Sunday, November 28, 2021

Full Metal Jackets

We drove east on I-40 from Tucumcari to Oklahoma City, a stretch of ugly nothing punctuated by the occasional grain elevator and a mile long feed lot whose odor stays with you for an hour. It’s not a trip you take lightly. Actually, it's not a trip you want to make ever. But we had to and there we were midway between Godforsaken Ron Jon, New Mexico and OKC.

Forty miles before Amarillo, speaking of ugly nothing, I saw a towering elevator on the horizon. I am drawn to cylindrical forms anyway. As we came abreast of the elevator, I saw a line of semi-trucks and semi-trailers lined up along the north frontage road. It was like the back-up at an inspection station at some state line somewhere. The vehicles were all pointing west as if waiting to enter New Mexico.

It was odd. I couldn’t explain why there would be a dozens of dead trucks in the middle of no damn where. Come to think of it I still don’t know why. And damned if I’ll go back.

We didn’t stop for photographs or for an explanation, but I filed the sight under “have to stop here on the way back.”

I had the bent metal cemetery in my mind when we headed back to Taos on Saturday. For reasons I can’t explain I knew that the the ferrous conglomeration was going to be the very next exit. And, sure enough, in the distance I saw the elevator in question. I didn’t know the number of the exit, the name of the town or if there was name for the place at all. I learned all that via Google and Google maps in the comfort of my office.

The place that I later learned is ghost town of Landergin, Texas gave me a passel of worthwhile photographs and two blogs worth of fodder.

Today’s chapter features the bodies of the dead trucks and next week’s will be the grain elevator looming over the whole shebang.

Landergin, it turns out was founded by the John and Pat Landergin whose father had escaped Ireland’s Potato famine of the 1840s. It began as a cattle ranch and when the Chicago Rock Island and Gulf Railway came to the Texas Panhandle in 1908 the town of Landergin was born. Then the nearby town of Vega was founded, and John Landergin opened the First State Bank. The brothers bought more ranch land and in 1912 built a mansion on Amarillo’s Polk Street. Their company floundered after John’s death in 1923 and their holdings were auctioned off.

As of 1936 Landergin had one store and 15 residents. By 1980 two businesses remained and today there appears to be a truck repair shop and the hulks 50 or so vehicles that have had their last rites.

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