Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 12: Why do some settlements flourish and grow?

Ever since I was a little kid (I was a weird little kid, ask my brother) on family road trips, I wondered why some places seemed to take hold and grow in population and popularity and others just sorta stayed stillborn, becoming ghost towns, never flourishing, nothing left but a historical marker - if that. I went 8 miles off the main drag to check out the Hughes House. There were welcoming signs offering house tours, but I was the only person there. I wondered if a ghostly docent dressed in period clothing might materialize on the porch, eager for company. It was a little Twilight Zonish, so I read the outside self-guides and left without rapping on the door.

The ranch had been a prosperous dairy farm before the WWII but the war took away the manpower and the prosperity dwindled. No town grew up there. A little further down the road Port Orford took root and still stands, small-town style, even today. But the Hughes House stands alone.
I drove a little beyond the Victorian mansion of a farmhouse that was standing sentinel over the windswept mouth of the Sixes River, straight and tall and lonely. I came to the cemetery sign. I stopped to investigate. Another sign posted assured me that the remains had all been tidily re-interred elsewhere. Yeah, sure, I'll believe that... so I took a deep breath and walked down the recently weed whacked path to the cemetery's empty graves and read the handful of gravestones. Mr. Dowey had been there, and Mr. and Mrs. McMullen. I think McMaster had been there, too, but the limestone was hard to read. All had lived well into their 80's, though, with the Mrs. M living to 93. All Irish, undoubtedly Catholic, it being a St. Mary by the Sea Catholic cemetery. No other stones to be read. I imagined there had been plenty of souls laid to rest there, and if any were still around about, they must have been benevolent. No hackles were raised on the back of my neck, no creepy feelings on any other body parts, either. Did I actually write "body parts"? ewww, sorry.

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