We’ve always driven through Cimarron, population 888—it’s only a few blocks long—but today we drove to Cimarron. Certainly unprecedented in my experience, and I doubt many have. That’s both understandable and a damn shame, because Cimarron is one of those places with an essence. Hell, this place will essence you to death. I like it, though, for the translucent layered history baking in the sun, and all the quiet.
There are some amazing sights in town, most of which gave my wife the heebie-jeebies as she slid ever lower in her seat muttering Methodist incantations. I understand, I think. It’s imagining you found yourself someplace similar once and couldn’t leave, like being six years old forever on a dusty street where paint peels off the fence. Her existential angst evaporated at the St. James Hotel, however. [above] Planting herself on a loveseat in the lobbby underneath a mounted buffalo head, she jabbed both index fingers at the floor six times and said, “I’m not going any other place than right here!”
Fortunately, we’d stopped there for the restaurant, so that worked out all right. There aren’t too many choices in Cimarron, anyway. From what I could see today, it was either St. James or the Cree Mee Drive-in. The The salt-and-pepper holder was welded out of horseshoes and spurs. We sat beneath portraits of Cole Younger and John Wesley Hardin across from a longhorn steer head as big as a truck and had a great meal.
The St. James Hotel is the real deal, like everything else in Cimarron—though in this case not so much a problem. Jesse James once spent the night there, and so did Robert Ford! Bat Masterson, too, and Wyatt Earp. The fact that the place is also famous for ghosts didn’t seem so relevant as the red and green chile from the enchilada plate ran down my chin. “I’d come to Cimarron once a week to eat lunch!” I told my wife, no small offer as it’s sixty miles away through two long canyons, over the pass, and halfway around a lake. All of that through gorgeous mountain scenery with almost zero traffic and a total joy to drive, but still.
The people who live there share a secret, too. No matter what else there is—and that ain’t much—it’s not like where you are, and maybe that’s okay. Either way, you’ve got no choice.
(Behold the essence of the day!)