Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Picher, again. . .

By now, I expect most of you know that I'm obsessed with the town of Picher, OK and its demise. (If not, a good place to start would be my blog posts of Jan. 9 and Nov. 6, 2009. If you're not familiar with Picher and her story, please check these out.)

The moment I set the Tulsa World down in front of my breakfast plate this morning at 6 a.m., I knew I'd be heading for Picher immediately after my last mouthful of scrambled eggs. You see, the front page article in the World alerted me to the fact that yesterday the bulldozers rolled into town to demolish the last of the buildings remaining in the closed town. The article indicated that no former townspeople were present for the demolition -- nobody except several members of the press corps. That seemed sad to me, and the 200-mile round trip became something I had to do this very morning.

I knew I had to be there. And I was. . . at exactly 8 a.m. when the bulldozers were just getting started, eating alive one of the 247 buildings that they would be dining on for the next 140 days. Mind you, there wasn't much left of the town to begin with. A tornado, mine cave-ins, and a government buyout took care of most of the town, which once was home to almost 9,700 people, mostly lead and zinc miners and their families. Soon, the population will be around 10, representing six families that refuse to leave under any circumstances. Even Picher having been declared the country's No. 1 Superfund site wouldn't chase them away.

The tales of this town have made me sad ever since I moved to Oklahoma and realized that, although I'd never been there before, Picher (and the Eagle-Picher Mining Co.) had been in my dreams since I was a young person. The first time I caught a glimpse of the town, which sits just off Route 66, I felt an unusual and strong connection to it. I told someone today that I'm pretty sure I lived there in a previous life. I don't usually believe in that kind of stuff, but . . . well. . . who knows.

Here's the article in today's World: Crews begin to dismantle Picher Tulsa World It's extremely worth looking at, so please do. And here are some of the photos I took today. An orange X indicates a building that will be demolished.

On the way home after hanging around Picher for a while and getting quite a few quizzical stares from the guys on the bulldozers, I drove through Commerce and Miami. I remembered that I hadn't posted a photo of the statue of Commerce's native son (and one of my heroes) Mickey Mantle which was erected this summer. Here he is. Sorry about the angle, but I couldn't get a side view with the cars whizzing past on Route 66 and nowhere to park.

And while we're talking about memories from my past, here's an old motel on the outskirts of Miami which, for some reason, sticks in my mind from long ago travels on Route 66 with my parents. It's completely closed and abandoned now, with the former individual garages boarded up, but it remains a vital roadside stopping place somewhere in the very back of my mind. It gives me goosebumps every time I drive past it.


Beth said...

Thanks for the update on Picher. Such a sad story. I can't say I really understand the people that refuse to move. The town is gone, and maybe it's time to move on.

DennyG said...

I can imagine this is a pretty sad day for you. I guess if at least one Caterpillar doesn't fall into a collapsing mine shaft it will be a bit like not finding weapons of mass destruction. Of course, the health issues are real even without cave ins. I noted that the museum is to remain. I understood that it was pretty empty. Do you think there will actually be any attempt to resurrect it?

Next time you're stuck for a place to visit, how about coasting through Boynton. It's closer than Picher and may or may not be a ghost town in the making. I'm curious about its story.

Laurel said...

You are so right, Beth. In my opinion, it's now just about the most depressing place on earth, and staying there is unimaginable. I guess some people are just steadfastly loyal to their home town, even if there's no town any more.

Laurel said...

Denny - I thought the same thing when I watched the heavy equipment pounding that feeble ground. If anyone ends up in a mine shaft, I'll let you know. The Mining Museum is a shadow of it's former self, in my opinion. Reopening it would be a major project, but I'm thinking it would be a worthwhile one.

Boynton! Never thought to go there, but thanks to you it's now #1 on my list. Maybe Thursday! I have to get all my day trips in before it's spring and I reopen Afton Station full time.

Trevor Hilton said...

Too bad Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, who was raised in Picher, wasn't there.

Highway Hasman said...

I admire the way your writing epitomizes the passion. Also, with the interest in 66 at a high, why is Picher not doing anything? Can other 66 communities like Miami, Commerce and Vinity help out?