Today was a four-state day. I started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and before the day was done, I had been to Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri.
George Robertson, another fraternity pledge brother, met me at the Fairfield Inn at 8:45 am. He brought me a delicious Toll House Pie that he picked up special from Clicks Steakhouse in Pawnee, Oklahoma. We spent a little time together, and George gave me directions to several of the sights to see in Tulsa. Marquis, the desk clerk, chimed in when we asked him what was the most unique sight to see in Tulsa. He informed me that there is a much smaller version of the World Trade Center in Tulsa – designed by the same architects who did the World Trade Center in New York. Exactly the kind of unique sight I was looking for!
At Oral Roberts University, I saw the world’s largest praying hands. This is an incredible work of art that is much more impressive in person than it is in photographs. The hands are massive, and the detail is incredible. I also saw the Prayer Tower.
George suggested that I then take Riverside Drive into downtown Tulsa. It was a nice drive. He also indicated I should be on the lookout for giant penguins. There are apparently giant penguins all over town. I’m not sure what the deal is – may be a Stanley Marsh 3 type thing, but I was tickled when I spotted one at the First Christian Church. Just a big, well-dressed penguin statue.
I found the mini World trade Center, the Williams Towers, in downtown Tulsa. I also found the old art deco bridge that used to carry Route 66 traffic.
In Catoosa, I was so pleased to see the famous Blue Whale. This is a giant whale with a slide in its side. The Blue Whale was originally built in 1977 as an anniversary gift, and it then became a swimming park. It closed in 1988 but was recently fully refurbished, and it was in great condition.
Claremore is the hometown of Will Rogers. I went through the Will Rogers Museum, and it was outstanding. It is in what was his primary home, and it’s filled with information and artifacts that cover his career, interests, hobbies, politics, airplanes, radio, movies, and more. There’s a beautiful theatre in one wing, and Bob Hope narrates a Will Rogers story. Will Rogers is buried right there on the grounds.
Just down the hill from Will’s place is the Hammett House, a place that came highly recommended for pies. I ordered lunch, and then caught the eye and ear of Bill Biard, the owner. The next thing I knew I was getting a cook’s tour of the Hammett House Pie Kitchen. It’s a big, big operation. They were preparing for Mother’s Day, and they had several hundred individual Strawberry Pies ready as well as 30 or 40 other pies of various types. Bill’s favorite was the unusual Lemon Pecan, and I enjoyed it. Amber, my waitress, told me to get the Coconut Cream (their best seller), but I figured I owed it to Bill to eat his favorite after the tour and all. I also met Ashley and Jessica, two sisters who work there. There were a lot of cute kids working there, and it was a very busy place. Bill gave me a bag of their Mashed Potato Rolls to take with me and eat on the road. Absolutely delicious!
I saw the old Will Rogers Hotel in downtown Claremore. Claremore is another very patriotic town with lots of flags flying.
Foyil is the hometown of Andy Payne. Andy Payne won the Bunion Derby in 1928. He ran cross country – New York to LA – 3,422 miles in just a little over two months. An amazing accomplishment. Foyil is also the home of Totem Pole Park. Similar to Coral Castle and Tinkertown, Totem Pole Park represents the life’s work of one man – Ed Galloway. Ed was a self-taught artist and craftsman. He retired from his job with a children’s home in 1937, and he worked 7-days-a-week for the next 25 years to build Totem Pole Park. The world’s largest totem pole is there – 90-feet tall, 18-feet in diameter with a circumference of 57-feet at the base. Ed worked on it from 1937 until 1948. He also made fiddles; there was a building full of beautiful fiddles that Ed handcrafted.
Thunder and lightning were on both sides of the road as I drove through Chelsea, White Oak, and Vinita. In Afton, everyone was out on their porch watching the really nasty looking clouds to the north. I don’t know how I did it, but I again missed the rain.
My plan for Arkansas was to detour off Route 66 at Afton to head over to the border, touch my foot down in Arkansas, and take a picture of the Welcome to Arkansas sign and an Arkansas license plate. I saw some funky stuff in Grove, Oklahoma – a Cinderella’s Carriage at the Cheapo Depo and a trailer loaded with small lighthouses. I never dreamed there was a big market for small lighthouses to go in people’s yards or on their boat docks. Like the Human Dildo in New Orleans and the Snake Charmer in Hollywood, Residential Lighthouse Maker just isn’t an occupation that you think about.
