Saturday, July 4, 2009

Chillocothe, Texas

A man walked up to me and asked what I was doing.

He said, "I was in the post office and was wondering what this idiot was doing standing in the middle of the street taking pictures."

But he was curious, not hostile or suspicious. His name was Cotton and he spent his whole life in Chillicothe, and he was eager to talk.

We look up and down the barren main street and he says, "These towns are all dryin' up. The kids get out of school and they're gone. To Dallas, Lubbock, Amarillo. There's just no work here, no jobs."

"We're hanging on, but it's gettin' pretty thin."

We're soon joined by April, an older woman who's finishing up at the post office, and as soon as she sees my cameras offers to show me the old Methodist Church. I accept out of politeness, but the church is beautiful and sad all at once.

Built more than a century ago, the pulpit stands in one corner, dark wood pews arranged in concentric arcs. Fine old German stained glass glows in the windows. It speaks of generations of pride and hard work and reverent faith.


April tells me, "On a good Sunday, we're lucky to get 35 people. The say that pipe organ is worth $165,000. We don't even have anyone to play it any more. Our organ player moved away."

She and Cotton chat for a while before he finally lets it slip that he's putting his place up for sale and moving down the road to Electra.

April looks up, surprised and stricken. "You're moving? Really...?"

"I finally give up."

She sighs, "Chillicothe's gonna' be smaller."

2 comments:

Wendy Lee said...

There's the opening line for your book, right there: "I was wondering what this idiot was doing standing in the middle of the street taking pictures."

Vicki Farmer said...

I grew up in this exact same place in rural southern Oklahoma. All of these little places, they're disappearing. I'm trying to get out and capture as much of it as I can with my camera, before it's gone for good.