Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Into the Borderlands, Part 1

Wherein Merriwether begins the tale of his and Clark's adventure in the borderlands and how they went looking for was lost.

Magnolia, Steward's Mill, Larissa, and many others. These are the ghost towns of Texas.

Borderlands are usually defined by space. But they can also be defined by time, especially in a place like Texas. Places that once thrived have passed on, fading away over time. In most cases nothing is left but some ramshackle buildings and a name on an outdated map. Sometimes even the buildings are gone, yet the land contains signs of what was once there. You just need to know what to look for, then suddenly a ghost town springs up around you, appearing like a shadow from a passing cloud.

We were off to spend the day exploring these borderlands created by time, by entropy, by abandonment rather than by physical boundries. Earlier searches on the web turned up many lost towns. Some still had a building or two left standing to mark their location, others existed only as a name in an old record book, their exact locations no longer known. Clark had scoured the web digging up information on several towns, even downloading satellite photos of likely spots.

The adventure started as most do, 6am in front of Clark's house.
My RAV4 (aka Jade Hawk) was loaded up with rope, flashlights, GPS, first aid kit, cameras, maps and photos to explore any abandoned buildings/towns we might find. We left our comfey little suburb and headed north into the misty, pre-dawn darkness.

Forty-five minutes later I turned on to Highway 75, a road all but forgotten by the citizens of Texas. This highway is the Texas equivalent of US Route 66. It was the main path north-south across Texas before Interstates 35 and 45 appeared. Now it's a ghost road.

The borderlands are the areas where civilization fades away to meet...something else. The "something else" is usually either a complete wilderness or the ragged edge of another civilization. Complete wildernesses are awe-inspiring, humbling, harsh and stunning. Borderlands are weird and dangerous, sometimes foul. Both are beautiful.

The sun had just risen as we spotted our first carcass.

When I-45 appeared Hwy 75 faded, dooming many businesses with its passing. This gas station looked to have been abandoned years ago. Outside and inside were trashed and torn. It was a borderland. It is a place where rules fade and outcasts, adventurers, and criminals gather.
It was beautiful. It was the first of many forsaken buildings we explored that day.

A few miles further down the road we came across what was once a huge, rambling farmhouse. Now it is decayed, empty, even its ghosts have passed away.

More desolate miles, more deserted building, no other people. We headed farther north, farther east in to the Piney Woods region of Texas. The town of Steward's Mill had began in 1850 and had lasted one hundred years. Now all that was left was its general store and a cemetary. According to the records, they had a thriving grist mill along a creek on the edge of town. We easily found the store.

It is now a place of Historical Significance, and so nothing could be removed from the site. The front door was locked but through the windows we could see scales, and shelves stocked with old tools and cans. A display case held an inkwell and what looked like some schoolbooks. Harnesses and buckets hung from the rafters.

Through another window was a room empty but for a biscut display case and a double-headed axe.

This store stands along near a crossroads. It was only about 9am on a Sunday morning. There was no one around. Stairs lead down to the store's open basement door. We went down, we went in.
The basement had many doors but even with our big flashlights we couldn't bring ourselves to explore farther. Some things need not be, well, disturbed.

Here fades Part 1.

Adventure! Excitement! Entropy!

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