Flying Through the Heartland, a Prologue
There's a train that goes through central Oklahoma. It's not long, merely connecting Oklahoma City to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas- a weird, little stub of a route that, on a map, looks not unlike a dead-end road. That this train even exists is thanks to, as a conductor explains to me, football. "On game weekends this train'll be loaded, and so will the passengers," she jokes. I tell her about Chicago's commuter trains- a rolling, unofficial, happy hour heading for the suburbs on Friday evenings. She admits the bar car is often folks' cure for the boredom of looking out at the farm land. This brings the conversation around to where we started, her asking me why I'm taking so many pictures of flat farmland.
"It's even flatter where I came from," I said.
Indeed, to get to Oklahoma I've ridden the train through far flatter terrain. With the sunset over St. Louis and the Mississippi, I pass through most of the breadbasket at night. Come morning, the woods and swamps of Arkansas and Texas great me.
While on most trains I've ridden, there's always someone enquiring on or volunteering the train's whereabouts. This is, by all means, redundant in Texas. A state flag hangs from every other porch or shed. But my time here is brief, skirting through the north- in and out of Dallas to Fort Worth. I'm left with four spare hours before that Oklahoma train departs.
Oh hi Fort Worth
Fort Worth loves water, I guess? Between the downtown water gardens and the Trinity River's three branches cut through the city offering a network of trails, and everyone was out frolicking in the ninety-degree weather. Not having a lot of time to take in the city, I headed straight for the city's Botanic Gardens.
Here Come Dat Boi
(I THINK THIS WAS A STATUE OF ROY ROGERS? I DIDN'T WRITE IT DOWN BUT I REMEMBERED TEXAS LOVES ROY ROGERS)
THE FORT WORTH BOTANICAL GARDENS
Going To Oklahoma
I'm going to this little town called Ardmore. There's five other people in my train car- not the busiest day, I'm told- but I nestled into my seat to watch the landscape go by. Dallas's sprawl follows us for some time. Suburbs sit on the edge of prairie, but it all eventually fades to farmland and grain mills.
The sun's setting. I detrain alone, welcomed by an empty station, with an empty parking lot. I cruise around, trying to snag some golden hour shots, and find the town in general is devoid of people. Save for an nondescript building, where middle schoolers come running out into its parking lot in gym clothes- their parents trailing out behind them, not in gym clothes. I talk to one adult, a teacher in the area, who tells me the way to get to wal-mart for groceries. She's lived here all her life, and she's glad someone's come to visit. In our introductions, she tells me her name and says if anyone tries to bother me, just mention her name and I'll be alright.
In the darkness I head north for Chickasaw National Recreation Area to camp. The night air is sweet smelling, the hum of insects in tall grass slowly fades.