Whitey Bulger moved to Oklahoma federal prison

Welcome back.   This week its back to true crime as Whitey Bulger is now in prison in Oklahoma where Roger Wheeler’s murder occured.  But first here’s a quick review of my involvement in the case:

I was in Santa Monica two years ago when Bulger was captured. I attended his trial in Boston this past August and his sentencing last month. I hope the accounts of my meetings with Whitey’s brother Jackie as well as Whitey’s lawyers, witnesses and TV personalities  which I sent back have been enjoyable to read. For those of you visiting over the holidays, past editions of the Wednesday paper that have my column are available at the offices of the Examiner-Enterprise or you can visit my website www.originalbuffalodale.com With that said it’s on to my Christmas story of true crime.

After Whitey’s sentencing I visited with Massachusetts State Police Lt. Steve Johnson and his remarks revealed a great deal about the twenty years it took to bring down south Boston’s most notorious crime boss. It was Steve and special DEA AgentDaniel Doughtery who were credited with persisting in the pursuit of the man who has just been convicted of killing eleven people and participating in the murders of seven more. It was Steve and Daniel who opened up the first grave that held six bodies and later it was these two dedicated cops who found the bodies of Tommy King and Debbie Davis in a marsh. You couldn’t make up the stories these two had to tell.

As Whitey’s accomplices started making plea agreements, they began drawing maps leading to other bodies and telling the cops stories about the murders that were so gruesome they affected them personally.  The death of Debbie Davis was one such story.

The Davis family endured more tragedy than most during the Bulger era and hearing how the seventeen year old Debbie got involved with the gang and met her death at such a young age had bothered both of them. The description of the location was quite vague and the area was roughly half the size of a football field. A backhoe had been digging for days and the two cops dissected every scoop of dirt it brought up. It was on the last day of digging and literally with the last scoop of earth when the corpse was finally discovered. Debbie has been the girlfriend of Whitey’s hit man Stephen Flemmi . When Flemmi tired of her he decided she knew too much about his activities then lured her to a house where Whitey was waiting to strangle her. The pair stripped her, wrapped her body in plastic and duck tape, threw it in the trunk of a car and left it there for hours while they decided where to bury her. Now with the discovery of her remains, Debbie could finally be put to rest. At times the brutality of  the things they learned about was almost too much for the two cops but in the end they felt it was all worth it when they got their man.

Debbie’s brother Steve Davis and I have spoken often about his efforts to get justice for his sister and he also praises the work of Lt. Johnson and Agent Dougherty. Steve lost two sisters and a brother to the Winter Hill gang and his life has been threatened too. Steve was at the trial everyday and frequently voiced his hatred of Whitey and anyone associated with him.

The eight week trial had taken a toll on everyone by the end of August when the jury found James Whitey Bulger guilty of murder and of operating a large criminal enterprise. The enterprise lasted from the late 1960s through the 1990s and encompassed drugs, extortion, book making, money laundering and racketeering. Whitey was also found guilty of corrupting FBI agents and a couple dozen other cops who were also on his payroll. These activities had made Whitey a very wealthy man and his favorite saying at this time of year was “Christmas is for cops and kids.” Now the question is where was all the money? When he was captured in Santa Monica, the cops found over  $822,000 dollars along with some high priced jewelry and a bunch of guns. In Boston his brother Jackie recently lost his $60,000 a year pension when a safely deposit full of cash was discovered.

It’s clear that Whitey will never see any of it but what about the others? Stay tuned for the second part of this article to learn more.


The Land Report and Free Ranging Elk

Wildlife and wide open spaces are two of my favorite things…

Welcome back.  When I’m traveling I get the chance to get caught up on my reading material so with the new Land Report just out, this week I thought I’d give you this year’s report on the largest landowners in America.

Taking the number one spot again this year with two million two hundred thousand acres is John Malone. A man who loves his land, Malone bought several new tracts of property in the past year including Homewood Castle just outside of Dublin, Ireland. According to the Irish Times, he paid 9.5 million for the 38,000 s.f. structure which was built in 1867 and sits on 427 acres. In the U.S. Malone also purchased a 7.8 million dollar home in California along with a 123 acre horse farm just a stones throw away for 12.5 million.

Ted Turner is number two again with 2 million acres. Although Turner didn’t buy any big new parcels of land during the past year, he did buy the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Here in Oklahoma two families made the list again. According to the Land Report the Drummond family in Osage county is 17th with four hundred and thirty-three thousand acres and out of Yukon, Bob Funk is 59th with one hundred and seventy-five thousand acres. As many know, the Drummond empire began over a century ago when Cecil Gentner and A.A. Drummond partnered up and of course nowadays the family has added Bartlesville native Ree Drummond (aka “The Pioneer Woman”} to the clan.

