Category Archives: Man Cave

How Tuffy Got His Name: Putnam, OK ~ Dewey County EPTOM Run

(All photos by Rachel J Apple)

A friend of mine took her adopted Vietnamese son on an essential journey in the early 90s.  After watching international news for years, word came of the borders finally, possibly, opening for visitors from the United States.  Armed with supplies, money and large quantities of prayer, they made the long trek to the Vietnamese mountains, found their son’s tribe and watched an amazing reunion.  Although his adult frame stood almost a full foot higher than his siblings’ and mother’s, they connected.  He saw…and felt…the place from where he came. His people.

I thought of my friend’s son as we covered the entire perimeter of Dewey County last June. Meeting Tuffy Howell was the impetus for thoughts linking to that Vietnamese trek.  It was as if, while sitting in the Putnam Co-Op, I had begun my own pilgrimage. I had found “my people,” so to speak.


Our family had lost my grandmother only three weeks prior to this run.  That moment in our life, intersecting with wheat harvest and an elder in overalls, brought back memories of not only my grandmother cooking meals during harvest but of my grandpa who died six years prior. And, my other grandparents who had passed during my late adolescent and emerging adulthood years.

Tuffy patiently talked through a great deal of his life with us.


And, everyone in the Co-Op helped us understand wheat sample moisture tests and “appropriate levels for various locations.”

There are so many minutes of video that was made by the corporate video production I’m not sharing, but my hope is that what I do share somehow lends you a hint of “my people.” I certainly know that going back through our work and editing this piece help me recall the deep comfort of The Familiar.



Tuffy and April, our videographer
Tuffy and April, our videographer
In person, when looking closely, you can see “Howell” painted on this garage owned by Tuffy’s father. Tuffy completed his agricultural education degree from OSU then came back to help his father rather than taking a teaching job the first year. The reason: career counselors said that if your draft number was likely to come up, no one would hire you for fear that you would only work six months before getting called to the armed services. He overcame that, however, with news that the draft was slowing down so much they were only calling one person per month out of his geographical area in Oklahoma. His first teaching job? Helping returning WWII vets reintegrate by beginning their family’s farming careers once again. He was 22. Everyone in the class was older than he.



EPOTM: Carney, Oklahoma

The learning curve was steep.  Our final cut isn’t where I’d like it to be.  But, our first documentation piece for Every Point on the Map has reached the “good enough” standard.  Now, we’re ready to share it with you.

We’re grateful to Assistant Volunteer Fire Chief Robbie Clark, and self-described “rookie” Micheal “June Bug” McCorkle for their time and thoughts.  And, we hope you enjoy this glimpse into the lives of two citizens of Carney, Oklahoma.


If you’d like to read more about Carney, check out THIS LINK written on Carney history from OSU.  To read demographics about the town, and other general information, here is the Wikipedia link.  And, here is a KOCO video of the tornado from last year.

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

The “Board of Directors”

They were humorously mentioned as “the spit and whittle club” in The Imaginary Family Project story on “Gary Ireland.”

As I child I fastidiously avoided them in the Tuttle “Save-a-Stop” as they drank coffee every morning and discussed the local, state and national current events. For some reason, any grown man in farm clothes and boots who wasn’t part of my family scared me.  Perhaps that’s normal?

Yet as an adult writer trekking across Oklahoma, I now depend upon them when needing information about a local community point of interest.  I merely need to ensure these three factors, and can almost guarantee I’ll find them:

1) It needs to be early in the morning, preferably before 9 or 10 a.m.

2)  Cruise the entire street in any small Oklahoma town and scope out the quick stop or diner with the most farm trucks parked in the lot.

3) And then simply walk in, look around, make eye contact with the group and say, “I need help!”

This process has never…I mean NEVER failed me.  There they will be, a group of local men seated around a table or in a booth or perhaps occupying two or three tables and booths, discussing the morning’s business before heading out to begin the rest of their day.

I was reminded of this this small-town Oklahoma phenomenon while out on the “phase 1 section” of the Base Vines & Cattle schoolhouse deck two days ago.  It was 55 degrees, the wind had finally laid, and on a perfectly still and dark evening a few farmers, a distributor and a consumer had gotten together to chat.  The subject of the “Oklahoma Table” had come up by way of the delightfully caring female farmer among the group and then someone said something about “the group of men who gather in the mornings for coffee.”

“Oh, yeah…we call them The Board of Directors,” said Aaron Base with a chuckle.  And immediately, everyone knew what he meant.

