All posts by Southwest Sara

Born & raised in Oklahoma, I'll be an Oklahoman 'til my dieing day. I now live in central Indiana. I am wife to a Teddy Bear, mom to 4 Kubs, Granny Nanny (full-time caregiver) Emeritus for my mother-in-law and a former Youth Group leader at my church. My hobbies include quilting, scrapbooking, volunteer work, and now writing. I love all things Oklahoma, though the area of my birth, Southwestern Oklahoma remains my favorite part of the state. Yes, of course, my favorite Broadway musical is "Oklahoma!".

The Wheaties Are Coming!



The last week of May signals the beginning of wheat harvest in Southwestern Oklahoma and northern Texas. A sea of golden wheat waves across the plains igniting the annual migration of the custom wheat harvest crews to the area. Common nicknames for the harvest crews are “Wheaties” or “Wheat whackers”.   The crews will spend the summer months harvesting wheat from northern Texas all the way to the border of North Dakota and Canada and beyond.

A typical crew will consist of the owner, their family, and a group of hired hands that travel with them from one wheat field to the next. The owner carries the financial burden of owning the combines, trucks, travel trailers, and assorted other equipment to make the annual harvest migration. The owner’s wife makes sure the family and crew is fed and tended to as needed. The workers run and maintain the equipment, and assist in moving it from one farm to the next. A typical owner nearly always has a farm at his/her home base that extended family members will manage during the wheat harvest season.

Tommy and David checking on the 2013 wheat crop

The third part of the harvest equation is the local farmer growing the wheat. The farmer will often use the same crew each year. More often than not, the “harvest contract” is a good, old-fashioned handshake agreement.   Once the arrangements are in place, the waiting and praying begins.

The crews work efficiently over long hours every day, but weather, dew, and equipment failures will interrupt the harvest schedule. The farmers and custom harvest crews alike pray the hail will stay away and the fields and grain will be sufficiently dry for cutting. Once the crew finishes one farmer’s acreage, they move on to the next farmer.

Some non-Oklahomans have often wondered why OK-TX wheat farmers don’t buy their own combines. The answer boils down to economics. Combines – the machine used to harvest the wheat (think “Frank” from the movie Cars) cost around $400,000.00 new, before you add on the wheat cutting head. Some models can be equipped to accommodate inter-changeable heads, meaning they can harvest wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. Since most wheat farmers in Western Oklahoma don’t grow the other crops, it only makes $ense to hire a custom cutting crew to harvest the wheat. Food for thought:  Next time your daughter wants to rent a limo for the prom or her wedding, let her hire a tractor, cotton stripper, or combine instead – they are worth a lot more than a limousine, and you might just make a farmer’s day!

Wheat harvest time is not all work and no play. Along with the unexpected weather delays, most crew members, affectionately known as “Wheaties” or “Wheat-whackers” to the locals, get an evening or two off now and then to head into the nearby towns. The average Wheatie is in his late teens to early 20s, earning money for college or other interests. When the wheaties come to town, the young ladies of the area check them out. Romances blossom and fade during the two or three weeks the crews are in town. The local guys turn a bit green with envy during this time, but the ones in the know realize, “This, too, shall pass.”

And just like that, the wheat harvest is over for this year. The Wheaties pack up and roll on down the road to harvest the next plot full of waving wheat, golden ripe and ready.

Thank you for joining me once again on the Red Dirt Roads bordering the wheat fields of Southwestern Oklahoma.  Join me next time for a couple of book reviews.

Always in Red Dirt,

Southwest Sara

For a quick video look at a wheat harvest in progress in the Frederick area, watch this YouTube video.

Combine pricing can be found here:
Sources: Tommy Sadler, Dave and Tawna Shultz, Tom Boyer, Neil Johnson, Warren Crawford and personal experiences.

How Do You Say That?

In honor of tonight’s NCAA Men’s basketball final between Louisville and Michigan, don’t you think it’s about time to revisit Southwestern Oklahoma – home to some of the best small school basketball teams – and make sure we know how to pronounce those town names?  Just in case you’re wondering how to pronounce the capital of Kentucky, it is pronounced, “FRANK-fort”.

