Welcome back. Traveling up and down, the highways of America, bringing back the stories I find along the way, I am wearing out cars or as we called them in the old days, horses. From last week’s PBR bull riding event in Oklahoma City, I headed east on I-40 to Shawnee. After the Civil War several Indian tribes were relocated to this area and the Sac-Fox, Shawnee, Kickapoo and Pottawatomie still have their tribal headquarter here. The development of the town began with a major cattle trail used by drovers bringing cattle from Texas. With the cattle came the railroads and by 1877 with settlers and trading posts everywhere, Shawnee was born. In 1910 Oklahoma Baptist University opened its doors and much later the Sonic Corporation was founded here was well. After more research I learned that Shawnee is also a big farming community where cotton and peaches are both big crops. Today the town is divided in two between the newer part that sits along I-40 and the historic downtown. The Shawnee Expo Center where I hung my hat for two days is in the newer section but if you visit you will definitely want to see old town for a trip back in time to Indian Territory. From Shawnee, a town of thirty-one thousand residents, this weekend I will be going on to Lawton with a population of ninety-four thousand and growing. I’m sure many of you know that Lawton is home to Fort Sill which was established back in 1869. After it was completed the fort quickly became an important base for military operations. Six cavalry regiments and a bunch of early frontier scouts with names that everyone recognizes led the way. Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok and the 10th Cavalry, who were also called buffalo soldiers, all stayed at Fort Sill and played a major role in settling the west. The 10th Cavalry was led by Henry O. Flipper who was the first black man to graduate from West Point. In 1894 the famous Apache warrior Geronimo was captured and housed outside of the fort along with three hundred and forty members of his tribe. Geronimo died at Fort Sill in 1909 and is buried in the cemetery there along with another famous Indian leader Quanah Parker. Fort Sill’s important role in aviation began in 1917 when an airfield was built housing the first Balloon Squadron that was stationed there. During World War I balloon squadrons were sent to Europe where they were used to observe enemy activities. As an aviation base the fort continues to play a role in the protection of our country today. There are three museums in Lawton which are a great resource for local history. The Museum of the Great Plains is all about the early days of the town and its settlements. The Fort Sill Museum is a must see as well and sits right where the original fort was. The Comanche National Museum is of course all about the Comanche tribe, past and present. Numerous prominent people have come from Lawton including the late Comanche code talker Charlie Chibity, the famous actress Joan Crawford and NBA basketball great Stacy King. If you’re heading to southwestern Oklahoma or looking for a place for a long weekend, check out Lawton. Before I go here’s this week’s scoop and a couple of dates you might want to put on your calendar, April 12th and 13th. If you are a Kevin Costner fan here’s your chance to meet him at the 59th Annual Western Heritage Awards which are held very year at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. Call them for all the info. I’ll be bringing you more about the awards. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….. #

Border Towns

Welcome back. With all the talk of border security along with President Trump’s visit to the border town of Nogales, Arizona this week I thought I’d take you there with me. I should add that in the seventeen years I have been writing for this paper I have stayed away from politics and today’s column is no different, I am simply trying to give you readers an idea of what this place is like and its history. Founded in 1884, Nogales is the largest border town in Arizona with a population of over 20,000 people but on the Mexican side of the border the population grows to 212,533 folks. Just a short 100 mile drive from Tucson which is the second largest city in Arizona, Nogales has four ports of entry bringing over thirty billion dollars’ worth of goods from Mexico into the United States every year. This trade has a big economic impact on thousands of people on both sides of the border and for a long time that border was left mostly unattended. The area that surrounds the border is marked by rolling hills and valleys full of the black walnut trees that Nogales was named for when it was still part of Mexico. Back in 1955 the film version of Oklahoma was filmed here and the rugged terrain has attracted many other movie and TV productions over the years. Except for a few cattle ranches this arid region has been a no man’s land during hot summer days when temperatures rise well above 100 degrees and in the winter when the cold winds can kill you. There’s not much surface water out here and critters like rattlesnakes and badgers are common, all of which can mean trouble for humans. Yet despite these difficulties people have been crossing the border in this area for years, making a path across the imaginary line separating the two countries. In the1970s smugglers of all kinds used the passage to bring in any kind of contraband a person could think of to make a buck on. If it was something they couldn’t bring through customs, they simply walked ten miles outside of town and took their goods across the border there. Taxi cab drivers could usually spot a person who needed a ride to that area and they were always obliging. The smugglers always looked the same, Americans dressed in dark clothes with hiking boots and carrying a canteen or two. Once they were dropped off they waited until the dead of night before starting their twelve mile trek across the border. Up and down treacherous rocky hills they walked all night, arriving at dawn to a prearranged meeting with a partner. If they were late the driver wouldn’t wait, figuring they had killed by snakes or other smugglers or arrested by the Mexican federal troops. If the smugglers made it, the drive back to Tucson along long deserted roads could be just as tricky. Bandits lay in wait for dumb Americans and the price to get by them was high. When smugglers disappeared it didn’t usually make the news but it happened all the time along the border of Arizona and Mexico. What we will do about border security in this area now, only history will tell. Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….

