3.28.2007

Ghost of a Town


Lostdog sent me this link to a wonderful site full of photographs of ghost towns around the US. There is something oddly comforting and eerie about ghost towns. I like being reminded that the earth I live on is older than the span of my own life. I like imagining how long it took those boards and windows to fall into such disrepair. I like letting my mind wander through the decrepit mines once the hubs of civilization, now abandoned and unmarked holes in the ground.
It reminded me of a coal pit mine in West Virginia that I played on once as a child. I was 11 or so and our family had traveled that way to visit friends. I and another child (can't remember who at the moment) went for a walk through the land of an old, abandoned coal mine. The entrances to the mine were large, gaping caves, the entrances blocked with iron gates. I remember the surprising coolness of the air gushing from the caves into the hot, humid air. It was like a giant, outdoor air conditioner. We walked down a steep set of stairs (and by steep, I mean, nearly perpendicular to flat ground) flanked by a pair of rails. I tried to imagine how fast a cart would roll down that hill on those rails, but it made me dizzy. The steps were made of large, roughly-cut blocks of wood and stood about a foot high. It was a great workout!
At the bottom of the hill was a processing or refining machine. It was rusted out almost beyond recognition. We took turns walking up the steep ramp which was used as a conveyor belt to move coal up to the top of the three story structure to be piled high and to the side. The belt and conveyor mechanism were so rusted and full of holes that there were places a child might have fallen through. We, however, did not fall through, but climbed to the top and looked out from the mouth of the yawning rusted beast at a desolate, but beautiful mountain landscape. Of course now one would never send a child to play on a rust heap without full body armour and a tetanus shot, but for that day and that moment in time I was playing on the skeleton of a dragon. I still remember it as clearly as I see today and the image of that place will never leave me.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous uncle jim said...

nice pictures ... nice story of your remembrance ... probably almost as many ex-coal miners as there are now ex-autoworkers ... you should go back there to WV and do a photo shoot of old abandonned coal mine towns ... I'll bet there are plenty ... and you seem to have an eye for that sort of thing

28/3/07 18:39  
Anonymous lostdog said...

Glad you enjoyed the site, and I take back all I said about you not answering your own questions - keep writing evocative posts like that, and you can quiz ne all you want.

29/3/07 16:05  
Blogger half said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/4/07 00:06  
Blogger half said...

I grew up with my own sort of mini-ghost town just across the street from my grandma's house. It was one little shack, but had all of the mystique and appeal of a ghost town to an imaginative kid. The remnants of a pot-belly stove and the innersprings of a mattress long ago rotted away by the Northern California sun and rain pouring through a half-missing roof of decay blackened pine planks spoke to me of the simple life of the caretaker of the old orange packing shed.

My favorite ghost town-ish place was a former amusement park turned government educational facility. As condition of the sale of the property to the unversity, no amusement park operations would continue.

The "sky ride" tower still stood tall, but it's rotating cabin would never again soar above this place. It was destined for a new home.

The viewing windows of the Submarine Stage still looked out in to the crystal clear headwaters of the San Marcos river, but long gone were the beautiful Aquarena mermaids performing their breathless underwater ballet. A final curtain of algae comes slowly down on the show.

Walkways and railings longed for the giddy, sunny days filled with children and beckoned me to stand in line for attractions that now exist only in forgotten dusty shoeboxes of snapshots from vacations gone by.

Once colorful, lively structures were succumbing to the seige of a weedy army reclaiming the materials for the earth.

The little wooden village, once shop storefronts, now stood silent, idle and abandoned. Silent and idle to the naked eye, but bustling and alive in the imagination of a grown up kid.

2/4/07 00:13  

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