Red Dirt Kelly gave birth to the Red Dirt Chronicles just a few short years ago. Since that time she has posted Red Dirt trivia questions on Facebook about all things related to Oklahoma. My favorite trivia questions are the ones that focus on Oklahoma places. When it comes to Oklahoma place names, the trivia can include more than just location, it might even pull out the old “how do you pronounce . . .” routine. As Jeff Foxworthy might say: “You might be from Oklahoma if you know how to say ‘Gotebo’, ‘Hobart’, ‘Eufaula’, Oologah, or Skiatook.”

Southwestern Oklahoma has its fair share of names that make you either grin or raise an eyebrow before attempting to say them. Go pack a snack now, and a tall glass of sweet iced tea, and we’ll take us a little road trip around Southwestern Oklahoma and discover some of these places. Leave your GPS devices at home for this trip – just pick up a copy of the free map of Oklahoma that the tourism department provides. It’ll save you a hundred bucks or so, and give you a better idea of where you are going.

Driving along US 62, halfway between Altus and Lawton, there is that sign that says “Gotebo –>”. Gotebo is one of those place names that exposes the non-Oklahoma roots of weather reporters. Very few know that it sounds just the way it is spelled, “go-tee-bo” with all long vowels. Gotebo is located in Kiowa County, at the junction of State Highways 9 and 54. It was founded around 1901 and has a current population of 226.

Northwest of Gotebo is Retrop. Some may wonder where this strange name came from, but it is quite simple, really. Spell it backwards and you have the surname of the first family to settle in Retrop. When the town applied for a post office, they discovered there was a town in Indian Territory named “Porter”. When word came back to Retrop about Porter, the forefathers said, “Let’s just spell it backwards.” Retrop is located on the Washita/Beckham county line, along State Highway 6, not too far down the road from Sentinel.

Up the road a ways from Retrop are two towns located a few miles apart on either side of State Highway 54, and nearly always paired together on the highway signs. Corn and Colony are their names. I’m not sure if they grow corn in Corn, or if any colonists remain in Colony, but I do know that one has family ties to John Denver. Continue reading How Do You Say That?

December in Altus, America

Snow is falling on this chilly fall night, causing me to shift gears from Thanksgiving clean-up to Christmas preparations. Amy Grant will sing about a “Tender Tennessee Christmas”. Those boys from Alabama serenade us with “Christmas in Dixie.” Becky Hobbs will sing the song she penned, “Oklahoma Christmas”.  The rest of us enjoy singing our favorite Christmas carols at church over the next few weeks, counting down to the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.

The song that will best describe me this year is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” . . . if only in my dreams. My husband and I established our home in rural Indiana shortly after tying the knot at Tulsa in 1988. Even though I am very happy here, Southwestern Oklahoma will always hold a special place in my heart. With that in mind, it’s time for another visit to the red dirt area of Altus – even if it’s only in my dreams.  (Cue the wavy screen effect)

So, what is so special about Altus this time of year? Too many memories for me to recount here, instead let’s take a peek at some of the current Christmas celebrations happening this month.

Jimmy Geigle has organized the 3rd annual Toy Run for motorcyclist this year. It is scheduled to take place Saturday, December 1 at 12:30 pm. Riders from across the state will join the run with a parade escort to deliver toys to the Altus Fire Department. The toys will be distributed by the Salvation Army and DHS.  Folks around Altus are generous to a fault, but it never ceases to amaze me when the pictures from the Toy Run are posted. Many of the motorcycles look like they are carrying the entire contents of Santa’s sleigh!

The annual Christmas Parade steps off from the parking lot of Western Oklahoma State College. on Sunday, December 2, at 3 p.m., Complete with a police escort, marching bands, floats, and of course, Santa’s grand arrival via Altus Fire Truck, the parade is a ton of fun for people of all ages. While the Altus Times reports this as the 32nd annual Christmas Parade, it has been going on for much longer. From watching it as a child, sometimes perched on Papa’s shoulders, to riding a motorcycle in the parade for several years during the 1970s, memories of the Christmas parade fill my mind with happiness untold.