They are the experts in the community.  They are men who know the town narrative and probably created it.  They are the group who has seen people move in, and people move on.  And, they take whatever activity goes on within their community to heart. Continue reading The “Board of Directors”

Like Nothing Else: Ode to WD-40

This image and all at the end of Mark's post come from: - an extremely unique resource for the advertising world...and people like us.

Is there a particular smell that you love?  Not necessarily one that transports you to a certain place and time but one that is here and now and….handy.  That’s how it is with me and the sweet, metallic smell of WD-40.  It’s like cinnamon rolls and coffee on the back porch except with a more purposeful air.

Here’s the deal.  Everyone knows there are two essentials for work to get done; duct tape and WD-40.  Every self-respecting garage has them, every mobile work unit from tow trucks to taco trucks has them.  Most pick-ups have them rolling around under the seat.  Maybe not city pick-ups, poor wannabes that never see a dirt road, but real pick-ups.  My question; why is WD-40 so essential?  Why not WC-20 or Fred’s Thread Lube?  The answer may be more sinister than you first imagine.

Duct tape comes from a variety of manufacturers but not many people get emotionally involved with the brand.  But there is no substitute for WD-40, the real deal, the true Bones McCoy.  First, it works great.  Squeaky hinges no more.  Seized threads freed.  Condensation rust melted away.  Other spray lubricants cannot hold their own against WD-40.  You spray twice as much for half the effect.

But there is something else, something in the smell that drives men to choose WD-40 and only WD-40.  I contend there is a secret ingredient, a pheromone designed to make a person desire one thing and one thing only in the spray lube category.  And it works.  While the WD-40 company laughs all the way to the bank, men are turned into helpless pawns of their olfactory senses.  I am no exception and so I offer this ode to my…my precious. Continue reading Like Nothing Else: Ode to WD-40

Running, Strolling, and Change on the Horizon

by Michael Mitchell

“It’s always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.” -Donald Miller

On Monday of this week, I was officially promoted into a new role at the university where I work. And while I wasn’t exactly looking for a new job, had you asked me about this particular role a year ago, I would have probably used the phrase “dream job” to describe it.

It’s funny – looking back at my life the last few years – to see all of the seemingly small things that had to line up in order for this one big change to take place. And yet, as cliche as it may sound, this opportunity came along at a point in my life when I’d recently made a concerted effort to stop striving for that ever elusive “perfect” job. Though I’ve spent a good deal of my brief professional life trying to run, it wasn’t until I finally started trying to stroll that this opportunity materialized.

But enough with the poetic wax.

As I move forward in my new role, which seems (as best as I can tell) to have a fairly steep learning curve, I’m entering into season of pruning in my life (much like the season of pruning that led to my involvement with this blog in the first place) and the time has come for me to step away from the Red Dirt Chronicles. I know this will come as a terrible shock for both of my faithful weekly readers, but trust me, despite an absence of writing from yours truly here on the RDC, the sun will still come up next Wednesday morning.

To my friend Kelly Roberts, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to write for the Red Dirt Chronicles this last year and a half. Thank you for understanding in those increasingly frequent occurrences when I’ve been late with a post and/or just completely forgotten. Thank you for always reading and commenting on my stuff. Thank you for being such a great editor. Thank you for giving me this outlet to occasionally put my thoughts on manhood, fatherhood, and other mysteries out there for the world to read. Even more than that though, thank you for being a great friend to me and the ladies Mitchell. And please note, you will not find the words farewell or goodbye in this paragraph. Please interpret their absence as an open invitation to pop in on the Mitchell clan anytime you find yourself in northwest Oklahoma City.

To the other RDC contributors, I rarely comment, but I read all of your posts and have loved getting to know you all through your writing. You are a fine group of talented writers and genuinely good people. Thank you for consistenly sharing little pieces of your life with all of us each week.

As I close out this post, I have decided to blatantly plagiarize Rob’s going away piece, and I quote, “I have an exciting new career opportunity and I need to devote my time to [learning] this new job, but I want you to know I will still be reading the RDC as often as I can, and I may even write a piece from time to time. I consider myself so very blessed and so incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this site and I wouldn’t trade this last year for anything!”

Amen brother. I couldn’t have said it better myself… so I didn’t.

God bless and peace out.


When I Am An Old Man (Repost: Top 25 of Year One)

Photo used by permission: from Avi Revivo {}

by Michael Mitchell

As we get started here again at the beginning of another new year, a lot of folks I know have made New Year’s resolutions. I have a few things on my list of goals for the year, but technically none of them really qualify as resolutions. In order to help me feel better about my general lack of New Year’s resolutions, I offer the following list of Old Man resolutions; things I would like to be, say, or do when I am an old man. For the purposes of this post, I am defining an old man as someone in his mid to late 80’s.

