Time Goes By

Thanks for staying with me as time goes by…….


                      Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back. As today is the first day of spring, I am reflecting on just how fast time goes by, especially when you’re traveling. Just in this past month alone, I have taken you to a professional basketball game in Oklahoma City and introduced you to Kevin Durant. I covered two Oklahoma State ball games in Stillwater that I hope were interesting reading along with interviews with Travis Ford and a previously little known freshman, Marcus Smart. By all accounts Smart will probably be the second or third pick in this year’s NBA draft if he decides to go pro.

I’ve also brought you some stories about murder this month. These stories always seem to generate the most feedback from readers, especially the true ones! Time is a precious thing. A man I truly admire, Waite Phillips, once said that “the only things we keep permanently are the ones we give away!” That quote which is just one of dozens of epigrams that Waite kept in his pocket everyday expresses the fleeting nature of life and it is the starting place for this week’s column.

I was fortunate enough to play a small role in the photo workshop which Jerry Poppenhouse organized last June at the Express UUBar in New Mexico.  Jerry and several professors from the photography program at OSU-IT led the workshop and it was a huge success. After the workshop Jerry organized an exhibit of the photos that the participants had taken and published their work in a popular coffee table book. The workshop was so successful that  a second one is planned for June 13-15.

This is where Waite Phillips’ quote comes in. Already known as a generous supporter of worthy causes around the world, the present owner of the UUBar is clearly following in Waite’s footsteps. This week on behalf of Bob Funk, I was proud to present the first Express UUBar Ranch scholarship to Ricky Cuellar. Ricky was selected by his teachers at Bartlesville High School and he will receive an all expenses paid trip to the ranch to attend the workshop. Ricky will also tour Philmont Museum and get a chance to hang out with the hundreds of scouts who come there every summer from all over the country. He’ll hike the high country and see elk, deer and bear. At night he’ll learn about the important role that the Cimarron area played in the development of the west. Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and the killer Clay Allison were all guests at the nearby St. James Hotel. I’m sure after he hears these stories that dreams of their legendary exploits will fill his head when sleep catches up with him. It will be a great trip for a young man and without the help of people like Waite and Bob it would never have happened.

Jerry tells me there’s room for a few more people on this trip so if you’re interested call the UUBar at (575) 376-2035 and ask for Kathy.

Another story that I wrote about a few years ago had to do with the medical procedure known as “colonoscopy.” I personally had one done when I turned 50 and followed up with another at 54 and then that was it. Well now at 61 I’m overdue and I bet many of you are too.

Dr. Gopi Vasudevan told me it’s easy to forget about this procedure because you don’t have it done frequently but he warns that this is still a very important test. I remembered that the stuff you drink before the procedure didn’t taste very good and that you couldn’t eat much except clear liquids for a day or two. I also remembered that the procedure itself was painless and it only took about half an hour. Once home I slept like a baby. So why had I put mine off? Being busy or afraid is no excuse. +No, I’ve faced much more danger in the wilds. Money? No most insurance companies cover colonoscopies and there’s even a special program to help if you’re uninsured and can’t afford it. For some reason it’s just an easy thing to put off but I’m not doing that any longer and you shouldn’t either. Call Dr. Vasudevan or get a referral from your primary care doctor, it might just save your life.

I’ll end this week with another of Waite’s epigrams and till next week I’ll see ya down the road…

“Real philanthropy consists of helping others outside of our own family circle, from whom no thanks is expected.”




The End of the Trail

A bad end for smugglers…..

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 This week I’d like to start things off a little differently and give you the scoop first. I was in Stillwater for Saturday’s men basketball game when OSU played Kansas State and I got to witness a team in action that I think has a shot at greatness this year. Look for the Pokes to go far in the NCAA tournament.

With that said, welcome back to part two of “a tale of murder.” The disappearance of the two young smugglers from Mexico who were just passing through wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. The risk of arrest and/or death was just part of the business. Greed was common among the lower ranks of the smuggling trade and it was not unusual for mules to steal loads of pot from their employers.

Back in the late 1970s there were lots of American men with money looking to score some weed along the border. This story is about one of them. Although highly successful with legitimate businesses, he was drawn into the smuggling life by the challenge and excitement of operating outside the law. The two murdered smugglers might have been linked to him but given the size of his enterprise and the vast number of pot smugglers running the Mexican border during this period they could have just as easily been working for someone else.

His dad was a New York City banker who had made millions and raised his son with the best of everything. He attended private schools and a chauffer would pick him up every day and take him home. The boy was a gifted student and his father made sure he was also tutored in areas such as manners and etiquette that would prepare him for the privileged world he was expected to live in.  As the family’s wealth grew trusts were established that ensured financial security for the boy and future heirs as well.

