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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Ghost Town Gyms of Highway 83


Many other small towns along Highway 83 are even worse off, having not survived, fallen into the state of a ghost town. Despite that most are no longer even listed on a map, I still on my travels must pass through their decayed remains, municipal road kill, a rotting carcass on the side of the road. The crumbling buildings tell the story of a community that for whatever reason, did not adjust sails to the changing economical winds. Now mere memories -deserted and forgotten - boarded up buildings that once housed a living community. It is sad even to a stranger like me, passing through at 65 miles per hour. The demise of each town and the broken dreams that accompany any failed community, I am sure, would make a good book in itself. However, is anyone left to tell the tale?

In almost every one of these deserted hamlets I encounter, I can identify the building that once was the community school. I speculate that the section of the “school house” that is two stories tall was the gymnasium. I imagine years of  basketball games played on frigid January Friday nights when two small prairie towns packed it to the rafters, necessitating the opening of the windows, just to cool the place down. From the banker to the town drunk, everyone was here to witness the drama and the heroics of the local team, a respite for one night a week to the drudgery of life in a lonely prairie town. And I wonder what happened to the trophies, earned by sweat and blood and once displayed with such pride, won on those long ago cold winter nights?

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