Without any further ado, when I’m an old man:

  • I will carry candy in my pockets to give to kids at the grocery store and at church. Who knows what society will be like by the time I’m an old man… maybe I’ll need to stick to doing this at church.
  • I will wear bib overalls with nothing under them a large majority of the time. Obviously when special occasions call for it, such as the ones listed above, I will change my attire. However, I’ve always thought there’d be something really freeing about spending my days wearing a pair of bib overalls with nothing under them. Unfortunately this is a luxury of the old… but I’m willing to wait.
  • I will be really nice to some people and really mean to others. I will be extremely inconsistent with this one and make a sport out of trying to be obnoxiously rude and overly kind to the same people multiple times each day. I know this will throw people off, but I will get a good kick out of watching how they react. This would never fly today, but when I’m an old man, people will probably just take it and think to themselves, “Bless his heart.” or “He comes from a different time.” This too is a luxury of the old. Continue reading When I Am An Old Man (Repost: Top 25 of Year One)

OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?

Image from "EDU In Review" - click link for commentary on Top Ten Red River Rivalry Games

(Note: Originally published Oct. 1, 2010)

by Rob Loeber

College football is full of rivalries, and there are some great ones…

Michigan/Ohio State has tradition, but hasn’t been worth much the last few years.  The Iron Bowl between ‘Bama and Auburn is the best of what the South has to offer, but it still misses the mark.  Oregon and Oregon State call their battle the Civil War, but something about Ducks fighting Beavers just doesn’t inspire me all that much.  Bedlam is up there for sure, but you get the feeling it means just a little more to the side in orange.

OU/Texas is the gold standard in rivalries and here are the reasons why.

The Cotton Bowl is the perfect setting.  It’s almost exactly halfway in between Norman and Austin.  The stadium is split at the 50 yard line.  Sooners on one side, Longhorns on the other.  Show me another event like this in all of sports.  Go ahead show me.  You can’t do it.  The atmosphere alone makes this game what it is because you can feel the tension in the stadium and all around the fairgrounds.  Nothing but burnt orange and crimson as far as the eye can see.  The Texas State Fair is part of the experience.  Ride the ferris wheel, win a teddy bear, eat something fried, eat something else fried, almost get sick, drink beer, feel better, watch football.  If I’m not mistaken that might just be the meaning of life right there. Continue reading OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?

Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

Editor’s Note: This was one of our top 20 most read essays in 2010. We’re republishing it as we continue through our “revisiting 2010 the ‘best of’ series of 2010.” Thanks.

Like so many others born and raised in the buckle of the Oklahoma “Bible belt,” I was Christianized from an early age. My father was a pastor, and as a PK (Pastor’s Kid), I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Flannel boards, K-Love, VBS, purity rings, Precept Bible Studies, DC Talk, and potluck lunches – all of this just came with the territory.

Somewhere early on, I absorbed the basic Calvinistic idea that the material world, like the material body, was colonized with eeeeviil. Most importantly, I was hard wired for eeeeviill. Every thought, impulse, feeling, and desire contained latent Dionysian energies roiling within them.

I distinctly remember attending a youth bible conference where the speaker confronted us on masturbation. Gulp. Blanch. Awkward. Stare at the floor. Crickets.

Continue reading Deconstructing My Christianized Self, Part 1 (republish: “Best Of”)

A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

excerpted from

by Michael Mitchell

105. Let her steal your nose from time to time. I promise she’ll give it back eventually.

(photo: guzi4real)

104. Staring contests are a great way to pass the time. Making faces at her will give you the advantage in more ways than one.

(photo: unknown)

Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

excerpted from

by Michael Mitchell

109. Teach her to appreciate a good book. “Children are made readers on the laps of
their parents.“ -Emilie Buchwald
(photo: to kill a mocking bird)

111. Teach her to shoot a gun… even if it’s just a Nerf gun. A girl with the confidence to
fire a weapon can accomplish anything in life.
(photo: life magazine) Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Life Lessons for Dads of Daughters

What’s going on? What needs to be done?

by Michael Mitchell

Something’s got me puzzled right now.

This blog is not the forum to talk about exactly what it is that’s got me puzzled, but it’s a good place to talk about the process of how I handle puzzling situations.

Anytime I’m puzzled by something, I always try to ask at least two questions: 1.) What’s going on here? and 2.) What needs to be done?

I ask the first question to try to better understand all the factors behind whatever is causing the particular issue. I find that if I can at least get my mind around what’s going on, even though I may still not know what to do, I will at least have some peace in the midst of a complex problem.

