Category Archives: Every Point on the Map

EPOTM: Cashion, OK (He IS The Job)

The Cashion PD interior was screaming for an HGTV renovation.  Informational messages spewed over the radio system, violently punching an otherwise quiet rural setting.  And Joshua Farrety, Assistant Chief of Police, was preparing for our conversation by finding just the right angle on his chair: far enough back to provide relief from the bullet proof vest he sported, and forward enough to balance his frame.

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Five minutes earlier, Farrety had been on the phone with his Chief who had encouraged him to speak with us.

“She said the experience would do me good,” he retorted.

His put-off tone was counterbalanced with a subtle grin that gave away his enjoyment about the opportunity to represent the agency.  Assistant Chief Farrety was asked to speak on behalf of the department, and he wasn’t going to let them down.

The City of Cashion was the fifth stop on a six-town, one-day run, so by late in the afternoon Rachel and I were more than a little jocular (read: adolescent).  Try as we may, however, Farrety stayed mostly on message.  Even when we chided him about his “lady friend” buying the groceries he remained fairly regulated.

I’m not sure if speaking with a rural Oklahoma policeman was the impetus for “the adolescent” in us, but when I watched our video this past week, my respect for Farrety strengthened.  He was the job.

He was the job…whether it was to:

  • serve up their mission statement,
  • volunteer for the local fire department in any spare time he mustered,
  • or give it up to the reserve police officers across the state who enable towns like Cashion to stay covered when their budgets don’t meet the warm body demand it takes to keep their area safe.

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When I think about the shoestring budgetary funding of local fire and police operations, I’m at the same time impressed in how they made ends meet, and infuriated at the salary levels provided to those who risk their lives every day.

I left our discussion that evening with a few thoughts running through my head.  In no particular order, they are:

  • I would imagine the Cashion PD doesn’t give a damn about their level of office decor;
  • If I was ever in trouble, I’d feel just fine knowing Farrety was involved in some kind of police action to keep me safe; and,
  • I’m incredibly sheltered in my job at the university.

Thanks, Farrety and company, for pulling over the man high on pot so he didn’t kill someone while driving. Thanks, specifically to Josh, for putting up with our interrogatory nature. And thanks, Chief Veronica Thomas, for letting him handle the discussion.

He was the job, and he did just fine.

***

Video clips from our conversation with Josh below. For more on our project, visit the “About” page on this website. The video ending was extended without visuals to highlight our featured artist, Sherree Chamberlain’s song: San Fran, from her album New Skin.

Cashion, Oklahoma is a small town on the boarder of Kingfisher and Logan counties.

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EPTOM: Schoolton, OK (Letter to Robert)

Dear Robert,

When we parked in your driveway, the first thing I noticed was a medium-sized cluster of tomato plants growing under an eastern window.  The gardner in me instinctively checked out the ripeness of your harvest, and wondered what breed you were growing.

The second thing I noticed was a Duck Dynasty poster attached to the siding outside your home, as if you were making a statement to those who visited.  I never asked you about it, but after speaking with you for more than an hour, I’ll bet a story exists we just didn’t get around to discussing.

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The third thing I noticed wasn’t about the environment in which you lived; it was about you.  Your willingness to sit and talk with us for a while was gracious, and the patience you provided us as we set up our equipment, jerry-rigged with hair bands, cotton balls, and no tripod for Rachel’s large format camera, was humbling.

We were both embarrassed for having set out on a two-day journey with essential elements left behind in Oklahoma City. Your easy spirit buffered our anxiety; it was you who helped along our work, not us.

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From that point forward, I don’t recall sequential memories of our stop at your Schoolton home.  I remember pockets of information I’m now writing because our microphone wasn’t plugged in all the way.

Our time with you, and the fact that we don’t have audio documenting our conversation, is probably the deepest regret I have of our Every Point work to date.  So, I’m going to do my best to share with those who read these words, insights about who you are and why we appreciated our time with you so much:

Robert, I admire you deeply.  You raised your sister’s six children because she was in jail.  Then, you raised your daughter’s two children due to her cycle of jail and rehabilitation.  You take them on camping trips, manage a blow up swimming pool for them during the hot summer months, and have friends who will watch them for you during your trips to the doctor or other errands.

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You hold up your Creek Nation heritage with honor in so many ways.  From sharing their newspaper and Creek Language CD with us, to the stories you shared about your land, your home built by your people, and the funerals. You even attended an Indian school in far northeast Oklahoma.  

