Above the Red Dirt of Oklahoma
Port Silt Loam: The official dirt of Oklahoma!
The red dirt of Oklahoma is officially named "Port silt loam" after a small town in the midst of rural farm country. It is a flood-plain rich soil benefiting cotton farms, peanut and corn crops among other varied food production. Not all soil in Oklahoma is red, but it is best known for this staining hard-to-wash-out variety of dirt.
An Enduring History
Oklahoma recorded history began in 1541 as Spanish explorer Coronado ventured prairies and hills of this land, one of the younger states in the USA. Land that would be known as Indian Territory and later as Oklahoma, was part of the historical 1803 Louisiana Purchase of over 800,000 thousand acres bought from France. Oklahoma became the 46th state in November 1907, and bears the nickname ‘Sooner State’, relating to its land run history when some ‘early birds’ tried to grab their free 160 acres before the proper starting signal.
The very meaning of our state’s name is from the Choctaw words: Okla, meaning people; and humma, meaning red, and honors our heritage of Indian ancestries which include more than sixty-seven different tribes.
Map of 1880s era of Indian Territories
Remembering the Past
The tragically famed Cherokee ‘Trail of Tears’ ended in Oklahoma as our government unjustly forced native peoples from their ancestral home in southern areas of the USA to travel on foot, relocating west. Thousands died on that disastrous journey, but survivors and descendants of those brave peoples in Oklahoma overcame and rebuilt a new world: They remain a proudly successful foundation of current society in Oklahoma.
James Earle Fraser’s life-sized plaster statue in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is an emotional depiction of that trail of suffering; an unforgettable portrayal, a visual image of tragedy!
The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is well worth a visit with its antique and historical exhibits, convention room paintings, and fascinating information of pioneer lifestyle.
Indian heritage is foundational in Oklahoma.
Jim Thorpe is a famous athlete of Sac and Fox Indian heritage from Oklahoma. His athletic endeavors were known world-wide. The famed illiterate syllabarist, Sequoyah, is a now honored scholar of Cherokee heritage, though he was disfigured for life when some thought he practiced witchcraft with his ‘talking leaves’ in forming the Cherokee alphabet. He was half Cherokee, born in Tennessee moving to Oklahoma later in life. His one-room cabin near Sallisaw was enclosed in a protective building and maintained by the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1966 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Cowboys and Indians are still 'real' in Oklahoma.
After the Civil War, Oklahoma joined in a booming cattle industry which ushered in our famous cowboy era, and eventually the related modern slang, ‘Redneck’. Settlement of this new state was furthered by holding six land runs between 1889 & 1895 as opportunistic settlers came from eastern USA and several foreign countries to establish pioneering franchises. Free land and hard living were our primal foundation.
Pictures of Kinetic Progression
Some famous cowboy natives are Tom Mix, Gene Autry, & that ingenious Will Rogers of Cherokee decent. Crutcher’s Western Wear in Duncan still offers the real cowboy regalia to locals and tourists alike. Mark Crutcher’s extensive collection of old cowboy hats is on display, and he reiterates that they were worn for a working purpose, not for looks. His old hats show some of that purpose -- dirt, sweat, blood and cactus pricks. Don’t think he currently has any with bullet holes or arrowheads: Might be a hoof mark or two?
A varied unity of peoples enjoy Oklahoma togetherness.
Many African-Americans had also traveled the Trail of Tears as Indian slaves. They evolved as cowboys, settlers and soldiers, and produced several of our country’s greatest jazz musicians. Descendants of these slaves, now known as Freedmen, live as a contributing populace amongst varied Indian, German, Spanish, Polish, English, Oriental peoples, making unity of these different heritages in daily business of this state.
One archaic community of Freedmen is Jerusalem, a few miles south of Oklahoma City, where ongoing activities include a Monarch Migration Festival written about in another article here. Freedmen were granted lands in perpetuity by their Indian owners. In 2011, dissension regarding the legality of this covenant became a heated issue between some tribes and Freedmen, regarding Freedmen privileges including their right to vote in Indian elections. Federal action recently rescinded temporarily, the judgment removing privileges from Freedmen, but the debate is sadly, ongoing.
Those rolling Oklahoma hills on a misty morning.
Think of Oklahoma...and Black Gold!
Black gold, i.e. oil, was discovered in this mostly flat prairie-land, and even today is a large portion of economic stability. Tall piped flames burn excess natural gas from oil areas across the land even yet, though are far fewer than when as a child I was amazed at their eerie nighttime glows across inky darkness.
The busy Port of Catoosa in northeast Oklahoma is an industrial park which connects Tulsa to the Mississippi River Navigation System, reaching the Port of New Orleans. Incidentally, seagulls have flown this water route north from the Gulf and acclimated to Oklahoma weather, even staying during winters. Their number was notably decreased the past two years because of heat and drought, when many animal lives were distressed.
