Category Archives: Red Dirt Rambler

Red Dirt Rambler: Smokey the Bear, The Three Amigos, Okie Bambies and Ferdinand -The Hotter Than Hades Bull

Can we talk here? Don't you love the uber-retro look of older state park signs? Coming upon this particular specimen, I suddenly felt like I was driving in a 1964 Oldsmobile F-85 Station Wagon, rubber necking at the "Don't Feed the Bears" signs.
Honk, honk! "Don't feed the bears, dear!" "Okay, darling." "Thank you, dear!" "You're welcome, darling!"

 During my “Western Oklahoma, Ho!” tour, I had one ‘burning” question I really needed to investigate.  How are Oklahoma wildlife affected by the drought?

Finding the answer was a three step process.

I didn’t know it would be a three step process; I thought it would take one. One step. (I just imagined Count Dracula saying, “Von…Von Step! Ahhh-HA HA HA HA HA!”)  But I was wrong. Continue reading Red Dirt Rambler: Smokey the Bear, The Three Amigos, Okie Bambies and Ferdinand -The Hotter Than Hades Bull

Red Dirt Rambler: A Melancholy Journey Through Foss, OK

This structure looks like it was formerly a church of some sort. I called. The sales price was $20,000 and it had been verbally sold, "...but if he doesn't come through, do you want me to take your name and number? Are you interested?" Well, I was interested, but not about buying it. I was interested in the history of the structure, how it came to be for sale, who decided to close it down...and why.

If you do a quick internet search on the contemporary status of Foss, Oklahoma you’ll find several summary terms that seem to attempt a wrapping up, tying down or finishing-off of the township:  “Ghost town; semi-vacated; being abandoned; only a few people left…”

A review of the history of Foss encapsulates quite a different picture from earlier years: “In its prime, the town had dozens of businesses spread a block north and south on Adams Avenue, and another block east and west on Main Street;” “Foss had two newspapers, the Foss Enterprise and the Foss Banner. It was served by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (Rock Island) railroad;” and, “By 1912, Foss had an electric plant, two hotels and an opera house.”

I hadn’t completed an internet search, however, last week when I serendipitously turned off the interstate to finish exploring one last small town in rural Oklahoma.  I hadn’t looked at the map; I didn’t know there was a lake and wildlife refuge ahead of me only a few miles past Foss.

All I knew when I began circling the small town for signs of life was what the historical marker on the tallest point in town chose to share with me…the original settler group stayed closely together “for protection from the Indians,” Continue reading Red Dirt Rambler: A Melancholy Journey Through Foss, OK

Red Dirt Rambler: Erick, Oklahoma

The sky was reluctantly giving up the last sprinkles of moisture when I saw the “Erick” exit, veered off the interstate and headed south.  I was amusing myself with a “see how long I can go before turning on my windshield wipers because I’m just so glad it’s raining” game when I gave up and cleared my view.  I was glad I activated the wipers because I almost missed the local humor:

A “dryline” is a term used to describe the formation of a moisture boundary between warm, dry air and warm, moist air; it’s one type of weather front. In the Central Plains of the United States, dryline formation often leads to the formation of severe thunderstorms and the potential for tornadogenesis.  (Information from About.Com)

In other words, the western Okies are not only weather savvy, but they’ve probably seen their share of tornadoes and decided to joke about living in the ying-yang vortex of atmospheric possibility.

“Touche’,” I thought.  Little did I know that the artistic expression around Erick, Oklahoma had only just begun to reveal itself.

Not a mile further down the road, I spied what I can only describe as a Twister-esque image of farm-life, sculpture and practicality. Continue reading Red Dirt Rambler: Erick, Oklahoma

Red Dirt Rambler: Western Oklahoma, Ho!

On Tuesday afternoon, August the 2nd, I had reached my physical limit of everything: all the days I could work in a row, all the advising sessions I was able to think through with students, all the assignments I could possibly grade and all the hours I could sit in my office chair moving through task after task of summer responsibilities.  And while I’m sure I could have mustered the energy to grade one more paper if someone were holding Pistol Pete hostage on the university lawn screaming over a bull-horn, “We will NOT let Pete go until you grade one paper past your perceived limit!” I’m truly glad I didn’t have to.

I was done and just needed to get away.  This happens to me every Spring or Summer and is becoming a tradition.  Mick knows the power of my “I’m leaving for a couple of days, I’ll call you and let you know where I am, I’ll be safe, goodbye” message.  In fact, he now tells this to people on the phone.  I’ve heard him.

