Category Archives: country life

the thursday thirty, issue seventeen.

i love oklahoma. my state is beautiful, rugged, simple, tranquil, and richly diverse. condensing all it possesses into just 30 places to go/things to do in the sooner state wasn’t easy, y’all – but it gave me a chance to reflect on the people, sites, and activities that make our land grand. [disclaimer: none of these photographs are my own, but have been used from various state tourism sites.]

  • moutain view free fair: okay people – if you’ve known me for two seconds, you’ve likely heard me rant and rave about my hometown’s biggest yearly event. the first weekend of august marks oklahoma’s only running free fair, complete with one of the oldest ferris wheels still operating in the united states. the fair is the pride of our town, and is a time to return home and visit with old classmates who have left the simple life for the big city. this august 5th-7th, you’ll find me chowin’ down on calf fries and homemade ice cream from the junior and senior stands, operating the kiddie cars with my mom, and taking part in a phillips family showdown at the basketball shootout booth. oh man. i’m already getting excited. :O

  • medicine park: if i could choose in advance where i will retire too, this would be it. this tiny town (not far from my own) is nestled in the wichita mountains, with a creek that runs right through town and buildings made from gorgeous native rock. it’s home to two of my favorite restaurants – the old plantation and riverside cafe – and boasts an annual red dirt ball. sitting on the benches and bridges by the creek to people watch is one of my absolute favorite things to do.

  • meers: i guaruntee you that meers, oklahoma, is the only place on earth where you can see an operating seismograph, order a massive burger, and check your mail. it’s a tasty restaurant, a post office, a general store, and a state landmark. i’ve never been there when it wasn’t completely full of hungry patrons. and heck, i even met former governor george pataki of new york there once. it’s just down the highway from medicine park, and is a regular stop of ours on the way to the wichita mountains.

  • wichita mountains: these are the beauties i can easily see from my front porch when at home in mountain view. a wildlife refuge exists within their valleys, and is another popular destination for our family.

  • oklahoma city national memorial & museum: fifteen years ago, our state was changed forever by a senseless act of violence. today, this gorgeous memorial and moving museum serve as a celebration of 168 of our neighbors. visit. sit & be still. soak it in and walk away with an appreciation of their lives.

  • POPS: one of my favorite route 66 landmarks, POPS restaurant and soda ranch boasts over 500 flavors of soda pop – complete in their cute, multi-golored glass bottles –  inside of an iconic gas station. it isn’t just an eaterie, y’all. it’s an experience.

  • wormy dog saloon: since i’ve turned 21, this hotspot for live red dirt music in oklahoma city has become my most frequented concert venue. :)

  • oklahoma city festival of the arts: each april, downtown okc is taken over by vendors and their amazing works, and it’s such an ecclectic and fun atmosphere. and the food rocks.
  • p-bar farms corn maze: i grew up visiting this maize maze (see what i did right there?) in the fall, and even braved it’s haunted version one halloween – for all of about five minutes. in addition to their amazing designs in the corn fields (which change each year), the farm hosts pumpkin picking at the patch, hayrides through their fields, and agricultural education for school groups. in high school, i attended a local leadership camp with the owners’ youngest daughter. they’re a sweet, down-to-earth family who genuinely love what they get to do! 

  • festival of light: each winter, the town of chickasha decorates its park with amazing christmas lights displays. walking through or taking a carriage ride inside the park makes it really feel like christmastime. i can’t even convey to you how beautiful it is, so i’ll just show you!

