EPOTM: Dibble, OK

_DSC0038A grade school friend of mine who lived across our pasture used to tease our classmates then use “Dibble, OK” as the punch line.

“If you DO graduate high school, I’m sure you’ll have nice career at the Sonic in Dibble.”

“You’re getting on my nerves.  I think it’s time for you to move to Dibble.”

And so on.

I have no doubt that a similar personality type made the same jokes about “Tuttle, OK” while growing up in Dibble.  Dry wit, after all, is an Oklahoma pastime.

So until a few weeks ago, Dibble was a mysterious and greater-than-fiction community imprinted into my fifth grade brain as a place where punchlines finished and I would never go.

That changed when Rachel chose Dibble as the headliner for our second pilot run. And my impression of those who occupy the town has now evolved from fiction to fact by two sisters we met, sitting on their porch on a breezy Saturday morning.  They were both sporting flannel pajamas, drinking coffee, and taking in the cool morning temperatures. Wind chimes danced above their heads and serenaded their thoughts until we interrupted the scene.

Just a few minute prior, we had chosen this vintage abode as our target interview:


The mid-century, flat-roofed home invited Dibble visitors to knock on the door, and to check out the burnt orange loungers while waiting for someone to open it up.  But no one answered; not after the first knock nor the second.

I then visited the home next door.  A mother had come out into the yard to corral her child indoors while I was standing on her neighbor’s porch.  She watched me suspiciously as she carried her the toddler indoors.  I knocked three times on her door, to no avail.

This “not answering” theme was something we had considered, but walking through it in person felt different.  With each consecutive knock, a cascading effect of doubt grew.  Would we be able to complete our project?  How many unanswered doors would there be?

Back in the car, Rachel and I decided to drive around until we spied a living, breathing person.  Turning the car down the first street available, it wasn’t long before we had a visual on the two sisters and things began to look up…

Until they agreed to have the conversation with us, but not be videotaped.

There it was again.  Something we hadn’t planned: What if people are willing to talk but not be taped?  A question we had not asked ourselves.

Feeling slightly desperate, we began to negotiate.  “What about voices only? No video?”  That must have been what Rhonda Watson and Nina Duffy of Dibble, Oklahoma needed to hear.   We did, after all, walk in on their quiet Saturday morning.

NOW, we were ready to roll.

Rhonda and Nina immediately engaged.  They casually, but carefully considered each topic we raised.  I noticed that while the answers about family or people close to them were guarded, those about their professional lives were provided with a greater degree of information.


For example, Rhonda, who had left school prior to graduating and had spent a good portion of her life in Arkansas, stated that compared to Dibble, Arkansas “felt boring. ”  She said, “We had friends but…Nina was twelve hours away, and we was only three [hours away]…but, at times our three felt like twelve. If there was stuff people were coming back for…like an Easter Sunday…or a birthday…”  Well, they just couldn’t.  It was too hard of a prospect because she and her husband were working.

She’s glad to be back in Dibble because her family is there.  And, she feels lucky to have a job that’s close and will help pay the bills until she retires.  Here’s Rhonda talking about her current position working in the school cafeteria, and about the differences between the Dibble school she attended, and the one she works at now – so many years later:

She and her sister both had understated senses of humor. These senses of humor are famous in Westerns when cowboys spit, then deliver the goods with a tiny grin. This type of timing became the sisters, and I began to watch for the subtle jokes. During Nina’s discussion of her own career, we heard a good one:

This next segment I call “Dibble, on Dibble.” This was a portion of our conversation where we asked the women to describe their hometown life, now that they’re back together again.


And finally, I’m sharing just a little of what they described about being the youngest of nine sisters:


Nina and Rhonda not only have two rocking chairs to enjoy their porch, but Rachel and I partook of the simple pleasure created by sashaying to and fro in a porch swing while chatting.  As we packed up our things and left, I mulled over Rhonda’s recommendation of Dibble as a peaceful place to relocate, recalling her words, “If you ever move, Dibble is a nice place to live…”

I believe her.  I appreciated their gentle humor (see the “Butt Pot” photo below), and thank them for letting us have a meaningful conversation in Dibble, Oklahoma.


and photographs by Rachel Apple

*To read more about Dibble history, visit this link.