“Oh, she just has to get away for a few days.  A full school year has passed and she just needs to roam.  She’ll be back in a day or two.”

In Australia they call it “going walkabout.”  In Oklahoma, I call it “time to explore.” Or maybe, Relief. Release. Defragging. Breathing. Running Away.  One or perhaps all those descriptions work.

The problem this year, however, was that I knew wherever I chose to go I would be met with the same thing: insufferable heat, evidence of drought and swimming pools crammed with too many people trying to cool off.  So my exploration decision had nothing to do with getting away from the heat.  This time, it had everything to do with going toward the heat.  I wanted to see how bad things really were.

For weeks I had been monitoring the “OK Fires” Twitter feeds, watching as new fires were daily being reported in southwestern and western Oklahoma.  I had also monitored “#agchat” which is a weekly conversation among farmers about current issues.  They were suffering.  I don’t know why I so desperately needed to see the suffering up close and personally, but I did.  Although I haven’t lived on a farm since I left my childhood home, I still feel like an Oklahoma farmer in many ways.  I feel comfortable around farm life and people, I like to learn about agricultural issues, and I empathize when “my people” are hurting.  I made two phone calls, found a Bed and Breakfast in Elk City, booked my room and headed west early Wednesday morning.  My colleague had warned me to “Pack a water jug, Kelly.  If you break down, it could be the difference between surviving and dying.”  She’s a smart woman.  I packed a large water jug, two changes of casual clothes, sunscreen, my sunglasses and headed out the door. Continue reading Red Dirt Rambler: Western Oklahoma, Ho!

Red Dirt Rambler: Eighty Years of Osage Wisdom in a Thirty Minute Encounter

I walked into the museum and was greeted by her.  She sat at the desk, surrounded by busts of ancient Osage warriors, maps, artifacts and tribal dress displayed in glass cases.  “Do you have any questions?” she asked.  “No,” I replied.  “Not yet.”  I made my way to the corner case and began mentally walking through Osage history. The voices of other visitors began to seep through my mental fog and I adjusted my angle to take on a better view.  I gathered that stories were being told and wanted to hear them.

I glanced at her again as she sat behind her desk.  She watched quietly as two aging white men seated on benches in the middle of the room leaned in to hear stories from the middle-aged Osage they had met in the museum.  The Osage was seated on a second bench near them and was carrying two pieces of lumber. One of the white men clutched a knotted piece of Cyprus wood that had been polished by man or by Time, while the other held two books on his lap.  The Osage was saying, “In order for children to properly speak the language, their pallets have to be broken.  I remember my grandmother reaching her thumb up into my mouth.  It hurt, but the pressure of her grip helped me bear the pain.” Continue reading Red Dirt Rambler: Eighty Years of Osage Wisdom in a Thirty Minute Encounter

Red Dirt Ramblers Trip #1 Final Stop: Wagon Creek Creamery, Helena, OK

When I was younger, all I could think about was traveling and perhaps living somewhere other than my home state of Oklahoma.

When I reached college age, all I could think about was traveling and perhaps living somewhere within the region of Oklahoma, but certainly outside of the state.  Arkansas? Colorado? I needed mountains.  Or at least really tall hills.

When I reached thirty I took our children on short trips around the state and shared information with them about what sites were, the history behind them, and meanings attached to certain landmarks.  I was glad our state had cool little places like Horsethief Canyon.  For a mere $3.00 suggested donation, you can hike all day around the place and read about the “hanging tree,” imagine horsethiefs camping out by the river, and hang out with your family – which is probably the coolest part of all.

Now that I’m 47, I can’ t get enough of Oklahoma and the people living in our state.  And stops like “Wagon Creek Creamery” in Helena, Oklahoma continue to proof this thesis for me over and over again.  Can I tell you just how cool this local dairy establishment is?  Julie and I were only there 30 minutes and I think I learned more about paddocking and the milk cow rotation processes than I’ve known all together my entire life.  Our teacher?  One of the co-owners.  The classroom?  His combination office and what looked to be a dining room of sorts.  The students?  Julie and I.  And, man did we learn stuff!

Let me back up just a bit.  We had left the Vintage Inn B&B early that morning in order to make one final stop before we headed back to the greater metropolitan life of Oklahoma City.  We were nearing the farm and pulled into a small convenience store in Helena to double check our directions.  If you ever want to find anything in any small town, just find a convenience store with booths and coffee in the morning, and you’ll find a group of locals who will get you where you’re going.  That was certainly the case this time.  I pulled up, ran in to the little place, spied a group of about 8 men crammed into two booths and a couple of them sitting on stools, ran over and said:  “Hello there, local group of citizens.  I need your help!”