As for Bob Funk, his success is more recent. A man who started out milking cows with his dad on a small piece of rented land has become one of the most successful businessmen in the world.  I’ve visited several of Funk’s ranches as well as the Drummonds’ and we as Oklahomans can be proud of the accomplishments of both families. To learn more about the 100 largest landowners check out www.landreport.com

Now from large ranches to large elk. Here in Oklahoma there are several herds of these beautiful animals including one just outside Bartlesville at Woolaroc. This group is often seen close to the road and with thirty-five cows and fourteen bulls, each weighing around six hundred pounds, their presence is nothing less than majestic. It is worth the trip to hear high pitched bugle of the bulls and with the Christmas lights up and going for just one more weekend, now is the perfect time to visit.

Here is some info about what to look and listen for when you’re around elk:

Calves are typically born in late May or June with camouflage coloring to protect them from predators.

Bulls shed and grow a new pair of antlers each year and the antlers can weigh up to 40 pounds.

Cows and calves live in groups but the bulls live in bachelor groups or alone.

Elks’ noises and physical posture can tell you what the animals are thinking. When their heads are held high with wide open eyes and rotating ears, the elk are alarmed. Laid back ears with flared nostrils, while stomping the ground with front feet, usually signals agitation.

Elk breed in the fall and guard their harems from other bulls, often leading to violent battles which occasionally result in death. This is one reason why you are warned to remain in your car when you are observing elk up close.

Another herd in Oklahoma lives on the J.T. Nickel Preserve outside of Tahlequah. Although this herd has been as large as 72 animals, they are free roaming so it can be hard to spot them but it is a beautiful preserve and well worth the drive.

If you are traveling in New Mexico you may get the opportunity to see Rocky Mountain elk which tend to be a bit larger. These are called “Roosevelt’s Elk” and the bulls which can be as large as 900 pounds are sought after by hunters who pay upwards to twelve thousand dollars for these trophies. I’ve seen them on Bob Funk’s UUBar Ranch in a place like no other called “Valley of the Giants” and my friend if you ever see one they look more like some kind of dinosaur.

Albino bear also live on the UUBar and sitings of Sasquatch or Big Foot as they’re commonly called have also been reported.

Can’t get to New Mexico you say? Well this Christmas when the family gathers take’em to Woolaroc which Frank Phillips called home. Till next week I’ll see ya down the road…



New York and Boston

More from my travels on the east coast. Check out the adorable photo of a little boy I met in New York:

Calan Ashton, picture taken in late July on the Kenai River in Alaska. These are “Reds”, red salmon. He was the best catch of the day!

Welcome back. If you’ve kept up with the trial of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger on the internet, TV, radio and in print you know his history of racketeering, money laundering, murder and more. Whitey sat silent all during the trial but his lawyers Jay Carney and Hank Brennan tell me he really wants to talk! Although Jay will no longer represent Whitey, Hank will stay on and has recently filed an appeal.

I also visited with Whitey’s brother Jackie Bulger a couple of times during the proceedings about his brother’s health. Jackie has been seeing him every week at the Plymouth County jail and he says Whitey is doing well for an eighty-four year old and is anxious to tell his side of the story about the FBI and how it all worked. Outside the courthouse and in front of dozens of reporters, David Wheeler stated that the crooked cops were just as bad (or worse) as Whitey and unless I’m seeing things this story is not over yet. Jackie has my address and I’ll keep you up to speed on events.

After the sentencing business took me to Greenwich, CT and eight days of getting up every morning at 4:15 to catch the 5:22 Metro North train to New York City. Greenwich is the former home of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel who was convicted of murdering Martha Moxley. Although the crime occurred when both Skakel and Moxley were fifteen years old, Skakel was only convicted eleven years ago at the age of forty-two. Just coincidentally, he was released on bail pending a new trial while I was there and the press was thick all over town. As for me, I was headed for a visit with Matt Lauer and I had the opportunity to speak with him on two occasions about another murder I thought he might be interested in. On my third visit the ever jolly Al Roker and Samantha Guthrie got involved and I’ve got to tell you they are as friendly in person as they appear on TV.

Dale shakes hands with Savannah Guthrie of The Today Show.
Dale shakes hands with Savannah Guthrie of The Today Show.

Here’s today’s tip: If you’re going to the show and want a good breakfast close by, eat where many of the Today Show staff do, across the street at “28 Scots”.

My adventures also took me to Times Square and the filming of the David Letterman Show. Although I was there for a reason, the show is free to attend and is quite fun.

Another fun thing to do that won’t cost you is the Staten Island ferry ride which provides regular service to and from Manhattan, giving riders an up close look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. With a small snack bar on board and views of the city like no other I’d gladly pay.  The American Indian Museum is in the same neighborhood and admittance is free there as well.

If you are new to the city I would recommend the hop on/ hop off Grey Line double-decker bus tours which feature a guide who points out all the historic sites, the apartments of famous people and many other fun facts along the route.  Sights such as Grant’s Tomb, the Dakota apartment building, Yankee Stadium and the Empire State building make this a must. The loop through Central Park is one of my favorites and at $59 for a 2 day pass you can’t beat it.