Christmas would not be Christmas without cantatas and candle-lit services. Tabernacle Baptist Church will present a cantata on Sunday, December 16. Southside Baptist Church will share their cantata on Sunday morning, December 23. Emmanuel Baptist Church will celebrate the Reason for the Season with a candle-light service on Christmas Eve. A quick google search gave the above information – there are probably other churches in town with their own Christmas celebrations. Take time this season to remember that Christ’s birth is the reason for the season.

The Christmas lights of Altus shine brightly this time of year. Families and businesses deck the halls with many gorgeous displays, making a drive thru town at night a festive affair. Nothing, however, can top the “Christmas in the Park” display at the Altus City Park, located on East Broadway, between Park Lane and Park Avenue. The park becomes a magical mix of vision, love, labor and lights, a tradition that began around thirty years ago, with the vision of Sonny Tims and a handful of other longtime Altusans.

Rumors abound that this could be the last year for the lights, due to vandalism. Thanks to a handful of dedicated elves, this year’s show is now in progress nightly. Park your car or truck at the Altus High School parking lot, and take a stroll thru the park. Enjoy the work of the elves as you gaze at the lighted Christmas trees and animated displays while creating some new memories for you and your family.

Before or after enjoying these treats that Altus has to offer during December, take time to patronize some of the locally owned businesses and restaurants. Some favorite stops along the way are the Sunshine Café and Roberts’ Drive-In (which is now a sit-in diner) on East Broadway. The Grapevine Café or Benny’s Pizza & Mexican Restaurant on North main are also quite tasty. To finish off your shopping list, visit Petal Pushers, Scott Farms (for your “Made In Oklahoma” gifts) or the Sandyland Vineyard.

(Cue the wavy screen effect)

Looks like I have been off in dreamland way too long now. It is time to get bundled up, go outside and shovel some snow. Wonder if I’ll see some Christmas lights out there?



Jimmy Geigle

The Easter Pageant

Photo by Darren White, all rights reserved.

“John Delgado of Los Angeles, California, would you please meet James at the Lighted Cross?  Mary Mayernik of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, would you please meet Martha at the Lighted Cross?”

Ruth and I looked at each other in awe, then we asked our parents, “would someone REALLY come that far just to see the Easter Pageant?” Typical responses ranged from “Anything’s possible with God,” from our mother, and from Papa, “Oh probably just someone stationed at Altus Air Force Base or Fort Sill.”

It was hard for me at age seven to fathom that an Easter Pageant held outdoors in a wildlife refuge in Southwestern Oklahoma could possibly outshine anything the East or West Coast had to offer, but it did.  Perhaps it was the location, with the permanent buildings built in the 1930s that gave the Pageant the authentic look of the Holy City.

I am thankful for Christian parents, who, even when money was tight, still took us to the Easter Pageant every year.  Preparation for this annual event began early on Saturday, the day before Easter.  Papa would gather the sleeping bags, extra blankets and a tarp or two.  We would add our pillows to the pile.  Mama would get out the picnic basket and ice chest.  She would spend the morning making chicken salad sandwiches and other goodies for a picnic supper.  By late afternoon, we were packed and ready to go.  The pageant didn’t start for another 10 hours, but Papa insisted on getting there early.  He wanted to make sure we had the perfect spot for viewing the pageant from the mountain side where the audience sat.

The drive over on Old US 62* seemed to go on forever, but a mere 45-50 minutes later we arrived, parked and unloaded the car for the short trek to our viewing spot for the night. Once we set up our viewing area, we headed off to walk thru the Holy City.  Strolling thru the various replicas of buildings from the life and times of Jesus left us in a sense of awe, as though we were really were in the Upper Room, or the manger in Bethlehem. My favorite was the chapel.  Built to resemble Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, where President George Washington worshipped, once inside you truly felt like you had walked into Jerusalem via the murals painted by artist Irene Malcolm.

