Worth a Pause 

Down an unassuming backroad, forgotten mostly except by the locals who still need it, cattle graze and flowers answer the call of spring. 

A bottle lies partially hidden beneath the soil. Who knows its history. Who knows its future. All that is known to me is that at this moment we are here together. We, along with time and dust, are but just remnants of the past crossing paths with the present, left with no other option than to face an unknown future. 

I stand at the side of the road, imagining adventurers such as I coming off highway 412 as they embark into the unknown. They are full of hope, and they are innocent.

A dusty farm truck passes by me. Its hum brings me back to where I am. Clearly he’s a local, and I – I am an outsider who doesn’t belong here. He knows it, and I know it. 

But I have a purpose today. I have a reason, and it’s something I must whisper to the wind. 

I was their age when it happened. Being young and innocent myself, as were they, I suppose I was shielded mostly from the story. But I remember knowing about it all my life as most native Oklahomans would say.

Some time ago when I came across the place on a map, I had a sense to come here. While others plan destinations to beaches and theme parks, I take a side trip on my way to a waterfall to visit the site where three girls on a youth camping trip were murdered. I go there because as I said, I was their age when it happened.

I’ve since become a parent who has packed my kids up to go off to camp, trusting they will come home to me. So I also go there for the mothers who don’t have to visit a certain location to relive an anguish that never ends.

I had to go to say, “I didn’t know any of you, but you are worth a pause along my path.”

The old campsite is now farmland on private property. It wasn’t like my stop at Belle Starr’s home place where guests are welcomed to enter at their own risk. So out of respect I looked from the road. I drove along the path of the past, the present and the future. I stopped and captured some pictures and I whispered into the wind. “You are worth a stop along my path to be remembered for the innocent and adventuresome spirits you once were.”

Some may say they don’t believe in this sort of thing, but I believe if you listen softly enough, you can hear the wind’s response. Mine came in the form of a single yellow flower bursting through what was left of winter.

So I lay down in a field to get the shot, letting the ground soak up my tears. Then I got in my car to continue my course, passing another dusty farm truck on my way out.

Published by Susan McElhaney

I love my kids, NYC, writing, photography, movies, baseball and cream cheese. I am a mom and a wife. I have a bachelors degree in English and Journalism and a masters degree in School Counseling. For over 20 years, I have served as the Communications and Marketing Director at a trade school. I love travelling, and dreaming.

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