Another form of transportation I enjoy is the subway. With clean cars and maps that clearly show the routes, the subway will take you anywhere in the city much more cheaply than a cab and with far less hassle than driving a car.

Before I go I want to make one more note about the Metro North train I rode back and forth which is the cost. The fare was $12 round trip from Greenwich, CT to Grand Central Station in New York and back. Motels are also much cheaper outside of Manhattan where rooms run anywhere from $400 a night and up. The trains are clean and safe and every car has a restroom which is important because clean ones can be hard to find at times. As I’ve said before, I highly recommend a visit to NYC and with a little planning it can be very affordable. I always find the local people there mostly friendly and willing to help an old scout, tracker, translator and interpreter.

Coming up, with all the reports of great snow out west, I’ll be bringing you a report on the opening of ski season at Angel Fire and Red River New Mexico.

Till next time, if I’m not sleeping with the fishes, I’ll see ya down the road…..




David Wheeler’s Statement at Whitey Bulger Sentencing

By now I am sure that everyone knows James “Whitey” Bulger was convicted of the murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler as well as many others. Last Wednesday his son David Wheeler gave a victim’s impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Bulger. Every person in the courtroom learned what the Wheeler family went through and David’s statement was so powerful it left many shocked and upset.

After I talked with David inside the federal courthouse in Boston, he agreed to give me a copy of his statement.

As he says, this is not the end of the story …

Remarks to the Court

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper United States v. James Bulger: Sentencing

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013

Your Honor:

My name is David Wheeler. I am the son of Patricia Wheeler and the late Roger M. Wheeler, of Tulsa OK.

Here’s my father, right here: [Show enlarged photo to the entire courtroom].

My mother, I am pleased to say, is still alive; my father, Roger Wheeler, is long dead. He was murdered in cold blood, sitting in his automobile after a round of golf, more than a thousand miles from this courtroom. He was fifty four years old.

He was murdered on the orders of this man [point] James Bulger.

My sister, Pamela Norberg Wheeler, appeared in this Court last summer, to give testimony on behalf of the prosecution. My brothers, Roger Jr. and Larry, and I survive another brother, Mark. My wife, Laurie is in the next courtroom over. I cannot begin to describe how much I owe Laurie, for her love and support through this. Our son, Steven, is here also, with his wife, Meg, and his cousin — Roger, Jr.’s son — Clark.

Unable to join us today is Michael Huff, recently retired Tulsa Police Department Homicide Detective; Mike was the first detective to arrive at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club, on a Wednesday afternoon, back in May, 1981. Mike’s dogged determination to find the truth over the years, has earned him my everlasting thanks and respect. What Mike saw there, in the parking lot next to the swimming pool, was unimaginable; horrifying, to everybody but this [point] man;

This man wanted my father dead.

What has been uncovered in the years since, about the utterly corrupt, insular world that was the Boston Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is — if possible — even more horrifying, more grotesque, particularly to those of us, such as my family and I, who once trusted federal law enforcement.

My father joined the Navy during WW II and later met my mother, then a student nurse from Kansas, at an ROTC tea dance. The jukebox had broken down, and my mother asked him to fix it. A year later, they were married.

After the war, my father found work in the Venezuelan oil fields, where he learned that pipelines can be kept free of rust and leaks by attaching an anode of magnesium metal. The magnesium anode rusts instead of the pipe. My dad came back to America and started a business melting down magnesium leftovers from the war to make magnesium anodes for oil pipelines.

My father wasn’t much for watching television; the time spent with us kids was mainly reserved for the out of doors: Hiking, water skiing; fishing — one day we caught the same fish, on separate hooks! — and working together, outside. But there was one television program we wouldn’t miss; we’d watch it together: it was called — “The FBI.”

One time, Dad’s magnesium plant caught fire. I was eight years old. I went with him as he raced to save his business, our livelihood. The firemen had just arrived, and were unraveling their hoses. Dad reminded the chief that spraying water on a magnesium fire is just like throwing gasoline on a paper fire. It’s the last thing you want to do.

I watched from across the street as Dad and some of his workers raced through the gates and into the plant. I watched as Dad came up to two firemen preparing to start spraying a big hose; they refused to listen to his loud, urgent warnings. Dad stole their firehose. That was my Dad; he was my hero.

He had unlimited energy, and with some luck and lots of determination, he became an extraordinarily successful businessman.

My father’s fatal mistake proved to be his faith in the FBI. He invested millions to buy World Jai Alai, a fast moving, indoor sport imported from the Basque region of Spain. Like horse racing, it featured wagering. He purchased World Jai Alai because he thought it was a growing sport, and a smart investment, but mostly because a team of retired FBI agents, led by former agent H. Paul Rico, assured him that they would protect his business and “keep it clean.”