At sunset, we gathered on our sleeping bags for a picnic supper served by Mama.  The Lighted Cross began to glow behind us as darkness crept over the mountainside, now packed with thousands of people.  Before settling in for a long nap, Ruth and I would walk up to the cross, just to see who was paging whom.  Snuggling into our sleeping bags, we eventually drifted off to sleep amid the hushed conversations of the families around us.

Promptly at midnight, church choirs and music groups from around the area would began singing gospel music.  They entertained the gathering until a few moments before the official 2 a.m. start time.  The final notes of the music faded as did all light on the pageant side of the mountain. A hush fell over the crowd that quickly escalated into ooohs and aaaahs as the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth unfolded before us.  Papa and Mama always stayed awake for the entire pageant.  Ruth and I sometimes fell back asleep.  No one however, slept thru the final scene. Continue reading The Easter Pageant

Meandering Thru March Madness

Wildfire laps at the edge of Southwest Baptist Campground

The madness of the month of March has arrived!  My mother used to predict the weather for March 31 by what it was like on March 1. “In like a lion, out like a lamb; in like a lamb, out like a lion!”,  Mama would say every March 1.  According to my sources on the ground in Oklahoma – March 1 was a beautiful day this year. Here’s your advanced storm warning – be prepared on March 31!

The lion and lamb analogy can be aptly applied to other areas of March life.  Take for instance my nephew, Adam, and the love of his life, Mary.  Their first day of March roared in like a lion on the waves of labor pains.  The pains brought forth a precious little red haired princess, Virginia.  Something tells me that other than cries of hunger or wet diapers, their March 31 will ease out like a lamb for Princess Virginia, her sister Elinor and their parents.  I wish I could say that Virginia arrived in the land of red dirt but alas, she arrived in the bayou area of southeast Texas.  Someday when she is old enough to understand, her paternal grandmother, Clara, will entertain her with stories of the five generations of her family that equated red dirt with home.

Meandering around the madness of March memories of lions and lambs, several favorites have popped up to the top.  Youth retreats, spring revivals, and school breaks all bring to mind events that began like lambs but ended like roaring lions.  One of my favorite youth retreat destinations is nestled in the Quartz Mountains, across Highway 44 from Lake Altus.  The Southwest Baptist Assembly Grounds (SBAG) harbor many fond memories, including such firsts as my first week at church camp, embarrassment at my lack of knowledge of Donnie Osmond (he was the Justin Beiber of my day), first time as a camp counselor and numerous retreats as a teenager.

If ever there was a doubt that God can still use this place to His glory, one need only look at the lion of a wildfire of Summer 2011 that roared around the mountains surrounding the campground. The fire necessitated the evacuation of both SBAG and the Quartz Mountain Christian Camp located a mile north.  God protected both sites with His hands – one over each campground.  A tour of the area a few days afterward showed that the fires literally stopped at the edge of the campgrounds, within a few feet of some of the cabins.  God also protected the firefighters that day.  No serious injuries were reported as the fireproofed water bearers fought the flames while enduring temps in excess of 100◦F.

What does the lion and lamb analogy have in common with speeding tickets, sectional snow, “Hoosiers” and “Believe in Me”?  March Madness, of course!  Did you really think I could make it thru a blog titled “March Madness” without a mention of the basketball, that great orange orb that draws the attention of most of the nation for the month of March? Continue reading Meandering Thru March Madness

Who Are Your Sweethearts?


Papa and Sara, 1963

I Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.

6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8A Love never ends.
13 Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

 (said Aibiline Clark, the maid, to little Mae Mobley Leefolt) 

February has found us all ready!  February, the shortest month of the year, is filled to the brim with special days.  Black History Month, American Heart Month, and Library Month, Groundhog’s Day, The Super Bowl, Presidents’ Day and Presidential birthdays, Spunky Old Broads’ Day, National Visit A Shut-in Day, Leap Day, Freelance Writers’ Appreciation Week, International Friendship Week, along with many others special days all share their glory in the month of February.  My favorite day of the month falls in the middle on the 14th – yes, Valentine’s Day. A little Googling or chacha-ing* will lead you to the story of St. Valentine.  Here is a quick link:

I confess, that in my youth, if there was no one to shower me flowers, chocolates and sweet nothings, I would mope around with a long face each year around St. Valentine’s Day.  That all changed in college, with the help of an intermittent job. Continue reading Who Are Your Sweethearts?

