Tuesday

Swiped by Souvenir Hunters

Ruff is a town that’s nestled in a low spot. 24 miles southwest of Odessa. Three years ago reports came leaking out that dry land wheat down there was only making about four bushels to an acre, so Sugar and I took a spin that way during their harvest, and found combines trying to catch heads that were sticking slightly above the deep furrowed rows. Luckily the wheat had red chaff, making it possible for the operators to find their way around the fields. 

After interviewing an unhappy farmer, we got nosy and wanted to see if the drought had affected the town of Ruff. After all, part of my roots got sprouted down there through ancestral cross-breeding. 

Upon entering Ruff at that time, it was a shock to find almost a ghost town. There were a few poor people living there that had the habit of pushing clunked-out refrigerators and stoves to the nearest outside door, and using them for steps. A far cry from 63 years ago when my dad motored his family for a weekend at Ruff to visit with relatives. Those German-Russians were so tidy that if you were to put down their reading material in a slightly different place, you would spoil their decorative ideas, making them emotionally upset to say funny things in German. 

The friendliest bunch of little folks met us that day on their bicycles and gave us a tour of the town. The old standing church looked the same, except windows and doors were missing, and it badly needed a paint job and a preacher. A lightning strike caved-in the side of the old city water tank. The kids used the inside for their play jail. 

We noticed on that guided tour that there were new signs nailed on the old hotel, the livery stable and the old Ford garage, stating when each was built. Those poor folks also took an historic interest and researched into past records, then nailed their findings and population up at the edge of town. 

A little girl told us then, that there wouldn’t be 27 people living at Ruff until her mother had her baby that fall, so, barring a miscarriage, the true census stayed correct for a spell. 

An October Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, was a beautiful day. A good day to recharge that summer tan, so decided to revisit Ruff after a three year abstainance. Maybe the big crops since then could make the town of Ruff shape up. 

We were greeted by the sight of four large piles of spilled wheat, that partially hid the elevators and the business district of Ruff. After crossing the railroad tracks, one look told us it was a ghostier town than before. A sign still stood pointing to where the grocery store is at; an aid for the wandering tourist. 

Finding a parking place was no sweat. A sign on the door said “Closed on Sundays.” If service is needed, contact the big white house. After trying to spot anything looking white, a large lady came driving up from a yard full of kids and geese in a '59 gas-guzzling car. She was good enough to open up her store, so we felt obligated to buy something. Soon found out her frozen bars had more frost on the outside than ice cream on the inside. 

We found out the town’s population had dropped from 27 to 22. The store owner produced most of Ruff’s population. She has ten kids, counting the baby she just had in September. Her married son lives there too, and is about to produce number 23. 

The old hotel now stands empty, and the livery stable is still popular with camera fans. The city’s “Clean Rubbish Commission” is inactive, probably due to lack of funds, as we noticed some extra discarded stoves and refrigerators had been added to their outdoor inventory. 

Someone hungry for wood demolished the church, and the town sign of Ruff, that the former tenants put up, has been swiped by souvenir hunters. Since there is no hope of a coal-fired plant getting established there, the town is doomed. 

"The Razing Of A ‘Ruff'" Kik-Backs, p. 48


Photograph by J. Foust; courtesy of the Othello 
Community Museum and BigBendRailroadHistory.com

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