It was lunch time and I was a long ways from home. The road sign ahead pointed to Cuba. That's in Kansas in case you were wondering...a tiny town with a proud heritage of Czech ancestry. I turned off the highway and entered the town by way of a county blacktop. As I drove down main street I saw the old gas station that always catches my eye.
I walked into the saloon style doors of the local cafe named
"Two Doors Down" which is to say it is 2 doors down from the tiny grocery store owned by the same family as the cafe. I love this place. It is an old bar or tavern with wood floors, high ceilings, a big bar, and good food with a local ethnic flavor.
After looking over the "daily specials" on the dry erase board I chose the baked steak dinner. Yum...picture in your mind a chicken fried steak that is baked slowly and tender enough to cut with your fork, real mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed veggies (good too) and a roll with real butter. Did I mention that I was served a tossed salad first? And iced tea? And then the waitress brought me a small jello dessert with some fruit in it and whipped cream on top. Total price of this meal---$7.
I pulled out a $50 bill to pay for it. The gal was struggling to come up with enough change so I offered to walk down the street to the bank and get some change. She said "the bank closed it's doors recently". Dang, that's too bad I said. She found enough change for me as we continued the conversation. "yes, first the railroad abandoned it's tracks which led the grain elevator to close." "then the school closed and consolidated with other area schools." "and now the bank..."
That only leaves this cafe, the grocery, an antique store open only part time, a gas station that is only open part time, and the post office that is slated to be closed by the federal government. And the population is aging.... this is the classic story of how a small town becomes a ghost town.
It may take a few more years but the writing is on the wall....
I left the friendly cafe and drove out of town on a different street. I passed the vacant school and saw the ball fields. A place where generations of baseball, football, and track athletes would have given their best for the cheering fans in the seats....I got out of the truck and took some photos.
the circular track was overgrown in grass. I looked at the football bleachers where tall weeds had grown.
I imagined the sound of helmets and shoulder pads colliding in battle. A small marching band playing at half time. And cheerleaders shaking their pom poms...popcorn and cold pop for sale at the concession stand....the sound of a whistle blowing from the men in stripes....and I took more photos....
It seemed so quiet and eerie as I walked to the truck and got back on the road. The town got small in my rear view mirror and I was once again on the highway speeding away like so many others....
Not far away I stepped hard on the brakes as I passed a farm I had driven by many times over the years. Someone was tearing down that old barn! "Wow" I turned the truck around and went back to have a look. I could not believe the beauty that was uncovered by the removal of the "strongbarn" galvanized tin siding that had been placed over the original wood board siding perhaps 50 years ago. It was my lucky day....
A hand lettered sign meant to be seen by travelers of the road so many years ago.....
No one was around as I took this photo. I knew that it was my only chance. The nearby trailer was stacked with lumber that was being salvaged from this barn and next time I go back it will be gone.....at least I had a chance to document it's final days in the sun. Did the present owners of this farm even know that was under the tin? Do they care? And the IRONY of the sign. "Business is good"
I drove on...thinking about the past, the present, and the future.
Time waits for no man...and no old barn either.
Thanks for riding along.....see you down the road.