The Road Home: Highway 114

Maybe some of you know that I spent many years photographing roadside crosses, for a project called Where the Spirit Left. Here’s what I wrote then, by way of explanation:

I was ten, maybe, or eleven the summer my family took a long vacation to Mexico, driving from the Texas Panhandle all the way to Acapulco.

Our bible for the trip was the Sanborn’s guide, provided by the company that sold Mexican car insurance to Americans. The manual outlines, kilometer by kilometer, things to see, to avoid, to eat along the way. We read the guide religiously, never questioning its pronouncements, always following its recommendations.

So it must have been noted in the guide’s goldenrod yellow pages that atop a hill in the arid northern region was a roadside shrine. And it must have mentioned a small amount of parking, and it must have encouraged a stop.

The shrine was inside a cave, big enough to hold three or four people, tall enough so they could stand up. The show of such overt faith took my breath away: votive candles in little ruby-colored holders, smoky ceilings, velvet kneelers, some virgins, bloody Jesus on a cross. Forrest Heights Methodist Church had not given me the impression that either religion or loss could be so colorful.

But something took root in my brain…where it took decades to sprout.

I have no other answer. I stop at roadside crosses. I photograph them, and let the message in each one reveal itself to me through images and words.

But I stopped making those photographs a decade ago. It was time to move on.

And now, maybe some of you know that I have a 30+ mile commute to work every day. About 24.5 miles of that drive is along State Highway 114, a four-lane, divided highway that’s got only a couple of curves between Lubbock and Levelland. And, while I did give up photographing roadside crosses, I’ve not giving up noticing them, and I know there are six of them on that 24.5 mile stretch of 114, all on the south side of the road. I look at them every day, notice that if that one has new flowers, if the weeds are taller at another one, and so on. I’d had in my mind to photograph all of them, and had scheduled that for “one of these days.” It felt important that they all be photographed in order, from Levelland to Lubbock, and all on the same day.

A few Fridays ago, I saw indications that utility work was going to be starting up adjacent to one of the crosses, and I became concerned the cross would be destroyed during the work, so “one of these days” became April 25.

I started the mileage reckoning at 0.0, at the corner of Highway 114 and College Avenue in Levelland, so the location of each marker was measured from that corner.

(As always, click for larger views.)

051816
mile 2.4

051916
mile 2.7

052016
mile 6.3

052116
mile 10.7

052216
mile 21.2

052316
mile 21.9

24.5 miles of State Highway 114
Levelland to Lubbock
photographed 4.23.2016

Posted on May 18, 2016, in Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Amazing work, thanks for sharing this. Very sad too, these crosses are all around Las Vegas too. Each with it’s own story.

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  2. Here in TN. they frown on roadside memorials placed by families. All I have seen are simple wooden crosses with a name and date and flowers. So our State in its wisdom asked people plant a tree instead. Don’t know if they meant at the site of the tragedy or elsewhere. If there seems like a hazard more than wooden crosses. Nice album Melinda.

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    • Thank you, Richard. It seems like over time, the memorials around here tend to get more and more elaborate, and I can see how they’re a problem with roadside maintenance. But I’d miss them if they weren’t allowed.

      It seems like ad hoc planting of trees in rights of ways would cause more problems than crosses, so I hope the DOT meant for trees to be planted on private property someplace!

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  3. Some great images…For me, I guess a part of me gets the cross things, but another part of me doesn’t…

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  4. Great photos. I always thought that roadside crosses reminded people to drive more carefully. At least they do for me. Thanks for posting.

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  1. Pingback: The tiny memorial | One Day | One Image

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