  • eskimo joe’s: this famous bar & restuarant in stillwater, oklahoma, will celebrate it’s 35th year in july! besides being one of america’s top college sports bars, joe’s has it’s own line of merchandise, ranging from t-shirts (which i’ve grown up wearing in every color imaginable) to their signature tumblers (which are all my family drinks from!). the environment at joe’s is just as good as its food – oh, and some of my favorite local red dirt bands play live there weekly. :)
  • chuck wagon gathering: there are few events that probably make me look more country, but i don’t care: the chuck wagon event at the cowboy hall of fame in oklahoma city is one of the best things since sliced bread. my uncle and his travelling roping troop even performed here once. yeah, it’s a big deal. the best part about this? authentic chuck wagon crews prepare amazing cowboy favorites for the crowd to sample – cobbler, stew, and biscuits, anyone?
  • oklahoma city museum of art: gorgeous exhibits live here. and our permenent collection of dale chihuly’s blown glass is my absolute favorite. visiting the museum makes me feel sophisticated and big-city.
  • uco jazz lab: i’d never heard live blues or jazz music before going to the lab, but found a new appreciation for it very quickly.
  • bricktown: bricktown is the entertainment district of downtown oklahoma city, and is essentially the hub of the city. i love the feel of this area and all of the events and attractions it offers, such as…
  • opening night: opening night is a huge new year’s eve celebration that takes place in bricktown, with live bands, theatrical performances, and fireworks at midnight. several venues downtown host rotating events that opening night attendees can check out – heck, this is even where i saw my first roller derby match. the evening has something for all ages, interests and interests!
  • falls creek: generations of oklahomans have been raised on going to this camp each summer with their church youth groups, and i’m no exception! tucked away in the arbuckle mountains of southeastern oklahoma, falls creek is the world’s largest youth encampment. it honestly feels like its own town, and hosts over 45,000 campers each summer. to get to my grandparents’ farm in dougherty, oklahoma, one must drive through part of the camp. it’s a beautiful setting, where lives have been changed for over 90 years, and it will always have a prized place in my memory.
  • two frogs grill: i clearly have a thing for restaurants that double as concert venues. two frogs grill in ardmore, oklahoma, is good eatin’ and good listenin’.
  • rose hill school: one summer, while attending history camp at a museum in guthrie, our whole group visited this one-room school house (with its original furnishings) for a day. we dressed in period clothing, carried our old-fashioned lunches in syrup buckets, and wrote with a quill and ink. it was wild, y’all.
  • oklahoma history center: this museum, located near our state capitol building, truly brings to live the heritage of our land. it’s truly one of the best museums this side of washington, d.c., that i’ve had the pleasure of walking through.
  • calf fry: oh heavens. how does one begin to describe the annual testicle festival that takes place each summer at the tumbleweed dancehall in stillwater? if you don’t know what a calf fry (in the culinary sense) is, here’s a blunt explaination. it also refers to the cook-out event itself, and this one includes four nights of red dirt concerts. it’s a rough and rowdy event, but it’s also a blast.

  • red earth festival: this is one event on the list that i haven’t been able to attend, but i’ld love to the next summer i’m available. the festival features native american artists and dancers from throughout the nation.
  • jake’s rib: i’m sorry, i love to eat. this is one of the best bbq joints known to man – and i’ve been to quite a few. located in chickasha, it’s the perfect spot to stop for supper before hitting up the festival of light! i mean, just look at those curly fries. and you get to keep the cups!

  • quartz mountain resort: driving through and camping next to the quartz mountains in southwest oklahoma was a regular occurance in my first 18 years of life, and their beauty still take me by surprise. several years ago, this gorgeous lodge and arts and conference center was constructed next to the lake that sits in the mountains’ valley. this just might be on my list of possible places to get married one day – it’s just that purdy.

  • scenic highway 115: this route twists through my hometown to the countryside of southwest oklahoma, and is one of my favorite drives. this’ll get ya to some of the lovely places i mentioned above – medicine park, meers, and the wichitas.
  • hideaway pizza: since 1957, hideaway‘s beein serving up the best pizza (and fried mushrooms) in oklahoma. their location in stillwater is my favorite!
  • illinois river float trips: the lower illinois river that runs through the northeastern portion of our state is the best canoe stream we have. i’ve only taken a 12-mile float trip on the river once, but it was one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities i’ve gotten to do in oklahoma!
  • oklahoma sports teams: we’ve been fortunate to have talented semi-professional sports programs in the state for awhile, and now have our own successful nba team! i love going to redhawks baseball games, yard dawgz arena football matches, and even roller derby throwdowns. i’ve yet to go to a thunder basketball game, but i have high hopes of accomplishing that soon. :D

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summers’ thirsty acres.

we would usually hit up the akers’ in-n-out convenience store first thing as we pulled into the tiny town of dougherty. it’s where i was first introduced to moonpies and the stars on tootsie pop wrappers. we’d weave through town and take big canyon road out to the country, and i’d get such a fluttery feeling when we’d round the corner closest to the farm. we’d unlock the cattle guard and roll down the long driveway. the neighbor’s black dog, creatively named blackie, would follow us the entire way and wait impatiently outside of the car door to offer his sloppy kisses.

