Armchair Peregrinations

July 27, 2005

Ever since my first visit to the little community of Lone Star near Lake Marion in central South Carolina, I have been intrigued with this ghost town, which on my first visit those many years ago had one operating general store, as far as I know. The other buidings were abandoned, boarded up and locked. They were just fading reminders of the bustling little main street that once existed there.

I always like to imagine what it was like a hundred years ago in the heyday of these towns, when farmers came to trade on Saturdays and stock up on supplies that had to last them a week or more or until they made the slow horse and buggy trip to town once again. People shared stories about weather, crops and politics as they made the rounds. It was a simpler time.

Lone Star never grew much as you can tell by the lonely asphalt road and few remaining structures. I was shocked when I drove into town a week ago and found two of the buildings gone in just the past seven years. I got out and took photos as I always do, but this time with the thought in mind that soon only the sturdy brick store that now houses the magistrate's office (or seems to, at least) will remain for at least a while longer. The wooden buildings are gradually being torn down.

It makes me sad, but it also makes me realize that nothing stays the same. Just imagine all the memories from the decades when this community flourished, and there were no interstate highways, or jet planes or private planes or loud motorcycles to disturb the silence. Now the town is fading away to nothing amid the surrounding corn and soybean fields, planted each year despite years of droughts in recent years, a sign of hope and optimism. That is why I love to drive out there from Charleston in April or May. The land is being renewed even as the town is disappearing.

Here is Lone Star during my visit on Saturday, May 7. Contrast these photos to the view of main street in the black and white photo from 1974 here in this album of photos taken in the Spring of 1998.

I don't know when I will go back again, but I know I will.

Lone Star. I am just drawn to that place. It could be something to do with the name. I don't know.

Postscript: Here is the first entry I posted about Lone Star on OD, exactly six years ago, May 13, 1999.

(Written May 14, 2005)

July 13, 2005

...the stuff the everydayness is extraordinary when memories and artifacts are all you have.

Scott C. Campbell

The "things" in our lives, the little objects that are put down and sometimes forgotten, or have just become a part of the landscapes of our dwelling places over the years -- how much these artifacts of daily living tell about us, in subtle, private and mysterious ways.

A year ago I came across these photographs by Scott C. Campbell, an east Texas photogrpaher, and I have wanted to write about them ever since, to share them as he wanted to through his Web site, encouraged by family and friends to do so. They are photos of his parents' home after his mother died. I think about them from time to time because of what they say about memory, about how we can be known by what we leave behind. I am quite drawn to these poignant images. They strike a chord somewhere deep within me. They make me think about mortality. They remind me that the minutia of everyday life would be lost to memory forever were it not for physical reminders, be they photos in an album or a hairbrush left on a dresser in an empty house. Fortunately, no one disturbed the abandoned house. Like books on a bookshelf, the objects within tell part of the story of our lives, as perhaps nothing else can.

Campbell writes this in his introduction to a published selection of photos titled "Evelyn's" which appeared in LensWork magazine:

There was always a powerful, magical presence that radiated from within her soul. A dedicated in-home piano teacher, nearly everything to her could be related to a song. Some of my most poignant memories are of her singing to me songs by Patsy Cline. Then on Dec. 6, 1999, holding her hand as I did many times before, I said my final farewell to her. Evelyn Campbell, my mother. This just could not be real, I thought.

For the next year and a half, the care of my disabled father became my brother's and my responsibility, as Dad could not manage by himself. My wife and I took Dad in at our home in Longview, Texas. As often as I could, my father and I would make the 90-mile journney through northeast texas to the small house that he and mother had shared for 22 years. It was still as it was. In an upside-down time in his life, Dad's wish was to leave the house intact. He found solace in the familiar surroundings.

During those visits, time and time again, the house echoed her presence. Flower bulbs stored in the garage over winter were ready to plant. An unfinished "to do" list was left in a kitchen drawer. Her hairbrush on the dresser smelled of aerosol hair spray. Cooking utensils hung at attentiion, ready to be used. Despite neglect, the Christmas cactus on the front porch continued to grow and bloom. Reflective surfaces retained fingerprint and smudges.

After my father's passing, I continued the visits alone... Eventually, it became time to empty the house and let it get on with it's own life -- to let new inhabitants bring new memories to its rooms...

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