Sunday, September 11, 2022

What's Left, Part Three

Taiban, just east of Fort Sumner which is best known as the place where Billy the Kid was plugged, lies on the empty flats that are indistinguishable from West Texas. Ahead lies Clovis, NM where Buddy Holly recorded his early hits including “Every Day.” The ribbon of two-lane US 60 slices through the arid steppes with only the residue of tiny railroad towns like Taiban to relieve the sameness. In the ghost town that was Taiban is a shuttered Presbyterian church crying out to be remembered. On this day the sky was heavy with sweeping clouds that made a dramatic backdrop for the proud church standing sentinel over the vast nothing. The scene is a showstopper that has corralled many a photographer driving the backroads to somewhere, in our case Dallas. 

In 1906 Taiban was a small ranching community blessed with newly laid railroad tracks. In anticipation of the railroad and the opportunity to own land settlers arrived from across the country. But Taiban fizzled. The 1920 census claims a population of 312 souls and thirty years later in 1950 the number was 206. When the Great Depression hit the railroad station closed and hopes for a robust future in the big empty were dashed. There were two competing factions in Taiban. The teetotaling Presbyterians and the rowdy patrons of the Pink Pony Bar symbolized the divide. The Pink Pony was still serving in 1969 while the church closed its doors in 1950. 

Patterns repeated themselves throughout the West. Communities blossomed briefly and soon fell to earth. The causes varied and often more than one blow brought the place to naught. There was no more water or the water was fouled. The gold or silver petered out. The railroad or the Interstate bypassed the town. Or it was a double whammy. In Keeler the Owens Lake went dry and the Cerro Gordo Mine across the highway went bust. 

On the walls of Taiban's handsome church one of many lines of graffiti tells us, "The sun will rise tomorrow and we'll try again."

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Your photographs of the Presbyterian Church in Taiban have always been some of your most compelling - church, sky, clouds, and light combined to make the viewer ponder. I do not remember seeing the first view of the church from a distance. It is a knock out, as is your prose about What's Left. Got to wonder what once grand places are being left behind as more and more people merge into the burgeoning cities for master photographer Steve Immel to discover. Nicely done.