Weather, always the weather! Actually, never NOT the weather.
Oklahoma old-timers say of Oklahoma weather, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes, it’ll change”. That is jokingly stated but so close to truth it isn’t an absurdity. Wintertime can be cold and icy – slipslidey all over icy -- and a week later it can be 80 degrees. Summer temperatures may soar beyond 114 which is a bit unusual, but can dive to the 60s in an hour with oncoming storms. The scary high tornado season, which runs from spring to late summer, brings repeated siren warnings of an oncoming tornado and foretells a scrambling of people to the safety of their ‘fraidy holes’; tornado shelters, usually underground. Our warning system and coverage of weather alerts is a prize-taker for its technology in tracking storms via the National Weather Service in Norman. Incidentally, there are tourists from faraway places, who travel here to hopefully spot a real tornado. They pay to be taken on risky guided trips toward potential storm areas and hope to film that dramatic scene for an experience of a lifetime! If you saw the ‘Twister’ movie, it is not very far removed from reality!
Of course, wind is part of the weather.
Recent dynamic harvesting of Oklahoma winds is seen in a growing number of wind farms for electricity production. Canadian Valley Technology Center has training programs for wind technicians, and involves students from several other states attending. It seems to be a brisk business, as perceptive locals say western Oklahoma is windier than blustery Chicago…except in certain turbulent political times. ..
Hot or cold, wind blows in Oklahoma across wide grassy prairie land if it has rained, or across dustier plains if it has not. Waving wheat is a stirring reality of curling invisible winds, and old-timers’ remembrances of dust bowl gales are occasional talk. Its wintery force renders broken power lines laden with ice, or tree limbs weighted to breaking points with ice and fierce gusts of straight wind.
Sure enough though, on a clear day you can see almost forever!
Weather is unceasingly a conversation starter. We can gripe about the weather anytime and it brings an affable response.” It’s too hot or too cold: Too windy or too dry.” “It rained too much and cars are floating at Memorial and Penn! And down May Avenue--that always floods.” Storm season alerts make companions of neighbors or stranger-shoppers as all eyes look for a TV weather report in any mall. But, everyone anticipates the skittering rustic colors of autumn with its cool calm days of perfect temperature and breeze: Indian Summer. Oklahoma is a place of four definite seasonal changes, each with its own propensities.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter: Each in Turn.
A State of Varied Sights and Scenery
There are four mountain ranges in Oklahoma, though they would not hold a candle to the height of New Mexico, Arizona or Colorado’s peaks. These ranges are Ouachita, Arbuckle, Wichita, Kiamichi, and their forests cover approximately twenty-four percent of Oklahoma’s geological map. From grassland plains to Tahlequah mountains, Broken Bow forest and lakes to western desert cacti, Oklahoma grandly displays it all.
Oklahoma has more water shoreline than the Atlantic and Gulf coast shores combined, because of its many man-made lakes and several rivers. This measurement includes the shorelines of large water reservoir-lakes as well as many larger farm ponds so necessary for cattlemen, farmers. Canton Lake in northwestern Oklahoma and Lake Texoma near Tulsa are great fishing and recreational areas, as is the largest Lake Murray, in south-central Oklahoma. The Great Salt Plains State Recreation park near Canton Lake is a fantastic family site for camping, hunting, fishing, and digging for selenite crystals, as pictured in another hub here.
"Go West, young man, go West!"
Automobile travel in Oklahoma is regionally accessible by its three converging interstate highways: I-35, I-40 and I-44. Tourism Information Centers throughout the state offer free maps and informative brochures. Air travelers are best served by Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and Tulsa International Airport, though OKC Wiley Post Airport offers ample private jet travel. The Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, served by smaller airlines, is especially vital for military citizens who deploy via the Fort Sill military base. (Oklahoma Guardsmen have been activated in repeated deployment to the ongoing Gulf Wars, possibly more than any other state.) AMTRAK train service runs between OKC and Ft. Worth, Texas daily. More details can be found at www.travelok.com/visitor_information for additional attractions and services.
And travel west on the 'Mother Road'.
Highway 66, that famous “Mother Road’, was a first major western route for tourists and emigrates. Established in 1926 it ran from Chicago to Los Angeles and became known as ‘The Main Street of America’. Though it was displaced by the development of interstate highway systems, it remains an icon of memories for those who traveled – or wanted to travel – its route. It was officially removed from the U.S. Highway System in June 1985, but its historical folklore is greatly valued today.
Antique automobiles now, were once the thriving business on that 'Main Street of America'.
