Highway 287 through north central (and northwest) Texas follows a rail line. It is also the quickest route from Fort Worth to Wichita Falls. Only a two and a half hour drive or so, it is dotted with grain mills along the tracks that mark what was once a bustling industry. Towns with “people names” ebbed and flowed, with most still existing – even if only as ghosts of their former selves: Henrietta, Vernon, Harrold (yes, with two r’s), Bowie, etc.
I remember taking this drive just about every summer of my youth because this was also the quickest route to Colorado and my dad would strap me to the luggage rack of his Subaru and allow me to take in the scenery… of nothingness.
Back in the day, every so often we would pass through a town. The speed limit would slow down to a crawl, notated by “Reduced Speed Ahead” signs, and the vastness of the prarie would be replaced by traffic lights and brick buildings that screamed Americana. And there was always that dreaded highway construction. I hated it at the time because it always delayed my arrival at a mountain paradise or my arrival home.
Sadly, even though the construction is over, I hate it even more now.
Highway 287 now skirts around these little towns that have made their existence matter by offering a Dairy Queen or an Alsups or a speed trap. And while it made my drive to Wichita Falls a little quicker, it also tugged on the heart strings a bit.
And, wow, how Wichita Falls has – well – fallen…