Rocky Ford, Colorado
Rocky Ford, Colorado
March, 2009

Last week Mike, Ally, and I went on a road trip from Colorado to Virginia. Our first stop was Rocky Ford, Colorado, a small town in the plains, about two hours southeast of Colorado Springs. My dad’s grandfather grew up in Rocky Ford. My dad recalls his Granddaddy’s love of Colorado and stories of Rocky Ford, where his family had grown cantaloupes for a living. I never met my great-grandfather, but he’s important to me because he was such an big influence in my dad’s life.

Today Rocky Ford appears to be in decline, with more boarded-up windows than open storefronts. It was a pleasant town, but we had to imagine what it must have been like during its busier era at the turn of last century.

Charlotte Geary in Rocky Ford

Rocky Ford, Colorado

Rocky Ford, Colorado

Produce sign in Rocky Ford

Charlotte and Mike in Rocky Ford

Flying birds

Flying birds

Old barn in Rocky Ford

Watch dog

Rocky Ford

Rocky Ford shadows

Rocky Ford doorway

Rocky Ford American Legion

Rocky Ford

View from movie theater in Rocky Ford

Rocky Ford street

Rocky Ford train station

Rocky Ford Heil Bean Inc

Rocky Ford barber shop

Rocky Ford alley

Rocky Ford photography shop

Rocky Ford shop

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COMMENTS

I drove to rocky ford from California and its a pleasant small town with only one light signal and they had a couple of thrift sites with antiques at bargain prices i wish i had brought more money lol . But it is really a ghost town and the two hour ride there through the plains was scary you can see abandoned homes and old cars it looked like a tornado hit and everyone left :-\

Re: High plains podunks

If you want to see people on Main St. in Rocky Ford, you need to swing by on a Friday or Saturday night in June, July, or August! The town just about triples in size do to the harvest of cantaloupes and watermelons etc. The migrant farmworkers come up from Mexico to harvest. There are people out everywhere! There is even an old taco truck that sets up shop and sells taquitos and other delicious treats to the drunken folks! It is quite a sight to be seen! The only time this town is every really “hopping” is the weekend nights of summer!

Yeah. I was reading online at a place that’s great for digital photography tips– Digital Photography School– about just what you’ve mentioned.

Different people will often enough read the same photograph differently.

Re: High plains podunks

Hi Mike, and thanks for your comments. I hadn’t intended to make any particular statement with these photos. Primarily I was interested in photographing the textures, colors, and shapes of this visually interesting town. That’s why I’m surprised but pleased that my photos could spur a conversation with your colleague. If you’re interested in an outside perspective, I suppose my main observation about Rocky Ford was that the downtown area seemed to be unused for the most part. The people of the town were filling up the chain stores and fast food restaurants on the outskirts of town, but the independent shops downtown were boarded up and the main street had no pedestrians. I love to see a lively main street in a small town, but Rocky Ford seemed to be missing that.

Thanks very much for getting in touch, and please let me know if you’re interested in using any of these photos for your local paper or Urban Renewal meetings. If there’s anything I can do to help, I’d be happy to do so.

Re: I live in La Junta

It’s great to hear from someone living in that area; thanks for the comments. I didn’t know that the Grand Theater is run by volunteers, which is a great story. We peeked in the windows and were curious about the place and all its antiques.

The downtown streets were so quiet! There were plenty of people in other parts of the town, but the main street was boarded up and practically silent in the middle of the afternoon.

People’s reactions to these photos are fascinating to me. When I took the photos, I didn’t try to document sadness or isolation. Instead, I just loved the textures and shapes of the old buildings. (The exception was the photography store for sale — that one did make me a little sad to see.)

It’s interesting to elicit emotional reactions to photos, when I hadn’t explicitly intended for that to happen.

The sad thing that I noticed is that the town wasn’t actually uninhabited at all. There were plenty of people there, just not in the downtown streets. It seemed to us that most people drive elsewhere to shop or work.

How funny… I’m sure it was a nuisance, but I actually love random encounters like that one.

I really felt for that photography store owner, too; certainly it’s a business I can understand and empathize with. It appeared that the store had been there for many years, though, so perhaps the owner had retired rather than gone out of business. Either way, I was really drawn to that shop and the stories it contained.

High plains podunks

Hi Charlotte. Great imagery of Rocky Ford. Anonymous from La Junta and I have been discussing your comments. She tends to think you were being somewhat negative. Not in a mean way, but … negative. I disagree. I think you just called it like she saw it, which tended to be far more objectively than most local residents. In fact, many of your images illustrate perfectly what I said at the Urban Renewal meeting today. When you walk around town and see the faded brick that has not been cleaned in decades, with signs fading and peeling, and windows either boarded up or with frames peeling paint … you get a sense of forlornness, of dessication, of neglect … like Sparta, Georgia, in the original Heat of the Night movie. A property owner here in La Junta recently refurbished one of the old advertising signs painted on the brick of her building on Hwy 50 and it looks really good. Anonymous and I do articles for the local paper and are going to do one on this.

Mike Steeves

Self-styled pundit; supporter of capitalist swine and other entrepreneurial oppressors of the proletariat; unregistered and unrepentant Independent, and blogger.

http://lajuntablog.blogspot.com/

%u201CThe question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.%u201D

I live in La Junta

Hi, I enjoyed your pictures of Rocky Ford. I live in La Junta, about 15 miles away. There are success stories in Rocky Ford. For instance, the Grand Theater is completely run by volunteers. Inside there are some antiques of the movie theater. Mission Deli, a great restaurant, used to be a little trailer. Now it is a burgeoning full sized restaurant.

I admit that life can be difficult here in the Arkansas Valley, economically speaking, but all of us are survivors. We may have boarded up windows, but that’s only temporary.

There is something eerie about it. Its almost like a ghost town. I think there is only any other living people in your pics in one image! It is sad Stuff like that makes me feel very sad. It would look even more spooky in black and white!

I like these, though I feel a bit of sadness in seeing an old, small town not bustle like it once did.

Great shots Charlotte! I hope to see more from the rest of your trip! These make the decline of small towns seem so much more real. It’s sad to see the boarded up windows, almost looked like a ghost town…

I’ve done that drive, it can certainly be taxing!

One time my power window fell off its tracks and into the car door in Burlington, CO. An old mechanic and his old dog and I worked for a couple of hours to pull it up, then run a wire under it to keep it from falling back in. There was still a bit of space, made for a loud whistly drive east.

Great collection. Makes me want to go on a roadtrip!

The last couple of shots of Stan’s Photography being for sale is a bit sad. Before the internet, I’m sure it was a lot easier to have a brick-and-mortar store. These days, it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense, I think, to have one. It’s just too cost-prohibitive.

Stephanie Haller

Charlotte Geary

CHARLOTTE GEARY

Lifestyle, event, and portrait photographer with a vibrant, joyful style and 17 years of professional experience.

Located in Reston, Virginia near Washington, D.C. and available for travel.

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