with tag: Rural

My fascination with deserted houses is never-ending, a continual source of questions.  As a city girl, I’m intrigued by the fact that houses are left to devolve back into nature in rural areas.  There’s nobody to impress, nobody to come on your property and tell you what to do with the house unless you get lucky and some creative designer or artist wants to buy the weathered wood for a project.

Every state has rural areas, so don’t get all “it’s because you’re an Okie” on me.  I see them everywhere, especially when I’m off the highways.  I want to know the stories, imagine who lived there and when.

Here are four Okie houses…

The first one is in the Oklahoma panhandle.  I wonder if it was deserted during the Dust Bowl?  Did the people who made it a home put cloths in the windows to keep out the dust and finally just have to leave when the crops were dead and they couldn’t make it anymore?  There are so many stories out here…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis one is from northeastern Oklahoma.  Tiny home for who?  Or storage?  Or storm shelter?DSC_0012I spotted this one on a dirt road in southwestern Oklahoma.  There’s still a window reflecting the countryside.  Was there a family here?  Or was it for storage? Were the people happy?  What happened?IMG_3487And then, there’s this one in central Oklahoma.  A lot of work to drag all those rocks to build it.  There’s also another structure and rusting oil storage tanks further up the land.  This was oil country.  Did the oil run off the farmers?  Who lived here?  Who planted the Crepe Myrtle?DSC_0002I can’t stop wondering, knowing these houses tell us so much of our history.  Aren’t you curious when you drive by?

When you live in a city, you need to leave every now and then, travel the quieter spaces of rural areas. Every state and country has them and you need to be there to get a true perspective on what a region is about. You need to put the crazy ways of the city up against the quiet ways of the country and understand the people who inhabit both.

I’d never really been in Southwest Oklahoma, so I went. Staying in Quartz Mountain Resort, in the middle of agricultural and cattle lands, traveling to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a national treasure, and driving through the small towns and rural roads was a trip that taught me much more about my state, adding to what I know and love about our country.

I love the county seats, like Cordell, with its beautiful county courthouse in the middle of the plaza. This one is on the national historic register, designed by the same architect who designed the state capitol.

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I love the towns that still have their Carnegie libraries, like Lawton.

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Lawton has destroyed their historic downtown, replacing it years ago with a mall, but they did keep the lovely home of Mattie Beal, a young telephone operator from Kansas whose name was drawn in the land lottery, giving her the means to become one of the city’s most beloved benefactors.

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I love the little touches of the past preserved, like this Phillips station in Altus.

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And this stop light in Hobart.

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And the little towns that were built on hope and never really went anywhere. Who wouldn’t like to say they are from Indiahoma, Oklahoma? Say what?

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Or Gotebo, pronounced Go’-Tee-Bow, where the most going business is dog grooming from the looks of things.

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I love the little old movie theaters like the Redskin in Anadarko, a mostly Native American community, where they can get away with politically incorrect things like that,

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and the Washita in Chickasha…a mouthful…

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I love small town holiday decorations like these in Roosevelt

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or these original street light decorations in Chickasha

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And I love the rural roads

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taking me through wide open spaces littered with the past

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and the present

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through areas of great agriculture. I had no idea how much cotton we grow in Oklahoma or that we harvest until December…

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The rural areas bring you the peace of the end of the day. I love the sun going down in Hobart with its important grain elevators.

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And you find humor in the most unexpected places…like this guy in Roosevelt…

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I’m back in the city, but always thankful for those rural areas that provide the perspective I need…

Monday, on the drive to Bentonville, Arkansas, my friend and I drove the scenic part of Highway 412 and then veered off onto country roads to take the back way into Bentonville, missing the interstate, traffic, consumer mess of a drive. It was a beautiful spring day to journey through pasturelands and little towns in Delaware County, named after the Delaware Indians who settled there, heading over to Arkansas. There were still some dogwoods and redbuds in bloom in the wooded areas along the way.

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I’m fascinated by the rural areas, being a city girl. Every state has them, so don’t go getting snobby on me. It’s just a different lifestyle, some things better than the city, some not so much. I always try to imagine life out here or what the area has been through in its history. You can see the stories in the buildings that are standing in various stages of decay. Sometimes you see a barn falling down right next to a new one. Or a house that has been deserted by its owners. You see them quite a lot, actually.

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Traveling with my iPad, I look up the history of towns as we go. You learn a lot reading about why people settled here and what happened to make it rise or fall. Most of the towns aren’t growing. It’s a tough way of life out here in the country. The little community, hard to call it a town, of Colcord, with a population of 819 used to call itself “Little Tulsa.” I’m not sure, even in its thriving days, where they got that unless none of them had ever been to Tulsa. I guess the town leaders hoped…

I think it was in Decatur where we saw the Iva Jane Peek Library. I take photos zipping by areas so pardon the mistakes sometimes. I’m constantly trying to capture something that catches my eye as we whiz by. I love the name of the place and wonder about Iva Jane and her influence. I haven’t found out who she was…yet!

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Chickens were and are a big industry in the area on into Arkansas, where we began to see Confederate flags every once in a while. If you look at a google map from above you see rows of thin silver roofs, chicken houses, all along the way. We saw a lot of deserted ones, but lots still active.

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Bentonville was known as Osage after the Osage Indians who came from Missouri to hunt the area for months at a time. Eventually, the white settlers took over and named the town after Thomas Hart Benton, a Missouri senator who fought for Arkansas to become a state. At the turn of the century, being the 1900s, apples were the main resource, followed by chickens until WalMart was added to the mix to make that area a pretty bustling area for a town of 35,000. I’ve been to Bentonville from the interstate and from the backroads, which gives you a picture of the growth surrounding it. I like entering the back way best.

There’s something about traveling the backroads, seeing the honesty of it where you live your home is what you make it. You don’t have to worry about what the neighbors think about your well manicured lawn if you don’t want to. You can have it any way you want to. If you want to leave the remnants of the house or barn and build right next to it, you can. I kept thinking that some design person would drive through and make a nice offer for the reclaimed wood that they could sell to an upscale business or homeowner for an authentic look. I’m all for that and there’s a treasure trove out there for the clever and creative.

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The rural roads fuel my imagination, writing stories in my mind of the families who came before, the individuals who lived in tiny houses in the side of a hill. There are so many questions you have driving by.

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And then you just enjoy the wide open views of the sky,

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the rolling roads,

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and watching the variations of spring greens in the hills which will turn darker as the season goes on.

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When I see the skyline of the city in front of me, I know I’m heading home to bustling streets and landscaping and order of a sort. I’m comfortable with that life, but I love the spirit of the countryside I’ve traveled. Everyone should get off the main highways now and then. We’re in such a hurry and look at what we miss…