George Nigh and the UUBar Photography Workshop

The photography workshop at the UUBar Ranch went so well that now i am planning a pre-Christmas ski trip with lodging at the ranch, 1/2 price lift tickets at Red River and day passes to the mineral springs at Ojo Caliente. Contact me for details and reservations.       

                   Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. George Nigh was not only Oklahoma’s 17th governor but its 22nd as well and he was the first candidate to ever win all 77 counties in the state. A beloved Oklahoman, Nigh’s list of accomplishments could fill my entire column, beginning with his career as a school teacher when he was fresh out of college. He was the second longest serving governor in the state’s history and as a state representative was responsible for introducing the legislation designating Oklahoma! as the state song.

But this week’s column is not about the man, it starts with a piece of road named for him which marked the beginning of my most recent travels.

State Highway #3 is the longest state highway in the Oklahoma transportation system. It runs diagonally through Oklahoma from the panhandle’s northern border with Colorado to the southern border with Arkansas for a total of 616 plus miles. This story starts west of Ada in the panhandle of Oklahoma where the landscape starts to change and where antelope are a common sight. This stretch of highway 3 was dedicated in 1939 and the route is basically the same today, passing through open countryside and several small towns some of which have seen better days.

Up until the early 1980s the highway had hardly been improved at all until then Governor Nigh obtained 97 million in funding to upgrade the section from Oklahoma City to the Colorado border. At the time the project had many opponents who labeled it the “highway to nowhere” but Governor Nigh was insistent on its importance. When construction was complete state officials and ODOT renamed this portion of highway 3 “the Governor George Nigh Northwest Passage” and my friends the name fits. Traffic out here is thin; especially as its wheat harvest time now and farm machinery is more plentiful than houses. There are very few trees as we know them and mini dust storms come and go. Old motels and gas stations from a bygone era sit empty by the side of the road. Although desolate this is also a beautiful part of the state with deep draws and prairie vistas.

Clayton, New Mexico is the first real town along the route west and it was also the last real town for many miles of rough terrain for the 50 people who attended Jerry Poppenhouse’s photography workshop at the Express UUBar Ranch just outside of Cimarron last weekend. The participants were treated to a wide range of subject matter from canyons and waterfalls to wildlife. The morning photo shoots were followed by afternoon expeditions to the high country where elk and several black bears were spotted (and photographed!). The famous Will James cabin is on this part of the ranch and was a popular stop on the tour. This is where James drew a self portrait on the wall and many old time cowboys carved their names on the door and on several trees near the cabin. The cabin has been preserved by Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist Bob Funk who owns the UUBar and if you are a guest there you can arrange a visit.

Although I had recently been to this part of the ranch it is still easy for a person to get lost here, disoriented by the altitude and sometimes dehydration. Rangers frequently lead rescue missions to retrieve injured boy scouts, tourists who have fallen in canyons or people with snake bites, just to name a few common scenarios. Helicopters are used to take anyone who is badly injured to the hospital in Taos or Santa Fe as both towns are at least a two hour drive from the area. Philmont Scout Ranch also has two doctors and a nurse on staff during the summer and the town of Cimarron has a half day medical clinic on Fridays.

I had heard these cautionary tales before and passed on the warnings to our group before we headed out throwing in a line of my own after everyone signed their safety waivers: “If you get hurt up here you’re already so close to heaven you might as well go the rest of the way.”

On this trip I learned that photographers will walk miles in search of the right shot. They’ll get up before the sun rises and stay up past midnight to catch the stars that shine so brightly in these mountains. They take pictures of things most of us take for granted in our everyday lives and reveal them in a whole new way. Their spouses and friends frequently accompany them on their travels and there were several on this trip who got into some mischief including a search and rescue mission and a bear who got into a cabin when a door was left open. All will be explained in an upcoming exhibit of photos from the workshop which opens October 5th at the Bartlesville Community Center.

Next week: it’s a place of spiritual history I’d never heard of before, where I met a 150 year old man and it’s an easy drive to get to. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..



Georgia O’Keefe’s Inspiration


Working on more stories about the New Mexico landscape Georgia O’Keefe loved so much…….

Welcome back.  “Where I was born and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.” So said artist Georgia O’Keefe referring to several stories written about her that she called “odd things” in the 1976 book about her life simply entitled: Georgia O’Keefe.

O’Keefe was born in Wisconsin on November 15, 1887 and as a young woman she studied art at the Chicago Art Institute and the Art Students League in New York City. She also trained as a teacher and in 1916 she was hired as the head of the Art Department at West Texas State Normal College.

O’Keefe first came to the attention of the New York art world when photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz exhibited her drawing at his 291 gallery.         During this time O’Keefe also met many early American modern artists including John Marin, Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove. Her own naturalistic yet also abstract works established her as a serious artist in an era when there were few women artists. By the mid-1920s she had become known as one of America’s most important artists.