we were home.

my grandparents’ farm in southeastern oklahoma is where i spent weekends and holidays and summer breaks, where i drove a car for the first time and bottle-fed calves in the early mornings. on our 450 or so acres, we raised beef cattle and hay, and picked pecans from the grove just for us. it wasn’t out of the ordinary for a cow to poke his head in the window of the bathroom as i sat in the tub – or for us to name our most beloved hefers and calves (red and junebug were always my favorites). there was an entire closet filled with games, toys, and books that belonged to our mom and her siblings when they were our ages. when we weren’t engrossed with those novelties, we could be found in the kitchen eating granny’s homemade biscuits off of her beautiful pfaltzgraph dishes. papa would sit at the table and read his newspaper when he wasn’t working outside. he always said that farming was the closest to God anyone could get. and when i think about it really hard, i can remember what his sweet voice sounded like.

that beautiful, maize-colored home was taken from us when i was just five. the house caught fire, and my papa got my granny and aunt out safely. they crawled on their hands and knees down that long, gravel driveway to the neighbor’s home. papa wanted to get one of the vehicles out of the garage, so that he’d have something to take his wife to the doctor and his daughter to dialysis in. he was always thinking of someone other than himself. the smoke and flames were too powerful. i miss him so much. 

going to the farm was never the same journey it was before the fire. i picked through the remnants of the house and collected anything i possibly could that the flames didn’t consume – pages from my aunt’s old louis l’amour books, broken bits of granny’s dishes, old medicine jars and pieces of the porcelain tub i sat and talked to the cows in. aunt vivian passed away in 1997, and granny followed two years later. we go to the farm these days to tell stories from the past, pick pecans in the fall, and check on how that beloved piece of land is doing. summers’ thirsty acres – it’s my absolute favorite place in the world.

where is your favorite place? 

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hometown glory.

i spent a small chunk of my adolescence craving to move on to what i thought were bigger and better things, and i firmly believed none of them would be found in my hometown. i thankfully lost this sour perspective fairly quickly, discovering how much i loved being able to say that i hailed from a tiny town with so much to offer. this past weekend i made a spur-of-the-moment visit with two of my dearest friends to my home in southwest oklahoma – mountain view.
i spent my first 18 years on the same street in the same house, staring at the wichita mountains from my front porch and watching the sprinklers shower the lawn my dad took such pride in maintaining. i graduated from high school with a class [nah, family unit is more like it] of 16. these were the kids i made mudpies with, began kindergarten with, fished and camped with, and worked alongside in the summertime. for every seemingly rough thing about living in the boondocks – like being an hour away from any wal-mart! – there are endless things i love about where i come from. wouldn’t you like to know a few?
having complete control over all of the intricacies of planning a graduation ceremony is a luxury for most, but our small classes have such fortunate freedom. our class of 2007 decided the football field was the perfect spot, which allowed us to invite and seat as many loved ones as we could convince to come, and made throwing our caps up to a background of fireworks possible. :) and, had i grown up anywhere else, being crowned prom queen my senior year never would have happened. and believe me, i ain’t forgettin’ it.
the wisdom of neighbors and elders in mountain view was such a priceless gift. a heritage of hard work, faith, and appreciation for all circumstances permeated my upbringing here. what a blessing. help is also always available, whether you’ve requested it or not! i remember stopping by the post office late one evening after work, and accidentally locking my keys in the running car. of course my cell phone was inside, so i sat on the curb wondering what my next move should be. another car immediately pulled up, and the driver’s offer to run by my house and grab a spare key is nothing unusual in my neck of the woods.
and oh, the mountain view free fair, a three day celebration when every former dweller returns to ride the state’s oldest running ferris wheel and eat calf fries [yes, it’s what you think it is.] from the junior/senior stands. the state fair’s got nothing on us, friend.
opening up my mailbox each monday to find the mountain view news gives me a little piece of home in the middle of a whirlwind semester. i’m thankful for the wheat fields, backroads, and wide open skies of where i come from, and pulling back into town each time i visit makes my heart skip a beat. what do you love about your hometown, big or small?

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