Day-Tripper

Call these places the heart of the heartland. Or call them the middle of the middle of nowhere. One thing is certain: When you picnic on truck stop food in the cemetery beneath the oil refinery, you won't have to worry about other tourists

Whatever you do, though, be sure at some point to make your way back to 218 North just east of Hope (and I-35), where you'll find the town of Bixby, or what remains of it. The population of the place doesn't even register on any atlas or census that I can find, but people do live here. Some of them keep goats that stand on the roofs of doghouses and dogs that bray like goats. However many actual residents there might be, they make themselves very scarce. I've been to the place dozens of times, and only on my most recent visit did I encounter a human being. I was snooping around the railroad tracks by the grain elevator (across the street from the building that bears a peeling, badly faded, hand-painted sign for the "Bixby Store") when I flagged down a guy in a pickup truck.

"Tell me about this place," I said.

He looked at me like I was crazy. "Bixby?" he said. "There's nothing to tell."

"What about that old ballroom across the highway, Zeiner's?" I asked.

"Maybe it was something one time," he said. "Whatever it was, it's not anymore."

"Do you live here?" I asked.

The guy swatted the air dismissively with his left hand and grimaced perceptibly. "You might say that," he said, and took his foot off the brake and pulled slowly away.

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