EPTOM: Holdenville, OK (“The Best Place on Earth”)

We were playing chicken with the Sun, pushing our last stop that day  as we swirvingly navigated through a crowded parking lot full of cars bearing license plates from all over the U.S.

The scene: The “Expo” building on the Holdenville fairgrounds.

The event we were trying to crash: A 50-year Holdenville High School class reunion, lovingly given a “Prom 2.0″ theme by those who had been planning the event since their 45th “Prom,” five years back.

The whole city of Holdenville seemed like an eager high schooler, all dressed up for a party.  From the minute we rolled into town two hours prior, there were events taking place on the streets, people smiling and suggesting we speak with this person or that person, jovial groups meeting at the Palmer Inn where we were staying for the night, and promises to meet each other at the local bar once The Prom ended.  Even those manning the local police office where we stopped to ask for directions made sure we knew exactly where Grinder’s Ale House was in case we got hungry.

Holdenville had an air of expectation, of uplifted spirits, of a welcoming narrative to those who were just in for the night.

Practically leaping the car into a parking space, we agreed I would run into the building to find our participant while Rachel lugged the equipment to a place where some shred of sunlight remained.  As I headed into the building I could hear, “Brick House” bellowing away.  68 year-olds were entering the building dressed to the nines in tuxedos and frills; I also spotted a few in shorts and golf shirts.  Yelling over the music, I was tipped off by the registrar that Dale Jenkins would be “the perfect guy to speak with you.  He’s the one who organized this whole thing!”

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Jenkins was standing by another man in a well pressed suit, hands in his pockets entrenched in a casual but intimate conversation over things classmates talk about when they see each other so rarely. Knowing full well the sun had just slipped under the horizon, I butted in.  A perfect gentleman, Dale politely obliged.

Of course he did.  He had been an Ag teacher for thirty years, he sat on the Soil Conversation Board, The Alumni Board, and the Fair Board where part of the business was granting scholarships to school children.   Dale was the kind of guy that makes Oklahoma hang together when all the seams are straining.

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He suggested I go find his wife because “she’s the one who is doing all the work in there.” [see note below]  I followed his directions back inside to find…the person who had referred me to him at the registration desk.  HA!  Robin Jenkins reluctantly left her post for the portrait, then we chatted a bit with Dale.

His conversation style cut right to the heart of things; no beating around the bush.  “Nothing comes easy,” was the wisdom he’d pass along to others.  “Of course, you all know that.”  He looked right at us acknowledging the 594 towns we would be visiting.

“How is it that you’re living back in Holdenville?” I asked.

“Well, we came back to take care of my parents.  My mother is still alive, she’s 88.  But when people ask me that question I just tell them that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  It’s the best place on earth.”  His expression matched the resolved nature of his message.

Dale was busy, trying to say hello to all the folks who had shown up for the event, so our discussion was fairly short.  I had seen someone inside, though, who I really wanted Rachel to photograph before we left.  I ran back inside, scanned the room, and found Linda Whitaker by the punch bowl.

Explaining our project, I shared that I loved her skirt and wondered if she would be willing to come outside for a photo.

“Of COURSE I will,” she replied with a smile.  “As long as you’ll let me get my lipstick on!”  Linda sauntered across the room with perfect posture, and promised to meet us outside at the corner of the building by the light pole.

She was part of it…the “everything’s great today” air Holdenville was offering to anyone willing to breathe it in. She chatted easily as Rachel got the shot. “Color My World” played in the background while Linda smiled for miles.

_DSC0031Back in town, we snooped around in the Bed and Breakfast, admired their cake serving collection, then headed across the street to Grinder’s Ale House.  A friendly barkeep, a couple of ruffnex from Arkansas, a guy who didn’t talk much but nodded a lot and a silk marijuana plant in the corner were just some of the elements to our dinner.

What do you get when you mix a Saturday Night in Holdenville with a friendly barkeep, two ruffnex and a random man who doesn't say much? A good end to a good day.
What do you get when you mix a Saturday Night in Holdenville with Lainey the friendly barkeep, Arkansas ruffnex Patrick and Alex, and Mike, a cartographer who doesn’t say much? A good end to a good day.

Maybe it’s because so many people we encountered had been looking forward to all the incoming visitors that particular June 28th.  Maybe it was because people in Holdenville are just generally positive.  But whatever the combination, our first overnight trip for EPOTM was made better because of that town.  As we finished our beers and headed back to the B&B, that night I completely believed it was indeed the best place on earth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdenville,_Oklahoma

http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/H/HO011.html

http://holdenvilletribune.com

Note: The quote mentioned by Dale re: his wife is not exact.  He said something to defer attention from himself helping the event happen toward his wife for her work on it as well.  This quote was the best we could recall, but only represents the spirit of his statement, not his exact words.

Merry Christmas 2014 – FREE Seasonal Music for Readers of the RDC

As a “Merry Christmas” to our sweet friends on this venue, I’m sharing all the files from a 2004 Christmas album my friends at Cherokee Hills Christian Church and I recorded at the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz Lab.  Thanks to Paul Eastland, Sam Pappas, Mark Hinderliter & Brandon Smith for the good work.  Peace, Merry Christmas and Blessings to you this Season!

P.S.  When you right-click the links, you can then “save as” to your own computer and keep this music as our gift to you!