I was working at World Jai Alai, in Florida, at the time of Dad’s murder. I was beginning to learn firsthand that the business was anything but clean. On the frantic flight home to Tulsa that terrible day, I concluded that Rico had to be involved in the killing. But, with my strong belief in American justice, I was confident that we would quickly catch Rico and his criminal associates. Sadly, my faith in the American government was misplaced. Even today’s proceedings do not mark the end of my odyssey.

Thirty-two years have passed since John Martorano, the hit man for FBI informants — one of them seated right here — came up to my father, seated in his car, and without a word, shot him between the eyes.

This man then shot and killed Brian Halloran.

Martorano — again at the direction of this man — then shot John Callahan, the former president of WJA, all to silence them from telling about my father’s murder.

How many others were involved, in these and other FBI informant murders? Who else at the Bureau knew about these secret relationships with these vicious criminals, but turned away, said nothing, as others were murdered? Did any Supervisors or other agents care to ask any questions, connect the few, simple dots between these murders and their own informants?

How could the FBI pretend to investigate itself, give itself a clean bill of health and then just a year later bring criminal charges against John Connolly, Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi?

Where was the Justice Department in all of this? Was there no oversight at all?

My family and the families of many other victims of this [point] man were victimized by the FBI — in at least three ways:

In our case, the first was, of course, my father’s cold-blooded, pointblank murder.

The second was when the FBI repeatedly abused its unchecked powers over the decades that followed. It did this by routinely denying the existence of any special relationship with this [point] man or his partner, Mr. Flemmi; and by routinely lying to the public, to family survivors, and other law enforcement officers — such as Detective Huff — all to conceal its own gross institutional misconduct.

It used its powers to plant, destroy, and withhold evidence. It stood by, watching, did nothing as three men were murdered to keep my father’s murder from being solved.

The third time my family was victimized, came at the hands of our own Department of Justice: How misleading is that — Department of Justice.

This third came in the course of my family’s federal legal case against the FBI for its role in my father’s wrongful death. When my family turned to the federal courts to compel formal answers to serious questions of institutional corruption, the FBI, counseled by its lawyers from the Justice Department in Washington D.C. — NOT the prosecutors who tried the case before your Honor — did not and could not deny the facts;

Rather, the lawyers from Washington argued that we were at fault: That we were late in bringing any claims for the FBI’s role in my father’s murder.

Our lives had been shattered, devastated — and we were to blame!

The FBI and the Justice Department believed that they could have it both ways: They believed FIRST that they could avoid any legal responsibility to my family by resorting to the technical defense of statute of limitations; and SECOND, that they could keep the public from ever learning its role in the murder of my father, the CEO of a public company and an American citizen.

To claim the statute of limitations had expired, however, the FBI had to first confess responsibility; that’s the way a statute of limitations defense operates. If a party says it did nothing wrong, it stands to reason, the limitations clock can’t start ticking!

The government also believed that it could keep the public from learning about their admission of guilt, or responsibility by burying it deep in some legal brief, where only a judge would read it.

As it turns out, the government was only half correct: As for the FIRST part, the FBI did win —

It did avoid having to answer to my family and the American public, in open court;

The Court did accept the government’s claim that my family was at fault, for moving too slow, and dismissed our case:

So, the FBI won the FIRST round …. But they won’t win the SECOND:

Everyone within the sound of my voice should understand this — That the FBI — entrusted with the greatest law enforcement powers and authority in the nation — is responsible for my father’s murder: They are as responsible for that murder as this defendant sitting here before you.

And that’s not just my opinion; that’s coming from the FBI itself! …

Here’s how the Justice Department confessed responsibility, in a court filing:

And I quote —

“The record establishes that by this date — a reasonable person would have had sufficient facts to form a belief that the FBI bore some responsibility for both the death of Roger Wheeler and the subsequent cover-up. “

Sadly, until right now — this moment — almost nobody knew that the FBI had admitted responsibility for its role in my father’s murder and the agency-wide cover-up that followed.

This official acknowledgment of responsibility appears in no FBI or Justice Department press release or any government website. No government official ever conveyed this to me or any member of my family, in person or by letter, much less made apology for it.

We tried for years for an opportunity to uncover the facts, to establish this responsibility, to call the government formally to answer, to account in a public forum.

It arrogantly refused; it sought only to protect itself and the names and all important careers of its agents and officials.


When the time came to stand up and answer for the many horrific crimes of its own making — including my father’s murder — the FBI, through its lawyers in the so-called Justice Department, didn’t hesitate to hide behind this technical dodge.

It whispered its responsibility, to a federal judge, only so it wouldn’t have to answer to me, my family, and the American public.

Shame on you, Mr. Bulger, but for all your notoriety, you are a punk and don’t even matter anymore: you have turned from government-sponsored assassin into a bag of jailhouse rags waiting to be stored on cold steel. Enjoy your retirement.

Greater shame on all of those who helped you — whether FBI or private citizens — while you were on the run; those who tried to protect you from seeing this day.

