November 08, 2013

Clinging to the Panhandle

Kenton, Oklahoma, is somewhere on my list of Towns to Disappear To." It is possible, though, that Kenton might disappear first.

You would not disappear in Kenton though. Any newcomer would stand out.

According to old stories I have heard, shady characters used to like Kenton because it was convenient to the state lines of Colorado and New Mexico and not too terribly far from Kansas and Texas.

Now those state lines pose other kinds of problems.
It’s another reason I [writer Sheilah Bright] have fallen hard for this shriveled land. People don’t dance around how they feel. Nearly everything they say deserves quotation marks. If someone dies of a heart attack or pneumonia or cancer, the burial arrangements are handled quickly since business is so slow. A suicide up on the Black Mesa trail (leading to Oklahoma’s highest peak at 4,973 above sea level), or a missing hiker found dead from heat exhaustion exposes a serious flaw in the system.

Those bodies aren’t supposed to be moved without permission from a medical examiner. The nearest medical examiner office is 220 miles away in Woodward. The next nearest is 379 miles away in Oklahoma City. Temperatures climb well past 100 degrees in the summer.
“By law, I’m supposed to either embalm, bury, or cremate someone within 24 hours unless there’s refrigeration,” said [funeral director Mark] Axtell. “The closest refrigeration is in Oklahoma City. The nearest crematory is in Dodge City, Kan. or Amarillo, Texas. I can’t cross state lines with a dead body without a permit from the medical examiner’s office.”

There is one group of visitors, however, who like the Kenton area just the way it is!

1 comment:

Chad Love said...

The Kenton area is an interesting, wild,haunted place. One of my favorites. I've spent a fair bit of time in the area, have done the highpoint hike a number of times, of course, some photography, bird hunting down south in the Rita Blanca and up north into CO.

Haven't been up there to Kenton proper in a couple years, though, so it sounds like the old Kenton Mercantile closed down, which was the only real business in town, selling gas, burgers, etc.

There was a guy who moved up there a number of years ago, bought the Merc and some land. Had the idea to start a vineyard, claimed the climate was perfect for Burgundy grapes. Wasn't the first dream that land has crushed...