Lee Harvey Oswald’s Missing Gravestone

Welcome back. I’m currently traveling in the high country of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado where communications can be limited so national and local news often reaches me a bit late. For example, it was three days after the recent death of former First Lady Barbara Bush before I heard about it. On that day I also read the death notice in the Examiner-Enterprise of a man who died the same week. On November 23, 1967 this man brought reporters from around the country to little Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He drew another group of people to town at the same time and they were FBI agents. His name was Raymond Greenwood and I found him quite interesting when I interviewed him for my column in 2009, getting the details about a story that after forty years was almost forgotten.

It all started when Raymond and a friend decided to drive his VW bug to Dallas, Texas. On the return trip that same VW bug carried the gravestone of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who most people believe assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Oswald himself was assassinated a few days later and is still buried in Dallas but over the years his gravestone wouldn’t stay put. An interesting story for sure and you can find out all about in in the archives of the Examiner-Enterprise.

Another story I have discovered while in Colorado relates to the mystery surrounding a murder outside of Gunnison, Colorado. This story began when I attended the Western Heritage Awards two weeks ago. I was contacted by a man from Mustang, Oklahoma who knew I wrote a column for the EE and thought I might be interested in a murder he knew about. Dave, and I’ll leave his last name out to protect his privacy, is a serious hunter. He lives in southern Oklahoma but travels to Colorado regularly, hunting whatever is in season. He usually hunts on the same 700 acre ranch owned by Deborah Rudibaugh and her two kids Stephanie and Jacob. This beautiful property with several natural lakes and many unusual rock formations is valued in the millions. For several years Dave made all his arrangements for hunting through Deborah and her son Jake Millison but for the last couple of years Jacob hadn’t been around. Deborah and her daughter Stephanie told Dave that Jacob had left with his camping gear and never come back but that story didn’t sound right to him. Jacob’s friends were just as concerned as Dave and in May 2015 Jacob Millison was reported missing not by his mother or sister but by his friends. After filing the missing persons report they blanketed the area with posters and ran radio ads but there was no sign of Jacob.

Dave still hunted on the ranch but last July after a tip, which Dave tells me came from an unidentified source, the case broke wide open when 60 law enforcement officers searched the ranch and found Jacob’s body buried in one of the corrals. Speculation ran wild until this past March when the sheriff’s office arrested Jacob’s sister Stephanie and charged her with murder. This is a strange case alright because now just a few days ago Jacob’s mother has been arrested and charged with his murder as well. The sheriff says the murder was all about money and that the sister killed Jacob with their mother’s help. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more on the national news as this unusual case goes to trial.

Next week I’ll be bringing you more from out west as I search for interesting stories.

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

Raton, New Mexico & Iridium Anomaly

Welcome back. The annual Western Heritage Awards held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City lived up to the tradition of past years with another top of the line event last Friday and Saturday. Here’s a quick rundown: Masters of Ceremonies Katherine Ross and her husband Sam Elliott had the sold-out crowd in the palms of their hands all night as actors Bruce Boxleitner, Buck Taylor, Rex Linn and Barry Corbin all pitched in presenting awards and telling funny stories about working in Hollywood. Musician Michael Martin Murphy was there along with the famous stunt man Dean Smith and a couple dozen more T.V. and film stars, all adding up to quite a night and one which I hope you will be able to attend next April 12th and 13th.

From a museum built to preserve our western heritage to a town that played a major role in the development of the west; Raton, New Mexico was an important stopover along the famous Santa Fe Trail. Then in 1879 when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad built a rail line there and the spot that was first discovered by Spaniards trying to cross the Sangre de Christo Mountains became a major town. Located in Colfax County, Raton has seen its share of famous people some good and some bad. Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp are just a few of the colorful characters that came through the area. As the days of the old west came to an end, the town still flourished and in in 1930 Raton got its own movie house. The El Raton Theatre was built by two friends, Dr. L.A. Hubbard and Thomas Murphy who wanted something special and special they got. Designed in the Gothic style, the theater resembles a Spanish castle with turrets, battlements and other embellishments and originally the inside was elaborately decorated with many murals. A real New Mexico treasure since the day it opened, the El Raton is listed on both the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Properties. It is also where my film, Footprints in the Dew, The Last Ten Tapes is making its New Mexico premiere and it is quite a thrill for me. I will also be promoting the book at the Raton Chamber of Commerce Gun and Boat Show so April 26th, 27th and 28th will be a busy time but this is not the only reason I’m traveling to northern New Mexico.

