The Geronimo Motor Company was founded in Enid, OK in 1917. It built two models of the Geronimo, a six-cylinder and a four-cylinder at the rate of one car per day. The original factory still stands in Enid:
A few years later, the moved the factory to the (then) outskirts of town, which happens to be a block and a half south of my church. No sign of it remains.
Business was going well with the Geronimo until a fire consumed the factory on August 14, 1920. The plant was only partially insured and the owner was unable to rebuild. Around 600 Geronimos were manufactured in total.
Only one car is known to exist today.
I thought I had heard or read about the Geronimo somewhere before. I was pretty excited to read about this in our local paper this morning.
But then I searched the ‘net for some pictures of the Geronimo and found nothing. Not even a Wikipedia page on the Geronimo. After some more searching I found a reference to the auto company in a business paper which argued that Enid–and small towns–were dying.
If you live in a small town, it’s natural to get depressed about such stories–the stories of the good days of old, the golden years, the glory of once was superimposed on the decay you see around you. It’s depressing because the memories fade but the bricks and rust remain.
If you live in a city it’s natural to pity us, and then to go, seeing the growth and expansion all around you with renewed eyes–thankful eyes–that your town, your community, your metroplex is thriving. You invite us to move, if you are feeling kind. You mock the small town decay and our nostalgia if you are feeling mean.
Neither community is superior. Small town versus suburban versus city life all has its advantages and problems. I’ve enjoyed both experiences in my life so far.
But small towns are real. Not in the sense of community, not in the sense of safety, but in the sense of death. In decay. When you see abandoned factories, when you see population decline, when you see shopping centers half-vacant, you see the way the world is. Not shiny growth in Big Boxes. Not pristine landscaping around McMansion neighborhoods. Not unmitigated progress, ever spreading, ever reaching. That is the illusion. That is the illusion which keeps the resurrection at bay, and Christ from us.
The reality is transience. The reality is we are grass, flowering one day, and dust the next.Civilizations disappearing, monuments to men standing for centuries, then buried, broken and forgotten.
When the shrinking small town is before you, when the grass grows through the sidewalk and over the curb and the north east side is full of factories standing closed, then you know that resurrection is your only hope, for Geronimo Motors is the standard, the touchstone of this fallen world. An empty tomb is our only escape.