Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Few Parting Shots from a Dying Town

While I was in Marshall, Oklahoma, I decided to take a walk "around town" to see what I could see. I was in a melancholy mood, it being the day after Grandpa's funeral, and the condition of the town didn't help. It occurred to me that my Grandpa's life was pretty closely related to the life of Marshall, where he lived his entire life except for the time he spent on a Navy ship during WWII. As I was blown up and down the empty roads by a strong Spring wind, I thought of Don Huffer's life - a farmer, a sailor, a husband, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, a church-goer, Republican, traveler, a man who worked hard, made big plans, and loved life. This town, established around 1890 and barely hanging on to life through the post-office, co-op store and one last church, was only a little over 30 years older than he. How must he have felt seeing it pass away in front of him?
These photos are a few from my bittersweet tour of Marshall last month. I'm still clinging to my roots buried deep in the red, red soil of northern Oklahoma.

The family church - weddings, funerals, confirmations, and Christmas pageants.

Marshall school - est. 1904, closed 1988

The old fire truck, used for the parade on Prairie City Days. (They do have a modern one.)

One of the empty Co-op grain elevators, the train doesn't come through here any more.

Part of Main Street - plate glass of the bar broken out, small grocery closed for good.

Destruction and Life.

Empty playground.

Among the broken, dead brambles - LIFE and COLOR - roses

Little red wagon along the backyard I used to play in - it was my great-grandmother's house once.

Irises my Grandpa planted along the back of his workshop.

Scrap metal wheels


Town billboard in the middle of the wide Main Street, news: Huffer funeral. 

I found an entry for this little town on Wikipedia, obviously written by someone who lives, or grew up, there. The part that spoke to me said, "Back in the town's prime between 1900 and 1980 it had two gas stations, a hotel, 5-dime store, drug store, cafe, bar, grocery store, laundromat, hardware store, lawyer office, bank, doctor office, blacksmith, barber shop, beauty shop, fire station, arcade, movie theatre, two car dealers and farmers' co-op. Today all that is left is the co-op and post office. Where main street was once lined with cars on Saturdays is now pretty much a ghost town. Most of the buildings downtown are, or have, fallen down or empty. During the 1980s the oil bust happened and the town hasn't been the same ever since."

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die;
      A time to plant, And a time to pluck
what is planted; 
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
      A time to break down, And a time to build up; 
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
      A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
      A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
      A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
      A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 
A time to love, And a time to hate;  A time of war, And a time of peace.  —Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


  1. I know places, houses and streets are really nothing, but when I see empty houses and schools, I think of all the hearts and all the love and all the dreams that lived there. I always think how sad it is, that children walked away to other places - yeah, they took those memories with them but left a lot of emptiness behind. And for some silly reason, my heart kind of grieves.

  2. I know. My heart aches as I walk through the town. Even in my childhood, 25 years ago, it had more life. I found some great old film footage from the 40s of a big marching band expo they had there for MANY years. I had fun imagining my grandparents - still newlyweds - in the crowd, having fun.

  3. Mandisa has a song to Ecclesiastes on her new album... There is a time...

  4. Oh, she is SOOO good. Love her voice and her songs really speak to me. :)


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