Heavener, Oklahoma has become a border town.
In a short time, the sleepy little Oklahoma town has been overrun by scores of Mexicans who have come to town to work in the huge chicken plant there.
I liked my mom’s reaction to the whole controversy. She said:
“If they don’t like it, well, it’s their own fault for not wanting to work in the chicken plant.”
Working in chicken processing plants is hard, disgusting work. The area is filled with poverty. Since the rise of Walmart and other discount chains, the downtown areas have been reduced to rows of secondhand shops. It’s a far cry from when I visited as a boy. Heavener was never really “Main-Street America,” of the form that exists in a lot of Midwestern towns; it’s always been a sort of frontier outpost, where the seedy side of America pokes its stubble through.
I first saw The Wild One in a theater in downtown Heavener in the 70s. It was still popular then. One of my uncles lived there, alongside some railroad tracks. Bill Thompson would disappear into the surrounding hills for days on end; Bill ran a still, chewed tobacco, and drank from mason jars. Heavener was a hillbilly wonderland.
I’d always meant to go there someday and photograph it, but the Heavener I knew no longer exists.
Downtown Heavener, Oklahoma, reflects cultures with a high misery index in collision
This building is a center of controversy. The owner, to please potential Mexican tenants, painted it bright purple on one side, and blue on the other. I thought it looked gorgeous. The long-time residents however, think it’s an outrage.
There was a bright florescent green building next door, but they didn’t seem to complain about that. They are trying to have the building declared a national landmark, so that the owner will be forced to restore it to it’s prior, dilapidated, condition.
You can’t please all the people all the time.
All the taquerias were closed when I was there. It made me sad. I really wanted a real taco. Most of the rednecks really don’t know what they are missing. When cultures come together, usually, the food gets better.
That’s the main problem I have with living in such a “black and white” part of the country. Even the ethnic restaurants tone down their cuisine to please the customers whose palates have two settings: barbequed or fried. Those options bored me really quickly; brown people have some of the best food, at least in my opinion.
I did take some snapshots that hold on to a bit of the old flavor though, just for the heck of it. Old Heavener has much more of a brick-red and piss-yellow sort of thing going on.