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.
(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:
*Disclaimer: All facts reported in this article may only be facts to me and could have nothing at all to do with actual history.
You could say that I grew up in the red hills of northwest Oklahoma between Buffalo and May. I never actually lived there, but have spent a lot of time in the area and have occasional, random opportunities to go back. Not as often as in the past, but on occasion I get, or take, the opportunity to go.
Take last Memorial Day for instance. My brother and I took off the Thursday prior and ran the gauntlet of Waynoka, Buffalo and Laverne leaving silk petals behind as we went. We had a great time – took along my tattered Atlas & Gazetteer in an effort to get from place to place and back home again without straying onto a highway.
We weren’t completely successful missing the highways but we sure killed a lot of time!
My latest northwestern jaunt was for business to an area south of Gate, Oklahoma. I’m assuming Gate is so-named because it is just inside the Oklahoma Panhandle, serving as the gate to “No Man’s Land.”
You have to love a place called “No Man’s Land.” Texas didn’t want this 38-mile wide, narrow strip of land. Kansas was restricted by geography and treaty from claiming it. So, it was pinned onto the collective of unassigned lands fated to become Oklahoma.
What I found south of Gate was surprising and a little irritating. At least for a while.
You see, for at least 120 feet below the ground surface there is nothing red. No “redbed” as the old-timers like to call the red shales and sandstones. No red silts or sands such as what comprises the red hills outside Buffalo. No red clays like those that cover much of the state. Just light brown sand, gravel and a little bit of gray clay.
This geological footprint makes for an interesting drive; it’s like the undiscovered Little Sahara. There are what appear to be hills but on closer inspection are discovered to be sand dunes rolling right into the Beaver River. And the visage of these sage covered sand dunes…I couldn’t help but be reminded of Teletubby Land. My son loves it when I sing the Teletubby song. He’s now twelve years old, and was never as big a fan of the Tubbies as I.
I didn’t actually see a child’s face in the blazing hot sun (as in Teletubby Land), but after prolonged exposure I’m sure I heard giggling!
By the way, if you ever go through Gate, stop for a cheeseburger at the local café. They’re pretty good; I’ve had several over the course of two weeks. And the special on Thursdays is fried chicken. It must be good because it’s the only building within, say, thirty miles that has more than four people in it. Every table is filled on Thursdays!
Driving home from these sage-covered dunes, I began to ponder red dirt and the Red Dirt Chronicles. Oklahoma isn’t all red dirt but red dirt is a common bond. It is a bond that’s unites us in this geopolitical jigsaw puzzle called Oklahoma.
I think about all the eco-diversity in Oklahoma…I believe we have six distinct eco-regions, depending upon which source you read. Beyond red, we are a diverse mixture of urban and rural cultures and backgrounds. But we are united by the wind and the red dirt carried upon it.
It’s good to explore Oklahoma!
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.