By the time the boy was in his thirties he was successful businessman in his own right and had also received quite a bit of money and other assets held by the trusts. His father had died and his mother was just barely hanging on in an assisted living facility in Manhattan.  Like many other free spirits in the 1960s he ended up in Tucson, Arizona, looking for a different way of life. He fit right in there and after buying a showcase home for himself, he opened a construction company which bought and remodeled high end older homes and then re-sold them. Next, he set-up a travel agency specializing in high end tours for wealthy people. He created the itineraries himself and they always reflected his own wealth and taste. He purchased a steel company and a fleet of trucks to haul product back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border.  This acquisition was followed by the purchase of several smaller affiliated businesses. His travels often included trips to New York, Denver and Mexico and anywhere in-between that his growing empire seemed to take him. He flew on his own private Beechcraft King Air or his back up plane, a 1972 Cessna 421B.

Eventually his business interests took him to Santa Fe, New Mexico and then to Albuquerque. In Albuquerque he started a string of upscale restaurants and turned an empty warehouse into the hottest nightspot in town. For seven years his clubwas the undisputed king of night clubs in a city known for wild nightlife and for seven years he bought anything that caught his eye. From Tucson to Santa Fe, if he saw a house or a piece of land he liked he bought it. Every home was furnished with expensive antiques and fancy cars were parked in every garage.

He was also developing a strip mall near Albuquerque and had also bought out a Santa Fe film company so most of his time was spent on the move from home to home. It was around this time, in 1984, that the two men were killed in Washington county over a few pounds of pot.  Their deaths wouldn’t have made a blip on the radar screen of this very successful man.

As the years went by his success in business was followed by two kids and a marriage that ended in divorce. Money was never a problem and he was always running in the fast lane until the summer of 2005. Then came a day that changed his life forever as well as the lives of twenty-one of his most trusted employees around the country. The authorities simultaneously arrested accomplices in New York City, Columbus, Ohio, Denver and Tucson including a man on a motorcycle who was carrying over a million dollars in cash and a nineteen year old girl who was intercepted on a commercial flight with close to two million dollars and jewelry in a large carry on suitcase.

It was the culmination of a four year federal drug investigation. When he was brought before a judge for a hearing after his arrest, the agents presented their case.  Millions of dollars were being sent to various storage houses.  His “employees” who ranged from motorcycle gang members to street hippies were estimated to be selling tons of marijuana. The task force had already confiscated 49 million dollars and expected to find more. There would be no bail bond and he would face a long trial.

After three years of haggling in a plea bargain he was sentenced to seventeen years in federal prison and he lost everything except the trust funds his father had set up for him years before. Today he sits in prison hoping for an early parole date. Now in his late sixties, 2023 would be his earliest possible release date. As for the people the police called his “gang”, most were jailed, some were released early when they cooperated with authorities and some like the two young smugglers, were never found.

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



Dead Men and Smugglers

Dead men do tell some tales….

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.   This week I’m bringing you a tale of murder. Out in the country thirty years of weather can change the earth’s surface dramatically. Grass, weeds, livestock, wildlife and even man play a role in shaping the condition of the ground.  The fate of the two men whose unmarked graves lie peacefully somewhere in this ever changing landscape was unknown until now. This is part of their story.

Born into poverty in Mexico, the two were first recruited as “mules” to carry marijuana across the Mexican border with the United States near Tucson, AZ.  The job did have its risks but always being paid in cash by American drug buyers was quite lucrative. There were usually six or seven other Mexican men in good physical condition working with them.  Each man would carry thirty to forty pounds of compressed marijuana in brick form that was stuffed into gunny sacks. With only a canteen of water, these men had ten hours to cover about eighteen miles in the dark of night, drop off their load to an American in a waiting car and get back over the border by sun up. This was a trip the two young men who were just in their twenties made several times a week. Many times the Mexican men would be accompanied by a couple of the American pot buyers who would also carry a load if need be. The job was harder than most Americans were prepared for and mules often made extra money by sharing their loads and making sure they got delivered.

Over several years different agreements were made and many mules were entrusted with more responsibility, expanding from running pot across the border on foot to delivering it in cars with built in secret compartments. Good drivers were given routes to New York City where pot sold for big money. Other routes included college towns in Oklahoma where quality product was in high demand, making the shorter routes sometimes even more profitable. The less time spent on the highway the better because two young Mexican men speaking little English and carrying a load of contraband were just trouble waiting to happen.

On their last trip alive everything had started out as usual. They had met with their Mexican employer about fifty miles outside of Nogales at a commonly used smugglers’ crossing. There were three or four other cars there, all with secret shipments headed for the states but they didn’t know where the other cars were going and they didn’t ask. They were told which car to take and given a map, an address and expense money. Then they were pointed down the dried up creek bed which crossed a road about a quarter of a mile away. From there a right turn would take them across open ground. This was a border patrol road and the men didn’t want to spend much time on it. At night lights along the road could be seen from miles away but they had no choice- headlights were a necessity in order to stay on this goat path of a road which had deep ravines on either side, This trip was almost routine for the pair who by now had made it many times before. Something else was becoming routine as well. On their first night on the road they would steal a little of each shipment for themselves. They figured that a pound or two out of a couple of hundred wouldn’t be missed and at first it wasn’t. The two would hide their stash somewhere along their three day drive, often under things behind hotel rooms, knowing that they would be back to pick it up in a few days. There was a real demand on the Mexican side of Nogales where tourists wanted to buy small 1 oz. bags of pot. This trade was even more profitable for the two young men than their cross country drives and they thought it was a lot safer.

