Buffalo Bill and Shirley McLaine

I had a busy week of traveling and these are some of my notes from the trail:

Welcome back.  From Cimarron, New Mexico going north on I-25 you pass through Raton and then Colorado Springs before coming into Denver. Everywhere along the route this year you see firemen, in gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants there are men and women wearing t-shirts printed with the name of their town and fire department. You quickly realize that firefighters have come from all over the country to help the local departments.

Forest fires are as common in this part of the country as tornados in Oklahoma and like tornados they can have tragic consequences, destroying homes and personal property.

Yet in the aftermath of this devastation you find the same willingness of people to help one another that I have witnessed here in Oklahoma. I believe that this is called American pride and I’m happy to report that it is alive and well.

When I got to Denver I had the chance to go to the top of Lookout Mountain where there’s a view you don’t want to miss if you’re in the area. There is also a man buried on the mountain that I’m sure you have all heard of. Born on February 26, 1846 William Frederick Cody was destined for a life of fame and glory. When he was  9 years old he had his first job herding cattle for $25 a month and by fourteen he’d traveled to Pike’s Peak to pan for gold and also become the youngest rider ever for the Pony Express. Records show that he once rode 322 miles in 21 hours and 40 minutes, wearing out 20 horses along the way. During the Civil War, Cody was a member of the 7th Kansas Volunteer Calvary and was awarded a Medal of Honor for his work as a scout.. After the war he got a job hunting buffalo for the railroad and in 8 months he accounted for the killing of 4,280 buffalo, earning the name “Buffalo Bill.”

In 1882 Cody put together what is thought to be the first organized rodeo in the United States and the rest is history. With performers from Annie Oakley to Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show became a hit around the world. The show toured extensively across the States and throughout Europe, traveling with hundreds of cast members as well as horses, cattle and buffalo. The road to fame was also filled with tragedy for Cody. Over the years three of his children died, he lost all of his money and eventually had to sell the show. Cody gave his last performance in 1916 while he was working for the Sells-Floto Circus. The legend died on January 10, 1917 at his sister’s house in Denver and laid in state at the Colorado State rotunda. An estimated 25,000 people paid their respects when Buffalo Bill Cody was buried at the top of Lookout Mountain as he requested.

This week’s scoop: if you’re in Denver don’t miss the view I mentioned and don’t pass  up a chance to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave on the mountain. The museum was lovingly organized by Cody’s stepson Johnny Baker in honor of  a very special man. The fascinating displays about his life and the Wild West Show make it is well worth the short drive from Denver.

Jumping from Buffalo Bill to Shirley McLaine’s show at the Osage Event Center in Tulsa  last Saturday night, I ‘m wearing  out a few horses myself. Like Cody, McLaine is a legendary figure in show business and her one woman show traced her career from the early age of 14 when she got her start on Broadway in a revival of Oklahoma! to her present role in the hit series Downton Abbey at 80+. I expected some great stories and that’s exactly what I got- a who’s who of Hollywood past and present. A note about this venue; I’ve seen several shows here and the seating is great, very up front and personal.

There was another reason for my hasty return from Denver on Saturday and that was to honor a man who I knew for over 50 years. His obituary was long as it should be for a veteran, husband, father and servant of God. L.G. Beard died on Friday, June 15th. He was 93. His wife of 56 years, Ruth Beard,  died in 2001. Together the two were fine neighbors for a boy growing up.

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


Wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico

Welcome back, before last week the word slurry meant little to me but after my visit to New Mexico last week where I’ve been just outside Cimarron, I discovered that this red substance might just save your house from fire. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Black Forest fire in Colorado Springs. According to Miki Trost with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as of today 482 homes destroyed have been destroyed and two people have died as the result of this one fire which has burned over 15,500 acres.  With six other fires going on in Colorado approximately 30,000 acres have burned thus fire.