Visit Reed and Ski The Quartz Mountains

Visit Reed, OK and Ski the Quartz Mountains!

Ahhh, January is here once again!  Snow bunnies are turning their minds towards the ski reports streaming out of Colorado and beyond; the snow birds have flown south for warmer climes.  Alas, but not everyone can escape the ever-changing weather of an Oklahoma winter, so the rest of us make do with what we have at our disposal.




The following story is true, but some names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.

The opportunity for snow fun is a rare event in Southwestern Oklahoma, a place better known for F-3 (and above) tornadoes and hot, dry summers.  Once every five to ten years, though, Oklahoma is blessed with several inches of snow, sometimes all in the same snow storm.  The winter of 1978 was one of those extremely rare winters when snow covered the ground for several weeks, rather than the normal “if you slept in, you missed it” few hours of snow cover.

What happens when you mix about 5-10” of snow with some small town/farm raised college guys and two sisters from the big city of Altus?  A ski trip to the Quartz Mountains, of course!

Duane was a farmer/rancher, living on a large spread of land in Greer County near Reed, Oklahoma.  The ranch included a private, red dirt road, complete with slopes just right for sledding, skiing, and other winter fun. He provided the setting for this adventure, along with a few instruments of fun, one being an old car hood.  Turned upside down, it makes a great toboggan, especially when combined with a rope and a pickup to pull it up the hills.

Randy, Duane’s nephew, went by a ski rental shop in Weatherford to rent a pair of snow skis for the weekend.  The plan was working quite well until the clerk asked him where he was headed.  When he mentioned the Quartz Mountains, the clerk ended the transaction immediately with a terse comment along the lines of “Sorry, Pardner, these skis are only for real slopes, like what you’d find at Taos or Breckenridge, not some little ol’ pile of rocks outside of Reed!”

Wes came up with the bright idea of using old water skis.  “After all, they are both skis,” he offered, “there can’t be too much difference between the two.”  Continue reading Visit Reed and Ski The Quartz Mountains

Well, For Pete’s Sake! ~ SW OK, Navajo and Navajoe


Well, for Pete’s sake! What are you doing here?  Let me guess, you Googled “red dirt road” hoping for a close encounter with Brooks & Dunn, but instead found yourself meandering down a narrow lane just off the information highway.  May I kindly suggest that you tune in your favorite music player to a round of Kix & Ronnie?  Crank it up and let it provide the background music for this little trip down a red dirt road in Jackson County, Oklahoma.

Southwestern Oklahoma is home to farmers and ranchers, air force pilots and army generals, city folks and country folks, the Quartz Mountains and the Wichita Mountains, lakes and rivers, and yes, four-lane divided highways and a few red dirt roads.  Nestled between the Quartz Mountains and Wichita Mountains are a lesser known range, the Navajo Mountains, located in eastern Jackson County, north of US 62 about 3 miles and east of Altus about 6 miles.

Seeking a good dose of red dirt therapy, I recently set out on a drive down the red dirt road that ends at the western base of the Navajo Mountains.  For Pete’s sake, I stopped at the Navajoe Cemetery.  My cousin Jacquie told me about the town of Navajoe, and my other cousin, Jackie, told me about the cemetery.  There is also the Navajo School, but I’ll save that for another story.  Both had mentioned the historical marker located in the cemetery that documents the town of Navajoe.  The vertical marker is made of red granite, similar to the that of the surrounding mountains.  Navajoe the town fell by the wayside years ago when the railroad went thru Headrick instead of Navajoe.  The cemetery and memories are all that remain of the town.

Before climbing out of the car that bright sunny morning, I surveyed the area surrounding the cemetery.  Continue reading Well, For Pete’s Sake! ~ SW OK, Navajo and Navajoe