After I’ve asked that first question (noticed I said, “asked” not “answered”), it is then and only then that I start trying to figure out what needs to be done. This is much easier in certain situations than it is in others.

I’m driving down the road and I here a thump, thump, thump, thump, thump and my car starts to jerk a little.

What’s going on here? Continue reading What’s going on? What needs to be done?

House Blend, Anyone?

Coffee as an analogy for life?    Some would suggest that coffee is life, and I would concur at times.    For certain, life often begins each day after a first cup, but today I wish to ponder it before I drink it.

As I prepared yesterday’s first “nectar of life” carafe, I considered the description: “House Blend.  Lively.  Balanced.  Intensity: Medium.

What better way to describe my desired persona in the Bing Dynasty?   Having lived at times like some other less desirable coffees, strong, bitter, heavy after taste, I prefer to be the “House Blend.”

Another desirable analogy is fruit: nourishing, refreshing, appealing, “juicy,” and at it’s heart, a seed ready for planting.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23.

Certainly, if not coffee, I’d rather be compared to fruit vs. a fruitcake, but I digress.

If you will excuse me now, I need to go brew up a pot of the magic elixir.   It’s about time for life to begin on a hot Monday in Oklahoma…

Football Season Open, Wedding Season Closed!

by Rob Loeber

I choose to see the good in people.  At least I try to see the good in people.  Most folks have a good grasp on manners, courtesy, basic human decency and consideration for the feelings of others.

But apparently there are still some out there, who don’t quite understand what it means to be a part of society.  You know who they are, and they know who they are.  There’s a good possibility you’ve been directly afflicted by their negligence.  I’m talking of course about the people who choose to get married on a football weekend in the fall.

There is no longer any excuse for this.  Of all the unwritten rules and laws, breaking this one is the most egregious offense.

I had a buddy call me the other day and tell me he has to attend a wedding on the evening of the OU/Florida State game.  What!?  The groom’s excuse: “Well it’s a bye week for OSU.”  Dude.  Just because the team you like is off, what about the rest of the poor saps you invited?  I’m not talking about only the OU fans, what if you’re a fan of football at all?

This disturbing trend has to stop.  I know it’s your wedding day and you’re supposed to be able to plan it however and whenever you want.  You might not be a football fan or have any allegiance to any particular team.  I know it’s your big day and all the attention should be on you and your so-called love.  If you’re actually happy then good for you, but holding your nuptials on a football Saturday or Sunday is a sure fire way to suck all the joy out of what could be an otherwise beautiful ceremony.  Here’s the question that must be asked: Do you want people to attend your wedding because they want to, or because they have to? If you shoot for a weekend between September and early January, the vast majority of your guests will be there begrudgingly.  Continue reading Football Season Open, Wedding Season Closed!

Real Men Are Punctual

I recently attended the memorial service for a man who, by everyone’s account, had lived an incredibly full and blessed life of 77 years. The reverend eulogizing this fine man described his incredible gift of woodworking—of creating—and his generosity with that gift. The reverend mentioned his military service, his beekeeping, and the loving family of which he was the patriarch. The reverend listed the distinguishing aspects of his character—those qualities by which he’d be remembered by friends and family alike. Among that list was this statement:

“He was honest, punctual, and direct.”

Honesty and directness are the type of qualities I’d expect to hear listed in such a memorial, as they’re the kind of deep-rooted values that drive our major life decisions, the kind of values we’d all hope would be remarked upon when we pass.

The mention of punctuality didn’t seem to fit the category of the other two. And so, over the next few days, I asked myself two questions: First, How considerate of time must a man have to be in order for his punctuality to be remarked upon at his passing? Second, why does punctuality matter, particularly for the man trying to understand his identity?

The answers to these two questions sort of merged together in my mind into one response. For the root of this answer, I turned to an unexpected source: a corny, silly, and not particularly well-remembered movie, Blast from the Past. Admittedly, it’s not the place I’d normally expect to find the answer to any meaningful question, but there my memory leads me.

“Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them.”
-Adam (Brendan Fraser)

I think we can agree that this aphorism is intuitively true. Next, we can also agree that punctuality is part of manners. The transitive property then tells us that punctuality is a way of showing other people we care about them.

A punctual man is telling others through his timeliness that he cares about them, that he respects their time and their obligations enough to be where he said he’d be when he said he’d be there. Such a man merits the utmost respect—the kind of respect he’s showing others by being on time, all the time.

A punctual man also understands what tardiness implies about his own identity. He recognizes what a consistently late man is. A consistently late man isn’t malicious, nor is he odious. But he just isn’t aware. He isn’t foresighted. He’s a bit selfish. He’s somewhat careless.

