Thomas Lott, Another OU Legend

Its been another busy week on the road….

Welcome back. I’m still working on the Kansas City story of three days in a town where I could spend a month and still not see everything it has to offer. Its trains, planes and automobiles for sure but also much more and a return trip is already on my calendar.
Three weeks ago I was in Norman doing a book signing during National Signing Day for high school athletes and met a man whose past coach OU legend Barry Switzer called the smartest quarterback he ever coached. This man played for Coach Switzer on the 1975 National Championship team and started at quarterback for three years for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, after his college days it was on to professional football and the St. Louis Cardinals. That was 1979 and whether or not you’re an Oklahoma football fan, the sight of that red bandana hanging out of the back of his helmet meant that Thomas Lott was on field.
I am bringing this story up because Thomas Lott will be in Bartlesville this Friday to speak at the Boys and Girls Club. He will be there at 4PM and everyone is welcome to attend. Adults bring the kids, kids bring the adults, it’s all free and after meeting Thomas myself I can say you won’t forget it. Thomas will also be at Arvest Bank’s Friday Forum which is hosted by Mr. OU, Jim Bohnsack. This event is open to the public and Thomas is scheduled to speak there as well. Friday Forum is held at Arvest’s Eastside branch starting around 9:30 AM and ending at 11:30. Word has it that Dink’s Pit Bar-B-Q will be seeing him for lunch afterwards. Thomas and his wife requested a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower so they will be headed there after lunch before his 4PM talk. It’s a treat to have him in town for sure and he and Silver Shoes Joe Washington have told me that they are already talking with Coach Switzer about his upcoming visit to Bartlesville for the big party on May 11th. You’ll be hearing more about that as the date gets closer.
If you don’t mind driving you’ll have one more chance to visit with Thomas on Saturday when he and I will be promoting our books together at the Grand American Arms Show on the Tulsa fairgrounds. The Expo Center right behind the giant Golden Driller statue will be the location. If you haven’t been to the fairgrounds lately improvements to the buildings and grounds have made access much easier and I guarantee you there’s always something interesting going on there.
As for me, tomorrow I’ll be showing my film Footprints in the Dew, The Last Ten Tapes at the First Christian Church in Langly, OK. If you’ve never heard of Langly, it sits on the shores of Grand Lake and one doesn’t often see a prettier setting. It is definitely a resort community with several good restaurants and many opportunities for boating and fishing. The mighty Pensacola Dam is nearby and that’s always worth a tour to me. There are several other interesting communities in the area including Disney, Grove and Ketchum all of which makes for a nice afternoon drive and with spring in the air and gas prices quite reasonable now is the time to go.
Till next time I hope to see ya down the road…..

On The Road in Kansas City with Footprints in the Dew…

I’ve been spending the weekend at the R&K Gun Show in Kansas City…..

Welcome back. This week my travels are taking me to the home of the Bannister Federal Complex and if you’re like me I’m sure most of you have never heard of it. According to Wikipedia this place is top secret and at any one time employs up to eight thousand people, close to three thousand of whom work on the United States’ nuclear bomb arsenal. The complex is also one of two sites where the IRS processes paperwork employing many of the remaining staff. I found that the federal government has a huge employment base in several areas of this city which is the 23rd largest in the country.
There are several other major employers here including Ford Motor Company, General Motors, American Airlines and a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. The city is also the headquarters for numerous agricultural companies, the Dairy Farmers of America, several professional sports franchises and international legal firms all of which enjoy this location at the center of the country along the mighty Missouri River. This is a place like no other and I’m sure by now you’ve figured out I’m headed to Kansas City, MO.
I could tell you about the architecture here or the two hundred working fountains which are spread out across town or I could also tell you how the city’s first newspaper was founded by Irish immigrants in the early 19th century. There’s also a lively arts scene here with world class museums, a resident ballet company and plenty of jazz and blues clubs. I’m sure you already know there are casinos here, six in all and each one bigger than the other. Green space is also important to Kansas City folks and with 214 urban parks, dozens of baseball diamonds and golf courses and thirty pools I understand why people love this town.
I’m here doing a book signing at one of the largest gun shows in the country and as always I’m on the lookout for history so here’s a couple of things you might find interesting.
It was 1919 when Walt Disney got out of the military service. He had been an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War I but now he was living in Kansas City. Walt had an idea and started the first animation studio in the country which he called Laugh O Gram. It didn’t last long and soon Walt and the company went bankrupt. Not one to give up Walt moved to Hollywood in 1923 where he started a new company called the “Walt Disney Company” and as you know, the rest is history
If you were traveling through Kansas City in the 1930s and had the means for a top of the line hotel there was one place that everyone knew about and that was the Muehlebach. When George E. Muehlebach opened the hotel in 1915 it immediately became known for its luxurious accommodations and fine dining. Throughout its long history it was common to see celebrities and world leaders staying at the hotel. From Ernest Hemingway and Babe Ruth to Elvis and the Beatles, they all stayed at the Muehlebach. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were guests and during Missouri native Harry Truman’s administration the hotel became known as the White House West because the President stayed there so often.
With the largest stockyards in the west located in Kanas City thousands of cattle were shipped in every day and the Muehlebach hosted many of the leading ranchers in the country. During the 1930s and ‘40s when the big cattle drives were all over, there were few options for bringing cattle to market and shipping them by train was the most efficient. There were two big ranches in northeast Oklahoma that shipped so many cattle that they had their own railroad shipping pens named after them. Freight trains from the Santa Fe railroad loaded with cattle from Buck Boren’s Round Top M and Running M shipping pens and the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch shipping pens, accompanied by cowboys who were sent along to tend the cattle, headed for the stockyards in Kansas where their owners were usually staying at the fabulous Hotel Muehlebach.
Next week, more from Kansas City. Till then, I’ll see ya down the road…..

