Somehow there's even something strangely beautiful in death. A lonely highway that runs through the vast emptiness of the New Mexico plains seems to compliment the slow demise of a once promising town.
Vaughn, NM was built on the junction of two competing railroad lines, the Southern Pacific and the Atchison Topeka Santa Fe. It once boasted a two-story train depot, a Harvey House Hotel, and in its heyday supported a population of nearly a 1,000.
Today, the population stands at 438 per the last official count.
Penny's Diner, the only remaining eatery in town, seems to function as the city's gathering place. As Sash and I sat at the counter, we watched each customer walk in greeted by their first name from the waitresses. Aside from a gas station, a general store, and a hotel, there doesn't appear to be anything else in operation, despite a string of buildings and signs along the highway.
Death would have come sooner if not for the fact that people in Roswell, about 96 miles to the south, have no international airport of their own. They have to instead travel to Albuquerque to take a flight out of state, and the only direct route runs through Vaughn.
But where at once the railroad business gave Vaughn its chance at life, it's now the junction of three highways, the 285, the 60, and the 54, that keeps the lights on in the tiny city.
Recently, Vaughn has become the benefactor of the drug trade. The Department of Homeland Security considers the region to be a primary distribution route for illegal substances.
I can't help but wonder if I've already had my day, or if it's still yet to come. Maybe, it's a process of redefining myself over and over in the same way a business has to adjust to changing markets.
Maybe it's not a slow death, but just a period of time when the road gets bumpy. Perhaps somewhere up ahead the asphalt gets more smooth. Maybe it's just a cycle of highs and lows.
The way these old buildings stand alone and forgotten, living only on the memories of its old glory and put on display for those few who chose to seek the road less traveled, strikes a connection to me that I can't seem to put in words. It's a pain that we share and a comfort in sharing something in common.
But where they hide their pain in the enclosure of their walls, I hide mine by staying mobile.
|Penny's Diner serves up a mean cherry pie a la mode|