So punctuality provides us with two opportunities:

One, to show that we—as real men—care about others.

Two, to show that we understand who we are and who we want to be.

From “Finding Manhood,” by David.

The Next Barry Sanders Is…Barry Sanders

by Rob Loeber

If you watch Heritage Hall senior Barry Sanders run the football, you can easily picture him wearing a light blue jersey and a silver helmet just like his father did throughout the nineties with the Detroit Lions.  The younger Sanders is an electrifying talent and even though he may not be Hall of Fame material just yet, he is ready to take the next step in his football career.  Sanders is one of the top recruits in the country and would be welcome at any of the premier division one college programs.  I recently sat down with Sanders and asked him about carrying the weight of lofty expectations, how he’ll make his college choice, and what’s going through his mind as he tears through an opposing defense.  The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Loeber: Barry you’ve been given this amazing talent, but with that talent means expectations are also extremely high.  Can having the name Barry Sanders be a blessing and a burden at the same time?

Sanders: I’ve thought about it, and I think it’s more of a blessing than anything.  It’s a lot of opportunity that comes with it and I’ve just been trying to capitalize on it and do the best I can with it.

Barry Sanders Sr. won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004. (courtesy

Loeber: Do you remember the first time you saw your dad run the football?

Sanders: I do remember going to a couple games.  I remember the first few times and I remember watching some of his highlights and realizing how great he was.  I’m still amazed at what he was able to do.

Loeber: Football or not, what’s the best piece of advice that he’s given you?

Sanders: Probably just to be the best man you can be.  We’ve talked about a lot of things off the field, but that’s probably one of the biggest things you know, take care of what you have to take care of and be responsible.

Loeber: Does it ever feel like the expectations placed on you are too high?

Sanders: If you ask me, no.  My mom and my grandpa might have something different to say but I would say no because I don’t look at it as expectations.  Like I said, it’s opportunity.  It’s opportunity hopefully to be one of the greats you know, that’s all you can ask for.

Loeber: Do you ever wish for a day or a week of anonymity, or do you kind of embrace the fact that you are the face of this (Heritage Hall) program? Continue reading The Next Barry Sanders Is…Barry Sanders

What makes a REAL dad?

by Michael Mitchell

I’ve written a lot on one of my other blogs on the many qualities I think of when I think about what makes a man a REAL man. Qualities like generosity, courage, simplicity, contentment, strength, and many others. And in many ways, those same general qualities also apply to being a dad.

Even so, as I’ve become more comfortable in my role as a new father, I’ve begun to ponder what it really takes to be a good father. Thankfully, I had a pretty good example in my own old man and so that’s been helpful, but (much like everything in life) I want to come up with my own set of standards for the kind of dad I want to be. With that in mind, I’ve started a list (for some reason, I’m really into lists these days) of what I think it means to be a REAL dad. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. A real dad gets on the floor and plays with his children.
2. A real dad looks for ways to add joy to his children’s lives.
3. A real dad is intentional about setting loving, but firm boundaries for his children.
4. A real dad doesn’t blow up at his kids.
5. A real dad is there.
6. A real dad is willing to drop whatever he’s doing from time to time just to be in the presence of his child.
7. A real dad protects, stands up, and fights for his kids.
8. A real dad gives his children increasingly more freedom to explore and test themselves the older they get.
9. A real dad imparts wisdom to his children.
10. A real dad is interested in the lives of his children.
11. A real dad seeks to know his children by asking lots of open ended questions without making them feel like they are being interrogated. Continue reading What makes a REAL dad?

Tiger Woods Needs a Hug

by Rob Loeber

He’s not the most sympathetic figure.  He’s not easy to root for anymore and he’s made a colossal mess of his personal life.  But Tiger Woods could use a hug.

The man was once on top of the world.  Woods was at the pinnacle of the game of golf and on a collision course with history.  He was one of the most dominant, mentally tough athletes of all time.  He was married to a Swedish blonde so gorgeous that countries would go to war for her.  With that wife and two beautiful kids, the Woods’ looked like the family that comes in the picture with the frame you’d buy at Hobby Lobby.  In other words, Woods had it all.

Now he seems pathetic.

Everyone knows about his fall from grace off the course, his public humiliation, and his divorce.

But he’s just as pathetic on the golf course.  Thursday’s 77 in the first round of the PGA Championship was Woods’ worst first round at a major in his career.  He hit into 13 bunkers and played the last 13 holes at ten over par.  After the round, Woods called it a “calamity.” Continue reading Tiger Woods Needs a Hug