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The Churches of Enid

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

This weekend's adventure diverged from the usual outdoor escapades that have our trusty Jeep groaning under the weight of camping supplies. Instead, we're trading wilderness survival for a touch of urban comfort at Hotel Tupelo. With overnight bags, camera gear in tow, and the excited chatter of our daughter—who's already dreaming of the Ole Miss's game—our family caravan set a course toward Oxford, Mississippi.

The road to Oxford was smooth, a path we'd tread in anticipation of university sports and the communal spirit they invoke. But this time, the roar of the crowds and the electric atmosphere of the game would be for our daughter and her friends. For my wife and I, there beckoned a quieter call—exploration, not of nature, but of history and the hushed beauty of abandoned sanctuaries.

A Tale of Two Churches: Exploring Enid's Sanctuaries

The early Saturday afternoon found us eating tacos at Una Mas in Oxford's town square. Today, the air is electric, charged with the energy of alumni and fans converging for the Ole Miss game—a symphony of excitement, school colors, and the shared language of football. Yet, as the final bites of our spicy tacos are savored, the anticipation around us becomes a fading background hum. We have a different destination in mind.

With our daughter safely immersed in the revelry of college sports, my wife and I set our course for Enid. The drive is a quiet meditation, the Jeep's steady hum a prelude to the stillness awaiting us.

Our first stop, an old Baptist church in Enid, stands as a solemn witness to better days. Greeting us with its stoic charm, the building wears its decay like a badge of honor. The 2x4s bracing its back corner appear almost like crutches—supporting the weary frame of a once-proud structure now succumbing to the relentless pull of gravity. Inside, the slant of the floor tells a tale of slow surrender to the elements, each groan and creak a whispered remembrance of sermons past.

A stone's throw away, down a road less traveled, the Presbyterian church offers a stark contrast. Through windows smeared with the dust of neglect, we glimpse a time capsule of sorts—a congregation of objects ranging from the mundane to the unexpected. Furniture, clothes, even a motorcycle, all huddle under the sanctuary of the church roof like refugees from the outside world. Yet, even here, the unmistakable signs of decline are present. The roof, succumbing to an invisible weight, bows inward, a prelude to inevitable collapse. See full set of pics 👉

As we stand in the quiet, surveying the church's exterior, it's not lost on us how these structures mirror life itself—resilient yet fragile, stoic yet impermanent. They stand as testaments not just to faith but to the community, to the countless Sundays of fellowship now just echoes amidst the pews. We document our visit, the camera shutter a soft chorus amidst the silence, capturing what remains before nature reclaims her due. Enid's churches, in their silent dignity, remind us that beauty can be found in the most unexpected decay, telling stories of the past that beg not to be forgotten.

The Enid Depot: A Resurrection Amidst Ruin

Our past pilgrimages to Enid have always been tinged with a touch of melancholy, as we wandered through the skeletal remains of community cornerstones. Yet, this visit held an unexpected twist. Across the weathered tracks, opposite the silent sentinels of the town's churches, stood an edifice that defied the narrative of neglect we'd come to know. The Enid Depot, a structure we'd mistakenly believed to be a relic, buzzed with a vitality that piqued our curiosity.

We ventured over, our footsteps echoing with the crunch of gravel, each step closing the distance between the past and present. As we crossed the threshold, we were met with the bustling warmth of life rekindled. The Depot, now a thriving steakhouse, hummed with the sound of conversation and the clinking of cutlery against plates. As we were ushered to our table, we couldn't help but marvel at the transformation. The stage, set for evening entertainment, promised more than just a meal—it spoke of a community's heartbeat.

Navigating past diners, we exchanged nods with an older couple, their table adorned with dishes rivaling gastronomic artwork. Opting for a lighter fare after our earlier meal, we indulged in the sweet conclusion to a menu. My wife's choice of Chocolate Crème Brûlée—a fusion of rich custard and the classic torched caramelized top—was a first for us both. My Blueberry Jubilee, a playful twist on a decadent dessert, promised a burst of berry-infused indulgence.

Our conversation with Brent, the proprietor, turned the meal into an experience. He wove tales of the past, of vendors and visions, of an old general store turned local titan, a Super Wal-Mart in its day. With pride, he spoke of he and his wife's leap of faith, transforming a dream into the bustling reality before us. His aspirations to breathe life into the churches we'd just documented struck a chord with me. I expressed my eagerness to capture the revival, should the future unfold as he hoped.

After our dessert plates were cleared, we lingered outside, the Depot's facade serving as the backdrop to our musings. The country ambiance wrapped around us, a blanket of peace in the fading light. With the Jeep's engine coming to life, we set off to Oakland, our minds still nestled in the story of The Enid Depot—a testament to the possibility of rebirth in the unlikeliest of places.

Echoes of Education: Revisiting Oakland's Abandoned School

Oakland, Mississippi, was the next chapter in our weekend of exploration, its quiet corners offering stories etched in peeling paint and silent hallways. The old school, an exploration highlight from 2017, stood just as we remembered it—a testament to the stubbornness of structures that refuse to be forgotten.

We began with the gymnasium—a focal point of past community cheers and the thunderous echo of basketball games. Time had urged the main doors open since our last visit, an unspoken invitation into a place suspended between decay and the remnants of vitality. Inside, the gymnasium held its ground, its resilience remarkable. Where a polished shine once reflected overhead lights, a carpet of dust now lay undisturbed, save for our careful steps. The stage, a dual performer as an auditorium platform, bore the brunt of time's weight, one side collapsing into the darkness below like a fallen curtain after the final act. Above us, a lone stuffed animal hung from a basketball net—a sentinel overlooking the quiet aftermath of youth and exuberance.

