The Traveler: Why Stop?
It’s a Grab Bag Monday! You never know what’s going show up here.
You’ve seen them before: those roadside historical markers that pop up at random places along the highway. It’s easy to keep the cruise control in gear and coast by, not giving the unassuming sign a second thought.
So, why stop?
Maybe the better question is, why not?
Years ago my husband and I sailed north on Highway 83 in Texas. We were en route to the Oklahoma panhandle for a dear grandparent’s funeral. It was a long, emotional trip. We needed a break. We spotted a large iron bridge that spanned the Red River near Wellington. It broke up the horizon, and a “Historical Marker Ahead” sign teased us off of the road. The gravel shoulder crunched under our tires as we eased to a stop.
My expectations of the marker hovered on the low end despite being a fan of history and cool-looking bridges. I expected tidbits on the construction of the bridge or something similar. But check out what it said:
The Red River Plunge of Bonnie and Clyde
On June 10, 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Pritchard and family saw from their home on the bluff (west) the plunge of an auto into the Red River. Rescuing the victims, unrecognized as Bonnie Parker and Clyde and Buck Barrow, they sent for help. Upon their arrival, the local sheriff and police chief were disarmed by Bonnie Parker. Buck Barrow shot Pritchard’s daughter while crippling the family car to halt pursuit. Kidnapping the officers, the gangsters fled. Bonnie and Clyde were fated to meet death in 1934. In this quiet region, the escapade is now legend.
Excerpted from Why Stop? A Guide to Texas Roadside Historical Markers by Betty Dooley Awbrey and Stuart Awbrey
Holy moly. What a surprise! If that didn’t make us glad we stopped, I don’t know what would. My eyes were as big as a getaway car’s tires as I gazed over the bridge and followed the bank that sank into the riverbed. I could imagine it all happening.
Isn’t it amazing the things that pop up around you that you’d never guess? One moment you’re trudging along an endless highway, the next you’re seeing the scenery in a while new light. Taking a minute, taking a chance lets ordinary surroundings whisper their amazing secrets.
I’m so glad we stopped.
What about you? When/where have you been pleasantly surprised by a chance encounter or unplanned stop? Hypothetically, what would a historical marker in the future say (funny or serious) about where you live?
Want to know more?
Interview with son of eyewitnesses by A. Winston Woodward
The Historical Marker Database online and its Google/Android App