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers Trip #1 Final Stop: Wagon Creek Creamery, Helena, OK

Red Dirt Ramblers Stop #4 ~ Vintage Inn B&B, Alva, OK

Vintage Inn Formal Den ~ Photo by Bed & Breakfast Finder, Vintage Inn Link.

Kelly’s perspective ~

So, there we were, see…extremely full from dinner, exhausted from driving all over the state and still had one little eleven mile trip to go.  Julie’s friends were so incredibly nice to us; they really were like ambassadors to the Alva area.  They actually let us follow them down the road from Bulington to Alva and on to the Vintage Inn Bed & Breakfast. They then showed us where to park, helped us find our way inside, and then gave us a personal tour! Brenda was evidently a Realtor and had shown the house several times in the past.  She and Mike led us through the grand entry, showed us the dining room and kitchen, and then up the beautiful staircase we went to the second floor level of rooms…and then on up to the third floor level!  I’ve included two photos from their link above, but there are more if you’d like to check out their site; their bedrooms are each unique, cozy and now are furnished with large flat-screen television sets.  They also have wireless internet access, which helped us that evening because I had a post to edit!

Vintage Inn Foyer, Bed & Breakfast Finder Site - Vintage Inn Link. Ask either Lori or Sherri to tell you about how they refinished the plaster sculpting pattern on the beautiful Victorian ceiling.

What I appreciated about our personal tour provided by Brenda and Mike was the chance to hear voices of the community speak with pride about the Inn.  Every time we turned a corner, another story emerged.  Thank you, Brenda, for setting such a lovely context within which Julie and I could venture forth!

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers Stop #4 ~ Vintage Inn B&B, Alva, OK

Red Dirt Ramblers, Stop #3: The Vintage House Restaurant, Burlington, OK


Kevin (prounced kee-vun) Kraft sits down with our dinner group to tell stories about the Vintage House restaurant development after he and wife, Lori, serenaded the dining room. Kevin runs "the smokehouse," cooks the steaks, and owns the restaurant with his wife.

Julie’s view:

After leaving Dan McGuinness in Edmond, Kelly and I knew we were heading north, but we didn’t really have a set plan.  She suggested that I call Nancy at Cordero Farms.  An answering machine greeted me, so we decided to just head north on I-35.  Our other option was Alva, OK.  By this time, it was getting dark, so we decided we needed to find a place to spend the night.  Earlier in the day when Kelly mentioned we might go to Alva, I decided to call a sorority sister who lived there.  I only mentioned that we might be going that direction and that I would call her if we decided to take that route.  I added that I didn’t want her to hear that I’d been there and her be upset with me if I hadn’t called.  I laughed; she simply said that she’d know if I showed up.  Hmmm.  It turns out she was not kidding.  Kelly called the bed and breakfast that she’d heard so much about, and got us a room. One room…the only one available.  After she made sure it was okay with me that we had to share a room AND a bed after only meeting a few hours earlier we committed to the reservation.  I mean, we were in the middle of nowhere by this time.  I could also tell from Kelly’s end of the conversation that we were being invited to the local restaurant for a late dinner.

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers, Stop #3: The Vintage House Restaurant, Burlington, OK

Red Dirt Ramblers – Stop #2: Meet Up With Jim Fields at Dan McGuinness in Moore OR Edmond

Dan McGuinness - Opening Night, Edmond, OK. Photo from their FB site, taken about 3 months ago.

(Julie’s view) If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a part of the Red Dirt Chronicles for this short time, it’s that there is no topic or interviewee off limits.  So when Kelly mentioned wanting to investigate some of the local music talent, I knew I had the perfect person to interview: Jim Fields.  Jim is part owner of the Dan McGuinness Pub franchise in the Moore and Edmond areas and my ex-husband.  Don’t freak out.

Jim is originally from Bethany but connected with Lee Adams, owner of Adams Restaurants, while he was living in Memphis, TN.  Jim worked for T.J. Mulligan’s at an entry-level position and gradually worked his way into management. All the while he was missing his home state of Oklahoma.  It took some convincing, but Jim talked Lee into bypassing Arkansas all together, and they opened the Moore location in November 2006 and the Edmond location in September 2010.

We met up with Jim at the at the Edmond store.  He was in a meeting so we took a seat at one of the tall pub tables near the bar.  The sweetest waitress took good care of us while I tried to give Kelly a little bit of background information on the restaurants.  Jim joined us and he and Kelly talked for a while about some of the local music talent.