Just north of Oklahoma City from I-35 to the east, sits the famous Route 66 Round Barn in Arcadia. Refurbished several years ago, the enormous loft is available for meetings, receptions, dance parties; downstairs sports a great tourist museum and souvenir shop. A short mile west is “POPS” of Route 66 fame. It is a popular get-away drive for many folk who sip on its offering of 700 + flavors of pop while munching giant cow-burgers.
A bit further south, now, to Oklahoma City
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum has informative sites at www.nps.gov/okci/faqs.htm and several other online sites. It is a beautiful place to visit with manicured floral areas and lawns, orchards, a well-kept Reflecting Pool, the Field of Chairs, and terraced seating below the enclosed base of the Survivor Tree. Park Rangers are on site seven days a week with brochures and assistance. Admission to the Memorial Park is free through both Time Gates, and has additional walk-in street accessibility without stairways. There is a charge to enter the multi-floored Museum which also has a store for keepsake purchases. Recently announced plans are to build a glassed-in overlook extension from the upper museum floor area.
The Oklahoma Historical Museum is located across 23rd street north of the Capitol Building. There are extensive archives, historical projects and exhibits available to an interested public. Ms. Whitecotton, a charming young curator at the museum would be knowledgeable to guide you toward answers you wish. Septemberfest this year was a resounding success with free admission to varied exhibits, historical crafts vendors, walk-through museum areas, ’period costumes’, and the amazingly tiny ‘Winnie Mae’ which was flown around the world solo by Wiley Post. Twice
Two views of 'The Guardian'. One atop the Capitol Building and one with its sculptor as he prepares it for mounting on the State Capitol building dome.
Our State Capitol Building had not borne a dome until one was completed in November 2002. Atop the dome is a 21 foot statue of a Native American warrior sculpted by Chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Enoch Kelly Haney, the first full-blood Indian elected to the Oklahoma Senate. His bronze ‘The Guardian’ was his gift to the state of Oklahoma, designed representing peace and prosperity for all citizens, managed by an active defensive guardian status. The State Capitol Building sits on an active oil field and working pump jacks surround the compound. This is the only state capitol complex with producing oil wells on its locale.
More of This Red Dirt Distinctiveness. A Personal Take.
I am not native Oklahoman but have lived in the state for numerous years; have survived stressful wind and hailstorms, wintery ice storms, drought, heat, earthquakes, and imprudent Redneck jokes. Also nearly-ripe persimmons and bean pie, but not ‘oyster fries’. I accidentally ate one…once: Didn’t think it was tasty anyway,so ’hep yerself to em’! Cattlemen’s Café in Oklahoma City's historic Stockyard City advertises their delicious ‘lamb fries’ all the time. You can have mine, thanks! I don’t care if Presidents do eat there!
Informative opinion exists about this place called Oklahoma
Farmers, businessmen, cowboys and Indians, foreign laborers, students and teachers, military personnel, welfare recipients, are just the initial register of this local compilation of society. Boots are as standard fare as Nike tennis shoes–or cheapie flipflops. Cowboy hats are worn to high-society events in conjunction with tuxedos. Overalls are acceptable for ‘going to town’ as are short-shorts and tight jeans. (Yes, and some sloppy barely hanging onto the buttocks jeans.) And lots of tee shirts of course, perhaps sometimes under a denim vest.
Oklahoma is one of the ‘fattest in the nation’ and, it ‘sparkles on the Bible belt buckle’. It is listed in the top three states as being most unhealthy, so insurance fees are typically higher as are Medicare costs. But Okies are a friendly lot, and strangers don’t generally remain that way for long. Many cities are trying to go smoke-free, with even free assistance to help you ‘break the habit’. Some few stubborn old-timers might say they’d give up their cigs only for the scorching smell of cattle branding, one more time. It is also a publicized fact that McDonalds will often test their new food items in Oklahoma. We don’t care for any negativity…but we do like their fast food items!
Farming, industry, inventiveness, all work in situ.
Oil, cattle, natural gas, cotton, peanuts, vineyards and wineries, medical research, military bases, varied technologies, IWA—the ingenious wingless aircraft corporation in OKC (superousa.com), movie production, and spittin’… all have their niche in humanoid Oklahoma. It is a collective society of some few suave snooties, of friendly farmer-folk and entrepreneurs, distinctive ingenious types, an unfortunate transient or two, and sociable common folk who all may hold the name ‘Okie’ in high regard.
“Ah, Mam, Sir, welcome to Oklahoma”, is drawled with a polite ‘tip of the cowboy hat’. Well, a few bravados will also bow to softly peck a hand of the little lady too. Her guy only gets a hard-pumping handshake, though with a country smile!
Shore ‘nuff, stranger, “Welcome to Oklahoma!”.
More images of these red grains.
Your comment or suggestion would be appreciated. I hope you found the article informative.
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