This video is the second in our Dam Run series completely shot, edited and produced by April Kirby. All photos were shot by Rachel J Apple.
Every Point on the Map has never been as much about the towns in which people live, as it is about the people who live in the towns.
Our time with the Fleming family of Strang wholly exemplifies this philosophy. Their living room environment was intimate, warm, and thoughtful; bursts of occasional laughter were a delight.
The cloudy overcast day, however, seemed to temper the municipality’s mood as we traversed the diminishing town proper four or five times. I struggled while absorbing what remains of a formerly vibrant area through our car window vantage point. Strang seems as if “the town” somehow vanished mysteriously, while a random sampling of people remained – still connected to each other, but without a sustaining economy to support their lives.
One hundred years ago, Strang’s population of 300 gathered around their railroad depot to celebrate a “golden spike” ceremony. A bank, hotels, a theatre, a livery stable, grocery stores, and more lined the streets.
It’s difficult to imagine the scene, however, as the U.S. Census Bureau officially registered 89 Strang citizens in 2010. And, according to the Flemings, businesses there can be counted on one hand: “A post office, a Town Hall, a couple of churches, and a run-down store…that’s it.”
Regardless of Strang’s bleak commerce situation, however, Travis and Tricia Fleming are deeply connected to their community members and consider them “family.” Both working in public safety professions, their marriage and family appear to have deep connections as well.
Tricia’s eye’s sparkle with joy while she listens intently to her son Trevor recall a story of exploding spent Halloween pumpkins. She smiles, and references her husband during particular pieces of their son’s narrative – her gaze like a laser beam, zeroed in on “her boys.”
Travis’ love for his family is demonstrated, rather, by all the things he doesn’t share after coming home from a long day in law enforcement. He spends time with his two sons; he listens to his wife recall the details her day. And, he keeps the secrets of humanity’s difficult side he witnesses at work out of their home. The coolest aspect to witness between both Tricia and Travis is the way they respect each other’s space, and are there for each other in ways they can both accept.
A particularly humbling element in their home is a corner memorial set up to honor two police dogs Travis worked with in past years. The stories of how the dogs lost their lives were tough to hear. Yet, the way in which the canine’s memories are kept alive is a nod to their level of honor and integrity we sensed over and over.
Travis and Tricia’s relationship is the cornerstone to their family’s foundation, a foundation that is strong medicine and rock solid. And though they’ll likely venture a few miles away from Strang to celebrate their upcoming tenth anniversary this May, they clearly love their hometown.
In our travels, we have witnessed several Oklahoma towns whose citizens are not quite sure how to turn around their dwindling population. I have this sense, however, that if the Flemings reflect attributes of the Strang community fabric, it’s highly possible this particular little town just might make it.
Strang is located just a few miles from the Grand River Dam Authority in Langely, OK and is located in Mayes County.