As frequently happens they got greedy as their earnings grew and after several successful trips to Oklahoma, their pilfering increased from one or two pounds to five or ten pounds.

This last trip became a one way delivery when they found out the hard way they had crossed a pair of men who lived by a prison code. One of the rules was that they didn’t tolerate stealing among themselves and when thieves were caught the consequences were harsh. A witness to the killings called them brutal. The pair was already dead when the girlfriend of one of the killers came home unexpectedly. She found her boyfriend in the midst of cutting the men up on a large piece of plastic and putting them into fifty-five gallon metal drums. Their lives were over and all that’s left is this story.

Next week: the boss. He was born to a wealthy family in New York City. A college educated man, at 6’4” with an athletic build, he had the goods and charm to be successful and he was. He owned several profitable businesses including a film company, a trucking firm as well as restaurants and night clubs. He also bought and sold dozens of homes, paying cash at the drop of a hat. There was also one other line of business that few knew about until recently. He sold pot. He was not part of the Mafia or a Mexican cartel; he just did it for fun. Till then I’ll see ya down the road…



The Oklahoma City Thunder

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to catch a recent Thunder game….

                      Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.   The date was September 2, 2008 when big time professional basketball in Oklahoma was born.  The Ford Center in Oklahoma City had been completed in 2002 so with a new home constructed to NBA standards already in place; the former Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. The following year, after negotiations with Ford over the naming rights broke down, Chesapeake Energy stepped up and the Center was renamed the Chesapeake Energy Arena in a 12 year multi-million dollar deal.

I visited the arena on Sunday to watch the Thunder play the Chicago Bulls.  Before the game started I had time to take a tour and I learned that the arena seats 19,675 for an NBA game and includes 3,380 club seats, 7 party suites and 46 private suites. From top to bottom I didn’t see a seat I wouldn’t be happy with. I also found out that if you’re short of cash there’s still a way to go to a game. Two hours before every home game the Thunder gives away 50 pairs of tickets. You have to line up, write your name on a piece of paper and then wait to see if they draw it. I checked things out and discovered that at most only around 200 people brave the elements and wait. Seems like good odds to me and the pre-game party atmosphere outside where they hold the drawing was also a lot of fun.

Through my research I also found that Flintco was the contractor for the arena and that it took 3 years to build at a cost of 89.2 million dollars. That’s 115 million in today’s money and worth every penny in my estimation. Oklahoma City owns the facility which was built as the anchor of the extremely successful downtown revitalization project known as MAPS.

As for Sunday’s game with the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls couldn’t stop the 6’3” 187 pound Russell Westbrook on this night. You throw in 6’9”, 235 pound, NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and a big handful of other talented guys; mix them up and the Bulls were toast by the end of the third quarter.

During TV timeouts and half time, the Thunder’s entertainment crew kept the sold out crowd enthused with all kinds of crowd pleasing activities. One of my favorites was the multi barrel T shirt shooting machine gun that sprayed hundreds of T shirts into the crowd, even up to the highest seats. The Thunder mascot, acrobats and their cheerleaders were also on hand to keep things lively. There was also plenty of food and drink available with choices ranging from full service restaurants to a wide variety of food vendors. This is where I discovered a Bartlesville connection to the Thunder.

Sunday’s game was nationally televised and between local TV sportscasters, ESPN crews and a national feed, there was dozens of high tech camera men on the scene. Yes Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder team are NBA superstars but the people working behind the scenes to bring the games to you are also superstars in their own field. I ran into two Bartlesville graduates who were filming for Fox Sports on Sunday. 1981 Col High alum, Monte Seaborn has been operating a hand held video camera professionally since 1995 and he is much in demand with networks like Fox and ESPN. Some of you may remember his dad, Richard Seaborn, who coached wrestling in the 1970s.

I also got the chance to visit with John Neptune who was operating out of Fox’s control truck which all of the video was streaming through. A 1970 grad like me, John had a long career at Phillips Petroleum which took him all over the world. Then he was offered a deal which led him to sports television. The job is called “video operator” and apparently John is one of the best. With free lance contracts for the big networks, John works out a semi sized mobile unit holding literally hundreds of video monitors. From football games to hockey, and of course basketball, John’s job is making sure that all of us watching at home see every play.

Here’s the scoop: You definitely want to catch the Thunder in action and don’t forget to look for Monte and John. Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……