Happy Wednesday, FaceDrivers! How are y’all? The post-Christmas doldrums should be just about to give way to New Years’ excitement! Hope you all had a good Christmas. We had a wonderful Christmas despite the fact that I was under the weather with one of the numerous types of respiratory croup that folks are passing around out there. Y’all wash your hands. Get a flu shot. Go get a Covid vaccine. Mask up when you’re all piled up indoors with a bunch of people. It’s not difficult, and it’s NOT political, it’s just common sense. It should be pure survival instinct, by now.
Sure has been warm and windy! As I write this, we are getting our first precipitation in what seems like months. It’s DRY out there. Dust, cedar pollen and 30MPH wind are NOT my friends. It’s not actually raining, just misting a little bit. Barely enough to settle the dust, but it smells good. We didn’t even know it was doing anything till we saw the radar picture on the Weather Channel. The forecast has a big winter cold front slamming into us over the New Years weekend. Cover up your hydrants. Check your vehicle. Gotta love Oklahoma. BRING YOUR PETS INSIDE. Foul weather aside, the cool season is upon us. Winter is my favorite time to travel the back roads of our beautiful state. I’ll have to admit, it’s because I’m a Big Snoop. I LOVE to peak into your backyard while I’m driving by to see what you’re hiding back there. Once the trees and underbrush are bare, it’s a lot easier to see what folks have piled up around their places. Old cars, trucks, motorcycle, camper trailers, and farm equipment, yard art, landscaping, and architecture are all out in the open and easy to spot. I’ve always been fascinated with How People Live. In the good ol’ summertime, the vines and bushes and tall grass obscure the view. In the winter, you can see stuff you might have missed back in June.
Travel is fun, if there’s something to look at, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I can drive anywhere, simply because I love to look. I stopped flying after 9/11, when it became stressful, distasteful and dehumanizing. The only thing to look at on a Boeing 737 is your own mortality and the back of the seat in front of you, and that’s only if you survive the nightmare that is the 21st century airport. (Shudder!) Me? I’ll get in my little road rocket and fire up some bluegrass music. Canada to Mexico; coast to coast; I’ll get there, eventually, and you can bet I’m gonna have fun doing it.
In Oklahoma, there are a handful of main highways, some of which actually predate Route 66. The ancient Native American trails and old pioneer routes follow the ridges, creeks and river courses. The first railroads were built along a few of the larger trails. Trails were expanded into wagon roads and freight routes. Then came the paved roads and highways. Okies know their highways: 66, 48, 99, 77, 33, 18, 51, 62.
You can go any direction, through mountains, rolling prairie, deep woods and high plains. Ours is a beautiful state. My wife and I have made it a practice to do mini-road trips. We get in the car and just drive. We’ve traveled the back roads, and we love to look. Sadly, too many of Oklahoma’s oil towns and smaller farm and ranch towns are wasting away, victims of urbanization, interstate highways, and the big box stores. As the years passed, the kids grew up, left for college or work in the city, and didn’t bother to come back. After a few generations, the empty main streets and farmsteads bear silent testimony to the decline of rural America. The farmers and ranchers understand this as well as anyone. What to do? There’s not much that can be done. Across our nation, dedicated groups of caring, hard working people are striving to support efforts to rescue and restore old downtown areas and at-risk historical landmarks such as Oklahoma’s Arcadia Round Barn, the Threatt filling station, the Chandler National Guard Armory, and Fort Reno, just to name a few.
Rescue and restoration is a terribly expensive process, especially on the old Main Streets. Costs are ongoing and ever-increasing. Since there’s rarely any real profit involved in restoration going forward, funding is nearly impossible to obtain. Get up, get out, and go take a drive. Go see it while it’s still there. The old filling stations, motels, cafes, dry goods stores, churches, lodges and grand private homes are slowly disappearing. I know these roads. I know these towns. I know these farms and ranches. I’ve watched the abandoned farmhouses and old barns fall down on every highway I drive. I’ve watched the century-old downtowns empty out and gradually turn into dusty, boarded-up red brick ghosts of yesterday. Here’s to the future!
Y’all have a great 2022! Look forward, but never lose touch with the past. New Years Eve party??? Uh, huh. Hey, DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE, because people love you and they don’t want to lose you. jb
RESIST – Unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. It’s a big setup. We probably can’t lose 50 pounds, or get any richer or prettier, but maybe we can just resolve to be NICE to each other.
EDITOR’S NOTE. Joe Baxter is one of my favorite people. He loves music, the Round Barn, his wife Jean, a club sandwich from Farmstead Cafe, Route 66 and America (not in that order). A songwriter and musician, he has a way with words and can turn a phrase such that you want to listen, or in this case, read for a while. If you are one of his “face friends” on social media, you know he can get you thinking with his posts and musings. He’s letting us post them here on The Luther Register! We’re trying something new. Find Joe at the Arcadia Round Barn where he is the head conversation aficionado catching stories from Route 66 travelers from all over the world, and getting the band together eight days a week! Thanks Ramblin’ Joe! ENJOY! – dawn