I’m looking for iridium anomaly, a substance which has been found just outside of town. .Scientists say this stuff is all over the place in an area called the K-T boundary and comes from what some believe was a giant meteor that hit the earth 66 million years ago. This is what killed off the dinosaurs and changed the earth we live on. I’ve been told that this remote hole in the ground contains a rock formation like none other and that it is also an area where many strange events have occurred over the years.

Raton is also the home of a band appropriately called “The Fireball” who in 1963 had the mega hit song “Sugar Shack” and later a top ten single “Bottle of Wine”. Maybe I’ll try a little of that iridium anomaly.

I’ll end this week with a reminder about Elder Care’s big fundraiser out at the Mullendore Ranch on May 12th. Tickets and tables are on sale now and from what the committee members tell this is one big party you don’t want to miss!

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

The 2018 Western Heritage Awards in OKC

Welcome back. In football the championship game is called the Super Bowl and it is usually played in a different city every year. Baseball has the World Series which is played in the hometown of the winning team. The National Basketball Association or the NBA also has a championship series which is played in the hometown of the teams which make the playoffs. Yes, I’m sure you all know this but do you know that what is called the “super bowl of gun shows” was held in Tulsa last week? Hotels were packed all over town and the giant Tulsa Fairgrounds parking lot was full and I mean full. In addition to all the cars there was every kind of motorhome you can imagine. Inside the main building both the upper and lower floors were full of vendors and people were elbow to elbow walking through the aisles. The vendors I talked to at the annual Wannamaker Gun Show told me it was the biggest crowd in years. As for me, I came away with a delicious bag of beef jerky and a lot of good exercise from all the walking.

As you may have read in last week’s column, the 58th Annual Western Heritage Awards will be held this weekend at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Although there are a lot of ticketed events going on, the museum will be open to the public as usual and one of my favorite events which takes place on Saturday is free. This is an up close forum with the stars including everyone from actors Barry Corbin and Sam Elliott to John Wayne’s kids and famous directors. The late Ernest Bourgnine was always a fun person to listen to and after the presentations he would come out into the crowd and visit. This is what happens on Saturday and it is always very cool.

I understand that the black tie awards ceremony on Saturday night may be sold out but tickets are still available for Friday night’s cocktail reception with all the celebrities. You can’t go wrong at this fun event which also supports the wonderful museum.

Another event which I’m always happy to mention is Elder Care’s The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque which is coming up on May 12th out at the historic Cross Bell Ranch. At this party you get to walk the grounds of a ranch that was founded before statehood and was the beginning of a cattle empire. See the original house and barns. Smell the same air Gene Mullendore smelled and sit beside that well known swimming pool laid out in the shape of the Cross Bell brand. You also get to see hundreds of beautiful mustang horses along the ten mile drive to the party and friends the folks at Elder Care tell me that tickets have just gone on sale. Give ‘em a call at (918) 336-8500 and I hope to see you there.

Besides a couple of upcoming trips to state campgrounds in Oklahoma, my travels will soon be taking me once again to my remote getaway in New Mexico where I’m putting together another non-fiction book about a life that could have gone either way, good or bad. The story of one simple man among many different characters, some known for the good things they have done and others known for things they will have to live with. This tale had to be told for history’s sake and I’m hoping for a fall release.

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

In Memory of C.J. “Pete” Silas

Welcome back. People and places in history will always be some of my favorite subjects to write about. Over the past seventeen years this column has covered topics from coast to coast, from L.A. when Whitey Bulger was captured to New York and stories about life on the streets there. I’ve also written profiles of many prominent people including Will Rogers, past Governor George Nigh, Bob Funk and his friend Chope Phillips who was also the son of Waite Phillips.

This week I’m bringing you a bit closer to Bartlesville with the story of someone else I was lucky enough to have met. Born on April 15, 1932 in Miami, Florida, Pete Silas was made for basketball. A high school star in Miami, Pete received a full scholarship to play basketball at Georgia Tech and play he did, winning several tournaments both in the U.S. and overseas. But Georgia Tech gave him more than a place to pay basketball and that was a B.S. in chemical engineering. After graduating in 1953, Pete went to work for Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville but he wasn’t quite done with basketball. He joined the famous 66ers and also played for the Army basketball team in 1955 but soon his job with Phillips and a new wife whom everyone called ”Theo” took precedence in his life. Paris, Zurich, Brussels and London were all places that Pete, Theo and their four children called home as Pete rose through the ranks at Phillips. Along the way he received several international honors including a medal from Norway.

