Ghost on the Prairie
Cross S Ranch house, Jackson County, Oklahoma
The empty farm and ranch houses that dot the rural landscape of the nation often stand ghost-like as silent, lonely, and abandoned shells of the busy lives they once knew. While the increasing technological complexity, the specialization of economic activity, and the consolidation of agricultural operations are all undeniable, the presence (while they last) of those relics of the past raise fundamental questions about the nature of progress and whether the decimation of the countryside has represented actual improvements and advances in the lives of the people who once labored and loved and lived and died close to the earth. The history of the Cross S Ranch (above) in southwestern Oklahoma above all provides a human measure of changes that are too often simply calculated on ledgers and statistical tables and the ranch serves as a reminder of the revolution in which a society based on agriculture became instead a society in which agriculture was reduced to but one specialized part of the larger economic machine.
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