MEERS — At Meers Store and Restaurant, they still serve the 1-pound “Seismic Meersburger” even if the instrument from which the burger draws its name long ago went silent.
For two decades, a seismograph that sits in the restaurant’s lobby measured even the tiniest of the earth’s vibrations. For years, tasty food and the antique piece of technology drew classes of schoolchildren and geology students, as hungry to learn about science of seismography as they were to down a juicy MeersBurger.
In time, the Oklahoma Geological Survey designated the restaurant as the Meers Observatory.
“For the Meers store, it was tremendous,” owner Joe Maranto said of the seismograph. He took over its operation in 1985 from a local rancher who said he no longer wanted to bother. The government originally placed the instrument in the area to measure movement along the Meers Fault that could potentially impact a nuclear power plant in Texas, Maranto said.
“It was good for business. It didn’t put me out any,’’ Maranto said.
Then, in the mid-2000s, a lightning strike stopped the seismograph’s needle from painting squiggly lines on its ever-turning drum roll.
Today, the breadbox-sized seismograph sits silent beneath a plexiglass cover, a relic from another era. It’s silver knobs and buttons resemble those found on a 1970s-style stereo system. A yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag hangs above, fluttering in the air of a slow-turning ceiling fan. Just beyond, a wall-mounted longhorn peers down with unblinking eyes.
A lack of funding and rise in earthquakes elsewhere in Oklahoma appears to have left the fate of the Meers store’s seismograph on shaky ground.
On a roll
It’s 10:30 a.m. on a recent Friday when Margie Maranto hurries into the restaurant she and her husband have owned for 31 years. She plunks her black purse onto the counter and heads straight for the kitchen beyond the cash register. Stopped by a reporter, she shakes her head back and forth and apologizes. Can’t talk right now, she says. It’s Joe, her husband, who does the talking. She dials him up and hands the restaurant telephone to the reporter.
Joe Maranto, 83, is at home, recovering from foot surgery. The couple’s ranch house, made from local limestone, sits on 40 acres just behind the store. The Wichita Mountains are to the south. Wind turbines dot the distant hills. Eleven longhorn cattle graze in the yard.
“We raise our own beef,” Joe Maranto says over the phone. “I got a bunch of yearling heifers in my pasture right now, and a good, young bull, and that’s his harem.”
Maranto thinks back to the mid-2000s, the time when the seismograph stopped.
Every day for 20 years, Maranto had dutifully changed the paper roll that recorded movement along the Meers Fault, created about 1,500 years ago when the Anadarko Basin on the north bumped up against the Wichita Uplift on the south and ruptured the earth from southeastern Oklahoma to the Texas Panhandle. For about 15 miles in southwestern Oklahoma, it can be seen as a hump along the horizon where the two geological structures crowded together.