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Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. On Monday I attended the official opening of the “Will Rogers Archway”, which is basically a bridge covered in glass which spans Interstate 44.Besides all the suit and tie state representatives, Will Rogers’ oldest living direct relation and Bartlesville resident Doris Coke Meyers was there and as always it was a treat to spend time with her. Coke, as she’s known, spoke to the crowd about the building and how Will would have loved it. Later she told me that when the “Glass House” first opened in 1957 there had been an elegant restaurant in the building with formal table service which was managed by the Interstate Hosts Company. Then later when MacDonald’s took over the restaurant operation it was often referred to as the “Glass House MacDonald’s”. The Archway is the first landmark a traveler sees after crossing the Oklahoma borderand the view really grabs you. With the 14.6 million dollar renovation now completed, MacDonald’s has been joined by a Subway Restaurant and a Kum & Go gas station and convenience store. It’s a great place to eat or stop for a rest and catch the view.
As usual history is always on my mind and during the past week I ran across the biographies of several prominent historical figures whom we should never forget and whom I’m sure some of you will be familiar with. The great Sioux war chief Crazy Horse led his warriors to victory over General George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn. According to the magazine “Trail Ride”, Crazy Horse was known for painting his body with images of lightning bolts and hailstones and it was said that these images came from a violent supernatural vision he had as a young boy after three days of convulsions. The Chief was eventually killed by soldiers while imprisoned at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
Next up is Davy Crockett who was born on August 17, 1786 in a crude log cabin in eastern Tennessee. At the age of twelve Crockett’s improvised mother sold him into a life of indentured servitude but by the age of sixteen he managed to buy his freedom and reunite with his family. An accomplished marksman, Crockett earned a living as a hunter and tracker and by nineteen he was married with two children. In 1821 he was elected to the State Legislature in Tennesse where he served four terms. Then, embittered by the relocation of native Indian tribes, he moved to Texas. Crockett fell in love with the territory and died at the Alamo fighting for statehood on March 6, 1836. He was said to be a leader of the common people and his motto was “Always be sureyou are right, then go ahead.”
Moving forward, in the 1850s every Pony Express rider had to take the following oath “I do hear by swear, before the great and living God, that during my employment as a Pony Express rider I will under no circumstances use profane language, use intoxicating liquor, abuse my mount, quarrel or fight with any other riders and so that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties and so direct my acts to win the confidence of everyone… So help me God.”
This next story comes directly from the settling of the American west. “No Sunday west of St. Louis and no God west of Fort Smith” is a phrase you may not have had heard but all that changed in 1875 when Judge Isaac Parker took over from a corrupt Judge in Fort Smith and was responsible for enforcing the law in Indian territory which is now called Oklahoma. During his twenty-one years on the bench he sentenced one hundred and sixty-five people to death and sixty-five of his federal Marshalls were killed in the line of duty. Jim White is another man who whose name I hope never gets lost in history. In 1901 when he was sixteen, White was a young cowboy working on a ranch in New Mexico when he noticed millions of bats flying out of a hole in the ground. White spent years exploring the underground cavern he discovered as a result, documenting large caves, waterfalls and huge cliffs. Finally in 1936 Congress designated the site as a national park and today it is known as Carlsbad Cavern National Park.
I’ll end this year with the story of Edward Heddy who was born in 1925 and became known for his sense of justice and morality. Homeless by the age of 8, Heddy hopped a freight train to Chicago where he became a master carpenter. During World War II he served as a Seebee and then after the war he turned to acting. His portrayal of trail boss Gil Favor leading twenty men and three hundred cattle turned him into a big star. Heddy became known as Eric Fleming and was one of the leading characters on thhe TV show Raw Hide. While shooting a film in Peru he tragically drowned, prematurely ending a promising career. Next week one of Oklahoma’s biggest historical events comes to life. Till then a Happy New Year to all and I’ll see ya down the road….