Exploring the Padre Island National Seashore

Welcome back. Over the years I’ve highlighted the places to see not only in Bartlesville but in all the surrounding towns. I’ve also taken you to New York City to the east and L.A. to the west.

You regular readers have also followed me north to Helena, Montana and south to Tucson, Arizona. This week I’m taking you to a new place where around 380 bird species live along with

5 different species of sea turtles. Coyotes, white-tailed deer, black-tailed rabbits, lizards and diamond backed snakes all call this place home as well. Along the 70 miles of shoreline dangerous currents and undertow have swept many a man into the sea where Portuguese men of war and stingrays await. This place is called Laguna Madre and it’s one of only six hypersaline lagoons in the world where the ocean water is extremely salty.

So where is this place I hope you’re wondering. Well friends, it lies about six miles off the south coast of Texas and it is part of the Padre Island National Seashore which by the way is one of over 400 parks in the National Park system. Something else I didn’t know is that Padre Island is one in a string of islands that stretch from Maine down here to Texas known as barrier islands. These land masses protect the mainland from the brunt of ocean storms and because they lose a lot of sand in the process, they change shape with the weather.

The history of Padre Island goes back to Native Americans who fished and hunted in the area and includes Spanish explorers who landed here. Even today remnants of their shipwrecked boats sometimes wash ashore. Cattle ranching came next when settlers arrived and then during WWII the Navy used part of the island as a bombing range. Today Padre Island is explored by millions of visitors from across the country and throughout the world. Park rangers told me it’s bumper to bumper for miles along the beach during the summer season but with year around camping and mild temperatures I saw plenty of campers.

If camping out is not your thing don’t worry, nearby Port Aransas and Mustang Island offer hundreds of condo rentals, motels and R.V. parks with full-service hook-ups, all just a few miles from the park’s entrance.

Of course, seafood restaurants line the streets there and traffic on the streets is about fifty percent cars and fifty percent golf carts. Legal on the town streets and beaches, I’m telling you these fancy carts are everywhere and it seems like rental places are on every street corner. So, if you’re looking to fish, go beach combing or just enjoy the tranquility of nature, I guarantee a trip to Padre Island will make memories for a lifetime.

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

Rest in Peace George Wayman

I just learned that former Osage County Sheriff George Wayman died yesterday. He was a great guy and also a great help to me when I was writing Footprints in the Dew. He was one of the last people still around who worked on the Mullendore murder case and was very generous in sharing his thoughts with me. Look for his life story in my next column.

The Bass Brothers’ Private Island

Welcome back. With lots of ground to cover first up will be the fabulously wealthy Bass family of Fort Worth.  In 2020 Forbes Magazine ranked the Bass brothers as the 30th wealthiest people in the United States and provided the following biographic information:

  • The four Bass brothers, Sid, Edward, Robert and Lee, each inherited $2.8 million from their oil tycoon uncle Sid Richardson after his death in 1959.
  • The brothers have built on that wealth ever since, partnering with investing legends including David Bonderman and the late Richard Rainwater.
  • In January 2017, the Bass brothers sold oil and gas interests in Texas’ Permian basin to Exxon Mobil for $5.6 billion in stock.
  • Most of their holdings are private, ranging from hedge fund investments to stakes in aerospace firm Aerion and ice cream maker Blue Bell.
  • The brothers are also active philanthropists, giving millions of dollars to universities including Yale, Stanford and Duke.

In addition, they own San Jose Island, a twenty mile long, sometimes five-mile-wide piece of land that takes two boat rides from the mainland to get there and it’s just about as remote as it gets in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. For fishermen, bird watchers, folks looking for shells or just wanting to relax this place is it. No restaurants, bathrooms or other services are available on the island, the Jetty Boat as it’s called will take you there and if you miss the last boat back at 6:30 PM you’re in trouble because this is private property and no camping is allowed.

On my way there I discovered that the Jetty Boat service was started in 1968 after the federal government declared that beach land in the United States belonged to the general public. This proclamation opened up properties along the sea shore from the water’s edge to what they call the vegetation line and gave the American people millions of acres to explore. An amazing place San Jose Island is one of those treasures where dolphins swim right alongside you and birds eat from your hand.

On nearby Mustang Island I found communities of thousands of so-called snowbirds spending the winter. Snowbirds are northern folks looking for warmer weather and often staying in travel trailer cities that are everywhere along the 18-mile sandy beach there. This is also the home of Port Aransas, a shipping port that locals tell me is rapidly becoming just as important as Houston’s big port. From San Jose Island you can see the big ships coming and going, it’s quite a sight. My tip of the week is to go in the off-season which is October-February when only the snowbirds are here. If summer weather and lots of people is your thing, you’ll find them at Port Aransas and Mustang Island during the rest of the year.

