Abridged Memory

Another day off, another road trip!  Although I went to sleep last night contemplating a trip to Springfield, MO to see a friend of mine it didn’t come together.  I had to get the oil changed in the Mustang and by the time I was ready to leave town the long drive felt discouraging.  Instead, I opted to stay in northeast Oklahoma.  But that doesn’t mean it was a boring trip, no siree bob.  I called my Uncle Jody to wish him a Happy Birthday and decided to meet him for lunch.  Taking the long way ’round, naturally.

tagOn the edge of north Tulsa, Crown Hill Cemetery sits just east of Highway 75.  At one time, this graveyard was the only place in town that African-Americans could be buried.  There are several brick towers on the property, an odd sight.  They were reconstructed out of reclaimed bricks that were once part of the Greenwood District.  Greenwood was burned to the ground in the 1921 Race Riot (or, more appropriately, Massacre) that completely leveled hundreds of businesses and ended many lives.  There’s a storefront in Greenwood today made of the same charred-looking brick, but seeing the stark towers in the middle of the quiet cemetery had more of an impact on me.  They look like parapets rising out of the manicured lawn, ruins of a long-lost castle.  One stands in the middle of the land and is almost entirely covered in ivy.  A few stone cherubs peek out from the windows.  It was very peaceful.

I continued north on 75, bypassing the turnoff I normally take to Osage County and my uncle in Pawhuska.  I’d decided to head to Nowata to capture a neon sign I’d missed on my previous visits.  Thankfully, it wasn’t going to be a straight-shot drive.  I had a pair of bridges that had been marked on my map for a while that I also wanted to see.  The first one, Lacy Creek Bridge, was mentioned to me several years ago by my friend Eagle.  I’ve known Eagle for over ten years and he’s one of my best friends.  He grew up in the Collinsville area; the country road that lead to his house had an old pony truss bridge that he thought I’d like.

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I would’ve NEVER found it had he not given me directions.  I drove for several miles down unmarked blacktop and there it was, also resting peacefully.  I walked the deck and took pictures of the pins & rivets; birds chirped, distant livestock expressed displeasure with something.  The bridge itself is in decent shape, for Oklahoma standards anyway.  The creek was completely still.

A few miles north, near the community of Vera, I stopped at another bridge.  This one had been bypassed and abandoned; the overgrowth on each end was too thick for me to comfortably navigate so I took photos from the newer Buck Creek Bridge.  There was a little plaque stating that the new bridge was completed in 2009, so the old truss has had plenty of time to deteriorate.

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The design is known as a Bedstead truss, which is boxy and less common than the typical bridges I see around here.  It’s also one of the longer Bedstead bridges I’ve seen; it’s a shame that it’s just rotting in the Okie countryside.  I’ll need to come out and see it again in the wintertime when I can actually walk the deck.

tag-4Onward and upward, to the seat of Nowata County.  I’ve been through that town many times over the years, though I had never seen the sign for the Silver Saddle Motel with my own eyes.  I saw a photo of it online about a week ago and it had consumed me ever since.  When I arrived, I was shocked to find it very clearly on the side of Highway 60, right in the center of town.  I don’t know how I’d missed it.  Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge now.  The motel itself now is either shut down or used for long-term rental.  I couldn’t quite tell if the few parked vehicles had been left there a long time ago or were just run-down in general.  I didn’t see anybody around, though, and the darkened office window had a phone number written on it for inquiries.  Some of the neon tubing was busted, and the paint was faded but considering the shape of the property I’m glad it’s as good as it is.

13529166_10157179553945624_7274004758292023845_nBy the time I wrapped up and coasted through downtown Nowata (seeking any other sights I’d overlooked in the past) it was nearing lunch time.  I took Highway 60 westward through Delaware County.  The highway west of Bartlesville had been recently re-aligned and the new road was almost as high as the treetops in spots. I crossed into Osage County with a beautiful countryside vista. I arrived at Hometown Appliance (Uncle Jody’s store) just in time and spent about an hour visiting with him and Aunt Gilda.  Seeing them both working together stirred up curious a question; if Dad was still around, would the three siblings be doing something together?  There are so many shades of my father in Jody’s mannerisms and humor.  And, just like Dad, even though I’d come up to buy HIM lunch, Jody ended up getting mine.  It was great to see everyone and catch up for a little bit.

I returned home in time to take Mom to the Taste of the City Cooking Show downtown.  It’s Samantha’s first big event with the Tulsa World and I am SO proud of her.  Even though the show had just started when Mom and I walked into the Cox Business Center, there were plenty of folks walking around to the various booths and clearly having a great time.  I had the pleasure of watching Sam work from a distance before making myself known.  She has such a great energy and passion for what she does!  I’ll probably be asleep by the time she gets home tonight (as I’m already fading) but I hope that when she reads this post she feels satisfied with a job well done.

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About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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