George Nigh , Ty England and Others

Welcome back. Like many other writers at this time of year I am still on the road doing book signings and hitting all the Christmas parties that I can. This week I thought a few profiles of the well-known and just plain interesting folks I’ve run into along the way might appeal to you readers. I’ll start with a man who was Oklahoma’s only four term governor and who was also the only person to win all seventy-seven counties in the process. The first to recognize how important the film industry could be for Oklahoma, he pushed for incentives to encourage movie producers to come to our state. This man also appointed the first woman to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, boosted new highway construction, improved the Oklahoma prison system and promoted the arts. He expedited construction of Arrowhead and Fountainhead lodges at Lake Eufaula and following his terms as governor he became the President of the University of Central Oklahoma. By now most of you know I’m speaking about George Nigh. I’ve known George for several years and Sunday night I got the chance to visit with the ninety-three-year-old legend. He said he had a lot of friends in Bartlesville and to tell everyone hello, especially former State Representative A.C. Holden. Back in the day he and A.C. both played a big role in expanding highway 75 into Kansas.

I also spoke by phone to A.C. who is living happily in Texas with his wife Ann at their son’s home. He wishes all of his old friends here a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. At the same Christmas party where I saw George, I ran into former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and his wife Cathy who also have close connections to A.C, and Bartlesville. This Tulsa guy has held more positions in government than I can count including positions with the FBI, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing. He was a U.S. Attorney General and as Governor he was responsible for the largest tax cut in Oklahoma History. He was also Governor on April 19, 1995 when the Murrah Building was blown up and he and Cathy led the recovery efforts following the bombing. Frank, Cathy and I first met at this Christmas party I’m talking about in Yukon, Oklahoma five years ago after he read my book about the Mullendore murder. They both send greetings to their friends in Bartlesville as well.

You Garth Brooks fans may know of Ty England and he is also a regular at this party. I am happy to say that Ty and I are friends and he is about as down to earth as it gets. He told me he’s back playing guitar with Garth at stadiums around the world and he’d just flown in from Canada to get here.

Five-time World Champion Saddle Bronc rider Billy Etbauer had come to the party from Las Vegas where the PRCA was wrapping up and I got a chance to visit with him about Tyler Milligan, a local boy who made the finals this year in tie-down calf roping. His dad Steve who was also a rodeo champ lives in Bartlesville and when Tyler is not on the rodeo circuit he trains in Stephenville, Texas which is the home of more world rodeo champions than any other place in the world. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, cops and even a few T.V. celebrities all attended the party.

Every day working people were there too and it’s always the same, when you get there every year you get a big hello and a warm handshake from the boss and when you leave you get a nice gift to remember the evening by. Well, where was I this time you may be asking. Sorry, I’m out of space so that will just have to wait till next week.

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

Tulsa Flea Market

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping you can find something unique at the Tulsa Flea Market tomorrow at the Expo Center. I will be there singing books so come check it out.