Moving on to another subject I want to thank all the folks who have been sending me leads on the unsolved mystery of the cheerleader who went missing in Pawhuska back in 76. Although many of them don’t pan out, it’s tips like these from ordinary citizens that help cops solve crimes and they appreciate them. A recent tip was about a man who kidnapped a 16-year-old girl in Bartlesville in 1976 and then raped her both physically and mentally. Before he was caught, he went on a wild kidnapping spree. After he was convicted, the man managed to escape and embarked on another kidnapping reign of terror until he was captured in Sapulpa where he took more hostages while trying to get away. Answers from him about the missing cheerleader would be hard to come by because while he was in county jail the suspect managed to set fire to his clothing, mattress and anything else that would burn in his cell. He was transferred to Hillcrest Hospital with burns covering most of his body and the hospital examination revealed that he had swallowed a lightbulb, toilet bowl cleaner and paper clips, anything to try and escape from jail. But the burns did him in and when he died, he took any possible knowledge of the Cindy Kinney case with him. Thanks again for all the tips and I’ll follow them up.

I’m also following a story about a local boy who through hard work and with the support of his family became a top staffer at the very important House Armed Services Committee. Jason Schmid has served in one of the top spots in our government for the past four and a half years but that all came to an end last week when he abruptly resigned after watching the horrible events on January 6th. Google Jason Schmid for more information.

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


The Value of History

Welcome back. From New York City to Los Angeles, from Alder, Montana to Rockport, Texas, I’m always on the lookout for an interesting story but you my friends don’t have to travel thousands of miles to learn about noteworthy people and places because there’s plenty of stories in your city library. Want to learn more about the birth of Philips 66, it’s all there in the book Phillips, the First 66 Years.

Find out how Frank Phillips got lucky with his last dollar, grew the company through the depression years and two world wars, was a pioneer in the aviation industry and guided Phillips to expansion in all corners of the world.

Looking for more Phillips stuff? The Boots Adams Story is another book I frequently pick up as well. Find out where the name Boots came from along with the life story of the man who took over Frank’s job and grew the company into an international giant not only in oil and gas but also chemicals and plastics.

How about the start of the now famous Drummond clan? There’s a book about them too and you’ll enjoy reading about their Scottish history. You’ll learn about both their successes and failures in this book that was written by someone who should know the story, John R. Drummond.  This beautiful leather-bound book is also for sale at the original Drummond family home in Hominy and it is well worth a trip to explore the house.  In Ranching in the Osage by Les Wareheim you will find out more about the Drummonds and many other ranches from that early era. Wareheim’s book also shows how the Texas longhorns which were driven to Kansas and Missouri railheads through Oklahoma during the 1860s changed the Osage countryside. He traces the history of towns that popped up in the Osage over the years and then vanished as well as the lives of men who founded big family ranches some of which are still going today.

If you’re searching for the history of Washington County the Examiner-Enterprise put out a book in 1995 which is full of photos showing early life in the area. Hardships? You bet along with the many accomplishments of the men and women who made the town what it is today. You might want to check it out as well.

Of course, Oklahoma’s Most Notorious Cases Volumes I and II written by Oklahoma City lawyer Kent Frakes are another great read for Oklahoma history buffs. These two books tell the stories of a dozen murders, some like the Roger Wheeler shooting in Tulsa you may remember but others like the Geronimo bank murders you may have never heard of. Kent puts you right in the middle of each crime scene, following every clue to the very end. These are all tragic events but also part of the state’s history. This brings me to you my readers. Do you have an historical photo or artifact laying around your house? Well, you might think about preserving your piece of the past by donating it to the Bartlesville History Museum for display.  They are always looking for interesting items to add to their collection and your donation can make you a part of history too.

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

Mermaids and Magic in Rockport, Texas

Welcome back Continuing from last week’s column, I hope you are keeping up with the ongoing story of my siting of two mermaids which took place two weeks ago along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico near Rockport, Texas. Friends I have been researching these mythical creatures and I’ve learned that they have been around since man learned to write. In 1430 people living near the town of Edam in the Netherlands wrote about them and in 1817 a mermaid was captured and taken to the King of Poland who promptly ordered that she be released back into the ocean. In early Syrian culture these half human half fish beings were considered to be Gods and one of the biggest, most elaborate temples in the regions was built in honor of one they called Atargatis.

More recently in American history Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame caught sight of one and reported that she had long green hair and was very attractive. Even Christopher Columbus wrote of seeing one near the Dominican Republic. So, what do they look like? According to Greek mythology they are beautiful creatures with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish. Columbus wrote in his diary that he actually saw three mermaids when they jumped out of the water near his ship. The King of Poland described the half human half fish a bit differently still having a human face and upper body but also with the tail of a large fish.

The Roman Emperor Augustus claimed he had found “a considerable number’ of mermaids dead on a sea shore but he also considered these sea creatures to be dangerous.

It’s been written that the “Island of the Sirens” (siren was another name for mermaid) was to be avoided at all costs. Ships sank there when sailors were lured close by the sexy singing of the sirens crashing onto the rocks and some men even jumped to their deaths if their ships sailed too near and they heard the sirens’ songs.  Early written accounts also talk of mermaids dragging men from land into the black depths of the sea and as the legends spread so did the mermaids.

In Scandinavia fishermen maintained a rule of always releasing a mermaid as quickly as possible so that no evil would occur. It is also said that mermaids have evolved so that they can take an entirely human form as in the movie Splash! when Tom Hanks encounters one. Could there be more out there and was my siting an omen of a shipwreck to come for me as the ancient history books say can happen when you come in contact with a mermaid or was I just out in the sun way too long?

Till next time if I’m not swimming with the fishes, I’ll see ya down the road………….