But here’s the best part:  Jim told me he had something that used to belong to me and he wanted to know if I recognized it.  We walked to another section of the restaurant and I spotted what he was talking about immediately.

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers – Stop #2: Meet Up With Jim Fields at Dan McGuinness in Moore OR Edmond

Red Dirt Ramblers – Stop #1: Get To Know Kathy Moore of Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm

Kathy Moore shares her passion with Kelly & Julie at Gray Owl Coffee.

Note: See the introduction post to this series HERE…

(Kelly’s perspective) It’s 10:00 a.m.,Tuesday, December 28, 2010.  Julie and I are headed south on I-35.  Our destination? The Gray Owl Coffee house in the heart of Norman.  She and I have spent less than thirty minutes together at this point, yet I’m comfortable and can already tell traveling with her would be just fine.  In fact, I’m thinking it might even be better than traveling by myself for this particular journey…and I’m a highly expressed introvert; traveling by myself is one of the greatest rewards I give myself.  Julie is sitting in the passenger seat with an ink pen and a half-sized legal pad, trying to write down – in chronological order – all the “Bomgardner sons” our common great-grandmother had.  Stumped with some of the missing facts, we call my dad to ask for help filling in the gaps.  As he provides the details, I become sobered when he recalls a story that was, until this point, only a brief shred of substance in the back of my head.  He tells us that one of the boys had died during a move to a new home.  They were either building or taking down a cellar and it caved in on him.  For a few minutes my mind begins thinking about the safety cellars in Oklahoma provided from tornadoes and inclement weather, and could – at the same time – be dangerous as exemplified in his story.

We overshoot our exit because I am busy talking to Julie about something.  We double back and began to make use of her iPhone GPS device; those things are handier than a pocket on a shirt.  We park and walk into the Gray Owl at the exact time for our appointment. As I enter the “best coffee place in Norman,” I begin scanning the room for any sense of recognition.  I know Kathy Moore only from her photo on the internet and have no idea when it had been taken.

I find her sitting in the middle table right across from the cash register; I know it’s her because there is enough familiarity with her website to be certain.  Julie and I head over to her table, say hello, order our drinks and settle in for what would be a two-hour narrative by Kathy of her life, her farm, her hopes that still exist, and her dreams that have been told “goodbye.”  A short version of what we gleaned from this meeting follows:

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers – Stop #1: Get To Know Kathy Moore of Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm

Red Dirt Ramblers ~ Intro, Kick-Off, and a Road Map…

In the 1970s, George Salter of the Atlanta Journal began a trek that would evolve into his blip on the radar of American History.  He would pick any small town in the state of Georgia, travel there and begin to ask around.  Eventually, he would find a story worth telling.  And then he’d tell it.  I wasn’t even aware of this work when I began to mull over traveling around our great state this past summer and taking roads not well traveled.  I wanted to meet the people at the very ends of the trails…those who had lived lives I would never experience unless I somehow came in touch with them.  It was then that one of my friends commented to me during our discourse, “Yeah, like the Georgia Rambler!”  After researching his work, I thought to myself… “Yeah, like the Georgia Rambler.  Exactly.”

But this is 2011, and my state is Oklahoma, and I’m a girl who was born some time after the Georgia Rambler so it can’t be ‘exactly.’  It might not even be ‘nearly.’  And, to begin this series I had targeted areas I wanted to learn about (as opposed to randomly just beginning to look around) – as well as wishing for a traveling companion the first time out.  Perhaps I should tell you about both of those wishes before I begin to share about the people we met and places we visited over a period of about 40 hours last week.

First…my companion:  I had as my ride-along none other than our Homestead and Garden writer, Julie at the Ranch.  A back story about her and I includes the fact that we are third cousins who never got to know each other until this past year, and that’s only because of the social networking phenomenon we now take for granted.  Julie packed her bags, loaded up her vehicle and headed toward Oklahoma last Monday morning.  Her first stop was Collinsville to see friends from her college days at OSU.  Monday night they greeted, ate, laughed and got caught up from the time they saw each other last.  The next morning, she headed to Edmond and by 10:00 we were on the road driving toward Norman.  Our agenda was loose, flexible and neither of us were highly committed to any of the ideas we were bandying about betwixt us.  In the end, however, a journey was made.  People were met.  Things were learned.  And somewhere along the way Julie and I found out just how connected our lives had been while growing up even though we never formerly spent time together.

Continue reading Red Dirt Ramblers ~ Intro, Kick-Off, and a Road Map…