All the information you shared with me was new.  I didn’t know your tribe provided $250 for food when a member died.  I didn’t know that funeral times with families last for a few days, or that gifts like blankets are given to the family.  

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I didn’t know that you could have your own family cemetery on the land where you lived – and how beautiful, to walk out your front door each day, to be able to glance over at your wife’s and other family members’ headstones on your two-acre patch of earth.

Your perseverance in so many areas of your life struck me deeply.  In 1979 you were in a car accident that gave you a serious knee injury, and took you to the Muscogee hospital year after year.  Providence must have had His hand on you, because during your appointment when the doctor was to give you the news that you would be undergoing an amputation, your knee began to heal. 

Your humor was good medicine for Rachel and I.  Thank you for the story that she posted on our Instagram account about the local sheriff:

"Robert lives on res land in Schoolton and is Turtle clan of the Creek Nation. One of the few times he chuckled while he was speaking with us was when telling a story about how only Lighthorsemen can come on his land and he had a stand off with a local Sheriff who would park his car across the street and wanted to give him some random traffic ticket, and Robert would just sit on his porch and wave, knowing the sheriff 'couldn't do sh*%.' It was hilarious."

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I’m glad your friend Tiny is so close, and so honest, and so funny.  It was great seeing you two interact with each other.  I loved it when Tiny said, “Oh yeah, we talk all the time.  We just sit out here and solve everyone’s problem’s but our own…just like two heifers!”  It was fun to see you laugh at Tiny’s jokes. And, I love it that Tiny willingly watches your grandchildren if need be.

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I really struggled when you answered  a question in a way I didn’t expect.  I asked what you had hope for, or had learned along the way….and you paused, thought for a moment, and then said, “I don’t know…I just feel…bored.”  

I wondered if that was your way of telling me to you have lived your life raising the children of the women in your family, and that you’ve not ever really done something completely for you.  I don’t know what you meant by that, but I feel like I want to go back to your house and hear the rest of what you didn’t say.  And if you couldn’t come up with an answer, maybe your friend Tiny could tell us.

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Robert, I want to tell you that you might feel “bored” sometimes, but you are FAR from boring.  You have a cool braid, cool glasses, and a beautiful Water Bird tattoo on your arm. You take time for your grandchildren and I can tell you really care about them. You are great to sit and talk with on a Saturday morning, and share cool stories about the Creeks.

And, you put up with us.

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That’s it, Robert.  That’s all I can remember because I didn’t write too many notes that day.  I thought we had all our discussion on video when we headed down the road to our next stop.  But instead, we have you in our minds, and our hearts, and we hope you are doing well.

All my best,

Kelly

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EPOTM: Crescent, OK (Parallel Processes)

Kay Whitfield’s neatly shaped white hair shone against her bright blue eyes, pink shirt and Oklahoma-weathered skin. Rocking casually in the light streaming through her sunroom’s windows, she shared stories about her life, her family, and her passions.

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A calm energy served as the foundation for her resolved personality.  Kay was someone who has taken stock in what the world has to offer, and staked her claim in the Crescent, Oklahoma earth at a spot where balance, ideals, hard work and hope intersect. Where reflections about her husband bring tender descriptions of his patience with children, and where reflections of her teaching days bring tearful descriptions about “touching the future,” now that she’s retired.

In many ways, Kay embodies what I imagine a case study on “core traits of Oklahoma women” might reveal: problem solvers, resilient, and determined.

Shortly after her first husband completed his time in the Oklahoma legislature, “the war came” (a divorce) and rather than resigning herself to a life of scrapping together what she could muster financially, she fulfilled a two-year teaching contract for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in Germany. Returning to Oklahoma so her youngest son could complete his senior year at his hometown high school, Kay was ready to restart her teaching career locally.  And ready to begin her “post-war” life in Crescent once again.

She finished a “war” by spending time working for the DOD.

This was the first in many parallel processes I noticed in our discussion with Kay.  Indeed, she even has strikingly similar physical characteristics to her mom who had just died that year, even though she describes her personality as much closer to her father’s.

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A photo of Kay’s mother, chosen by family members, exudes an outdoor and adventurous spirit.

