Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had happy, safe and blessed Christmas!
I returned home today from spending the holiday with family in northwest Missouri. Travel was good today, excepting the construction zone which backed up traffic painfully on I-35 south of the U.S. Highway 60 exit (Tonkawa/Ponca City exit, No. 214.)I had just gotten past that exit when traffic stopped dead. It took 30 minutes to go half a mile. Thanks so much to the Braums' trucker who left a gap which allowed me to exit at the Billings/Marland exit. I'm just glad it was in my old stomping grounds, where I know the backroads well enough to make better time. I much prefer to take the two-lanes anyway, so I considered it a bonus.
And then, after winding through the country, going through Perry and then back west of I-35, past turns on U.S. Highway 77 wrapping around sandstone bluffs, I slowed down as I slid past the Mulhall city limits.
Mulhall was founded in 1889 during one of the major land runs. It's had more than its share of disasters over the years -- a train derailment in 1988, for one. The town of barely more than 200 people was basically obliterated on May 3, 1999, when the World's Biggest Tornado wiped out 110 years of life. Even now, you can see where trees were snapped off 6 feet above ground.
I love driving through this tiny hamlet just to see the tenacity of its residents and their efforts to rebuild. There are still scars -- buildings left empty by those who have given up and moved on to Guthrie, Stillwater or some other community. But there's hope. Churches help maintain the spiritual life of the residents, as well as the spirit of community.
Another assault on Mulhall occurred a couple of weeks ago when a BNSF train derailed and spilled mountains of wheat just yards from the highway. I've never seen a derailed train before, so I pulled in next to the two-bay car wash, grabbed my camera and walked around for the better part of an hour in awe of the power and destruction that again visited itself on this village.
The noise must have been horrendous, enough to make residents think the end of the world had arrived. Dozens of train cars, along with twisted metal rails and splintered wood landed scant yards from a herd of cattle which today grazed in their pasture unfazed.
While I took photos, I crossed over the double tracks to the west side, closer to the cattle. Just minutes after I made my way over lakes of grain, another train came through, sounding its horn all the way through Mulhall. I think they may not have been pleased with my presence so near the wreckage.
Here are some of the images I saw. I hope they convey some of the awe.