A Buffalo Dale Christmas Story

I think the holidays make you stop and reflect on the past as well as reflect on the future. Here then is a story from my youth….

Welcome back. My travels this past week found me in the southern part of Oklahoma City among the many businesses located on Reno Avenue. If you want furniture new or used its on Reno. There are dozens of mattress stores most of which advertise as being factory direct which means these places are huge, some are as big as Bartlesville High School. As you can guess this street is also full of restaurants. The Oklahoma State Fairgrounds is just blocks away and with the big American Quarter Horse World Champion Show going on for sixteen days you can imagine the area was especially busy when I was there.

I didn’t know much about “Lorec Ranch” as the store is called before I was invited there for a book signing but as soon as I arrived I realized that this ain’t your average western furniture outlet. No jeans or shirts, Lorec Ranch is more of a western art furniture store and they make most of their items right there in the back of the huge building they’re in. It is quite a place and then on Saturday I was at their new store next door to Ree Drummond’s Mercantile and for you locals, yes there is still a long line to get in and eat. This eventful weekend ended for me on Sunday at the Grand National Gun and Knife Show in Tulsa for another book signing.

Yesterday I was in Ponca City once again at Brace Books. Friends, if you haven’t been to Jerry Brace’s store trust me it’s a real treat and not just for the books. At the little snack bar tucked away in a distant corner with a few canvas chairs you are surrounded by new books, tapes, post cards and just about anything else for brain stimulation. I just wish I could talk him into opening a store closer to Bartlesville. I had lots of folks stop in and if you get the opportunity to go to Ponca City be sure to check it out. And don’t miss the Marland Mansion and Museum, its great!

As we’re getting closer to the end of the year, I’ll finish this week with the start of a Christmas story. This incident took place several years ago on a cold and snowy night when I was doing some investigative work in New York City. It was a long way from the small town in Oklahoma where I had been brought up. A good size fella, right out of college I landed a job doing security work at a fancy restaurant and bar. I quickly moved into management and then a few months later I was promoted to a spot at the corporate office in Dallas, Texas. The corporation had thousands of employees and my ability to spot a good dependable person proved valuable to the higher ups. When I got to Dallas I was summoned to the owner’s home which was unlike anything I’d seen before. The large, circular driveway and the giant pillars framing the entrance to the mansion made J.R. Ewing’s place look like a dump. When I drove up to the front, a man dressed in a coat and tie opened the door to my car and another led me inside what can only be described as a palace. Western bronzes, some ten feet high, were displayed everywhere along with several large animal mounts, all pointing down a long hallway. It was at the end of that well-lit hallway, surrounded by paintings of the old west, that I’d meet the man who had summoned me. As he is dead now, his name is of no consequence but the mission he gave me would take me not just to New York but also to several foreign countries searching for the last man alive in what can only be called the “dead man switch.” To be continued next week and till then I’ll see ya down the road…..

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Barry Switzer, Will Rogers, Ree Drummond and Oklahoma Hospitality

A few thoughts about my home state…

Welcome back. With Oklahoma’s football team ranked #1in the country and making national headlines, the spotlight is shining big time once again on the Sooner State. Attendance at attractions like museums is going up along with revenue at restaurants and hotels. While I was in Norman this past weekend for Barry Switzer’s Coach’s Cabana show on Campus Corner I saw thousands of people taking part in the tradition of tailgating and when I visited with fans from West Virginia they all gave the people in Oklahoma a 5-star rating for hospitality. Everywhere I travel I find that people have the same opinion of our state.

When I was in California promoting my book whenever I mentioned I was from Oklahoma Will Roger’s name frequently came up in conversation. It was the same in New York. I am bringing this up because even nowadays folks still remember Will’s values, his honest and straightforward attitude along with his homespun mannerisms and the fact that he was from Oklahoma which I think has a lot to do with people’s impression of us. Friends it’s hard to believe but it’s true that 82 years after his death, Will’s memory continues to cast a rosy glow on all of us Oklahomans and I’m always happy to say that I am from his home state.

