Michael Martin Murphy’s Cowboy Christmas

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and thank you for supporting Footprints in the Dew!

Welcome back.  The weather outside was brutal, the snow was coming down hard and it was already over the top of the girl’s boots as she went out to feed her horse. It was the night before Christmas and all through the house happiness abounded. Her brothers and sisters were running around playing while the mom was cooking and the dad tried to wrap everyone’s presents in secret.

All that remained for her was one last chore to be done before they all went to bed in anticipation of opening their presents on Christmas morning. A year earlier the girl had gotten what she’d always wanted, a pony, and he was her best friend. She made sure he was always fed and had clean water and just hours before she had put him in his stall. Now she just wanted to check on him one more time. The horse’s name was Wildfire and when she got to the barn she discovered he had busted down his stall and in a blizzard he was lost. The little girl kept calling out his name, she kept calling Wildfire.

If all this sounds just a little familiar to you it because it comes from a song titled “Wildfire” which was sung by someone who had been around the music scene for years but was little known to the general public at the time, Michael Martin Murphy. Now a big time entertainer, Murph as his friends call him, has been performing Christmas shows around the world for years and is someone I have worked with in the past. On Friday night I had the chance to hang out with Murphy again, partying it up with around 900 other guests.

It would take much more space than I have here to list all of Murphy’s travels through the 53 years he has been performing professionally. Just briefly, he was born in Dallas, Texas and as a youth he enjoyed the music of Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Woody Guthrie. After making a name for himself in Texas, he moved to Los Angeles where he enjoyed further success playing in bands with Willie Nelson, Michael Nesmith of the Monkeys and dozens of others.

In 1975 Murphy released Wildfire which sold over 2 million copies in the U.S., earning him Country Music’s Best Male Vocalist of the Year Award. Composer of the New Mexico State ballad, renowned singer, songwriter and musician, Murphy has done it all but like the story of the ghosts of a woman and her horse that his grandfather used to tell him, he keeps going on and on, singing the song of a dream he had as a kid where that girl lost her horse and keeps calling Wildfire…

The Michael Martin Murphy- Express Employment Professionals Christmas Show marked the twenty-first time that the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage has presented this event. It is a completely family oriented performance, with no alcohol of any kind and of course no smoking. The event began in the main hall of the museum with a special party hosted by Express. After the party came dinner time which featured a buffet with all the trimmings. I had several serving as I sat in the big atrium watching dozens of kids dancing up a storm on the giant dance floor before Murphy took the stage. Once he began singing the kids were joined by hundreds of adults dancing throughout the two hour show. By the time it was over Murphy had even the most Scrooge like among us looking forward to Christmas.

It was a special night and one that Murphy announced will happen again next year. As soon as you get that 2016 calendar mark that date for sure.

As for me, I spent the night in Oklahoma City in the motor home and was up early for a book signing in Edmond and that’s a story I’ll save for another day.

Merry Christmas to all and till next time I’ll see ya down the road….

Small Town Oklahoma

Thanks once more to all of you who have come out to my book signings-its been great to meet everyone!

Welcome back.  Historical things have always been a big interest of mine and from your correspondence it appears that many of you enjoy them as well so this week I’ll start with a story that has Bartlesville connections. The first post office in the town of present day Cleveland, OK was established in 1894 and by 1900 the town had a population of 211 according to Wikipedia. Back in those days Cleveland was a trading center for farmers and the Osage tribe but when oil was discovered there in 1904 a rail line was extended from Oklahoma City. By the time of statehood in 1907 the population had grown to 1,441 recorded residents.

In 1939, four years after Will Rogers’ tragic death, Cleveland became the home of the premier Boy Scout Summer Camp in the Cimarron council and it was named for Rogers. You Scout people know what I’m talking about and for the rest of you I’ll just say that this is quite the place for kids. Of course anything with Will’s name on it is special to me.

Cleveland was named for President Grover Cleveland and several notable people including 1952 Heisman Trophy winner from O.U.Billy Vessels grew up in this oil rich community. Now that I’ve given you some background on the town, I have one more piece of interesting history from this area to share.

Pawnee County where Cleveland sits was a new territory in 1892 and in an effort to get development going a land run was held involving a fertile part of the county known as the “strips.” It was a dream come true for two brothers from Indiana. Together they secured a large piece of property during the run and turned it into the most famous ranch in the area. The brothers were Dave and Erd Mullendore and over time Erd got involved in many other business ventures which made him one of Cleveland’s most prominent and wealthiest citizens. However this piece of history isn’t just about Erd or his wife, Sarah Jane Berry from Stillwater whom he married in 1897. Nor is it about Erd’s farm which became one of the most successful in the state which caused the town to name a street “Mullendore Street” after him.

