March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Not-So-Ghostly Ghost Town

Farmer John and I made a parts run to Iola, Kansas today and on the way home John said, "Let's go see Neosho Falls; we've never been there."  I agreed, and he made an apparently random turn onto an unmarked road that led us, Farmer John fashion, straight to our goal.  The man has an uncanny ability to find places, and this nicely counterbalances my complete lack of directional sense.  Before the advent of cell phones and GPS, I couldn't go anyplace without him because I would get lost. Years of habit are deeply ingrained, and even now I rarely travel alone.  I kind of miss him when he's not along. 

As we drove into town I was astounded at the beauty of the Neosho River. The river flows serenely along but then makes a 9 foot drop over a man-made dam and from that point bubbles and rushes madly toward the new concrete bridge.  It does not look like the entrance to what I'd heard described as a ghost town. 

As we drove down the main street I had John stop several times so I could snap photos, and as I stepped away from the car I could hear more than one lawn mower running.  A man mowing a large corner lot gave me a careful look, and as I turned to come back to the car I saw a rusty sign that read Neighborhood Watch.  "I guess he's the neighborhood watcher," I said, laughing. But a few minutes later two motorcycles appeared at the corner a block away from where I was attempting to photograph the main street that is now overgrown with vines and trees, and I had the distinct feeling that Neosho Falls' neighborhood watch had indeed been activated. 

The neatest part of this little side trip is that I found Karola's Community Church!  Those of you who have read The Children Are Tender know that the fictional community of Karola has just one place of worship, a white clapboard church where all are welcome. Neosho Falls' United Methodist Church is a ringer for the non-denominational church I imagined for Karola,  so much so that I posted the photo below at the Pinterest Page dedicated to creating a visual introduction to the world of Karola.
Neosho Falls' Methodist Church is a ringer for the community church in the fictional town of Karola, Kansas, setting for the novel The Children Are Tender. However,  I do think the ladies of Karola Community Church would have hosted numerous bake sales in order to fund a fresh coat of white paint for their church. 

Neosho Falls' school was abandoned in 1969 and its framework still stands as a testament to what happens over 40 years of time to a building that is not maintained. I took this closeup of a pair of windows in the old school:

Two former places of business, the one on the left is completely obliterated by greenery. Perhaps the building on the right was a gas station. 
Neatly mown lawns, a new post office/community building, and the pickups parked around an establishment called "The Oasis" keep the remains of this little town from feeling abandoned or ghostly.  The people didn't seem unfriendly, but they were watchful, and we took the point and left a little sooner than I would have liked.  This is probably just as well because following my urge to explore inside the abandoned school might not have been safe; the building's remaining concrete walls stand with no visible means of support. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this little side trip, and though the citizens of Neosho Falls seem happy with their town just as it is, I am hoping that Karola does not become quite as unpopulated.  In my imagination, Karola School stands with open doors, awaiting another school year's influx of students and teachers who will have adventures yet to be told.