Thursday, August 22, 2013

Union Jack and Bullet Holes

What is surely one of the loneliest, most inhospitable, amenity-free and least-photographed "Welcome To" state signs in the lower 48. My favorite kind. County Road E0200, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, a few miles west of the ghost town of Mexhoma, Oklahoma on the OK/New Mexico border. No Man's Land.

On the way to Colorado a few years ago, I took that forgotten and empty road, just because. Why else? I pulled over at the state line to eat my lunch, and as I sat there on the tailgate of the truck I pondered that sign. A Union Jack sticker and bullet holes. An interesting combination. Vastly different, but the same, really, both saying "I was here", one borne of adventure never to return, the other perhaps borne of frustration and anger, never to escape. That or just plain dumbshit ignorance and access to a six-pack and a gun.

I'd never know. I tossed my bread crust at the prairie rattler curled up underneath the sign, (no cute tourist pictures to be taken in front of this one...), listened to the wind for a while, watched a hawk trace a few looping circles in the sky, then got back in the truck and drove off. I was utterly alone.

"I will never forget, myself, starting across the sere Oklahoma Panhandle at dusk one cold February evening and becoming so depressed by the melancholy of its emptiness that I almost had to turn back. It was perhaps because of that drive across the Oklahoma Panhandle at dusk in the winter that I began to read narratives of travel in Siberia ...

                                            Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen

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