Original Photo: Kevin Conner Hardesty
Well, it’s started – the demolition of our little oasis in the Red Desert has begun. I know I share a whole bag of mixed emotions with my fellow Table Rockers to know this is taking place. I hope to hear from some of them here, but in the meantime, I’ll try to sort out a few of my own feelings enough to put them into words:
Obviously, it saddens me to see the destruction of something that left such an indelible mark on me and my children. Much of what I am I owe to the people I knew there and the demands of the lifestyle. So many of us grew there in ways that will never be understood by those who didn’t share in the experience. To know that such a unique place will soon cease to exist is a difficult pill to swallow.
On the other hand, watching the village slowly deteriorate due to vandalism, neglect and the harshness of the environment we adapted to there has been harder. Better a relatively quick, honorable exit than the agonizing death throes of a ghost town. So, I find some solace in knowing that this inevitable destruction will be handled, at least partly, by some of our own, cleanly, and with restoration of the original environment in mind.
There were some suggestions made for a marker or monument of some sort to commemorate what took place there – and oh, so much took place there – but I know from my years with CIG that the contracts involved in leasing government land for purposes like this are strict in their restoration clauses and there are valid reasons for those clauses. So, while I have suspicions that something Table Rockers will recognize may survive, there will be few future passersby that will look twice at an area that was once a genuine curiosity and is an important part of Wyoming’s history. In that respect, it feels as if our lives there are being shredded and buried with the buildings.
I know, however, that the same determination that we learned there will keep the memory of Table Rock alive in the heart of each person that lived and/or worked there and many who simply spent time there. Table Rockers, like the village and its environment, are not the type to go down without a fight or be forgotten easily. Personally, I look forward to sharing accounts of my experiences there with anyone who will take the time to read them. I hope to bring the experiences of others who spent time there to light, as well.
There are many more emotional conflicts for me in remembering what Table Rock was, but the final feeling I’d like to share here is not at all in conflict. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m grateful for having known each and every one of the individuals who shared that strange and oddly wonderful lifestyle with me and my family. Some of you I knew for a moment; some became permanently embedded in my life. Each friend, neighbor, co-worker, casual acquaintance and yes, even foe, that I encountered in my seven years there taught me something. Many of those lessons weren’t realized until later in life, but they were, nevertheless, important and I thank you all.
I’m grateful, too, for the recent opportunity to reconnect with so many of you through Kevin’s Facebook group. It’s been interesting, fun and often heartwarming to see where so many of us are today and the people we’ve become, especially those of you who were children when I was there. Table Rock created some truly awesome individuals!