Tyler Cement: The First in the Country

Welcome back. In last week’s column you learned a bit about the Drummond family and their relationship to the king of Hungary. This week it’s another family dynasty and their history which stretches across not only Washington County but the entire four state region. It all started in 1905 when Herbert Tyler and his son Donald came to the area looking for two things, natural gas and large deposits of limestone and shale. Both were plentiful just east of Dewey and in February 1908 after buying land, drilling for gas and building the first of several concrete silos, the Tylers sold the first sack of concrete in the state.

A success from day one, the Tylers were one of the town’s largest employers and many of their workers were Mexican Americans who had migrated and settled in Dewey. The job paid twenty cents an hour for twelve hour shifts seven days a week and it was hard work but I learned from my research that these men also had fun when I read that they had their own band. Yes friends, the Dewey Portland Cement Mexican Band as they were called played whenever they could find the time.

A plant manager and co-owner of the company, Don was also an oil producer, cattleman and big time philanthropist. He not only gave money for youth in agriculture, he financed the building of the Ag center and the Dewey fairgrounds and then the construction of the library. In addition he donated the land for Don Tyler City Park.

According to the books published by the Washington County Historical Society it was the success of the concrete plant and then the new smelter west of Bartlesville that pushed growth in the area. Frank Overlees, William Johnstone, George Keeler and Frank Phillips were all building WAn early legend in the construction business, Felix went on to build the Phillips mansion and many other homes and churches in the community. His son Arthur followed in his footsteps, then Charles, then his grandson Arthur who took over in 1962 and of course today the companies are run by Art’s sons John and Tom which is another story.

By 1908 Bartlesville and Dewey had grown so much that the Bartlesville Interurban Company was formed to provide transportation in and around the towns. There were three train cars, a large one for the trip to Dewey, a smaller one for service to Smelter town and the last one for the Bartlesville loop as it was called. The cars ran both ways and the fare was ten cents each way. With all this growth back in the 1900s, Bartlesville was on its way to becoming the community we know today. The next time you drive down Don Tyler Boulevard in Dewey or Johnstone, Keeler, Adams or Phillips, remember the contributions of these early business leaders who shaped so much of what we have here in Bartlesville and Dewey.

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

The Tulsa Historical Society

Welcome back. Bartlesville and Dewey, Oklahoma are known by visitors as towns full of museums. The Philips and Price families saw to that and the many others who followed their example have preserved this important history. As for me, this Saturday I’ll be following in the footsteps of a Tulsa legend when I make tracks for the home of Sam Travis, the early 20th century oil tycoon who built the house which is now the Tulsa Historical Society. It was back in the so-called “Golden Age” and Tulsa was the oil capitol of the world when brothers Sam and Dave Travis built their mansions on what was then remote land out on South Peoria. The Italianate Revival style homes sit side by side and as Tulsa grew the magnificent houses changed owners several times up to the present day.

Today Dave’s home is the Tulsa Garden Center which is a great destination throughout the year and Sam’s is the Historical Society. Filled with artifacts from Tulsa’s past, they also host traveling exhibitions, all focused on the history of Tulsa and Oklahoma. This Saturday, my new friend and traveling partner, the author and lawyer Ken Frates and I will be there to talk about our books and there will also be a screening of my documentary Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes at 11AM. I’m looking forward to hearing Kent speak about his best-selling book about the Roger Wheeler murder and friends thanks to the Historical Society it’s free. Admission to the museum, Kent’s presentation and the film, it’s all free and you history buffs should plan to attend. Call the museum at (918) 712-9484 for more information.

Now a little more Tulsa history, back in 1848 when the Perryman Cemetery was created 32nd and Utica was out in the sticks. Who were these folks you might ask? The Perrymans became one of Tulsa’s founding families when they were forced to move to “Tulsey Tulova” after an outbreak of cholera in the area where they were living.

Family members, friends and unknown Civil War soldiers were buried in the cemetery, including John Perryman who was Tulsa’s first postmaster and Hannah Hayes Alexander a survivor of the trail of tears. In all around fifty people are buried there today along with several unknown graves. The last person to be buried there was William Shirk in 1941.

might say that’s an interesting story but here’s the scoop. The old cemetery is located in what has become a very busy part of town and it is kept in beautiful shape not by the city but by dedicated volunteers from the Tulsa Historical Society. The old grave markers are something to see if you’re ever in this part of the city. It’s hard to imagine that the Perrymans once ran cattle on 60,000 acres there!
I hope to see you in Tulsa but if not, till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..