With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching, I’ll have a lot of opportunities to brag about Oklahoma because my calendar for December and January is filling up with engagements to promote the new audio book version of Footprints in the Dew. This Friday I’ll be at the Lorec Ranch western store in Oklahoma City. I don’t know a lot about this place except the building is huge and it is full of everything western. It also turns out that the owner, Kari Lopez, is a close friend of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. How do I know that you may ask? Well the next day I’ll be at the grand opening of Lorec Ranch’s new store in Pawhuska which sits right between Ree’s Mercantile and her new hotel. It’s all adding up to an exciting weekend and somehow, I’m hoping to squeeze in an appearance at the Coach’s Cabana show which will be broadcasting the Big Twelve Championship game live from the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa.

My schedule for December also includes interviews with Hal Smith and Bob Funk both of whom were recently inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame as well as Charles Day who is the husband of Anita Bryant.

I do hope you have enjoyed reading about my traveling over the past year and as the New Year comes in I will once again be visiting the high country of New Mexico where I’ll be working on a new project that I’ll soon be telling you about. At that time of year where I’m going there are few other human travelers, maybe a bear or a mountain lion, deer, turkey and elk for sure and as you can imagine winter time along the continental divide ain’t for sissies.

However, if you’re a skier this is an area you might enjoy as there are three family oriented ski resorts close to where I’ll be. The Taos Ski Basin opened on November 23rd with man-made snow on a limited number of trails. In Red River the ski area has been family owned for 55 years and they also have two trails currently open with man-made snow.

Angel Fire Resort will open for skiing on December 8th and they have announced that the ski season will be extended through March 25th. Angel Fire has also added night skinning and a new black diamond trail so there is something for everyone, even me.

I’ll end this week with a significant piece of local history that will be meaningful for anyone who has read my book Footprints in the Dew. Lonnie Brown has died.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……
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On The Road with Footprints in the Dew

I have several book signing scheduled over the next few days where both the hardcover book and the audio book versions of Footprints in the Dew will be available.

On Friday December 1st I will be at the big Lorec Ranch Western Store in Oklahoma City, OK from 11-3 PM and then on Saturday December 2nd I will be at the grand opening of their new store in Pawhuska, OK from 10-3. The new store is right next door to The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile on Main Street.

Tuesday December 5th I will be at Brace Books in Ponca City, OK from 2-4PM. If you are not familiar with Brace Books, this is one of a handful of great independent bookstores in the state.

Hope to see you along the way!

The 2017 Oklahoma Hall of Fame Awards

Welcome back. Where do you go to get a darn good meal served to you by eighty busboys, be entertained by Vince Gill, get to rub elbows with actor Tom Selleck, Congressman Tom Cole, Olympians Shannon Miller and Mary Lou Retton and then to top it all off, listen to one of the best eighteen piece orchestras I’ve heard lately? Well if you guessed right here in Oklahoma, you guessed correctly and if you’re a regular reader of my column you probably know that this past Thursday night was the date of the ceremony in Oklahoma City to induct this year’s class into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and I was there. It was my first time to attend these awards but it was the 90th Annual Oklahoma Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony and friends this ain’t your ordinary dinner and dance fundraiser. Tears were shed by most of the inductees as they gave their acceptance speeches as well as by many of the onlookers so it was a very emotional night for sure.

Fourteen hundred people heard Justice Tom Colbert tell his story of growing up poor before going on to become a successful attorney and judge, eventually being the first African American to serve as Chief Justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Hal Smith of Ardmore is another member of this year’s class who you may not have heard of but he and his partners operate many of the most popular restaurants in seven states, including Charleston’s, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse and Krispy Donuts with annual sales of over $250 million. Another less familiar but equally important honoree this year is Phil Pardhun who developed much of the traffic signal and sign infrastructure in use across the country today.
Gymnast Shannon Miller needed no introduction to the crowd as everyone was well aware of her many athletic accomplishments and her courageous battle with ovarian cancer.

