Monthly Archives: February 2014

What happens when high schools die

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According to this site, the school in Pettit has been closed since the 1960s, when it merged with the school in the nearby town of Levelland. Closing the school is generally the dying gasp of a town; of course the declines don’t start with a school closure, but seem be exacerbated by them.

Nowadays, the old school buildings are fenced and cattle and goats wander freely around what’s left of the place.

I can’t explain the wrecked pickup.

Pettit, Texas
photographed 2.16.2014

The remains, in the day

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As far as I know, no one has counted the number of abandoned farmhouses around here. But from what I know, it would be a huge number. Places like this one are all over the place, with now-dead trees clawing at the stucco, with windows gone, with roofs collapsing in, with complete ruin just a matter of time.

The ones that have a fence around them or a No Trespassing sign I tend to skip: I’m a dedicated photographer and all, but I am not that dedicated.

This place was right by the dirt road that heads east out of Pep, and there was no fence, so I stomped through the scratchy remains of last summer’s weeds and had a look. The remains of the house were pretty sad – some ragged curtains that’ve been sawed down from constant blowing against broken glass, a kitchen counter that was saggy from water damage (it must be very old water damage: it hasn’t rained in ages), and the usual random piles of crap (literally and figuratively) that these kinds of places tend to have. As you can tell from the slits of light against the interior walls, the roof has holes. A roof with holes is a roof that’s not going to last. And once the roof goes….

Pep, Texas
photographed 2.16.2014

The usual view

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This is my geography: a big sky and a long horizon and an absence of trees. It feels right to me. Hills and/or trees make me feel closed in, and that makes me nervous.

One summer night, in Durango, Colorado, we were staying in a cabin near a lake. A huge storm came up, with lots of wind and thunder and lightning. Generally that kind of weather is exciting, almost invigorating. But this particular night, I couldn’t relax. It wasn’t that the storm scared me so much as it left me feeling unsettled. Later, I realized that what bothered me about it was that with all those trees and mountains in the way, I didn’t know where the storm was. And that was what was making me feel so edgy.

That was when I started to understand that I am my geography.

And this? My usual view? I’d find it hard to give it up.

Pep, Texas
photographed 2.16.2014

Not built to last

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The town’s original name was Ledwig, but the post office rejected that name. So it somehow became Pep.

There’s almost nothing left.

But once upon a time, there was a roadside business in Pep. In current lingo, its business model was not sustainable. Neither was that travel trailer….

Pep, Texas
photographed 2.16.2014

A smattering of light

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I didn’t even know there was a town called Maple, but there it was. Well, sort of. The Maple Co-op Gin appears to be still operational, and there are a couple of houses that are inhabited. But the rest of the place is left to the elements.

The town is not named after a popular locally-sourced syrup: this is cotton country, after all. Rather, it got its name from Mr. (I’m guessing on that part, actually) Maple Wilson, an early settler. It was founded in the early 1920s and the population peaked in the 1940s at approximately 600; at its peak the town had six businesses. The 2010 census listed the population at 56.

This is one of the six businesses Maple had at its peak; this one had two entrances and you can still read GROCERIES painted beside one door and DRUG COUNTER by the other one. I like the way the bits of light, from the holes in the roof, let the light play against the wall.

Maple, Texas
photographed 2.16.2014

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