_DSC0035For other Every Point on the Map posts, click here. 




9 thoughts on “EPOTM: Dibble, OK”

  1. As a native Dibble-ite/ Criner- ite, I appreciate the kind write up. There is a Lot that the town keeps guarded as a secret from outsiders, and recently a influx of city folk have moved out there and in the last decade, the town has lost much of its identity. Back in the day they used to have town festivals and bluegrass shows, as well as the fact that the area around criner was still pretty much wilderness, and much of the spare time of the people was spent hunting and fishing. You never knew what was going to happen out there, like the time Toy shot a black bear

    1. Jim: You know, now that you’ve checked in with us about the Dibble/Criner area, we’re curious about the time Toy shot a black bear! If you want to write the story down for us, we’ll add it to the post as a post script.
      Take care, Red Dirt Kelly

    2. To be honest you could almost write a book on the things that have happened here. My family has lived in the Criner creek bottom since the 1930’s, but I have had kin in the area since the removal. My old man was a well known tracker and woodsman in the area, and often would get calls to help track down problem critters from the local police. My brother ran trap line in the area throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. The bottom didn’t get electricity until 1970. The story I mentioned was a bit closer to Dibble, the old man called his son and told him that he shot black bear. The boy, (whose name I forget) thought his dad had just shot a stray dog, and when he showed up it did indeed turn out to be a black bear, about 120 lbs. If I recall correctly, the Purcell Register covered the story. I know I’ve seen (and still occasionally do) Cougars and Bears in the bottom, but they aren’t that common here anymore. There have been other things, like a the Criner Creek Monster, that occured. Quite a few people swore up and down they saw that thing roaming the creek at night

      1. Fascinating! Thanks so much for writing a few memories down. I’ve shared your short memoirs with our Facebook audience; they enjoy hearing from people who are from the towns we’ve already visited! Take care, RDK

    1. Thanks so much, Tanmay – Rachel works hard at capturing the essence of our journeys while staying ethically true to the permissions we have to shoot various properties and people. Thanks, too, for stopping by to peek in on our project! ~ RDK

  2. Kelly, my dad was in the first graduating class at Dibble – a total of 6 in the class, I believe. My mother also graduated there a few years later and they married a couple of years after she graduated. He went on to be a school superintendent for 42 years, including 10 at your alma mater. She taught 38 years. They went back to the Dibble school reunion every year that I can remember and loved seeing those old friends.

    My paternal grandparents lived there (on the farm) for years before finally moving to town (Purcell). My maternal great grandmother is buried in the Dibble cemetery along with four other relatives (aunts and uncles and cousins). We go there every Memorial Day to decorate the graves.

    My siblings still own their share of the farm where my mother was raised. I sold my portion a few years ago because it was acquired years after the original farm and was not useful for farming, cattle, or anything else; however, it now has many homes pm it! A resourceful building bought the property.

    Loved reading your story and seeing the pcitures – I don’t remember whoyour classmate was but maybe you’ll let me know in an email.

    Thanks for your writing – I always feel as though I had a part in helping you become the person you have become.

    Much love to you and your family…

    1. Maryilyn,

      Your family is a foundation of Dibble history! What a cool surprise to hear that you and those with whom you are connected have so many roots there. Thanks for letting me know a little more about you, your family, and your annual journeys to Dibble.

      Love back, Kelly

    2. Interesting Marilyn! My grandmother, Pauline (Pat) Arnold was a teacher at the Dibble school back in the ’30s and ’40s, and my granddad, Oscar Lemual (Dee) Clark was a student there. They moved out to Arizona in the 1940s, but we still have photos of the old Dibble school with grandma out front with her students. When they tore the school down (I think it was the late ’70s or early ’80s), my grandparents went out and collected the school bell, which my sister (a teacher and now principal) still has. I bet our relatives knew one another. We still have my grandmother’s family farm, but it’s just vacant land now. Most of us are still in Arizona.

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