Actor Tom Selleck, who as you can imagine was always surrounded by women, gave the introduction to the last inductee, co-founder of Express Employment Professionals Robert Funk. Selleck called him a visionary and a man who had fulfilled his dreams of becoming a minister, a rancher, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

There were two posthumous inductees this year, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and Sequoyah. A graduate of Langston University, Sipuel dreamed of becoming a lawyer but because of her race was denied admittance to the law school at the University of Oklahoma. Her lawsuit against the University which was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in the integration of the law school. Sipuel graduated from the OU College of Law, going on to a career as a successful attorney and professor of law. This was a truly inspiring story that I had never heard before and I plan to read more about her.

The great Cherokee statesman and educator Sequoyah created the Cherokee alphabet and thus the tribe’s written language. I’ve written about his many accomplishments in the past and there is a great deal to be learned from his example.

The featured speakers inducting these notable Oklahomans were former Governor Frank Keating, Coach Barry Switzer, OSU President Burns Hargis and Kenneth Levit of the Kaiser Family Foundation. They spoke of the important contributions all the inductees had made not only in Oklahoma but around the world.

This was one of the best events I’ve been to this year and I’d highly recommend a visit to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame which is housed in the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in Oklahoma City. If you would like to see the ceremony on TV it will be showing on OETA on December 9th and 10th. With that said I’ll leave you with a quote this week from the Oklahoma Hall of Fame:

“Oklahomans are changing the world” and it’s true.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….
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Snow in Oklahoma for Christmas

Welcome back. Over the past seventeen years that I have been writing this column the Original Buffalo Dale character has played many roles including scout, tracker, translator and interpreter. This week I am adding predictor of weather events to my list of talents. On Saturday November 25th I am predicting snow with accumulations up to a foot in some places around Dewey. The ice will be so bad that during the next week people will be ice skating around downtown Bartlesville. Snow chains may be recommended but I’ve been told that no matter what the weather all the new shops opening up on Second Street and all over downtown will be open. Schools may be closed but McCoy’s Jewelers, Weezie’s, and the Painted Horse will all be decked out for the holidays and open. The same goes for the shops in Dewey.

With snow and ice coming in a couple of weeks I can tell you from my experience growing up in this area Christmas shopping has never been more diverse. The independently owned specialty shops that have popped up in Dewey and Bartlesville remind me of the shops in small Colorado mountain villages without the high price tags.

You throw in what advertisers are calling a blizzard of fresh made snow guaranteed a foot deep and add the ice skating rink that will open in downtown Bartlesville on December 1st.-well forget the Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea with my prediction we might have our own winter sporting events right here.

The Dewey Blizzard which starts on November 25th will be a good time for kids and adults to see what’s new in downtown Dewey. In Bartlesville from December 1st to the 23rd a professionally built ice skating rink will be open Thursday through Sunday in the Chamber of Commerce parking lot and lessons will be available. With big parades and many other holiday events in both towns there should be fun even for Scrooge. Whether you are skating or building a massive snowman, shopping or eating out, the last two months of the year are looking to be pretty exciting.

As for me, coming up this Saturday I’ll be showing my film Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes at the Hominy Community Center at 2 p.m. As many of you know, Hominy is the small historic town in Osage County where besides many other things, the Drummond family got its start in banking and ranching. Today the town is the home of the Dick Conner Correctional Center as well as a big casino and it also has one of the leading high school football teams in the state. The program has won five state championships and has produced several players who have gone to play pro ball.
I have also learned that Hominy resident Amity Brevard will be the lead dancer in a production of The Nutcracker at the Constantine Theater in Pawhuska on December 9th. This production has particular significance in this area because the famous Osage ballerina Maria Tallchief danced this role as the Sugar Plum Fairy while performing with the New York City Ballet. Like Tallchief, Brevard is a member of the Osage Tribe. Hominy is definitely an interesting community and I’m looking forward to my visit.

Unfortunately I will be missing the Coach’s Cabana which is scheduled to be at Barry Switzer’s house this weekend. You regular readers may remember that Barry’s producers have invited me to all his live TV shows that are filmed during OU games. The last regular season show will be on Saturday, November 25th when OU plays West Virginia in Norman and the show will be broadcast from Campus Corner. It’s free to be a crowd member and you never know what past sports legend might show up like J.C. Watts did.

