City Park, Lind
The three towns in today’s post are spread across Adams County, WA. Lind is the largest with about 500 inhabitants. The railroad goes by town on its way from Spokane to Portland and it has a large grain elevator complex and businesses that support agriculture. Downtown businesses are vacant because shopping in megastores is possible not too far away. A grocery store struggles and a tavern is open many evenings. The community is well known for its annual combine demolition derby that attracts thousands of visitors. There is no place to stay in town and motels in nearby Ritzville and Connell are booked a year ahead. Stay tuned, as I have reservations for next year’s event!
Falling Fence, Lind
DeVore Motel, Lind
My friend Susan and I stopped in Lind to photograph at an old dilapidated motel, the DeVore. Parts looked relatively freshly painted but others looked as if they had not been cared for in decades. The grass in front was knee high. Just as we arrived an old car pulled up, a couple and young girl emerged, unpacked a couple of lawn mowers and started to chop down the spring’s growth. The young girl ran ahead me and picked some crocus that were hiding against the motel wall and showed them to me without saying a word. When I smiled she then ran off around the motel and disappeared. I followed her hoping to get a picture. When I came around the corner after her she approached me clutching a couple of bedraggled tulips. I asked if I could take her picture and she hesitantly acquiesced. Then she gave me the flowers saying that there was one for each of us. They were one of the nicest gifts that I have received in long time.
Between Lind and Benge are remnants of an old telephone line paralleled by a more recent one. The poles are peculiarly short, many are missing, most are tilted with cross bars askew, and most are festooned with broken wires that are curled and twisted. There is a tendency to walk away from things in this country: farm houses, barns, telephone poles, broken equipment, all can be found left where they lay. This jetsam is removed only when the land on which they lie is arable but seldom are small plots worth the effort when holdings are measured in thousands of acres.
Benge is listed as a ghost town and currently has 21 residents. I was given this exact number by a woman who was working in her yard. She paused when I asked her how many lived there and then recited the name of each one while counting on her fingers. The store, Northern Pacific Railroad and post office are gone but the buildings and their signs remain. The grain bins that dominate the town are still operational and appear to be the only commercial enterprise.
Benge Water Tower
The old wooden water tower was used until just a few years ago.
Structurally Benge School is from the last half of the 20th century and I must admit a little disappointment in not finding a picturesque one-room schoolhouse. However, the school draws children from Lind and Ritzville. In the 2013-2014 school year it had 13 K – 6 students and two teachers.
Entire Student Body, Benge School
Ralston had a very short heyday in the first quarter of the 20th century. I met with Randy Roth a local resident who has worked diligently to keep it alive by organizing reunions, gathering archives, maintaining a small park and generally promoting its memory. He attributes some of the rapid decline of Ralston to the graveling of the dirt road to Ritzville. Once you could more easily traverse the 10 miles to the ‘big city’ (an all too common phenomenon throughout this region) the glue that held things together was gone. Most of the buildings that were in Ralston were constructed to be moveable and so they were just hauled away. Little remains. A grain elevator is still in use; the old store and church have become residences.
Old church, Ralston
Ralston Grain Elevator