Although the numerous fires in New Mexico aren’t getting as much publicity as the Colorado fires, with the frequent drought in the area the risk of destruction is just as high.

firefighting helicopter

I was staying just a few miles east of the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch at the UU Bar Ranch lodge and ended up a mile from the firefighter staging area for a nearby forest fire. Although the fire was burning at 10,000 ft. you could still see the flames from the lodge. You could also see the huge D.C. 10 air tankers that dropped the fire retardant gel which is super absorbent polymer slurry with a consistency like petroleum jelly. The slurry also contains a red dye which allows firefighters to track where they have dropped it. Each airplane holds 11,000 gallons of this material and they all made numerous flights on Friday and Saturday in my area. In an interview in the Denver Post  “10 Tanker Air Carrier” CEO Rick Hatton said the company has  also been making dumps in California, Nevada and Idaho where there are some major fires as well.

When I looked up the cost, I learned that each plane’s daily rate is $26,750 dollars plus an hourly flight rate of $4,550 dollars.  I also found out that federal agencies have contacts with dozens of small plane operators and hundreds of water carrying helicopter owners. During my stay I saw three of these helicopters flying all day, every day.

portajohns ready for firefighters

I spent one entire day at the staging area watching the firefighters in action. There were also over 180 firemen on foot, three large bulldozers, backhoes, several tanker trucks and road graders. I was told that many of the firefighters, both men and women, sleep at the base camp where there were thirty porta-johns, several portable showers and a delivery system for feeding everyone. The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center in Lakewood, Colorado is the focal point for mobilization of resources for wildland fires in the Rockies. According to the Center’s manager Jim Fletcher all the slurry and water that’s dropped does help but it’s the firefighters that put the fires out not the aircraft. “It boils down to the boots on the ground.”  he said.

Next week more from our neighbors in Colorado. Till then make sure to thank a firefighter and I’ll see you down the road.



The Fabulous Mid-Life Crisis Band & Utica Square…..

Starting Next Week: Stories from the road as I retrace the steps of early man in New Mexico…

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  I first introduced the Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band to Bartlesville when I hired them for a fund raiser that the local YMCA and I called “The YMCA Rocks Woolaroc.” The band was a huge success that first year and some twelve years later they are still playing at the event every fall.

My relationship with the band goes back way before their first trip to Bartlesville when I saw them at the Nature Conservancy’s Wild Brew fund raiser in Tulsa but even I didn’t know the whole history of how they got started until recently. It was 1995 when the original five Tulsa musicians, all of whom were middle aged, got together for the first time. Back in the ‘60s they had each played in different bands during high school and had continued to play when they went to college. After college things changed when careers and families took center stage and music was pushed to the side. Some thirty years went by before the five self proclaimed “old guys” started playing together and they practiced for three years before their first real gig at American Heat & Air’s 1997 Christmas party. After that they knew they were on to something and soon hundreds of fans knew it too. That something is garage band music and it has made Mid-Life Crisis one of the most popular bands in the area

Nowadays the Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band is still hot with gigs all over the area, including Utica Square in Tulsa. Every summer different bands play outdoor shows during Summer’s Fifth Night as its called at the square and it is one of my favorite places to see Mid Life Crisis. For the record, here’s the scoop on Utica Square:

The shopping center opened in Tulsa in 1955. At the time the suburban shopping center was a new concept and Utica Square was Tulsa’s first. Miss Jackson’s, which was founded in 1910, moved to the center in 1965 and continues to be an anchor store today.

Although many older readers may remember TG&Y, C.R. Anthony’s and Renberg’s, they are gone now and have been replaced by Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn and many more. Utica Square is always a fun place to shop and hang out but tomorrow night (June 6th) the place will be a zoo. It happens once a year when Mid Life Crisis plays this gig. Hundreds of people bring chairs, pop-up tents, ice chests and their dancing shoes and they turn the parking lot into Woodstock. Its back to the 1960s with peace & love starting at 7PM and one more thing, it’s all free. The stars line up right for this party and I suggest you get there early.

