The following account contain facts of my best recollection regarding our search for McKiddeyville, Oklahoma:
We had just completed our discussion with Ray Newton on his small porch in Lexington and were packing up for our next stop. Destination: McKiddeyville.
Unfortunately, our GPS system kept telling us McKiddeyville was about one block off the downtown Lexington proper. We got out our map and realized McKiddeyville didn’t even exist on the official EPOTM map, but it had been specially requested by a donor. So, we forged onward.
My frequent solution to glean information about a wide variety of small town topics is to visit the local police or fire departments, the court, or some other community institution. And, we spied the police department first, located in an old street-front office that could have been a drug store or barbershop 100 years earlier.
Today’s podcast features a man we met drinking coffee on his porch one Sunday morning named Ray Newton. Ray starts his story by sharing how it was that he decided to enter the Air Force and about fighting in the 1968 Tet Offensive. Most of his narrative, however, centers around his history with racism in Oklahoma, and how he has reconciled what he experienced with what he now knows.
This podcast is comprised of almost our complete discussion with Ray, edited only for wind noises or non-relevant banter. As you listen, we hope you can picture yourself sitting on Ray’s porch with us and enjoying his morning chat.
On a clear Sunday morning, our Every Point OK team took a right turn somewhere off Main Street in Lexington. Two blocks later we cruised by a small, white home and spied Ray Newton on his porch drinking coffee. Bright sunlight washed over his serene repose.
Decision-making conversations never really stop when we’re on our project runs. Most of these discussions center around what type of participants we need “on our next stop” to balance all those perspectives we’ve collected previously.
Occasionally someone unfamiliar with our work will respond to me after hearing the details with exclamations of, “Cool!” or “How fun would THAT be?” I think, in some ways, the focus of what we do is first introduced simply by the idea of a ten-year-long road trip. “Road trip” being a concept generally associated with “fun.”
From my perspective, however, it’s nothing like that. Although I will say that Rachel quite frequently pulls me out of the “serious-funk-must-keep-true focus” I tend to myopically fixate upon by reminding me that we are, indeed, on a road trip of sorts.
As we cruised by Ray’s home, however, I had been funkishly mulling over the population with whom we spoke the previous day. Four stops on Highway 9 had provided us with four perspectives of “family,” and two of them were young to mid-range parenting views. And, most all were – to some degree – white middle class. So Ray, basking in the morning sun, with his snowy hair and dark skin offered the difference I was seeking. He readily agreed to speak with us, and although a family member suspiciously peeked her head out of the door more than once, he kept right on talking…
…through his upbringing, his choice to enter the Air Force because he couldn’t afford college, the lessons he learned from people and cultures world wide, and lessons from his father here in Oklahoma.
When he was done, I shared with Ray that he had learned through his life as much, or more, than I had learned with three college degrees. And, that he was a teacher of philosophy, regardless of not being able to attend Langston like he had wished. The spontaneous smile that immediately spread across his face was a reward for my remarks I won’t quickly forget.
We’ll share Ray’s story in two ways. The first is through this post with Rachel’s photos, and a video produced by April Kirby and her intern, originally completed for our Ten Percent Show. The second will be through a podcast deployed in a separate post tomorrow.
This stop was completed six months ago. I hope Ray Newton is doing well. ~ KMR
Photos of April providing Ray’s balding head with a ponytail wig, and Rachel hanging out across the street from his home:
We pulled into the Fay school parking lot just as some of the last cars were leaving; a few people lingered, “to go” meals in their hands, in order to finish their conversations before saying goodbye. Lunch was over, and as we entered the double doors we could hear Senior Citizens Center volunteers in the kitchen cleaning up.
There are at least five and possibly six separate stories we could write over our stop in the southeast corner of Dewey County. Legend, verified by some facts and newspaper articles, tells of a young bank robber who killed at least two people in the town grocery store while trying to escape; he was eventually captured because those in pursuit followed his trail of blood drops across the snow.
Veterans frequent the center, and one man in particular takes care to honor them with hand-built shelves on the back wall for photographs and flags.
Aging Oklahomans travel from close towns, and even from Oklahoma City, to come eat at the thriving senior lunch; the volunteers take exceptional care of their school-turned-community center, and the kitchen at the heart of the building.
And, although two churches remain in Fay, located at opposite ends of the township area, all funerals of those in the area are held in the school’s gymnasium so everyone in attendance can have a seat.
But those aren’t the stories we’re going to share. Rather, we’re going share with you about how a Christmas tradition has been kept up for years after the last school in Fay closed. And, Janice Stinson is just the right narrator for this Oklahoma Christmas story.
Field notes: Thanks to April Kirby for shooting these video files. Our EPTOM team is now back to just two; Rachel and I finished a run to the Medicine Park area this past weekend. It’s been right at two years since we began ramping up for our Kickstarter fundraiser, and in March of this year we’ll celebrate our “two years from our pilot run” date…crazy. Production-wise, we’re only 2-3 stops from rolling out our Highway 9 run, then will turn our attention briefly to Yukon, then on to the Picher-Cardin area. So many stories, so many kind, unique, resilient, funny, sometimes weird, and always interesting people.
With red walls and trim, a printed Christmas scene curtain hanging on a rod, and a decorated spruce surrounded with Angel Tree gifts donated by community members…the setting was a stark contrast to the wild, open drive across the Wichita National Park we had just completed. Rachel and I talked quietly, eating oatmeal and planning our day.
However, fate had taken care of the planning for us.
Already full of Christmas Spirit from our previous evening in Medicine Park, we discovered that Santa was drinking coffee at the table next to ours! And, after a brief bout of cajoling from our waitress and the Cafe’s owner who was also his daughter, we sat with Mike Carrick and learned three things: 1) Santa is real; 2) Santa serves many functions for children, depending upon their situation or needs; and, 3) being Santa is a higher calling that I had imagined.
Merry Oklahoma Christmas to you and yours…
Kelly Roberts and Rachel Apple ~Every Point on the Map project
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.