In 1910 when Erd had also gotten involved in banking, he and Sarah built a mansion on the original property which is still a landmark in the community. Designed in the Greek revival style, the multi-story residence was constructed primarily of red brick. Erd and Sarah raised their family in the home including their son Eugene Claremont Mullendore who would grow up to found the famous Cross Bell Ranch north of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Erd died in 1938 and Sarah continued to live in their house until her death in 1951. Their oldest daughter Bessie lived in the home for a number of years afterwards before the mansion was sold outside of the family.

While I was in Cleveland I had the opportunity to visit with the current owners and I was sad to learn that the mansion has been shaken to its very foundation by recent earthquakes.  Cracks are everywhere and from the road I could see that hundreds of bricks had fallen off the exterior. 4 x4 wooden planks are keeping the porch from collapsing and large pieces of the wall of an outbuilding have fallen off as well. It is still unknown if the two retired postal service workers who own the mansion will be able to save this grand piece of Oklahoma history so my scoop of the week is to take a trip to Cleveland. Check out the Will Rogers Scout Ranch, drive down Mullendore Street and while you have the chance see the place where a dynasty was founded, the Mullendore Mansion.

This past week I also enjoyed a visit to Fairfax, Oklahoma or as the Osage people called it in the 1800s “Grey Horse”. When the railroad came through in 1903 it transformed a little village into a bustling town. The Osage tribe owned the community until 1905 when Congress sold the land at public auction. By 1907 there were 470 residents and I definitely need a return visit to learn more about this interesting town.

On Saturday I was fortunate to have a book signing at Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. I hadn’t been there in years and I found the space completely transformed with a beautiful addition and a complete renovation of the original 1900s era mansion. There are several state of the art exhibition spaces, an auditorium for speakers and a special event spaces for meetings and receptions. It is right next door to the Tulsa Garden Center which is also a great place to visit.

For information about their exhibits and upcoming events visit tulsahistory.org.

Before I go I want to let everyone know that I will be signing books at the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise from 2-4PM on Tuesday December 22nd.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to be at the paper which is such an important part of our community.

In the past 12 weeks I’ve signed hundreds of books and people are telling me they make great Christmas presents. For those of you who have already purchased Footprints in the Dew, thank you for making it the third best-selling nonfiction book in Oklahoma. The book has also been nominated for a Western Heritage Award at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center.

Again I want to thank you all for your support and wish you a Merry Christmas.

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

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Christmas Book Purchases

Just an update for anyone planning to purchase a book for Christmas-if you want it shipped it will have to be sent priority mail and the last shipping date is December 18th. However if you are in the area I will be signing (and selling) books in Edmond at Half Price Books (December 19th 1-3PM), Tru Value in Pawnee (December 21st 11-1 PM) and the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise(December 22nd from 2-4 PM).

Jim Halsey, Music Impresario

I am almost at the end of a full week of book signings and I’ll be finishing off at Brace Books in Ponca City tomorrow (Sunday 12/13) from1-3.

Welcome back.  The name “Jim Halsey” may not ring a bell in everyone’s memory bank at first so with his upcoming appearance at the Pawhuska Library tonight I’ll start this week with a little background on this legend in the music industry.  Jim and I have been friends for about 8 years and during this time I have learned about the many famous artists he has managed. I don’t have time or space to list all of them but the roster includes Reba McIntyre, James Brown, Minnie Pearl and Roy Clark. He has traveled around the world putting on shows for kings and queens, dictators and presidents. In 1988 Jim brought Roy Clark’s Friendship Tour to communist Russia which was the first event of its kind in the USSR. Halsey productions were front page news in magazines and newspapers across the country as Jim’s performers played to sold-out crowds. Radio City Music Hall in New York City was a popular venue for many of his acts such as the Judds and the Oak Ridge Boys, bringing country music to the big apple. Carnegie Hall was the site of another big country concert featuring Roy Clark, Freddy Fender, Hank Thompson and Don Williams and from what Jim has told me the crowds loved their country sound. Jim was also the one who organized the Oak Ridge Boys and today he continues to manage them as well as Roy Clark. For over sixty years Jim has been a leader in the music industry working with the biggest stars and making friends in high places. Tonight this impresario with be speaking in our neck of the woods. Quite a thrill!

Traveling with Jim will be his wife of 35 years who is quite famous in her own right, Minisa Crumbo Halsey. I recently wrote about Minisa who is quite famous in own right both as an author and as the daughter of the renowned artist Woody Crumbo.