Back in Bartlesville, next week kicks off OK Mozart and you’ve got to love it when the town fills up with visitors coming for this renowned festival. There’s another reason a hotel room will be hard to find that week and that’s a big family reunion that taking place at the same time. If you live in Wales and your last name is Jones it would be pretty common as that is the most popular last name in that country. In England it is the second most common last name. Well guess what, according to Wikipedia it also the fourth most common last name in the U.S. Wikipedia also tells me that records in England show the use of the name Jones goes back as far as 1279. So if you run into a bunch of Jones you’ll know it’s not an OK Mozart event, it’s a Jones reunion event.

Next week its back on the road with famed photographers Jerry Poppenhouse and Kelly Kerr to the land of enchantment. For me this area is the closest place I know of where all cares drift away, where troubles magically disappear and life is how it should be and I’ll tell you all about it.

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

Shoat Webster- The death of a legend

I am happy I was able to meet this extraordinary man….

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  Howard Choteau Webster was born on January 23, 1925 and his passing last week will be mourned by rodeo fans around the world.  I personally met the man who was considered by many to be the greatest steer and calf roper alive when I interviewed him after the publication of his autobiography Shoat in 2003. A few years later I crossed paths with the rodeo legend once again while I was working on another project.

In the book Shoat is described as having an aura of charisma which he did but he was also a genuinely friendly person, easy to meet and visit with.

During the 1940s and 50s Shoat won every major roping competition in the northern hemisphere.  After he won the bulldogging, steer roping and calf competitions and then also took the all around title three years in a row at the Pendleton, Oregon Rodeo, famed rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden renamed the event the “Shoat Webster Benefit.”

Shoat was born and raised in northeast Oklahoma, the middle child between two older and two younger sisters. He had a typical childhood growing up on a farm in that era with two notable exceptions. Shoat loved to ride anything: pigs, sheep, baby calves, cows and before long horses. He could also rope anything and everything. Before long the young man became well known for his ability with horses and ropes and that ability led him to travel in the world of professional rodeo. On his first trip to Madison Square Garden he won both the calf roping and the steer wrestling, taking home a saddle along with his prize money. In the late 1940s he and his horses were the stars of any event he participated in. Shoat rode in parades with movie stars and other personalities such as Joel McCrea, Ben Johnson, Casey Tibbs and Jim Shoulders. Later in life baseball great George Brent and dozens of other celebrities would visit Shoat’s ranch in Lenapah to swap stories and hunt quail. Reba McIntyre’s father and fellow World Champion steer roper from 1957 to 1961 called Shoat “the one to beat” and added that Shoat was a man he had the deepest respect for.

Copan, Oklahoma based roper and horse trainer Lon Chaney worked for Shoat in the early 1960s and recalls that he “had more good horses than anyone else in the business.” After retiring from rodeo, Shoat dedicated himself to raising quality horses and bird dogs, gaining additional fame as a breeder and trainer.

Shoat died on Monday, May 20th. For additional information about this fine man you can find his biography in the Bartlesville Public Library.

Along with Shoat’s passing this week came a transition of another type, the graduation of Bartlesville High School’s class of 2013 which included my daughter and traveling partner Loretta Lewis. The list of National Honor Society students is way too long to include here and there were also dozens of kids who graduated with honors. One program that was not mentioned in the commencement festivities is Darla Tresner’s journalism class which has consistently won top statewide awards for the production of the high school newspaper, including recognition for writing, editing and photography. This is a great program which has had an important influence on many of “Miss T’s” students and is one more thing that our high school can be proud of.

Add to that the National Merit finalists and the many other awards garnered by this class and it all adds up to a great bunch of young men and women going out into the world to make their own history. Loretta for one has been accepted into the Photography Program at OSUIT. As for me, look for more coverage of OSU sports in the upcoming years.

A last note from Elder Care’s The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque which was held on May 11th.  During the evening it was announced that a special fund has been established at Elder Care in honor of Katherine Boren Mullendore to assist folks who need help attending Elder Care’s programs. For more information about supporting this fund please contact Deirdre McArdle, Director of Development, at (918) 336-8500.

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