McAlester, Oklahoma

More history from the road…..

Welcome back. Perryville, Oklahoma will be my next stop this weekend and if the name doesn’t sound familiar it may be because it was 1838 when the town got its name and this part of Oklahoma was called Indian Territory back then. During the Civil War Perryville was a supply depot for the Confederate army until Union forces captured it and burned the town to the ground. This event became known as the Battle of Perryville, Indian Territory. Over the years the town was rebuilt and named in honor of the man who had discovered coal in the area and who played a role in bringing the railroad to town in order to ship the coal across a growing country.
In 1872 an official of the Katy Railroad named the railroad stop in his honor and the name McAlester stuck. It was also in 1872 that J.J. McAlester married Rebecca Burney who was a member of the Chickasaw tribe. Their marriage made it possible for him to become a citizen of both the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes which in turn made him the legal owner of the minerals under his now vast land holdings. Already the owner of the area’s two general stores, he became even wealthier selling coal to the railroad. In the 1870s hundreds of both skilled miners from Pennsylvania and immigrant Italian miners relocated to McAlester greatly expanding the population. Then in 1907 the advent of statehood and the establishment of an official Post Office put the town on the map for good.
Located about 30 miles south of I-40 in between Oklahoma City and Fort Smith, AR, nowadays McAlester is home to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary or “Big Mac” as many cons call it. The less well known Jackie Brannon Correctional Center which is a minimum security facility is here as well and of course the two prisons are major employers in the community. I’ve found that prisons frequently bring notoriety to the towns where they are located and McAlester is no exception. In 2004, because of the county where the crime happened, the trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichol was held in McAlester and more recently convicted killer Richard Glossip was in the headlines when his execution was put on hold there
Glossip had been convicted of murder by hire and was four hours away from death by lethal injection when his execution was stayed by the legal system. There had been a problem with the drugs administered during the previous execution at McAlester and all executions in Oklahoma were put on hold during an investigation. Glossip’s stay was received on September 20, 2015 and to this day he sits on death row awaiting his fate.
Of course McAlester is also famous for good things, including being the hometown of singer Reba McIntyre, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Carl Albert and two time Governor George Nigh. McAlester has also been featured in several movies, including the Grapes of Wrath and True Grit and is also home to the largest Army munitions plant in the country. The plant was merged with another facility in 1998 and today it’s kind of hard to believe but true, all the bombs used by the United States military are made there.
I’m going to be in McAlester Friday, Saturday and Sunday for another big gun show and book signing at the SE Expo Center. I plan on getting a closer look at this plant and the rest of McAlester including what I hear is some very good food so look for a report on all that coming soon.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………………………

Doris “Coke” Meyer and Will Rogers

I am sorry to lose a great friend and an inspiration….

Welcome back. The date was November 12, 1919; William Howard Taft was President of the United States, World War I officially ended and in Oklahoma oilman Waite Phillips had already made several fortunes in the oil and gas business. It was also in 1919 that Phillips opened an office in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and discovered an oil patch so big that they named it after him. Two hundred high producing wells were drilled in the Phillipsville pool and Waite began opening his own chain of gas stations in the Tulsa area.
Another important event took place on that crisp fall day in 1919 that would impact many lives in a different way. Twenty miles north of Claremore in the small town of Chelsea, a baby was born into Oklahoma royalty. Her grandmother was Will Rogers ‘sister and as a girl she would follow in Will’s footsteps, accompanying him to events. She was a person who often stood by his shoulder when he spoke breathing the same air.
Will Rogers was becoming famous around the world but to this little girl he was just “Uncle Will.” She listened to him on the radio, clipped all of his newspaper articles (saving most of them) and treasured the days when he came to visit her family who were now living in Caney, Kansas. She especially looked forward to the Christmas holidays as Will always had a car full of presents.
When the great depression of the 1930s hit, the little girl’s family moved to Bartlesville. Frank Phillips and Will were good friends and Will would come to town often. Always observant, she remembered that he and Frank were very popular in the community. Growing up, the little girl had the chance to meet many of Will’s famous friends including E.W. Marland who was present at the dedication of the Pioneer Woman statute in Ponca City which she and Will attended.
Then in 1935 Will was tragically killed in a plane crash with his friend Wily Post. The girl was there when Charles Lindbergh arranged to have the bodies brought back from Alaska where the crash occurred.
In the many years that followed the girl, now a grown woman dedicated her life to preserving Will’s memory by telling stories about him at every opportunity. By now many of you may realize that the woman was Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer and she was the last living relative of Will Rogers’ who actually knew him.
Although I had known her before, Coke’s book about her uncle “I Called Him Uncle Will” brought the two of us even closer as we traveled together to many different towns doing book signings. It was only in the past few months at the age of 97 that she had begun to slow down and for many Rogers’s fans her death on Sunday has stopped time right in its tracks. I do know that one of Will’s favorite quotes when he was speaking about the death of his sister was also one of Coke’s favorite sayings and this seems like the proper time to use it.
“Death didn’t scare her, it was only an episode in her life. If you live right death is a joke to you as far as fear is concerned.” Will Rogers 1925
Thank you Will Rodgers and thank you Coke for inspiring so many.

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