In 1982 at the age of 49 Pete became the President and Chief Operating Officer of the company, the youngest man since Boots Adams to have that position. Then three years later in 1985 he became Chairman. Pete Silas was the head guy for the next nine years, fighting off hostile takeovers and guiding the company through volatile market conditions. When he retired from Phillips in 1994 at the age of 62 he had been working for the company for forty-one years, beginning as a trainee engineer and ending up as the boss.

Despite his professional accomplishments Pete is best known in this community for his philanthropy. After retirement he and Theo both gave generously of their time and money, serving on the boards of so many organizations it would take an entire column to list them all. Bartlesville’s crown jewel, the Price Tower, is one that sticks out to me along with the new Boys and Girls Club which bears his name and that’s where I’m going with this week’s column.

Coming up on April 6th, 7th and 8th people will have the opportunity to buy stuff from Pete and Theo’s estates. This is not an auction but an estate sales located at 2201 Kristen Lane in Bartlesville and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the C.J. “Pete” Silas Boys and Girls Club. What an honor to own something that was significant to the Silas. I may be a bit sentimental about stuff like this and I think you may be as well. For questions call Patti Grissom at (918)440-0436 or Laura Nelson at (918) 510-2787.

For me, this weekend it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma where the world’s largest gun and knife show will be going on. Then it’s on once again to New Mexico and the story of a movie theater I think you will find interesting.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..

Parsons, Kansas: A Rich History Shaped by the Railroads…

Welcome back. There are several big events coming up and one of them is held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. I have been covering The Western Heritage Awards for the past eight years and it has become one of my favorite weekends of the year as I always meet an interesting group of people there. This year the awards will be held on April 13th and 14th and it’s not too late to get tickets. How would you like to hang out with your favorite western film and T.V. stars and be entertained by the cowboy singers and poets who will be on hand? Friday, which is the more casual of the two nights, is really cool as all the celebrities are there and everyone comes decked out in their finest western duds and jewelry. Saturday night is strictly black tie and usually sells out quickly. It’s all great fun and you have the choice of attending both nights and just one.

Coming up a little closer to home is Elder Care’s big fundraiser, The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque which will held out at the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch on Saturday May 12th. I understand that tickets will go on sale April 6th and reserved tables of eight are also available which is what I recommend. This year is the 20th anniversary for the Barbeque and Elder Care is bringing in a great band of renowned musicians including the band leader who I know personally and who is known around the world for his musical talent. It should be a night to remember and I hope to see you there as well.

As for me, I’m currently traveling up north for a few days working on a story that again relates to death. However that’s only one side of the story, there’s also fame, money, love, adventure and of course, history. What would Coffeyville and Cherryvale, Kansas along with Nowata, Oklahoma have to do with it? Well, what I can tell you is that at one time long ago these communities were all connected by an electric railroad based in Parsons, Kansas.
The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroads along with the Kansas City and Pacific railroads and the Memphis, Kansas and Colorado railroads also had major hubs in Parsons. Yes, Parsons which was founded in 1870 was a booming railroad town that even had its own railroad hospital. The railroad was king until 1980 when ownership of the lines changed. Thanks to the citizens the railroad hospital got turned into the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center encompassing 43 buildings and hundreds of employees which helped with jobs. During World War II the large Kansas Ammunitions plant was built to support the war effort and that also helped with unemployment but the railroad system that once took people and supplies around the country is no more. Through it all Parsons has done well and a museum in town tells the story of Parsons and the railroad magnates who built the community which is a must see for sure.

In addition to its rich history Parsons also offers a lot of outdoor activities with three lakes in the area. Big Hill Lake to the west, Lake Parsons to the northwest and the Neosho State fishing lake all attract visitors for fishing and even more just to enjoy the countryside in southeast Kansas.
I found Parsons also has its share of notable residents including Walter Davidson, the co-founder of Harley Davidson Motor Company, George Pepperdine, the founder of Western Auto and Pepperdine University and many others.

For now I have to leave you but if you can’t make the trip I’ll be bringing you more on Parsons and what I’m doing in the area soon.

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