Tree rings are a very important tool for archaeologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists working to unravel the mysteries of the past. In a similar manner, Route 66 can be studied to unravel the past century of American societal evolution.Additionally, a study of the many facets of Route 66 can provide a bit of a mooring in these uncertain times. After all, the past is not dead, it is a repository for answers to the problems faced today. Scattered all along the length of Route 66 are a cornucopia of ghost towns. Each has a diverse history. Each is unique. However, the demise of each has a common denominator, changing times. Endee, New Mexico, about five miles to the west of Glenrio, Texas on a dusty dirt track that was once the Main Street of America, Route 66, is now an empty place where ground squirrels rest among the ruins of the old auto court. Even the most imaginative adventurer may have trouble seeing a town of more than 150 people, a town that survived more than seventy years of changing times in the ruins on the lonely hillside.
|Silence now reigns supreme in Endee, new Mexico|
Ranching and the railroad gave it the breath of life. The name itself was derived from the sprawling ND Ranch. Route 66 gave it vitality. With the realignment of that highway to the north, the town that had survived the demise of the railroad, drought, the restrictions imposed by a nation fighting two world wars, and the Great Depression simply withered on the vine. Afton, Oklahoma was for a brief time a small city at the center of a vast agricultural empire. It was a beehive of activity with a railroad roundhouse, a busy two line rail yard, and legendary Route 66 as its main street. Afton is as different from Endee as Chicago is from Phoenix. Still, they share a common thread, an inability to adapt to changing times.
|Downtown Afton is now a quiet place.|
For as long as I can remember Route 66 has been an integral part of my life. Still, this past May, I saw it for the first time through the eyes of the tourist, the uninitiated. I was moved and unnerved. There was inspiration in the tenacity of the people that saw opportunity among the ruins and that carved a comfortable niche for themselves. There was something unsettling about the brevity of success and the fleeting nature of prosperity in the forlorn ruins of the painted Desert Trading Post framed by awe inspiring landscapes that reflect some of God’s finest handiwork. These are truly times of great transition. These are the times that shake the foundations and fill one with unease. These are times of reflection. This fall sail into the past with a cruise on the old double six. Listen quietly as the empty places tell their tales and watch for glimpses of better times that like spring flowers in a rocky desert valley are but a rainstorm away.