In 1929 O’Keefe took a trip with a friend to New Mexico in search of new inspiration.They went to Taos where they were the guests of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a famous patron of the arts. O’Keefe took numerous back packing trips into the mountains and deserts of the region  and became entranced with the landscapes there. From 1929-1949 she spent part of every year working there. Then in 1934 she visited Ghost Ranch which lies 18 miles north of Abiqui, and decided immediately to move there. In 1940 she purchased a small house on the ranch and learned to drive which allowed her to go to remote locations alone to paint. Her subject matter included dramatic rock formations like “The Black Place”, a remote and still uninhabited area about 150 miles west of her home. Bones, skulls and unusual stones, as well as flowers, were other typical sources of subject matter for her paintings.

In the following years, O’Keefe rarely left New Mexico but her art continued to grow in popularity and value. In the fall of 1970 the Whitney Museum of American Art organized the Georgia O’Keefe Retrospective Exhibition which introduced her work to a new generation and increasing her popularity even further. In 1977 O’Keefe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to citizens.

O’Keefe was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 1972 and eventually stopped painting, although she continued to draw. She hired a young potter, Juan Hamilton, to work as her assistant and he taught her to work with clay, opening up a new area of artistic expression. With his assistance she produced a series of clay pots and also a group of watercolors.

Frail and in failing health, O’Keefe moved to Santa Fe in 1984. When she died in 1986 at the age of 98, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered on top of Pedernal Mountain, over the place she called the “faraway” but which we all know as Ghost Ranch.

After her death a foundation was created which established the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe which houses a large collection of her works and is dedicated to preserving her legacy. A house she purchased in Abiqui is open to the public by appointment but her home at Ghost Ranch is not available for tours.

Ghost Ranch lies next to the Sangre de Christo mountain range in a world of its own. There are fossils everywhere, the colored mountains that O’Keefe fell in love with are in plain view and an array of wildlife passes by your window every morning. It’s a must visit destination and I am taking you there next week along with visits to some other interesting spots in the area.

Adios till then when I’ll see ya down the road……………..










Honor Flights and the USS Nassau

 I want to thank Harold Schmid’s son for informing me of his dad’s connnection to this historical battle. If you know of something historical you think I might be interested in please email me.

                          Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back.  By Navy time today is 6 June two thousand and twelve and America is alive and well but on this famous day in military history seventy years ago things were different. Our country was at war on 20 August 1942 when the converted jeep carrier USS Nassau was commissioned into the U.S. Navy.

Jeep carriers or baby flat tops as the press called them, were multi-purpose ships that became proficient at finding and destroying enemy submarines. Throughout the war the Nassau performed numerous naval duties including patrol and scouting assignments and escorting convoys in both oceans. During the Pacific ocean battles the ship and her crew provided air cover for amphibious landings and ferried replacement planes to the bigger, more glamorous aircraft carriers. The jeep carriers, known as “CVEs” by the Navy, were lightly armored and slow. They were never meant for straight up combat but on 25 October 1942 all that changed when the Nassau (CVE-16) was protecting some transports which were unloading in Leytz Gulf in the Philippines.

Admiral Takeo Kurita of the Japanese Navy had four big battleships and six heavy cruisers ready to pulverize the transports and the beachhead where the unloading operation was underway. Out gunned, the relatively tiny jeep carrier, along with two other CVEs and several smaller battleships attacked Kurita’s fleet saving hundreds of lives and tons of much needed supplies.

Launching their planes and creating as much smoke as possible, the jeep carriers harassed the enemy, dropping bombs and making scraping runs. Darting between the much larger Japanese destroyers, the lightly armed vessels launched torpedoes and fired their small 5” battery cannons, all in a desperate effort to save the harbor. The plan had been for the Navy vessels to give the impression of a much bigger strike force and it worked but not without sacrifice. Only 2 hours long, the battle claimed the lives of 1,100 US sailors, two jeep carriers and four small battleships on the way to making history as one of the Navy’s greatest victories in WWII.

Each year our nation salutes this generation of American heroes. In keeping with this tradition the Honor Flights network in Oklahoma sent several dozen WWII veterans to Washington D.C. today to view their memorial including long time Bartlesville resident Harold Schmid who served aboard the USS Nassau.

Honor Flights took its first group of twelve veterans to Washington to see the memorial in May 2005. Retired Air Force Captain Dr. Earl Morse had taken care of aging veterans for 27 years and he had learned that to a man they all wanted to see the memorial.  However for many veterans, their finances or their physical condition made the trip impossibility. With many of the aging men and women dying, Dr. Morse felt he had to act. He is a licensed pilot and he took this first group at his own expense. The rest is history. Last year over 18,000 veterans were flown to Washington at no charge, many in wheelchairs, to attend ceremonies that would make the toughest man cry. Honor Flights provides a twelve hour trip back in time for America’s heroes like Bartian Harold Schmid and all the others who served, whom we should never forget.

If you want to know more about the USS Nassau visit www.nav.source.archives or

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………….