TUPATALK: Lessons from a ghost town

·3 min read

Several years ago I spent an afternoon in a ghost town located near Fly, Nev.

The rotting remains didn’t include an old saloon, sheriff’s office, livery stable or hotel — it wasn’t a relic of the Old West.

This abandoned jumble of crumbled houses, rusted food cans, broken, crumbling fences had been a mining company town in the early-to-mid-part of the 20th Century.

I struggled to envision the layout of the town — where the roads had been located, on what lot the market had stood and how closely together the houses had been crowded together.

I couldn’t help but imagine this former center of human life as a friendly suburb, in which neighbors leaned on fences to talk to each other in the soft air of gathering dusk.

I thought about the games of baseball in the nearby fields, the sessions of football catch between parents and kids, the pounding of basketballs on driveways.

I thought of the paperboys flinging their daily offering and the papers — waiting to be taken inside, unfolded and read — resting impatiently on porches.

I envisioned children riding their tricycles or bicycles around the perimeter of the burg, the sound of their happy voices and childish laughter echoing through the neighborhoods.

But, all that vibrancy of mortality had vanished, leaving behind only decaying remnants and altars to the past.

I wondered if those who grew up there — assuming they were still alive, and I was sure many were — ever thought back to their youth, their friends, their parents, neighbors and familiar landmarks, and honored them all in their hearts with idyllic awe.

I wondered if they ever came back — or if, at some point after the town had been abandoned former residents had returned to remember.

On one lot was a house with stone walls that still stood as a testament to its former purpose. But, inside the edifice, the floor had long weathered away, leaving a 10-foot drop, or so, to the basement.

As I strolled around the forlorn site, I saw nails sticking out of fallen fences and boards like angry, bristling thorns ready to stick everyone that got to close.

I spotted an old, sun-baked black boot, its toe area permanently swollen and angling back toward the shoelaces.

After picking it up, I stuck it on a fence post and attempted to take a reflective, artsy photo.

Most the houses and buildings where just attestations to gods of dust and scattered debris.

Everywhere around me I sensed the lingering presence of human impact. This place had been built, had flowered in the day of its need and had been deserted — a continuing saga of time and mortal permutation.

This place had served its purpose; now it was bequeathed to the hiding spiders and other creatures in the shadows of slowly disintegrating railings and strewn decomposing clothes.

Later that afternoon, I drove over to the nearby gigantic pit, chewed out of the earth by manmade machines and trucks, where buried wealth was clawed away from the dirt. I stood on the edge and looked down.

Now, the roads along the size of the pit — whose sloped sides plunged downward several hundred feet — on which trucks had hauled away the soil were broken and crumbled.

Since that day, I’ve realized how tenuous is the material condition of mortality.

Today’s new building is tomorrow’s dump, today’s new car is tomorrow’s wreck, and today’s pursuit of human greatness and power is tomorrow’s spent dream.

I gained a greater insight to the importance of making “now” count. There is no guarantee of tomorrow — there is no guarantee the personal monument of temporal accomplishment we have spent a lifetime building will end up on the junk

pile of time.

All that survives is our character and wisdom, our relationships with other and the impact of the good or bad we have done to others.

It’s important to have fun and seek glory today — life was not meant to be swallowed in dreariness — but also to remember what really counts.

This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: TUPATALK: A stroll through a ghost town