Have you ever traveled down a lonely country road and out in the middle of nowhere you come upon the last remains of a country community? One of those you have to be going there to get there places. Depending on the size, sometimes it’s what’s left of a country store and gas station and sometimes it’s a whole city block with a bank, a hardware store, the old grainery, a church, and a school. If you have never stumbled onto one these quaint places, they’re everywhere but you won’t find them out on the busy highway. You have to slow down to find these life size sculptures that stand in testimony to a forgotten place if not a forgotten time.
When you find one, slow down, stop the car, get out. Walk up to the windows, wipe away the dust and grime, and peer inside. I am always puzzled at what I see inside. In most of these out of the way places, it looks like someone turned the sign and locked the door and just never went back. See the calendar still hanging on the wall marking the last month and year anyone took the time to even care? I’ve seen cash register and bank receipts still laying where they were last laid. Step back from the glass, close your eyes, and just listen. Can you hear the grass rustling against the building and the dangling sign creaking? Those are no ordinary sounds. If you listen real close you can hear the whisper of someone’s dreams haunting the place.
Every brick laid was laid by someone who believed in this place and these people. Every stone, every beam, and every steeple was raised in hope that it would be a thriving warm community, and for a while they were. There were dreams born here, children raised, contributions made to the world at large. They were wonderful little incubators for a generation that once grown, disdained the humbleness of their roots and took off for far different purposes.
Dreams turn gray when they die. They start out with fresh paint that promises something special inside. Someone lovingly painted that building and believed in the purpose of it’s existence. While it remains a mystery to me, the person who currently owns the buildings in these out of the way places, I understand why they never return to clean out or clear out the aging debris. I understand the person that flipped the sign for the last time and turned the key in the lock, never to return. Dreams hurt when they die. If you are the unfortunate one who holds the key to the door, it’s just is too much to bear. Too much effort required to flip the calendar, too much to see the message light flashing on the phone, too many things to clean out and clear out. If the buildings stand as they always did, with time locking it in place, they remain as a silent time capsule, an aging sculpture that witnessed the hopefulness of the people who dreamed the dreams, laid the bricks, raised the beams, worshiped under the steeples, and sent a forgetful generation out to do the same.