For years, Iíve carried on
a not-so-friendly debate with some of my artist friends from the West
Coast about their ideas of what constitutes a good subject. We seem to be
able to agree on certain things, like apples and orangesóand even certain
landscapes. But when it comes to their paintings of dilapidated old farm
buildings, we part company.
Some folks see rundown
farmhouses and caved-in barns as romantic. Artists paint pictures of
buildings with weathered boards, leaning at impossible anglesóand people
take those paintings home and hang them on their walls.
But for me, I see those same abandoned
farmsteads as unspeakably sad. After all, each one of those boarded up
farmhouses represents the death of someoneís hopes and dreams for the
future of their children and themselves.
the same sad feeling whenever I pass through a small town that was
once a thriving place, full of life and activity, but now sits empty
and lifeless, slowly crumbling back into the black earth from which it
sprang. Last week, I was lost on some back road (not an unusual
situation for me) when I came across just such a
Abandoned store and gas station in Windyville,
October, 2004, Kathy Weiser.
|There was no name that I could see, but there were three buildings,
huddled next to each other against the prairie wind, and I could still
make out some faded letters above their doors. The first one had been
a general store, the second a garage, but it was the third building
that captured my imagination. On its side was printed the word
Hotel? The word seemed so incongruous. After all, what could have been
the attraction in this little town that would have warranted a hotel?
There didnít seem to be anything of interest in the area, and if any
place in the world could have been said to be in the middle of
nowhere, this little town was it!
And how did people get to this village in order to stay in this
mysterious hotel? I saw no railroad tracks, and thereís only one road
running through town.
The garage implied the town was still
alive when cars came into general use, but cars have been around a
long time, and that still didnít explain the need for a hotel in a
town with only two other buildings.
Perhaps thatís why
my artist friends find old buildings and farmsteads so intriguing.
Thereís definitely a sense of mystery about themóstories that will
never be known. On that much, we can agree. But no one can convince me
those lonely scenes are picturesque.
I can hardly look
at old towns like that without being overcome with a sadness thatís
difficult to explain. What are the stories of those forlorn
storefronts? Why did people come to that little town and stay in their
little hotel? What about the rusty skeleton of a combine on the edge
of town, its bones bleaching in the sun?
I donít know, and I
ghosts donít talk.
Just donít try to tell me that such a scene is something Iíd want to
hang on my wall and look at every day.
© 2004. Gary E. Anderson. All rights reserved.
About the Author:
Gary Anderson is a
freelance writer, editor, ghostwriter, and manuscript analyst, living on a
small Iowa farm. Heís published more than 500 articles and four books.
Heís also ghosted a dozen books, edited more than 30 full-length
manuscripts, produced seven newsletters, and has done more than 800
manuscript reviews for various publishers around the nation. The Sadness of Old
Buildings is from Gary E. Anderson's book No