Greatest shame of all on the FBI, and in particular, those agents and officials who violated their sacred oaths, who defrauded the special trust of the American people.

My family and I have nothing but contempt for you.

Ocean Spray Cranberry: An American Classic

I have moved on to NYC but will be bringing you an exciting exclusive from my visit to Boston shortly. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my tour of Ocean Spray.

Welcome back. I am currently in Boston covering Whitey Bulger’s sentencing which I’ll get to in a bit but on the way I ran into another interesting story. The headquarters of Ocean Spray Cranberry is just outside of Boston and every autumn the bogs near their building are flooded with 8 inches of water and the next day the cranberries are harvested from the surface of the water.

I’m sure you’ve seen the TV commercial with the two Ocean Spray workers standing knee deep in cranberries. Well that’s where I was yesterday. So what is a bog you may ask. I learned from the company’s website that it is a soft marshy area with highly acidic peat soil. The cranberries grow on long runner vines and when the bog is flooded they float to the surface because they have small pockets of air in them. The growers use a tool called a water reel or eggbeater to loosen the berries from the vines. Then the berries are  corralled together and loaded into trucks which take them to factories where they are cleaned and packaged for grocery stores. This is called “wet harvesting.”

“Dry harvesting” is different because the growers use a mechanical picker that looks like a lawnmower to loosen the berries. The picker has metal teeth that comb the berries off the vines and deposits them in burlap sacks. This whole process from growing to harvest was quite interesting and totally new to me and after further research I found that the commercial cranberry business itself is not that old. Ocean Spray was founded in 1930 by three men who loved cranberries and wanted to sell them across the country. Now 83 years later there are over 700 growers all over North America providing cranberries to the company. But it’s not just about cranberries anymore. Beginning in 1963 with the introduction of Cran-Apple juice the company began branching out to include red grapefruit juices and dried cranberries for breakfast bars, cereals and snacks. The plant I visited was a lot of fun and they welcome visitors so if you’re in the area I recommend a visit and a healthy fresh made drink.

With that visit behind me, as you read today’s paper I’m sitting in the Boston federal courthouse just feet from James Whitey Bulger. I am sitting next to Steve Davis who Whitey basically referred to as a dead man in a letter sent from federal lock-up a couple of weeks ago. I caught up with Steve yesterday and he does not seem to be worried even though his brother Ronnie Davis was stabbed to death in 1981 and his sister Debbie was strangled by the gang and put in an unmarked grave where she was later discovered. Steve’s other sister Michelle also ran into trouble with the Winter Hill gang that Whitey ran when she was raped as a teenager by confessed multi murderer Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi.  Michelle later committed suicide. Flemmi and John Martorano were convicted of killing Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler who was shot in 1981.

Although the judge has ruled that a representative of each of the eleven murder victim’s families will have an opportunity to speak directly to Whitey today and tomorrow, Steve will not be one of them. However I anticipate that he will have his say one way or another. As for me, I have gone through official channels and have asked Whitey’s lawyer personally for the opportunity to interview Whitey but I won’t know what will happen until later today. Stay tuned for that!

I am also hoping to speak with John Martorano who after confessing to twenty murders in a plea deal and spending fourteen years in prison is a now a free man living in Boston .Sparks flew when Martorano testified against Whitey during the trial and I anticipate that he will be at the sentencing to see his old friend off.

Steve Davis, Whitey Bulger, John Martorano and more, then next week it’s on to New York City. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…..









Dale Kurht: When Will the Mystery Be Solved?

Another profile of a man I was lucky to know…

Welcome back. This week after all the comments I received about my story regarding the passing of Paul Kelly, I thought I’d start off with a profile of the man who was Paul’s boss and the overall all manager of both the farming operation and cattle production on the Cross Bell Ranch back in 1970.

I tracked Dale Kurht down in 2007 when he was living in retirement and training stock dogs in Arkansas. After I had visited with him several times, out of the blue he produced a large cardboard box filled with files and photographs documenting the time he had spent on the Mullendores’ ranch.

As we looked through all of these materials, Dale told me that he had been hired in 1969 by E.C. Mullendore to help run the ranch. From the way he described it he had plenty of experience for the job.  He came from four generations of farmers and ranchers and his great-grandfather had homesteaded the land Dale was born on. Dale was also a member of the American Hereford Association and a long time 4-H judge. He was managing the Codding Cattle Research Station near Foraker, Oklahoma when E.C. contacted him about the position. He said that when he was hired he thought nothing could touch the Cross Bell Ranch where he had heard the Mullendores themselves were not even sure how much land they controlled. Dale had been moving up the ladder, managing one large ranch after another, each one bigger than the one before. He had also worked at several big spreads outside of Oklahoma including the Milky Way Hereford Ranch in Phoenix,the Lucky Ranch in Loyalton, California and the Baca Grant Ranch in Moffat, Colorado.

