© 2014 Photos and Text By Bob Litton. All rights reserved.
During my first few years as editor of the Monahans News I would return to my hometown of Dallas about three times a year taking the US67 route. That way is more dangerous, in a sense, than is the I20 route because it is (or was during the 1980s anyway) a two-lane highway and I too frequently found myself caught in an unorganized “caravan” of vehicles; at such times, passing three or four other vehicles by going into the oncoming traffic’s lane is a dare-devil’s game. However, on the positive side, US67 is much more scenic and — except for the occasional “caravan” — more relaxing.
It was while I was headed to Dallas one day that I noticed the “ghost Masonic lodge” above, somewhere between Brownwood and Weatherford. It must have been the time of my high school class reunion because I had the newspaper’s camera with me and there was no other reason for me to be toting it to Dallas. I am always attracted to objects (and people, too) who are not beautiful in the conventional sense but are uniquely odd. Here was this old general store-like structure that looked like it was probably dangerous to enter and yet with the Masonic emblem still dangling from a post. I just had to capture that image for myself and for posterity. I have not driven on US67 again in more than twenty years, so I have no idea if that “ghost lodge” is still standing.
An even odder structure captivated me a year or so later — this old prairie shack on the south side of TX80 a few miles east of Barstow in western Ward County, Texas. A local ranch foreman informed me recently that such little one-room shacks are (or were) used as resting spots by cowboys settling in to rest a bit off their horses or as shelter from storms. But, as you can see, what makes this particular shack uniquely interesting is that it has become severely weathered and warped and pushed almost to the ground by West Texas winds. I frequently passed it during my years at the Monahans News when I traveled to Barstow to gather news. Eventually, of course, I saw as I drove by that it had finally collapsed.
Not all my interest resides solely in empty, weather-beaten buildings, however; I do have a place in my mind’s pleasure palace for people, both young an old. One part of my job at the Monahans News was to go out with the camera and try to find appropriate images that told a story whenever there was a change in the weather. Too often we had to rely on scenes of vehicle tires splashing through rain puddles or sliding on black ice. One day, however, I was much rewarded with a unique scene — the brother and sister above illustrating the fun a good rain can be. Oh! How that image arouses memories within me of my own childhood joy of building little mud dams by the curbside to divert a small stream of rainwater!
But, we old folks can have our charming moments, too. Above is a couple of old timers who resided in Grandfalls, Texas, about 19 miles due south of Monahans, during the oil boom years of the 1930s. This photo was taken during one of my trips to Grandfalls for news-gathering and to collect tall tales for one of my columns, the heading of which was “Out in the county”. The fellow on the left is Shine Wilcox, and his companion (to your right) is Joe Brandenburg as they appeared in 1981. They are sitting and gossiping like a couple of cracker barrel philosophers in the grocery store owned by Eleanor Eudaly, Shine’s long-time girlfriend. A friend had informed me that Shine was unique in that he had a deep-well fund of local lore in his memory, and that every time he told a story the account was exactly as he had told it on previous occasions: My friend averred that such is not the case with most people. I asked Shine to give me some juicy anecdotes with which I might make my column bristle. His answer: “Nope! Can’t do that. Too many of those people are still alive.”
I will have a few more photographs to present for your entertainment (I hope) in the near future. For now — in case I do not publish anything between now and the approaching holiday — Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!