Durant Station

14 Sep

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Durant is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highways 69/75 and 70, fifty-two miles east of Ardmore and seventy-six miles southwest of McAlester. Occupation of the townsite began in November 1872 when a wheelless boxcar was placed on the east side of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway tracks. In 1873 Dixon Durant erected the town’s first building, a wooden store, on the east side of the boxcar. Named “Durant Station” for his family, it was shortened to Durant in 1882.    — Oklahoma Historical Society

I tease Amy that she comes from a desert state.  Growing up, that’s what I assumed Oklahoma to be; a vast wasteland of parched earth and the lined faces of those who had tried to farm it.  The truth was more familiar.  Another town that seemed to revolve around the chain stores and fast food restaurants out along the highway, while the once vibrant downtown limped along on the strength of its few remaining businesses.  Another community that no longer wished to commune.

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Heath doesn’t see it that way.  For one thing, a couple miles down the road is Okie Donuts, where, I kid you not, they make the best donuts in the world.  Heath used to ride out there in the morning with Amy’s dad for coffee and a Boston Creme.  Now I take Heath.  The owner treats him as a special guest, having come all the way from New York.  And then there’s the donuts: light, fluffy, and sweet, but not too sweet.  Good sweet.  The kind of sweet that gets you out of bed at 6 AM, because if you’re too late all the maple will be gone.

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After donuts, we drive back to Durant in the early morning light.  The highway’s faster, but we take the back way, just like Amy’s dad.

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Farmers are talking outside Wright’s Drive-In as we roll into town, sipping coffee in the morning sun.

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Downtown the buildings still stand, soaking in the light and giving back the warmth and color of their red clay bricks.

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And somewhere in the past, a button-nosed girl is buying a ham salad sandwich at Durant Drug and stepping into the Plaza Theater for the afternoon showing of Endless Love. As romance blooms onscreen, the streets outside grow humid and warm; humming with footsteps, the laughter of chance meetings and the sound of cars going by.  The sun is low as the movie ends, and the girl and her slightly scandalized mother step outside and make their way home, past friends and neighbors; checking the time and talking about dinner as they go.

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The sounds fade, the air grows cooler, and the people disappear.  Heath and I are alone on the cobblestone street.  The drugstore is gone and the Plaza is now an office building.  For the first time Heath grows impatient, so as we walk, I try to paint the picture for him, attempting to bring to life a town I never knew, but which did so much to create his mom.  He listens, he nods, but he’s ready to go.

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The heart of Durant may be battered and worn, but I don’t think it’s moved out to the highway.  It’s not in the McDonalds drive-thru, and it’s not at the Waffle Shop, and it’s sure as hell not at the Walmart.  No, it’s still downtown, where the old facades continue to glow, beautiful and resilient, like Amy, her family, and so many of those formed by this place.  The heart beats softly these days, forgotten by many, but it’s there:  fifty-two miles east of Ardmore and seventy-six miles southwest of McAlester, just east of the old boxcar, waiting for those with ears to hear.

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8 Responses to “Durant Station”

  1. bulldogbillboards September 14, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    Wait – why was the lady from the movie slightly scandalized? Ask me to tell you the story about the pastries some day. . .

    Also, and please share this ironic statement with your wife. I went to that big gross casino in Thackerville, OK (where they still allow a shit ton of smoking indoors) with Mia last year or so to see Macklemore. If I did not tell you already, it was The. Best. Concert. I. Have. Ever. Been. To.

    Rod Collins

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    212 726 2355 New York City

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  2. Stacie Stilwell Belvin September 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    This is awesome. I was born and raised in Durant and still love here. Its an awesome place to live and raise your family. Just like most towns there are ups and downs but I will always call Durant Home! Thank you for this article. Oh and Amy were Good friends we graduated together.

  3. Mom September 14, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    Sound like some of the places I just drove through in Penn. Once a great place to raise children!

  4. Kelli Lemke September 14, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    Love this article! You have such a way of painting a picture with your words!! Went to school with Amy and continue to live in the area. Durant is a neat town.

  5. Jana Taylor September 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    Beautifully written…

  6. Lucille Pirri September 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

    Well Derek, as usual, like Kelli said – your ability to paint pictures with words is astrounding to me. I love reading what you write. I have forwarded your posts to my sister in Montgomery, Alabama who is 86 years old and has made similar comments about your writing. She always asks when she can see a novel from you! Keep writing and mesmerizing us. Love, Lucille and Frank Pirri

    • dtoddbell September 15, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

      Thank you Lucille. I miss you.

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