Mermaid Sitings

Welcome back. Traveling along the Gulf of Mexico around the Corpus Christi area for the last four months I’ve brought you stories about Boots Adams and Phillips 66, museums and all the different species of birds among many other subjects I hope you found interesting. Though my time here is done before I go, I’ll leave you with a follow-up to my story about my sighting of two mermaids a couple of months ago which many of you commented on. Whether this was due to lack of water, too much sun, excitement upon meeting billionaire Tom Benson’s only surviving daughter or even me being nuts, it’s documented that Christopher Columbus saw them and so did I.

After some research on the subject, I learned that mermaids were first spotted in the Philippines way before Columbus so this week I’m taking you back thousands of years to when legend has it that the king of the Philippines married a creature from the sea whose beauty was unmatched. From their union seven daughters were born and after the king’s death these daughters departed going to different places around the world. Now these seven daughters weren’t normal people. Like their mother from head to waist they were human and also very beautiful with long hair stretching below their waists. But from the waist down these girls had the body of a fish. They also shared another characteristic that their mother didn’t have; they were able to take on human form, changing the fish like part of their bodies into legs. Of course, over the years with the writing of many book about mermaids these stories have grown and turned into legends.

In Rockport where the mermaid legend is strong most stores carry books about what mermaids are like and how to capture one. Towels, clocks, glass bowls and clothes, you name it stores like The Mermaid Ranch and Treasure Island have everything you can think of with a mermaid theme. At the Rockport Daily Grind coffee shop owner Michelle McMahon tells me she wouldn’t be surprised if mermaids in human form have been in her store.

Yes friends, these mythical creatures are well known down here so before you make a decision think about it. You too may have met a mermaid or as history calls them, a siren when in human form. But beware, the history books also say that if you see a mermaid a shipwreck may lay ahead in your future.

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

The Loss of Another Legend

Welcome back.  Legends and heroes. Yes, my friends, with the passing of sheriff, war hero, cowboy and plain good guy, George Wayman fit the bill when he was inducted into the Osage County Hall of Fame. Born August 5, 1923 George started off working as a cowboy and as a roughneck in the oil field. He joined the army during World War II, becoming a tank commander under General Patton. He earned a bronze star for valor and more awards would follow for his service in the Korean War where he fought in the famous Pork Chop Hill battle.

After leaving the military he began a twenty-four-year career in law enforcement. I visited with the sheriff at his home in Fairfax, Oklahoma many times over a sixteen-year period up until his death, capturing interviews about many of his most famous cases on film. There where good stories about times when he and his staff broke a case and bad ones

 when murder was involved. One case that stuck out was the murders of Buck and Maudie Cheshewalla in 1988. The pair were killed on Osage land for just a couple of dollars and although that area was out of his jurisdiction the sheriff helped solve the case.

The Dixie Mafia in Tulsa was also dumping bodies in Osage County on a regular basis and George’s role in investigating these cases was so critical that his office was recognized as the best Sheriff’s Department in the state by both the Professional Policeman’s Association and the State Legislature. This honor even drew the attention of President Jimmy Carter who invited George to come to the White House for a day.

During our visits George also told me about the cases he couldn’t forget, the ones that were never solved. The disappearance of Cindy Kinney was one of these. A good student, a cheerleader and beloved by her family, when the sheriff was called to the crime scene all he found was a half-eaten sandwich and her purse. Although a new bank was under construction right across the street from the laundromat where she was last seen, there were no witnesses. All of the leads that came into the sheriff’s office were pursued but still nothing he told me. She had vanished right on Main Street in Pawhuska in broad daylight with dozens of people around and I could tell by talking with him that George was still replaying the scene in his mind.

Of course, another unsolved murder I’ve written about is the shooting of prominent rancher E.C. Mullendore III on September 26, 1970. The sheriff and I talked about that case along with his relationship with Jonathan Kwitney who wrote the first book about the shooting, The Mullendore Murder Case.