In his line of work Dale told me this was the ultimate-the top of the heap- and he jumped at the chance to go to work for the Mullendores.

Dale’s records indicated that there were thousands of head of cattle, hundreds of pigs and over fourteen hundred horses, a herd of Texas longhorns and several dozen free roaming bison on the Cross Bell. Another twenty-three race horses were stables in Louisiana. It took sixteen feed trucks, eighteen full time men and a string of day laborers to work on all the different parts of the ranch. There were ongoing improvements being made to all areas of the operation including the construction of two Honegger houses for birthing pigs. Each house could hold 480 pigs, tripling the size of the hog operation. New shipping pens were being built along with fifteen miles of new fencing each year, a new fed lot, six new barns and an irrigation system that took care of four hundred and fifty acres where alfalfa would be planted. With over a thousand miles of fencing and cross fencing to be maintained and constant repairs to ranch vehicles, dozens of tractors and other ranch equipment I was surprised to find out how big the operation really was even though I had heard about the Cross Bell Ranch my whole life.

Paul Kelly and Dale had stayed in contact in the years following the tragic murder of E.C. Mullendore in 1970. Although they lived in different states I would often drive to both places in the same day to visit with both men to confirm details about their time on the Cross Bell while fresh in my mind.

I mentioned in last week’s column that Paul had recently been questioned about E.C.’s murder and Dale was also interviewed by Osage County investigators the same week.

During a phone conversation which he allowed me to record as usual, Dale told me that the investigators had driven to his home in Arkansas twice and conducted several phone interviews as well. The questions they asked him were similar to the ones they had asked Paul and they indicated to Dale that the Mullendore murder was indeed solved. Unfortunately Dale died of heart failure not long after this conversation. Will this mystery ever be solved and why has it taken so long?  The answers to these questions rest with Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan, a man with a reputation for seeing justice served.

Till next week I’ll see you down the road…..











1970Paul Kelly’s Tie To The Muellendore Ranch

Since this story appeared in the Examiner Enterprise I have had many inquiries from readers both locally and from around the country.

Welcome back. Over the past ten years I have included many biographies in this column, some of famous people that many of you may have heard of and just as many about people I have known personally and think have special stories. This is about a person who falls into the second category and who recently passed away.100_1320

I first met Paul Kelly in the summer of 2006. At just over 6 feet tall and about 180 pounds he was in excellent shape.  Easy going and frequently smiling, Paul had a disposition that reminded me of Andy Taylor from Mayberry in the old Andy Griffith TV show and from the beginning I found him extremely likeable. Paul had grown up in the small Osage County town of Grainola, Oklahoma which is northeast of Ponca City on the Kansas border. When he was a kid his mother worked as a cook on Boots Adams’ Foraker ranch which later became the Oklahoma Land and Cattle Company.

In 1969 Paul was 26 years old and had earned a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. In addition, growing up on a farm had given him plenty of practical experience in farming and livestock management. He had worked for several years at the Coddington Livestock Research Station before taking a position as a County Agent in Emporia and Chace counties in Kansas. This is where he was working when E.C. Mullendore III contacted him about running the farming operation on his massive Cross Bell Ranch. According to Paul “It was a good job and the Mullendores were good people to work for but it only lasted a year and a half.”

I knew from prior research that Paul had managed thousands of acres of farm land on the Cross Bell and had been responsible for all the men and machines required to make it productive. Over the course of several taped interviews Paul confirmed the details of his work on the ranch and what he thought was his small role in the dramatic events that took place there in 1970.

As an employee of the ranch he had been questioned in the initial investigation but heard nothing from law enforcement until 2010 when Osage County investigators asked him to come into the Sheriff’s office.  Paul told me that during this meeting he was questioned for over an hour regarding the murder of E.C. Mullendore. At the time the investigators told him that the case was solved and arrest warrants had been written which were awaiting a judge’s signature.

Paul had a good memory and gave me a thorough account of this meeting with investigators which was confirmed during my subsequent visit the next day to the sheriff’s office.

It was after that when I told Paul that I had been subpoenaed by the Attorney General to appear before a multi county Grand Jury looking into the murder. I had also received an unauthorized visit from one of the grand jury members who told me that they had never received any of the documents or tape recording that I had been ordered to release to them. This gentleman wanted to review my information hoping that the case could be finally closed and justice done. This contact between a jury member and a witness was way out of bounds but soon after Paul and I discussed it, he discovered he had cancer. Although we stayed in touch his health became far more important than the unsolved murder from decades before.

All of this makes interesting reading but this small piece of history about a good man’s departure from life certainly does not tell the whole story of Paul Kelly, a man who I wish I’d more time with.