The home we were visiting had originally been a hotel built during Crescent’s boomtown days.  Kay had purchased it at an auction for $10,000 dollars and restored it to a beauty that reflected not only the original aesthetic, but in many ways reflected the owner.  The walls were simple, the furniture period-appropriate but comfortable, the art on the wall reflecting various artists perspectives.

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The Whitfield home on the day we visited.

Similarly, her son had returned to Crescent after a career-changing journey brought him home, and he ended up purchasing a building in downtown Crescent for $4,000.  He and his family restored that building, and now he serves as mayor of the town.

See what I mean?

She told tales of her mother’s family, crossing the Arbuckle Mountains in a wagon where they were traveling to the next paying job their father could find.  As a child, her mother chalked the horse-drawn wagon wheels with stones so it wouldn’t roll down the inclined earth where they rested.  I thought about Kay, shoring up the structure of her home, piece by piece, room by room, so it wouldn’t “decline” as she progressed in her own life.

Kay lives in a historical building, now her home for many years, and taught history at Crescent public schools.  She currently partners with the local museum, gathering historical facts about their area to assist with documents they produce. She taught history, lives history, and supports historical documentation.

Kay married a former University of Oklahoma wrestler, and I thought about how pieces of her life she shared resembled wrestling matches: decisions along her way, or with plans to set forth the best historical trip for students and parents…and eventually family members.

On a wall in her front dining room, another artist had drawn the old home from her own perspective.  This artist was Kay’s granddaughter, Taryn.

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As Kay talked about her plans to save photography or needlework for the times in her life when she can’t move around quite so freely, I thought about Taryn’s interpretation of her grandmother in the artwork above.  She had drawn Kay looking out the front door of her home with a smile on her face saying, “Hi!”

Perspective from Kay's front room, looking our her front door.
Perspective from Kay’s front room, looking our her front door.

I have no doubt that someone in Kay’s family, quite possibly Taryn, will continue the Oklahoma history Kay’s mother and her own family started so long ago.  Someday, that might be Taryn in the doorway, drawn by her own granddaughter.

However their story turns out, one thing is clear.  Families like Kay’s are made better because members like her honor the full experience of their own histories.  And, because she takes care of her stories, her home, and her family, she is – without any doubt whatsoever – fulfilling her own hope of “touching the future.”

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33 Down. 561 To Go. Happy First Anniversary, EPTOM!


It’s been 18 months the since Every Point on the Map began to take shape, 15 months since we began planning our first trip, and as of today, it’s been exactly one year since our pilot run to Carney.

Today, we’re sharing a meaningful conversation with each other. Sitting together in the outdoor section of RJs Supper Club and Lounge, Rachel and reflect on various aspects of our first year.

To those of you who have begun to join us by reading or sharing our journeys, we are grateful.

And year two, we can’t wait to meet ya.

Kelly, Rachel…and now April, too.

EPTOM: Cedar Valley, OK (“Duffy IS Cedar Valley”)

Editor’s Note: Duffy Martin passed away on the evening of April 17, 2015, just a few weeks short of his 99th birthday. Our team is grateful for the beautiful day we spent with him last summer, and hope this piece helps honor the memory of an exceptional Oklahoman. ~ 

***

Sitting in the dining room of Duffy Martin’s home just off the 11th hole at Cedar Valley golf course, the four of us were rolling with laughter.  Duffy had just activated his “Handigas” fart toy for the fourth or fifth time, punctuating the sound effect needed for another story. Continue reading EPTOM: Cedar Valley, OK (“Duffy IS Cedar Valley”)

EPOTM: Guthrie, OK (She Doused Us In Validation)

Missy Hancock said “Yes. Of course. I’d love to,” immediately without hesitation.

An image of what it must feel to be involved in a post-game Gatorade bath flooded over me.  In my mind, electrolyte-filled orange liquid pressed down over my head, hit my chest, ran down my arms and torso. Success, on our first “ask” in Guthrie!

Continue reading EPOTM: Guthrie, OK (She Doused Us In Validation)

EPTOM: Navina, OK (The Day Our Nose Hairs Melted)

We had just left a rather bizarre conversation with a policeman in Cashion and were headed back home when we spied the “Navina” sign.

The central Oklahoma town, if one can call it that, sets just off Seward Road, between May and Pennsylvania Avenues, basically in the middle of pastureland.  The elongated rectangle of road, measuring about three-quarters of a mile at the most, is home to only a few houses.