O Tannenbaum

Away in a Manger

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Christmas Time is Here

The First Jazzy Noel

Skating

Silent Night – In Three Keys

What Child is This?

Enjoy, and as always ~ Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward all Personkind…

[kelly]

EPOTM: Beggs, OK

_DSC0268Their red stone cottage was nestled within the Beggs town proper, not too far from a water tower that, from our angle, read: EGGS.  I noticed ivy gracing the home’s outside walls as I stood on the porch and knocked, only waiting a moment before Jill answered the door.

It was Mother’s Day, a mid-Sunday morning, and as I spoke with her about our project asking for a conversation and a photo I was struck by the inner calm her voice offered in response. The sunlight lit her face and enhanced her high cheekbones, freckles and short red, curly hair.  Many are thrown off by our requests, but not Jill.

“Well, we’re headed to my mother’s house, but I have maybe five minutes?”  I knew we couldn’t set up and close back down again in five minutes, much less speak meaningfully with someone in that time frame.  So, I politely declined.

Back at the car, I relayed the details to Rachel and she said, “Why don’t we just pose the opportunity to give us her ‘best five minutes’?  This is going to happen more than once, so we could try it.”  I agreed and ran back to knock a second time.

Call it what you will – Providence, serendipity, or chance…but Jill had a story to tell on Mother’s Day.  And, she did it in only eight minutes, on her porch, with her husband Davíd at her side, and her eleven-week old son Noah on her lap.

And, we cried.

Thank you, sweet family in Beggs, for your Mother’s Day post script contribution to Every Point on the Map.

For more Every Point on the Map posts, click here.

EPOTM: Mounds, OK

_DSC0298“Bull?  How’d you get that name?”

We were loading our equipment into the car while Bull and Bobby were sitting outside a convenience store in Mounds. Bobby needed a smoke.

“Aw…here we go…”  Bull acted put out while at the same time positioning himself to tell the short version of a story he clearly treasured.  “I used to be in the service, and while I was stationed in Germany we’d sometimes leave the base and ride in the European rodeos.  Well, I always did pretty good but one time I won the whole thing.”

“What do you mean, ‘The WHOLE thing?'”

“I earned the title of European Rodeo Champion…the WHOLE thing.  And that’s when the boys started calling me Bull.”

I glanced at Bobby who was almost halfway through this first cigarette.  We made eye contact and he slightly nodded his head as if to say, “Yup.  It’s the truth.”  I looked back at Bull.  He looked down at the ground, for a minute, then re-engaged Bobby in their lighthearted joke-talk.

“So,” I thought to myself, “Inside they’re camera shy and do everything they can to stay out out of the conversation.  But out here, the bench is their turf, and I’m looking at a bona fide rodeo champ.” Continue reading EPOTM: Mounds, OK

EPOTM: Little, OK (The Bathroom Ghost)

_DSC0061Rachel and I were standing outside in the August sun, waiting patiently on a woman to finish her cell phone conversation. She looked like an overdressed Flo, talked with a vernacular that could only be Alabaman, and made eye contact with us every thirty seconds holding up her index finger as if to say, “I’ll be right with you.”

She was sitting on a concrete picnic tabletop with her feet resting on the bench under a shade tree in an RV park. Five minutes into the conversation we had picked up these details: they were in “the oil business,” her husband was in the trailer and she was late for a meeting with him, and she wasn’t sure if they could take that job or have to refer them out.

I’m not sure how much time had lapsed when she finally ended the call. In my head, I envisioned the minutes log on her next month’s phone bill reading “length: twenty or so index fingers signals.”

“What do y’all need?” she asked, looking as if she really needed to get to her meeting. In the trailer. Right there in front of us. The one she was glancing at, then looking at us with eye signals and pleading eyebrows as if to say, “Move it along, I have an appointment.”

Explaining our project, we shared that there didn’t seem to be that many people in Little, OK and we thought this trailer park might be a great place to meet someone.

Looking directly at the both of us she replied, “I don’t think this is Little, Oklahoma. I don’t know where Little, Oklahoma is.”

I glanced at the trailer park sign clearly visible from our vantage point. The name, “LITTLE, OK” was hand painted in white letters against the faded blue background. Across the road, “THE LITTLE GROCERY & DELI, Little, OK” had at least three customers in the parking lot, one getting gas, and one pulling in.

I looked at Rachel, glanced at Flo who was physically leaning toward the trailer waiting to be released with our words, and I gave in.

“Okay,” I said. “No problem. It looks like you’re busy, we’ll check out The Little Store across the street.”

_DSC0068Her body fully relaxed as if she was a puppet just cut from her strings. “THANK you. I’m SURE you all will find someone THERE.” She entered the trailer without a goodbye.

Rachel and I looked at each other, ambled back to the car, and had the same thought we later verified with each other as we drove to the store: “Some people are just weird.” In my rear-view mirror, I noticed the license plates on her RV read: Alabama.

Our conversation that took place a few minutes later was with an 18 year-old from Tahlequah who was working for his Grandpa’s store in Little for the summer. Two weeks after he started working there, he began dating the other employee who was a year older than he.

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Miles wasn’t quite sure about his next move in life. His girlfriend had meticulous plans for her next three or four. But at some point in the conversation, the two of them and the two of us made a small connection…about ghosts.

Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.