I reached Arkansas about 4 pm, and I stepped over the line, took a picture of the Welcome to Arkansas sign, and even managed to get a license plate photo at the corner where I took the Welcome sign photo. But then I felt bad about slighting Arkansas. Arkansas probably gets the short end of the stick a lot of the time, so I decided to drive into the nearest town of Maysville and look around and take some photos.
I stopped at the Maysville Handy Stop to get a Coke from the machine out front. I ran into a nice couple from Bentonville; Charles is a veterinarian, and Kelly is a hotel manager. We talked for a while, and they drove off. When I turned to put my money in the Coke machine, I saw three men looking in my direction from a bench just inside the Handy Stop, so I decided to go in and say hello. I walked out two hours later. It was a fascinating time with three hard-working Arkansas chicken farmers. Actually, I was told to make that two chicken farmers and one RANCHER. Troy and Steve are chicken farmers. Dean is a RANCHER.
Dean’s wife of 49 years died last year. He decided to ask a woman out on a date just recently. There was a woman back in town who he once danced one dance with back in high school, and she had been recently widowed. He called her and asked her out. She accepted but then called a day or two later to cancel. Her daughter didn’t want her to go because “you’ll get stuck out there on that nasty old chicken farm for the rest of your life.” Dean has a couple of cows, so he has now decided his love life will be improved if he considers himself to be a RANCHER.
I will write much more later about my conversation with Dean, Troy, and Steve. The life of a chicken farmer is a tough life, and these men work incredibly hard to make ends meet. I thought it was very telling when they talked about how much better a lot of their friends have it when they get old and get put into a state old folks home. They told me that rural America is dying. I sure hate to see that happening. There’s just something out of whack when farmers have to work so hard to earn so very little.
When I asked Dean, Troy, and Steve if I could take their picture, they were eager. I asked them to sit closer together, but I couldn’t get them quite as close as I’d have liked, so I snapped the best shot I could get after I twice tried to get them just a little closer. Some folks came in while I was “posing” the guys, and they were asked “hey, what’s going on.” I believe it was Troy who responded: “We’re gonna be on the INternet!” I wish I had it recorded. There’s no way to write it the way it sounded. My sense was that they were excited about being special – something almost all of us like.
The little forks in the road continue to amaze me. If I had followed my original plan, I would have never seen the Handy Stop in Maysville. If I hadn’t pulled up the second Charles and Kelly came out with their Cokes in the old-fashioned bottles and hadn’t spent a few minutes speaking with them, I’d have never noticed Dean, Troy, and Steve, and I’d have dropped my quarters in the Coke machine and headed back to Oklahoma. That’s the optimistic view of things that I choose to have.
I didn’t see a lot for the rest of the day. In Miami, I did see the beautiful Coleman Theatre, a great old Speed-A-Way gas station, and an old motel or two. In Commerce, the hometown of Mickey mantle, I saw a sign heralding the Future Home of the Mickey Mantle Museum as well as a little Route 66 landmark, the Rock Shop. I enjoyed the city limits sign in Quapaw — proud of Miss Indian 1999.
Kansas became state number 12 about 7:30. I was going to sample the pie at Murphey’s Restaurant, but it was closed. I took a few photos in Galena and Riverton, and then I was in Missouri. Route 66 covers just 17 miles in Kansas.
I was on the side of the road in Joplin, Missouri when a pickup truck pulled up behind me. I couldn’t see inside. I cautiously approached the driver’s side, and I was relieved to see Lois, Jordan, and Wynoka rather than someone who looked like Harley’s cousin. Lois stopped when he saw I was taking a Route 66 photo just to give me ideas on places to go and sights to see along Route 66 in Missouri. Little Jordan was just as cute and sweet as could be, and she seemed so honored when I have her one of my business cards as well. What nice people!
I drove off to see if I could still get in the Joplin museum that Lois told me about. It took me a little while to find it, and a pickup truck pulled in behind me. Lois and Jordan dropped Wynoka off at the Wal-Mart, and they were just coming to see if I found it okay. We talked a while more. Jordan had this big smile on her face and seemed to really be enjoying all this boring talk about the Boots Motel in Carthage and other spots along the way. I asked Jordan if she had ever seen a man wearing beads before. She replied, “No, I haven’t.” I asked her what she thought when she saw me. She said” “I thought your beads were pretty and that you looked very nice wearing them.” What a doll.
I was mighty sleepy when I finally pulled into the hotel in Springfield about 10:30. I’d have to backtrack some more tomorrow.
Lesson for the day: Arkansas is just as important as California, Texas, or New York. There are wonderful people to meet and get to know anywhere you go, and you will probably learn more from three chicken farmers in Arkansas than you will from three attorneys in Manhattan.