Ancho is also the home of "My House of
Old Things," a museum of knicknacks, bric-a-bracks, odds, ends, and
collectibles, gathered under one roof. (Museums in ghost towns seem redundant
somehow.) The museum was closed when I went, unfortunately, though in a
way I was relieved. Museums creep me out. I think of them as "time
prisons" -- a place where time is captured and held hostage. Like
Native American "Dream Catchers," museums are "Time
Catchers." Once an item is caught and given an accession number, it
can never again be set free.
I used to work in a museum. A huge clock on
the wall ticked away the long afternoon hours that nobody came in to visit.
After sitting at the reception desk all afternoon, bored to death, I could
tell I had aged. But when I went to check on the exhibit, nothing else
had. The display items, old to begin with, had no need to get older.
Age had no relevance anymore. Even if I left the front door wide open,
Time flowed around the museum walls, never through. When I left the job
in the evening, I was always careful to lock the doors behind me, as any
good jailer would.
I remembered my museum job as I drove around
Ancho. A strangely quiet Southern Pacific locomotive idled past as the
sun set behind the buildings. (You can insert your own additional time
metaphors here as well.) Then it struck me: what if Ancho is where time
is kept? What if time has mass, or produces by-products that need
to be stored somewhere? What if Ancho functions as a Time WIPP? What if
inside these old abandoned houses were Jesse James and Ghandi, Leonardo
daVinci and Amelia Earhart, the War of the Roses, one giant leap for mankind,
the Titanic, Pearl Harbor? Or their shadows?
What better place to store Time than Ancho?
The school closed in 1954, the highway bypassed the town in 1955 and the
train cancelled stops in 1959. With everybody looking the other way, Time
could do as it pleased here, uninterrupted. No need to lock the doors at
night. If everything escaped, there was nowhere to go.
I drove around a bit more, sure that every shadow
I saw around every corner was Veronique's hemline, Socrates' cup or Floyd
Collins' lantern. I left when the sun finally went down behind the
valley and the snow was no longer blue.
It was 5:15.