And one shiny grain elevator. Continue reading EPTOM: Navina, OK (The Day Our Nose Hairs Melted)

EPTOM: Holdenville, OK (“The Best Place on Earth”)

We were playing chicken with the Sun, pushing our last stop that day  as we swirvingly navigated through a crowded parking lot full of cars bearing license plates from all over the U.S.

The scene: The “Expo” building on the Holdenville fairgrounds.

The event we were trying to crash: A 50-year Holdenville High School class reunion, lovingly given a “Prom 2.0” theme by those who had been planning the event since their 45th “Prom,” five years back.

The whole city of Holdenville seemed like an eager high schooler, all dressed up for a party. Continue reading EPTOM: Holdenville, OK (“The Best Place on Earth”)

EPOTM: Tulsa, OK (God Bless George Kaiser)

While we continuously sort through what our project is, we are fairly certain of what it is not.

Every Point on the Map was never intended to serve as a vehicle for promotion of business, places or people.  Rachel and I have already had several discussions about how to decline when someone asks to be the person we speak with in certain towns.

We neither intend to sell features of certain locations, nor do we intend on framing them with any perspectives other than those shared with us by our participants. Continue reading EPOTM: Tulsa, OK (God Bless George Kaiser)

EPOTM: New Lima, OK (By the Grace of God)

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Rachel and I drove in circles around Lima and New Lima, Oklahoma on a hot summer Sunday afternoon.  We failed at our task: trying to distinguish a border between the two towns.  So we asked the locals and received a brief history lesson about the boundaries, and who we might talk with when we reached each side. Continue reading EPOTM: New Lima, OK (By the Grace of God)

EPOTM: Little, OK (The Bathroom Ghost)

_DSC0061Rachel and I were standing outside in the August sun, waiting patiently on a woman to finish her cell phone conversation. She looked like an overdressed Flo, talked with a vernacular that could only be Alabaman, and made eye contact with us every thirty seconds holding up her index finger as if to say, “I’ll be right with you.” Continue reading EPOTM: Little, OK (The Bathroom Ghost)

EPTOM: Wewoka, OK (Or…How Tori is Getting Her Groove Back)

_DSC0104Dimples slay me.

Regardless of race, age, creed, color or sexual orientation, dimples have always slayed me.

They were the first thing I noticed about Tori. The second was the fact that we were sitting at a picnic table talking to this sixteen year-old girl who had a hundred year-old soul. Continue reading EPTOM: Wewoka, OK (Or…How Tori is Getting Her Groove Back)

EPOTM: Cromwell, OK (or Willie Simpkins and the Board of Education)

_DSC0045Everything about our visit with Willie Simpkins surprised me.

We felt we were too far into the Cromwell countryside to find someone, but  there was a home that beckoned us.  No one looked home when we pulled into Willie’s driveway, but he answered the door.  And although his face looked like “no” was the inevitable answer to our key question, he said yes.

Continue reading EPOTM: Cromwell, OK (or Willie Simpkins and the Board of Education)

EPOTM: Criner, OK

_DSC0096(click photo at left for full view) -CRINER, OK.

When we were driving into Criner the only thing my mom had been able to find out about the town from a quick LexisNexis search was that they had a Superfund site, and that there was a lady who got in an argument with her neighbors because her goats were…ahem, fornicating in her front yard and the neighbors didn’t much care to see this particular act of nature.  So heading into town we were sort of hoping to talk to goat lady because we thought that story was hilarious, but as it happens we found someone else in town to tell us her story. Continue reading EPOTM: Criner, OK

EPOTM: Meeker, OK

_DSC0126“You could probably just talk with anyone here.  We’re all like family…that guy just had a horse kick the valve stem off the tire on his trailer, so I helped him fix his flat.”

Rachel and I had stepped outside the car to find out what the assembly of hundreds of trailers, horses, and people was all about.  The man explaining the flat tire scenario had been looking at us with anticipation as soon as we told him about our project. Continue reading EPOTM: Meeker, OK

EPOTM: IXL, OK

_DSC0215Mother’s Day Eve, 2014, was full of more emotion than I would have liked.

Rachel and I had just finished our conversation in Boley and were cruising north on Highway 48.  We were running out of daylight, and had thought we might get to Bristow in enough time to find a good dinner.  We needed to debrief; our heads were full of pieces of life that needing sorting. Continue reading EPOTM: IXL, OK