Empty houses, blind eyes


Photo by Eugene Richards
From “North Dakota, The Emptied Prairie”
National Geographic Magazine

These photos bear an eerie, graceful, painful resemblance to the country where I grew up.
The year I finished high school, my parents left “town” (7,000 people) for twenty acres outside a decaying farming village of 50 people (more or less). Over time, the village lost its school, its church, its general store, and its gas station; the only amenities left behind in 1994 were a post office and a cafe.

I always thought it was a terribly sad place. It lies on a high plateau, with little to break the weather. In the winter, snowdrifts render the whole country featureless and disorienting. In the summer, wind ripples incessantly across the empty fields, pries wide the gaping sideboards of empty houses, erodes gentle mounds that one only recognizes as former farmsteads because they’re covered with tenacious yellow roses.

Supposedly, an entire neighboring community has completely vanished in this way, plowed under wheat and shrouded in roses. In the early morning, coming home from the night shift at the vegetable packing plant, I used to take random dirt roads through the farmland, looking for this ghost town. I never found it, but then I’m not sure I would have known if I did.


Photo by Eugene Richards

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6 Responses to Empty houses, blind eyes

  1. jeremy says:

    Does anyone else notice a striking resemblance of “the emptied prairie” photograph to Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World”?

  2. cicada says:

    Euw. . . so is that spine Christina’s? Good catch, but not sure I like the implications!

  3. Wunx~ says:

    Gee, the spine was my favorite part. I like vertebrae.

    Both these photos are evocative of abandonment. The dusty, cobwebbed doll eyes speak melancholy volumes.

  4. Makifat says:

    I noticed the “Christina’s World” resemblance right away. My mother had a copy of that painting hanging in her room for years.

    It took a couple of viewings to realize that the photo you posted is indeed a photo. I thought it was a painting!

  5. shanai says:

    Stumbled across this blog — really really enjoy the posts, this one in particular. I grew-up in a place like that (in rural Minnesota) and as teenagers we were always hanging out in old abandoned farm houses, junked cars, train depots, trailor homes, ice fishing shacks — at the time this was all we knew, and the only place we could go to drink beer we’d stolen from our parents. I think they didn’t really become sad places for me until I left them behind. This post was a very bittersweet reminder.

  6. alyssa says:

    this is cooool! i love the whole thing

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