Postcard from Oklahoma- 1

6-8 October 2012

Claremore, OK

This KOA says it’s in NE Tulsa, but it’s actually in Claremore… about 30 miles NE of Tulsa.

The track was a stone’s throw from our site.

And it’s a bit of a surprise. The description on the KOA site talked about horse racing and a casino which I took to be somewhere nearby. Not so: This KOA is on the grounds of Cherokee Casino which is co-located with Will Rogers Downs race track. After checking in at the KOA desk in the casino we got parked… about 50′ from the race track. Amazing stuff. I tried to get a couple shots of the horses launching from the starting gate (they were racing quarter horses when we were there), but it was so cold I gave up! Still, it was a great site and something we’d not have seen had I understood the park.

Setting up the starting gate for the next race.

And not a grown tree in sight anywhere. It looks like KOA planted a few sticks when they took over the park, but they’re hardly noticeable. Maybe in 10 years!

The Admiral was delighted about the casino. She loves to play the nickel slot machines and  wasted no time getting over there on Sunday afternoon. Lost her bank roll in a couple hours and came home broke and smelling like an ash tray. So much for paying for the trip with her winnings. It’s been 4 years since the last time she satisfied her urge to gamble, so we should be good for at least another 4 years… she really hates to lose. Almost as much as she’ll hate reading about it in these pages!

Will Rogers slept here

But none of this is why a traveler should stop in Claremore, OK. What you should come here for is the Will Rogers Memorial Museum which is also the burial site for the the Rogers family (except Will Jr. who is buried with his wife in Arizona). This was sort of home base for him and his family. They had a ranch about 13 miles away in Oologah, OK. The ranch tour is free but the Memorial Museum costs $5 or $4 for seniors. We settled on the museum and lunch out.

I don’t think of myself as having heroes. People I admire, yes; people that are heroes, no. I suppose I did as a kid till I got over the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers. If I had to pick a hero today, I suspect Will Rogers would be on my short list (guess I still look to cowboys for inspiration). After listening to recordings Rogers made during the depression trying to gain support for Hoover’s plan for feeding & employing the down-and-out, and then later supporting FDR’s plans to put America to work, I realized that not much has changed since then and that Rogers had some good thoughts on what needed fixing.  I heard many of these recordings when I was young, so much of it was familiar.

If you’ve never seen his private production film Ropin’ Fool as well as the Ropin’ Fool Outtakes, you owe it to yourself to find and watch it. He was truly amazing. It ought to be available thru NetFlix… ??? It was one of the very first uses of slow motion photography in a production film.

A genuine Remington just sitting in the rotunda. Yikes!
A bronze by Charley Russell picturing
Rogers in a typical setting… typing
his daily column.

A model of the Lockheed Orion in which Will Rogers
and pilot Wiley Post crashed. I was surprised to read
there was a witness. They had landed, asked directions,
stretched their legs, took off. About 100′ off the ground
the plane pitched forward and ‘somersaulted’ to the ground
landing on the canopy. Seems a very odd behavior. Now I’ll
have to research what the suspected cause was.

An 8′ or 9′ bronze of Will Rogers
dominates the rotunda. I’m guessing
this too is a Charley Russell.

He did fund raisers all over the world to
help people in need, this one while he
was still with the Ziegfeld Follies.

A patio just outside the theater where his movies play
continuously. He made 50 silent films plus another
21 ‘talkies’. Rogers was a slacker compared to Tom Mix
who turned out over 300!

I guess you know you’ve had an impact when the Navy
names a Poseiden submarine after you!

The veranda where the sarcophagus is located with yet
another bronze of Will Rogers. This overlooks the area
where Claremore is located and is across the street from
Will Rogers State University.
A portrait done by Charley Russell. Rogers & Russell were
both Oklahoma cowboys and close friend.

 

Oh, and Will Rogers’ full name is William Penn Adair Rogers. I also have a Penn heritage (my paternal grandmother was a Penn) and they lived awhile in Missouri & Oklahoma before moving on to Arizona and later to California. I need to poke at that a bit to see if there’s a common ancestor. Now wouldn’t that be cool!!

Recent reading

Btw, if you share my disappointment in what was- and still is- taught to US high school students in American history, check out Lies My Teacher Told Me by  Loewen. He teaches college level history and has been an outspoken critic of the content of American history textbooks as they attempt to establish certain people as “heroes”, whitewashing the distasteful parts of their ‘history’ or ignoring inconvenient accomplishments. And it’s a fun read… like history should be.

On the road again

Off to western OK next, then Amarillo, TX; Tucumcari, NM; and Santa Fe, NM.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in Benson, AZ. The 2 bernese mountain dogs that initiated the name of this blog are gone but forever alive in our memory.
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