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


Hockey and Basketball in Oklahoma City

A few thoughts on New Mexico, Giant Sloths and Oklahoma City Sports…

Welcome back.   I’ll start this week with the scoop. Want to see the Philmont Scout Ranch and Waite Phillips’ famous UUBar Ranch in New Mexico? Would you like to see the high country valleys, streams and wildlife but you just don’t have the time to travel right now? Well my friends the photographers at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) have just opened an exhibit of photographs taken in the area this past spring. The exhibit is in the Lyon Gallery at the Bartlesville Community Center and its free and open to the public whenever the building is open. You’ll see vistas of the country at 10,000 feet and images of wildlife that seem so close you can almost feel their breath. There are images of cowboys, long abandoned adobe houses and much more. One more note: every spring a photo workshop is held at the UUBar led by Jerry Poppenhouse and the instructors from OSUIT. The workshop is open to the public and all of the instruction is free.

This next story may send you to the library to find out what fossils look like. Have you seen a Mastodon or a Giant Ground Sloth lately? Along with wooly Mammoths and bison bigger than trucks they roamed this area once and now there’s proof that early humans were here as well. It was 8,000 years ago when a hunter looking for deer or buffalo shot or dropped his projectile point within what would eventually be within the Bartlesville City limits. The projectile has a medium to large stemmed point. The stem is broad and the base often has a lobed appearance. According to researcher Jerry Poppenhouse this type of point was probably used with an “atlatl” which was a type of throwing device used to propel the point, making a spear that could travel up to 90 miles per hour. This hunting tool was in use hundreds of years before the bow and arrow. It is not uncommon to find similar projectile points in southern Missouri and east of the Mississippi River but they are rarely, if ever, found here. I have been sworn to secrecy about the exact location so all I can say is that the artifact was found east of town. As we all know, 8,000 years after early man hunting within the city limits of Bartlesville is illegal but maybe it wouldn’t be if there were still Wooly Mammoths around.

Moving on, I have recently been working on a project in Oklahoma City which has given me the opportunity to learn more about the many attractions and entertainment venues there. One of the places I have particularly enjoyed is Myriad Gardens, the large botanical garden center in downtown OKC. In celebration of Halloween and the fall season, the gardens are hosting Pumpkin Village which includes over 3,000 pumpkins and features displays, games and activities for all ages. The Oklahoma History Center is another fascinating place to visit with permanent and rotating exhibits on the history of our state and an extensive research center. Of course the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial is a must visit, as sad as it is, the memorial is a beautiful and moving tribute to the victims of the bombing.

In sports of course there is the men’s professional basketball team, The Oklahoma City Thunder but you many not know that the Edmonton Oilers’ minor league ice hockey team, the Oklahoma City Barons are just opening their season. From the things listed on their website this looks to be a lot of fun and I’m sure to be reporting more about them soon.

Museums always capture my attention but Oklahoma City also offers first class hotels and restaurants, as well as shopping, concerts and lots of other exciting places to explore that are too numerous to mention here. Just a two and a half hour drive away; it’s a perfect weekend getaway. Traveling myself to keep you in touch.

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





Planes, Trains and Automobiles

My schedule will be unpredictable for the next 60 days or so but I’ll keep you posted.

Welcome back.   I often look back at the travel experiences I have enjoyed and shared with you through this column and my website.

I hope you have enjoyed these reports as I’ve found interesting places and people (both living and dead) all across the country. I’ve driven our national highways and spent the night in accommodations that ranged from camping on the south rim of the Grand Canyon to mom and pop roadside motels to luxury resorts like the Madison Beach Hotel in Connecticut. There’s been cross country train travel on AMTRAK and regional travel on the Metro North line into New York City. I’ve been hiking at 10,000 feet at the UUBAR Ranch in New Mexico and camping in many state and national parks. From the Thimble Islands off the East Coast to the Channel Islands in California, everywhere I’ve gone it’s been by car, rail, boat, horse or on foot.

You won’t find any articles about airplane travel or airport terminals. Flying is not my favorite thing and I’ve been able to avoid it. All that is about to change and in preparation I’ve been doing a little research. 2012 was the safest year on record for flying: almost 3 billion people flew on 37.5 million flights but there were only six crashes and 75 accidents. A total of 414 people died which apparently (according to Wikipedia) makes flying as dangerous as riding an elevator and 23 times safer than driving.

Denver is the country’s largest airport with a total of 34,000 acres but Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International is the single busiest serving 45,000,000+ passengers. Overall the combined activity of the 3 airports in the New York City area, JFK, LaGuardia and Newark make this airspace the busiest in the country and the 2nd busiest in the world with over 54,000,000 people flying in and out of the area in 2012.

With that said, get ready for my reports on the flying experience, convenience and airline safety in the coming weeks as I take you with me by air around the country, coast to coast, border to border.

Although wet for part of the time, the Western Heritage Days held in Dewey this past weekend was a tremendous advertisement for the community. The event showcased what a town can accomplish with the right leadership and a team of dedicated volunteers. From what I saw on Saturday it could snow a foot and their spirits wouldn’t be diminished! With near record attendance out at Prairie Song for the Wild West Show Tom  Mix would be happy.