Tonight from 4-6 p.m. the three of us will be signing books and visiting with the public about travel, writing, famous people and anything that people might want to know. It’s free and I hope to see you all there.

You longtime readers know that museums are a favorite destination for me, both here in Oklahoma and out on the road. When I’m in the area I love to visit and write about the Will Rogers Museum, Woolaroc and the Tom Mix Museum. I have also written about the Pawnee Bill Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum which are also great places. I find something magical in these places which preserve our history and I’m not the only one who is drawn to them. The museum directors I have spoken with lately tell me that attendance is way up and that their plans for next year’s exhibits and special events are in full swing.

One upcoming event is the Western Heritage Awards Gala which is held at the Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City every April. I have covered this event extensively where I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with celebrities like Tom Selleck, Ernest Borgnine and Michael Martin Murphy. Last year Bartlesville native John Hughes was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners for his contributions to the ranching industry. This is a two day party filled with good food, great entertainment and some fun people watching and all the proceeds benefit the museum.

Awards are also given to books, films, television productions and music which reflect western life. This year my book Footprints in the Dew has been nominated for best non-fiction book of the year. The book is currently on the Oklahoman’s list of top ten bestselling books in the state and readers from coast to coast have been giving it great reviews. With this latest recognition I am hoping a film could be a possibility. For more information and to check out my book signing itinerary visit www.originalbuffalodale.com.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Slice of Life in Oklahoma

A bit of personal history…..

Welcome back.  As of today, Wednesday December 2nd, there are twenty-three days left before Christmas and with Woolaroc’s members only party kicking things off last night, let the season begin! This is a busy time of year for food caterers and they are gearing up for big holiday parties. Catering is big business and local cafes offer specials for folks who may not want to cook but still want that home cooked meal that is an important part of the season. One such establishment that is well known to residents of the four state area as well as to truckers around the country, is the Copan Truck Stop and Restaurant.

Owner Donna Chaney and her husband John began running the Truck Stop Restaurant 25 years ago but her experience in the restaurant business goes back much further and overlaps with my own food service experience.  In the late 1960s I was a high school boy washing dishes and just generally helping out at the very successful Denny’s Tuxedo Café located on the northwest corner of Tuxedo and Hwy. 75 in Bartlesville. Although Donna was several years younger than me, she was already working at the front of the restaurant, seating customers, waiting on tables, running the register cooking  and even doing dishes. Every morning when Denny’s opened there was usually a line at the door and the noon hour was about the same. But from Thursday night to Sunday morning from 6pm to 2am Denny’s was a zoo! One of the few late night restaurants in the area during the 60s and with a recipe for broasted chicken that was unique at the time, there was a line out the door until closing time and even then the orders keep coming in at the back door.

To a young boy of fourteen, the owner Denny Forest was a larger than life figure. In addition to the restaurant he had a big ranch with lots of cows and appaloosa horses along with many other business investments. It was Denny’s Tuxedo Café where I would say Donna Chaney got her real schooling and was launched into a successful career. She stayed in the restaurant business running several well-known establishments before eventually settling in at Copan. Many have suggested that her café there surpasses even her grandfather Denny’s well known restaurant. If you haven’t been there before you definitely want to check it out and be sure to ask about their prime rib dinner on Friday and Saturday. Let me warn you, it’s very popular and you’ll probably need reservations for that one.

Following that dinner, a drive over the Copan dam is always worth the time now that the leaves are on the ground. Deer are plentiful and turkeys, coyotes and even eagles have been spotted in the area. If you stay on 10 for another 7 miles, Hulah Lake also offers great opportunities for spotting wildlife and appreciating our beautiful countryside. Back in the 1960s Hulah was the place to go for boating, camping, swimming and fishing. The lake had a dozen boat docks, several swimming areas and numerous camping spots. It wasn’t unusual for the campgrounds to fill up but now it is a forgotten treasure. The tables are still there and swimming is allowed but there are few visitors. The marinas are all gone even the café and bait stands are closed but the views are still there and I’m told the fishing is good. It’s well worth the short drive to visit an area that was once the place to be.

Continuing on Highway 10 a few more miles you will come to Pawhuska and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve where buffalo roam freely across thousands of acres. Here you can learn about the history of the legendary Chapman-Barnard Ranch where award winning actor Ben Johnson lived as a young boy. They also have picnic tables where you can sit and eat that slice of pie Donna packed for you.

Next week more places to go, more parties and more Christmas. Till then I’ll see ya down the road………………………

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