by The Howard
*Disclaimer: All facts reported in this article may only be facts to me and could have nothing at all to do with actual history.
You could say that I grew up in the red hills of northwest Oklahoma between Buffalo and May. I never actually lived there, but have spent a lot of time in the area and have occasional, random opportunities to go back. Not as often as in the past, but on occasion I get, or take, the opportunity to go.
Take last Memorial Day for instance. My brother and I took off the Thursday prior and ran the gauntlet of Waynoka, Buffalo and Laverne leaving silk petals behind as we went. We had a great time – took along my tattered Atlas & Gazetteer in an effort to get from place to place and back home again without straying onto a highway.
We weren’t completely successful missing the highways but we sure killed a lot of time!
My latest northwestern jaunt was for business to an area south of Gate, Oklahoma. I’m assuming Gate is so-named because it is just inside the Oklahoma Panhandle, serving as the gate to “No Man’s Land.”
You have to love a place called “No Man’s Land.” Texas didn’t want this 38-mile wide, narrow strip of land. Kansas was restricted by geography and treaty from claiming it. So, it was pinned onto the collective of unassigned lands fated to become Oklahoma.
What I found south of Gate was surprising and a little irritating. At least for a while.
You see, for at least 120 feet below the ground surface there is nothing red. No “redbed” as the old-timers like to call the red shales and sandstones. No red silts or sands such as what comprises the red hills outside Buffalo. No red clays like those that cover much of the state. Just light brown sand, gravel and a little bit of gray clay.
This geological footprint makes for an interesting drive; it’s like the undiscovered Little Sahara. There are what appear to be hills but on closer inspection are discovered to be sand dunes rolling right into the Beaver River. And the visage of these sage covered sand dunes…I couldn’t help but be reminded of Teletubby Land. My son loves it when I sing the Teletubby song. He’s now twelve years old, and was never as big a fan of the Tubbies as I.
I didn’t actually see a child’s face in the blazing hot sun (as in Teletubby Land), but after prolonged exposure I’m sure I heard giggling!
By the way, if you ever go through Gate, stop for a cheeseburger at the local café. They’re pretty good; I’ve had several over the course of two weeks. And the special on Thursdays is fried chicken. It must be good because it’s the only building within, say, thirty miles that has more than four people in it. Every table is filled on Thursdays!
Driving home from these sage-covered dunes, I began to ponder red dirt and the Red Dirt Chronicles. Oklahoma isn’t all red dirt but red dirt is a common bond. It is a bond that’s unites us in this geopolitical jigsaw puzzle called Oklahoma.
I think about all the eco-diversity in Oklahoma…I believe we have six distinct eco-regions, depending upon which source you read. Beyond red, we are a diverse mixture of urban and rural cultures and backgrounds. But we are united by the wind and the red dirt carried upon it.
It’s good to explore Oklahoma!