When he came to Bartlesville back in 1974 Kwitney was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal covering mostly organized crime stories. He had convinced his bosses in New York that the story of the murder would make a great book but George told me Kwitney had not interviewed many of the local people involved with the case. Not Dale Kuhrt, the ranch manager and the first on the scene. Not Mike Burkhardt or his wife Rubyanne who lived on the ranch and were the last people to talk to E.C. before his death. George said he had spoken briefly with Kwitney but knew of few others who had.

I have put my interviews with George into a film and when we are all safe from the coronavirus, I hope to show the film at several locations including the Bartlesville library so stay tuned for that.

As for George, his funeral was held last Thursday in Fairfax and unfortunately, I was still on the road so I missed it.  I must say it was a true honor to have known him.

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

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………….

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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………….

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Millionaires to Mermaids

Welcome back.  Millionaires to mermaids, you’ll find it all in Rockport, Texas and friends there’s a tie to the Bartlesville area that this week I thought you might find interesting. Water Street in Rockport is only a mile long and runs right along the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The area often floods but most of the houses are built on stilts and there are few full-time residents. The beauty of the place outweighs the sometimes-rough weather that coastal living can bring. Here small waterfront lots can bring as much as half a million dollars and there are few of them available. If you put a nice house on a lot it would be common to have at least a million dollars tied up in a home on this street.

Walking this piece of high-end real estate most mornings I’ve found another road about a quarter mile south where the lots are even more expensive. This is a small unmarked peninsula which during high tide can become an island and this is where the connection to Washington and Osage counties starts.

It was 1967 when John Mecom, Jr. and his wife Katsy Kay Mullendore of Cross Bell Ranch fame, bought the newly established New Orleans Saints football team. At the time the pair also owned Mecom Racing which had all the top drivers under contract including A.J. Foyt and Gram Hill who had just won the Indianapolis 500. For twelve years their football team grew in popularity until in 1985 New Orleans billionaire Tom Benson came a knocking with a check for sixty-four million and with that the football team sold.

After some research I learned that Tom was a hardworking man who started his career as a car salesman, and went on to own several dealerships in Texas and Louisiana as well as multiple other investments. He bought the Saints with his first wife Shirley who died several years later. The couple had three adopted children,

Robert, Renee and Jeannie. Tom remarried but his second wife died of Parkinson’s Disease. Then in 2004 he married Gayle Marie Lajaunie.

Tom was actively involved with his businesses until he died in 2018, adding the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans team along with several banks and ranches to his portfolio.

Tom’s death made Gayle the first female owner of two major sports teams and gave her a net worth of 3.3 billion, putting her in a class of her own. Of Tom’s kids only Renee has survived and every morning I walk by a fancy ten-foot-high concrete fences at the end of this mysterious street which encloses her personal retreat. Her father has now become a part of Louisiana’s history and I’m hoping to learn more from Renee who I’ve made contact with down here, looking for more of a connection between her family and the Mullendores.

Now for the mermaid part of this story. A fabled marine creature with the head and upper body of a human and the tail of a fish, mermaids and mermen have existed in folklore going back hundreds of years. My encounter happened in the early morning while I was walking along this remote part of the island where Renee’s home is located. My head was down as I was thinking about the connection I’d just made with the Benson family when out of nowhere two sirens or mermaids as they’re called appeared out of nowhere. Well, I’m out of space so this story will have to be continued.

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

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The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome back. Located in Oklahoma’s Osage County, Osage Hills State Park was built in 1937 during the depression era by the Civilian Conservation Corps as were several other parks around the State. The park was created by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who decreed that the land not be developed but set aside for the enjoyment of mankind. Here in Rockport, Texas I’ve found another preserve that President Roosevelt had the vision to establish and a truer gift you’ll have a hard time finding.

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was first named the Blackjacks in the 1880s by Europeans who had an early settlement in the area. Prior to their settlement the Karankawa Indians had lived there but the tribe was almost completely killed off fighting for their ancestral land against Texas cattlemen in the 1850s.  This area was also home to the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte who plundered many Spanish ships full of gold and legend has it hid it in what is now the refuge.