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

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Back to Coach’s Corner

Welcome back. Returning from the high country of north central New Mexico, the 12,000 foot high peaks in my rearview mirror, my personal mission accomplished, as I was driving I found my thoughts still lingered on the history of the area I’d just traveled through. Towns like Red River and Angel Fire which are now both popular skiing destinations but back in the early 1890s outlaws like Black Jack Ketchum rode these trails leaving a path of robberies and murders behind them. The historic Taos Pueblo which is still inhabited by indigenous Pueblo Indians and the town of Taos where luckily I was able to attend their local Saturday farmer’s market. Abiqui where Georgia O’Keefe had her winter home and which is one of my favorite places. Espanola, a town which is known for its many shops, is also the start of a long line of casinos stretching along the road to Santa Fe. If you are a gambler you can find a casino about every mile and friends these aren’t your small roadside gambling outposts. Large hotels with multiple swimming pools, big gas stations and convenience stores, these casinos have it all, even their own banks. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to stop but I imagine the insides are just as plush as the outsides.

Wrapping up a two week journey my destination this past Saturday was another casino I’d never been to, this time not in Santa Fe or Albuquerque but in Tulsa. If gambling is your thing, or if like me you usually go to casinos for the concerts, you might want to check out the River Spirit Casino. I was there to attend another Coach’s Cabana broadcast with stars Coach Barry Switzer and past OU and professional quarterback Thomas Lott. Because it was the bedlam game which is such as big thing in Oklahoma, the TV show was moved from Barry’s house to a bigger venue. This particular show also featured past OSU football coach Pat Jones, OSU play by play game announcer Loren Rule, another OSU great Mark Moore and longtime OU commentator Grey Roberts. I myself had been invited to be part of the crowd whenever I’m in the area. With all the personalities on hand I felt like I needed to check this game out and I was glad I did.
Being up front and personal with all the celebrities is always fun. Then you throw in 120 pounds of free chicken wings, enough Philly cheese steak sandwiches to feed an entire football team, a car load of chips and dip, free drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Add to it a great OU vs OSU game well all I can say is what a deal and it’s not over yet. If you would like to be a part of the next Coach’s Cabana show be on Campus Corner in Norman this Saturday. I have to warn you though this game with TCU is big and I expect a huge crowd. The Coach’s Cabana show which has been going on for five years, is free to attend and will be set up right on the street so if you’ve never experienced the thrill of big time college football here’s your chance!

Staying with sports this week and with basketball season upon us a good bet for some cheap entertainment is a local high school game. I’ve found that both the girls and boys teams are fun to watch and for the more die-hard fan who doesn’t mind a short drive to Tulsa there are big time college games. I’ve been to many games at both the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts and they are a bargain as well.
I hope to see some of you in Norman or maybe at a ballgame. If not, thanks for the support and till next time I’ll see ya down the road.
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The History of Colfax County, New Mexico

no matter how many times I visit this area I always learn something new……

Welcome back. This is where the plains meet the Sangre de Christos mountain range just east of the Continental Divide. Where the slopes of the mountains converge fertile valleys were formed and over thousands of years these valleys produced vegetation that attracted wildlife which was followed by man. This week I’m still camped out in one of these valleys where the stories I’m hearing about the early settlers in the area have caught my attention and I hope they interest you as well.
In 1841 the Santa Fe Trail had just been developed and it ran through New Mexico including Colfax County. At the time this new county was home to both good and bad. These are some of the good.

Lucien Maxell (1818-1878) A close friend of the famous scout Kit Carson, Maxell held a land grant from Mexico that covered most of the land east of the Rockies in northeastern New Mexico. He developed what had been just a layover spot on the Cimarron River into the town of Cimarron.

Kit Carson (1809-1868) Government scout, explorer and Indian fighter with over fifty books and biographies written about him, Carson helped tame Colfax County. Eventually he moved to Taos, NM where he later died.