Another area I want to mention this week is downtown Bartlesville. Just a few years ago many storefronts were empty and some of the buildings were in rough shape. Friends, that is no more and with the announcement that Hideaway Pizza is opening on the corner of Johnstone and Frank Phillips in Clyde Sare’s building (formerly May Brothers) I’m predicting that the few remaining empty buildings will fill up.

Haven’t been downtown lately? Now’s a good time to check it out.  From Mark Spencer’s new Indian Coffee Company and his latest restaurant The Painted Pony. (formerly Two Sisters Pub) to the well established favorite Frank & Lola’s there’s plenty of great food. There’s also one of a kind shopping at Lulu’s Boutique, McCoy’s Jewelry, Sweet P’s and the ITIO building just to name a few spots. In the morning there are always biscuits and gravy on hand at Weeze’s and the Bartlesville Farmers Market has a few more Saturdays left with wonderful produce and fresh baked goods from the rolling Pin.

Of course we also have world class attractions on hand downtown including the Price Tower Arts Center with its spectacular views of the city, the ConocoPhillips Museum, the Frank and Jane Phillips Home and the ongoing events at the Bartlesville Community Center. Yes I’ve seen historic sites, met intriguing people and visited places around the country where history has been made but I’m always proud to tell people about Bartlesville and Dewey and the many exciting opportunities they offer.

I’ll end this week with a museum update from Oklahoma City. The longtime Director of the Western Heritage Museum, has accepted a position in Nebraska heading up the new Rural Life Institute and is leaving December 1st.  The museum is truly a must visit when you are in Oklahoma City.  Remember, you get in free if you are a member of Woolaroc.

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





Tragic Deaths in Oklahoma

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend two celebrations in support of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore which got me thinking……

Welcome back.   It’s been 78 years since Will Rogers’ death and 75 years since the museum in Claremore was created to preserve his legacy. Thursday night was the time and the Will Rogers Museum was the place to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Former three time Governor George Nigh was there along with university presidents, judges, big name entertainers and over 400 of Will’s fans.

Family members in attendance included James K. (Kem) Rogers from Bakersfield, CA who was Will’s grandson and his daughter Jennifer Rogers Etcheverry who also lives in Bakersfield.  I’ve interviewed and written about these two before and their dedication to keeping Will’s memory alive both here in Claremore and in California at the Rogers’ ranch.

State funding for the museum has declined significantly in recent years and this fundraiser, called “The Event” , was organized to help cover this gap in the funding needed to operate the museum.  This was the first fund raiser of its kind at the museum and from what I could see it was a great success with plenty of high dollar sponsors and well known personalities who donated their time to help draw a crowd. The entertainment, highlighted by legendary fiddle player Jana Jay, was outstanding and the food was excellent. Visiting with the Will Rogers clan was also exciting but for me the real star of the evening was the museum itself. Every time I come to the museum it is like visiting an old friend. It is a pleasure to walk through the hallways reading about a man who truly had it all yet was always humble. As it says on his tombstone “He never met a man he didn’t like.” The museum is always open so check it out.

The fun didn’t end on Thursday as Friday night Cain’s Ballroom hosted day two of “The Event”. My friends the Red Dirt Rangers with fiddler player Randy Crouch opened for Jessie Colter. Jessie was Waylon Jennings’ wife and she is both a mean piano player and a very soulful singer. She and Waylon’s son Shooter, who closed out the night’s entertainment, had a big crowd going nuts all night and everyone was enjoying this celebration in honor of an Oklahoma legend.

Of course I couldn’t leave off talking about Will without mentioning the recently released memoir “I Called Him Uncle Will” in which the author, Will’s niece, reminisces about her travels with him. Now in her 90s, Doris “Coke” Lane Myers distinctly remembers her uncle’s whit and wisdom, as well as the love of country he inspired in his fans.

Governor Mary Fallin loved the book as did Cherokee chief Bill John Baker. Written by someone who was there when Will died and witnessed firsthand the effects of his death on people around the world. It’s a must read.

Another Oklahoma tragedy that has turned into legend is having an anniversary tomorrow on September 26. That night in 1970 was a typical September night, with a heavy dew falling that was so wet you could write your name in it. It was a night that made Oklahoma history and brought heartbreak to one of the state’s leading families. Stories were invented but the facts were few. A recent documentary claimed that the murderer told a private detective how it happened and that this evidence has been turned over to the law enforcement.

After 43 years will justice be done and myths put to rest based on the evidence that this investigator has? It remains to be seen. The murder of E.C. Mullendore II is another of Oklahoma’s most famous tragedies.

I’ll end this week with a favorite epigram of Waite Phillips’ written by  Will Rogers. Will and Waite were close personal friends and after Will’s death Frank and Waite were instrumental in the development of the museum.:

“A man only learns in two ways-one is by reading and the other is by association with smarter people.”

Till next week I’ll see you down the road…