Venturing into the main body of the school, the sameness of abandonment greeted us. Each classroom was a clone of desolation—desks askew, symbols of learning turned to debris, and blackboards bearing the graffiti of visitors attempting to leave an impermanent mark on a place surrendered to oblivion. However, it was the discovery at the school's end that halted our steps—a scattered array of old voting ballots. These weren't mere placeholders for practice; they were the genuine voices of townsfolk, cast in elections past, now just whispers underfoot.

The presence of such records, left to the mercy of time and trespassers, struck a dissonant chord. It was a poignant reminder of the fragile threads that bind a community's present to its history. To find such important documents discarded not once, but twice, spoke volumes of the care, or lack thereof, given to the town's archival legacy.

After capturing the last of our photos, the weight of the abandoned school's narrative heavy in our lenses, we stepped back into the sunlight. We headed into the heart of Oakland, the town that once pulsed around the school, to find new stories and maybe understand more about the quiet surrender of such significant places. See full set of pics 👉

Amongst Tracks and Tales: An Evening in Oakland

As the Jeep rolled down the gentle incline toward Oakland's tracks, the tableau of a small Mississippi town unfolded like a page from a storybook. The closer we got, the more it transformed—what appeared initially as abandonment gave way to a surprising pocket of life. The railroad, a metallic ribbon unspooling alongside the town, was today a stage for laughter and community.

A makeshift race was in full swing, with a spirited man leading a pack of giggling children in a dash parallel to the tracks. It was a scene of wholesome rivalry, where the only prize was the joy of the moment. Nearby, the post office stood proudly, an island of order in a sea of decline. Unlike its neighbors, this little bastion of structure and service had weathered the storms of time and was now the center of the day's gatherings. We could only speculate—perhaps it was the charm of its upkeep or the gravity of its function that drew the townsfolk to its doors.

The curiosity that drives explorers urged us to pivot and investigate a different part of this hidden-away place. We found ourselves facing the grandeur of a large house, nestled down a narrow road that seemed too small for such an imposing residence. It was the Herron House Bed & Breakfast, now wearing a 'For Sale' sign like a brooch pinned to faded finery. Its stature suggested stories of grandeur and comfort, an echo of hospitality from a bygone era.

For a fleeting moment, we entertained the fantasy of taking on the mantle of innkeepers, the keepers of the Herron House's legacy. But the reality of our lives, so distinctly unsuited for the demands of bed and breakfast lore, turned our musings into a shared joke. As we drove away, the idea of owning such a property became another "What if?" to laugh over—a lighthearted coda to our Oakland adventure.

Taylor's Hidden Bustle and the Journey's End in Tupelo

Leaving the whispers of history behind us in Oakland, we pointed our trusty Jeep towards the hamlet of Taylor. The expectation of another quiet town was quickly dispelled as we entered its heart and found ourselves amidst a bustle that seemed disproportionate to its size. Taylor Grocery, the center of this unexpected vibrancy, welcomed patrons with the promise of good food and a break from the ordinary.

Across from the grocery, the intrigue compounded with the sight of Taylor Inn and the enigmatically named Big Truck Theater. The theater, whose purpose and events remained a mystery despite a quick search, intrigued us with its unique title. It was a reminder of how even the smallest towns can house the most curious establishments, creating a mental note for future exploration.

As twilight embraced Taylor, we realized our day of adventure was drawing to a close. With the last rays of the sun guiding us, we made our way to Tupelo. This city, known for its connection to Elvis Presley, had embraced its claim to fame without forgetting the modern touch. The hotel we chose was a testament to this, blending contemporary design with nods to the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

After picking up our daughter, her energy high from the excitement of the game, we retreated to the comfort of our hotel room. The anticipation of a hearty breakfast at the hotel's restaurant was a pleasant thought as we settled in. However, the day's explorations had taken their toll, and soon we were lost to the world, sleep claiming us swiftly in our modern quarters, already looking forward to the next day's discoveries.

Senior Memories and the Echoes of Scooba

The morning sun greeted us with the promise of a new day as we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel. With the warmth of the morning light and the anticipation of capturing memories, we set out to photograph our daughter's senior pictures amidst the backdrop of Tupelo's downtown charm. The streets of Tupelo, infused with the spirit of its famous son, provided a vibrant backdrop for this milestone moment.

As we headed down Highway 45, my wife and daughter took to resting, their minds adrift amidst dreams and the comfortable hum of the road. Meanwhile, I harbored a secret plan—a detour through the quiet whispers of Scooba, Mississippi. It had been years since my last visit, and the pull to see the changes was irresistible.

Scooba greeted us with the silent dignity of survival. Most of its buildings still stubbornly clung to their foundations, yet gaps in the landscape where others had once stood were evident—testaments to the passage of time. I was met with a pang of nostalgia for the two-story structure that was no longer there, the one I had captured in a photograph years ago, with a lone broom standing sentry in the entryway. Its absence was felt like a missing tooth in the smile of the town.

I took photographs of what remained, a way to freeze time, perhaps to compare with future visits when even more of the town might have succumbed to time's inexorable march. Each shutter click was an attempt to preserve the present, aware of its fleeting nature.

With a heart full of new memories and a camera full of new images, we turned our Jeep back toward the familiarity of the Coast, toward home. Scooba remained in the rearview, a silent farewell to our weekend of exploration, leaving us with the comfort of homecoming and the quiet hope to one day return.

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