paducah, tx

March 21, 2009

My family comes from an area called, by my mother, the Rolling Plains. The sweeping and very flat plains of the panhandle meld with the lush green of east Texas as you come off the Caprock into hills crested in blooming brush and once-fertile farmland. My grandfather and grandmother grew up in towns that were about 20 miles apart, and both their families lived and worked the same land. Some of them shared houses as time went on.

My grandmother’s family has slowly migrated around Paducah over time. This town is small to say the least. It was a farming community at one point. It had one of every major car dealership in America in the 50s. It is pale ghost of itself now, as young folks move away and the city dries up.

We went to visit my great aunt, who recently was put in a nursing home after having a leg removed due to diabetes. She is in her 80s, and still quite sharp considering. She has outlasted both of her siblings and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. When we got there, she had just come in from taking her motorized wheel chair out to the Pioneer Days celebration in town. (For those that don’t know, Pioneer Days are celebrations held in small towns in his area (and probably others) to honor the founding of the town).

The city, though small, had several shops open with lots of in and out. A small band stand was set up at the top of the courthouse steps and a smattering of people sat around and listened to good old Americana and country. There was a sparkle of life in this civilization desert.

My grandfather pointed out many businesses as we drove around, mostly those that used to be. A car dealership, there; a hotel, there and there. A feed store, there. A produce shop, there. Ghosts of what once was. Shells of history. Broken windows and door hinges. Uncut lawns. Hard to imagine that this place ever hosted any life. Even as a child, I never could get that in my head.

It’s strange how, walking around a town, you realize that people stood where you are standing, though many years ago.


  1. The camp I attended growing up was like that. I’d go into the abandoned building… because I’m resourceful like that, and just look at the signatures on the walls of the Sunday school/small group classrooms. Marker, sharpie, chalk, and even pen etched in wood with ink long faded adorn the walls in names both long out of fashion and/or people you know held you and your parents as children. People who later married and birthed your best friends, people who attended the camp when your grandparents ran it, and people who will never be forgotten by resourceful children like myself who will always sneak in to pay their respects and add to history with a shining new sharpie.

  2. First thought: “civilization desert” I like that.

    Second thought: Go to Europe. Once you see stone steps worn with age do you appreciate the echos of years that have whittled them down.

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