Frank Springer (1848-1927) In most places around the country history has forgotten Frank Spring but not in the town that bears his name or among any of the people in Colfax County. A lawyer for the Maxell Land Grant Company, he played in a big role in the construction of schools and railroads and was also involved in timber sales and coal mining. When gold was discovered in the area Springer called the shots as to who received mining claims.

Of course these early settlers of the west were not the only ones. Manley Phaft (1842-1915) was a successful rancher whose huge herds of thousands of head of cattle and sheep are still talked about today. Fred Lambert (1887-1971) was sworn in as a temporary deputy sheriff at age 16. His first assignment was to capture three killers, two men and a woman. When he singlehandedly caught the killers he became a full time lawman which led to a legendary career.

Elliot “Chope Phillips who was the son of Waite Phillips, also called Colfax County home. A man who could have gone into any profession, his one desire was always to be a good cowboy and friends I met him briefly before he died and that’s exactly what he was.
A living legend in this area whom I’m honored to know was born in 1930 and is still busy running the famous CS Cattle Company is Linda Davis. Inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City (or as I still call it the Cowboy Hall of Fame) and a lifetime member of a dozen other organizations, her story and the history of her family’s ranch could take up a year’s worth of my weekly columns.

I’ll end with Gretchen Sammis (1925-2012). This is another woman who like Linda Davis was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame as well as many other organizations. A person I really regret not meeting, she donated her house and all her land for the Boy Scouts’ to use and also left an endowment to maintain the property.
With access to the internet and libraries there is plenty more to learn about Gretchen, Linda and the rest of these folks and I guarantee you some interesting reading.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….
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Lake Eufaula, Barry Switzer and Me

Welcome back. From last week’s column you learned that my travels are once again taking me out west but first I had a few stops to make along the way.

In 1964 the Army Corps of Engineer completed what was, and still is with 600 miles of shoreline, the largest lake in Oklahoma. Located on the Canadian River, Lake Eufaula is a destination for fisherman and with two state parks and numerous marinas and campgrounds is a family friendly lake as well. My reason for a regrettably short visit was a screening of my film Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes at the Eufaula Memorial Library. The library is situated right in the middle of town, surrounded by interesting shops and it is just the type of place I enjoy checking out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time but as General McArthur once said “I will return.” This is a beautiful part of Oklahoma and well worth a trip.

My next stop was at a house in Norman that sits on the corner of Chautauqua Avenue and Timber Dell Road. A large house made of cut stone and two stories high, it dwarfs the homes which border it to the south and to the north just across the street is the University of Oklahoma. Yes friends, this is the home of Barry Switzer, a man who coached the Oklahoma Sooners for sixteen years and who has the distinction of holding one of the highest winning percentages of any college football coach in history. He also coached the Dallas Cowboys to their Super Bowl XXX win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award.

I have been invited to attend the Coach’s Cabana live TV broadcast during all the OU games this year which has given me the opportunity to hang out a little with Coach Switzer and I can tell you he’s a nice guy who particularly likes kids. He is always ready to shake a kid’s hand or pose for a picture with him or her which makes their day but I can tell Barry enjoys the kids just as much as they enjoy him.
If you have read Barry’s book Bootlegger’s Boy you know that “Coach” as his former players call him, had a tragic childhood. With a mother who committed suicide and a father who was murdered by a jealous lover, Barry could easily have gone in another direction in life if not for football. He is something special for sure and after reading his story I think you will agree.

My last stop was at Saturday night’s big shindig celebrating 150 years of the Chisholm Trail which was held in a barn of course and the celebrities and politicians were thick. People running for Governor, the House and Senate and even County Commissioner were all in attendance. Two time Governor George Nigh was also there and gave a great talk about Oklahoma History as did Dr. Bob Blackburn the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Celebrity wise one of my favorites, the former stunt man to the stars Dean Smith was a guest along with Bob Funk who will soon be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. I also heard through the grapevine that Tom Selleck will be Bob’s presenter and I am definitely hoping to get a ticket to that event.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………..
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