Great Independent Book Stores in Oklahoma

Welcome back. This past week I’ve been at a lot of book stores. In Edmond there was Best of Books, a large store that is tucked away in a mall about a mile from the University of Central Oklahoma campus. Here you’ll find books of all kinds. Kids’ books, they’ve got hundreds of them as well how-to books, mysteries, new fiction and non-fiction. They even offer a reading room with refreshments. OU great Joe Washington and I autographed books there recently along with the bestselling mystery writer Kent Frates. If you’ve never heard of Kent, he’s the guy who’s written a two volume series about Oklahoma’s most notorious murder cases. An Oklahoma City attorney since 1964 Kent is also the real deal as far as writers go. We found we had a lot in common and plan on doing some book signing to together after the first of the year.

Ponca City has a bookstore I also recommend. Jerry Brace opened Brace’s Books thirty-five years ago and friends it’s still going strong. Like Best of Books, Brace’s has it all, including a specialty area where unique gifts of all kinds can be found. With a mini restaurant in the back next to the reading room, it’s no wonder that authors come from around the world for book signings here. While you are at Brace’s you can also arrange to take a tour of the Maryland Mansion which is a must see and visit some of the many other historical sites in the old town area. I always love visiting Ponca City and I think you will too.

The bookstore that everyone knows in Oklahoma City is of course Full Circle Books which is a landmark for book lovers throughout the state. When I was there last week my friend Gale Kane’s book Frank’s Fancy was being featured right next to mine. For those of you who haven’t read it, Frank’s Fancy tells the story of how Frank Phillips created Woolaroc. Woods, lakes and rocks, that’s Woolaroc and it’s a destination that’s known around the world. If you want to learn more you can find Frank’s Fancy in the Woolaroc gift shop and if you go now you can also take in the beautiful light display that they put up every year.

Coming up next Friday you’ll have the chance to meet the director of another great museum when Natalie Shirley from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is the featured speaker at Arvest’s Friday Forum. If you are interested in the history of cowboys from the old days, this lady knows all about it. I’ve heard her speak several times and I know after you hear her your next trip will be down to Oklahoma City to the museum. John Wayne is there, so is Joel McCray and all the other cowboy actors just waiting to greet you and tell their stories from the Golden Age of movies.

Friday Forum is held every Friday at 10AM at Arvest’s eastside branch. It is free and guests are always welcome.
I want to close this week by thanking everyone who helped put my new book Before the Dew as well as Footprints in the Dew on the Oklahoma best seller list last week. As always I appreciate the support.

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

The Bredero Price Company

Welcome back. Traveling the country I have often visited towns that have revitalized their aging downtown districts. Durango, Colorado is one community that comes to mind. After years of decline its busy again thanks to the commitment of local citizens who had a vision of what the town could be. I see Bartlesville in the same way with all the recent growth downtown. If you haven’t been lately there are lots of new shops and a restaurant on every corner. From the historic Bartlesville Print Shop building up and down the street owners are spending money renovating their buildings, preserving their historical character while bringing new life to an area that had been in decline.

New specialty shops like Moxie’s where I will be signing books on Saturday are springing up alongside well established businesses like McCoy’s Jewelry. If you’re looking for a place to eat you can take your pick from a wide variety of establishments. Or if you’re looking for a little exercise after Thanksgiving a walk through town or a spin around the holiday ice skating rink might be just what you need and of course parking downtown is always free.

The downtown area also offers several interesting museums including the Phillips Museum, the Bartlesville History Museum and the Price Tower. The Frank Phillips Home is another great place to visit during this time of year when the house will be completely decked out for the holidays. Whatever you are looking for check out downtown Bartlesville, I know you will be glad you did.
I can’t leave this subject without mentioning downtown Dewey. From the old hotel and the Tom Mix Museum to the many shops, this is a place I often visit as well.

Down the road has become much more than a phrase for me lately. You might say I’m wearing out horses as I travel from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, Ponca City and Tulsa. Then it’s Edmond, back to Oklahoma City and on to Claremore, Pryor and Nowata. The towns have gone by in a blur since Thanksgiving and there’s no end in sight. As usual I will be bringing stories from the road.
Last week I gave you a brief introduction to Bill Creel, a 1946 graduate of College High School who went on to help lead the Bredero Price Company to unimaginable heights. I knew Bill and as my friend Marilyn Tate out at Prairie Song said, his devotion to the city of Bartlesville and its citizens was unwavering until his death.

I also ended my column with a bit of mystery around the identity of Carol Cecile Lusk and what was so special on Thanksgiving Day November 22, 1951 that Harold Price and his sons flew to New Orleans. In my research I discovered that the purpose of this trip wasn’t for a meeting with business leaders, it wasn’t with the governor or a senator or even for a make or break pipeline deal. This was a wedding and Harold’s son Joe Price was a groomsman. On that day Carol Cecile Lusk married Bill Creel and became a Bartlesvlle resident helping him with every venture.

Although I am still going through the files about Bill’s accomplishments, my friends this is a couple that Bartlesville should never forget.

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