Holiday Giving

Welcome back. I find many of my stories while I’m traveling up and down our country’s highways and as it happened one came to me this past week on my way to Oklahoma City. It’s actually an old story, something I’ve written about before at this time of year. It is not about a famous murder, or a long forgotten town. There is no breaking news on the Cindy Kinney disappearance of 1976 or on the recent death of someone who played a big role in people’s lives like Donna Chaney. This week it’s not about giving to the needy or donating to charity because we all do what we can in our own way. So, with all that said, how about a gift to yourself that will last all year? I’m a member of several not for profit organizations including Woolaroc and the Frank Phillips Home and I’ve found that membership programs are especially common among museums. From the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western History Center in Oklahoma City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City these programs offer free entrance to exhibitions usually with a guest, special discounts at their gift shops and reciprocal agreements for free entrance to other museums around the country. I think one of the best benefits offered by these membership programs are the members only events. Locally both Woolaroc and the Frank Phillips Home have great Christmas parties with wonderful decorations and delicious food. Although these organizations hold many other events throughout the year for members, I always try to catch a couple during the Christmas season because you never know who you’ll meet. Think about a gift of a membership for yourself this year, it’s money well spent. This coming week takes me to Oklahoma City once again where I’m meeting up with a bestselling Oklahoma author, lawyer and historian for a book signing at the renowned Full Circle Books which is located on Northwestern Boulevard among miles of shopping centers. Kent Frakes has written two volumes on “Oklahoma’s Most Notorious Cases” and both made the bestseller list. I’ve traveled with him before and I can tell you he is quite the investigator when it comes to researching information for a book as well as a very interesting speaker. Have you ever heard of Ardmore millionaire Jake Harmon? Here was a guy who made millions in shady deals and then lost it all. After rebuilding his fortune and going into politics, he was even mentioned as a possible presidential candidate at the 1920 Republican Convention. A married man, Harmon paid his nephew $10,000 to marry his secret mistress, a woman who would eventually shoot and kill the well-known politician. Kent’s books have around thirty of these stories about Oklahoma’s most famous murders, some dating back to statehood and others more recent like the murder of prominent Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler who unknowingly tangled with Boston’s Winter Hill Gang. Gang leader Whitey Bulger ordered a hit on Wheeler and for thirty years it was one of Tulsa’s most famous unsolved mysteries. These books are a must read for anyone interested in true crime. There will be five of us bestselling authors all together at Full Circle on December 14th from 3-4:30 and it should be a lot of fun. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……

Hell on the Border World Premiere

Welcome back. Pawnee, Oklahoma was my destination this past Sunday to catch the world premiere of a new movie based on the true story of U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves. Marshall Reeves was from a time long ago when Judge Parker ruled over the Indian territories of what is now Oklahoma. I was lucky to be invited to this screening and when you see it advertised be sure to check it out. The movie is called Hell on the Border and the public release date is coming up soon. I’ll let you know as soon as I get it.

As many of you may know Pawnee has a lot to offer. Gordon William Lillie’s ranch and museum is a must see. Lillie is better known as Pawnee Bill, a star of Wild West shows that were popular in the late19th and early 20th century. Pawnee Lake and the beautiful bath house which was built by the W.P.A. in 1932 is another interesting stop. Another attraction is the Pawnee Agency and Boarding School which was established in 1875. The present native stone building was also built by the W.P.A. in the 1930s and was empty for years after the school closed. Today it is the home of the Pawnee Nation College. Pawnee is the home of four Medal of Honor recipients whose life stories are told in the town’s Veterans Memorial Museum. The museum also houses the largest collection of old military gear in the area. The movie was shown at the historic Buffalo Theatre and as you can imagine from the name, the theatre has some great history of its own.

There is one more thing about this town for you older folks who might remember the name Dick Tracy. This cartoon character was created by Pawnee native Chester Gould. When the Chicago Tribune began running the cartoon strip in 1931 Gould was a young man living six miles outside of town. Eventually the New York Times picked it up along with dozens of other papers across the country. Years later after he became famous Gould surprised many people in town when he told an interviewer that his cartoon characters were based on people he knew in Pawnee. If you want to learn more about Pawnee give their County Historical Society a call at 918-762-4681 or better yet take a drive to town. It is a bit out of the way from everywhere but once you’re there plan on exploring the interesting history and possibly eating at the well-known Click’s Steakhouse.

With Thanksgiving here and Christmas around the corner, you’re bound to have family and friends in town so you might think about an entertaining trip for them to one of the many museums in Bartlesville and Dewey. Woolaroc, the Frank Phillips Home, the Tom Mix Museum, the Dewey Hotel and the Price Tower immediately come to mind but there’s also one that’s frequently overlooked. The Phillips company museum tells the story of the founding of the company, their successes and failures and it’s very, very interesting.

I’ve got to go for now but this is the season so don’t forget to donate to your favorite charity. Happy Thanksgiving and till next time I’ll see ya down the road….. #