This wildlife refuge is on a peninsula which sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico and is part of a long chain of land forming a barrier island which is home to an amazing number of wildlife species. Sea turtles, alligators, deer and coyotes all live here but what draws the most visitors at this time of year is the whooping crane, a bird that was almost extinct in 1941 when there were only 15 birds remaining. These magnificent birds have made somewhat of a comeback thanks to the generosity of wealthy philanthropists and the donations of common men and women all of whom have made it possible to purchase additional land for the refuge in an effort to expand the cranes’ winter habitat. Yes friends, just like a visit to the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie, on a road trip to this preserve you never know what you might see.

I’ll end this week where I left off last week with the question of the legacy we leave in life. Paul Endacott, the Phillips man I highlighted last week left his own. My late friends brothers Bill and Don Creel, both of whom I’ve written about in the past, left theirs through community involvement as did Don Cone, the longtime Woolaroc docent who never met a stranger.

The famous musician Bruce Springsteen. recently wrote that what people leave behind are like dreams to him. He often sees the faces of people who have been important to him and not just when he’s sleeping but whenever something reminds him of them. Now if part of your legacy is that people still envision you after your death than I’m with Bruce because I can still see the faces of people who made a difference to me in my dreams as well.

The great Bartlesville architect Derry Ebert, a man who also served three times as Board President at the YMCA. Mike May, another early Y guy who also served on many other Boards for organizations benefiting the town. John F. and Dick Kane who did so many good things for the community we may never know the extent of all of them. There are dozens more, some who have been gone for years and some like Don Cone and Frederick Drummond have only recently died but I can see them all in my dreams. It may be my legacy that I keep these people alive through my writing, so, what is your legacy? That is something only you can determine.

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

Leave A Legacy

Welcome back.  Traveling the country in search of interesting stories for almost 18 years I have had the opportunity to meet many fascinating people. I was recently in the company of one such person, an eighty-year-old friend of mine who thanked me for being part of his legacy. After looking up the definition of legacy in the dictionary I found two meanings

1.a gift by will especially of money or other personal property 

2: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Clearly, he was referring to the second meaning and it got me thinking of the people I’ve known in my coming on seventy years on this earth and the legacies they have left.

Early in life I met Paul Endacott and his wife Lucille as they both got their hair cut at Barbara’s Beauty Shop which was located in the Price Tower. As a small boy whose mother did hair for Barbara, at the time I had little knowledge of what this man meant to Bartlesville.

A graduate of the University of Kansas at 21 with a degree in civil engineering, Paul as his friends called him, was also named the outstanding collegiate basketball player of the year in 1923 and became a member of the all-time All-American team the same year. In addition, Paul was the first student at KU to receive the Honor Award for academic excellence.

After hearing L.E. Phillips speak at a banquet during the university’s engineering day, Paul decided to pursue a career with Phillips Petroleum Company which was only six years old at the time. His first four years were spent developing boom towns, building roads, tank farms, gasoline plants and company camps to support Phillips’ oil discoveries. He went on to create a new marketing plan for the company’s fledgling propane gas business which he directed in Michigan.

In 1934 Paul came back to Bartlesville and began his rise to executive leadership as the Director of Employee Relations and Boots Adams’ right-hand man. When Boots Adams became Chairman of Phillips after Frank Phillips’ death in 1951, Paul was named President of the company. This was a period of great growth for Phillips when they acquired one patent after another, particularly in Marlax plastics which brought in millions of dollars but the biggest achievement was yet to come.

In the early 1960s Paul had become Vice-Chairman of Phillips and he led the company to make a major drilling investment in the North Sea where he believed there was a major oilfield. The discovery of this field and the creation of new drilling technology to explore and develop it put Phillips in a class of their own.

Paul retired in 1967 and his retirement was reported in PhilNews, a paper he had started in 1937. It stated:

“Throughout his long career (Endacott) has retained the common touch and personal qualities of consideration for others.”

After retirement Paul and Lucille committed their energy and resources to many philanthropic activies in both Oklahoma and Kansas. I crossed paths with them by chance shortly before Paul’s death in 1997 and I still felt the depth of his concern for other people. Now that my friends is quite a legacy to leave.

So, what will be your legacy or mine/ A question well worth some thought.

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

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