Oklahoma is OK


7/7/11 – The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas made me cry. The site of John Kennedy’s assassination had been in my mind since 1963. In some ways my childhood ended on that day. The Museum was well done and very moving. I discovered the the grassy knoll was a WPA project from the 1930s. Kenda had set up a meeting with Photography Curator John Rohrbach at the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth. I was still a little choked up from the Sixth Floor Museum and we talked about trying explain the 1960s to our sons. John gave me some excellent feedback on the library photographs. Walker, Nick and I left the Dallas area in the 107 degree heat and headed north to Oklahoma. The license plates name Oklahoma as Native America and we feel the change as we cross the Red River. Durant, OK is the capitol of the Choctaw Nation. I photograph the library for the symbolism, not its beauty. The Coal County public library in Coalgate, OK seemed very plain at first. As I walked around it though it became much more interesting. The context of the library was important and I included the Native run Dollar General store across the street. Manjula Martin has assisted us setting up this blog and also my Kickstarter site. She had a friend from Ada, OK whose advise was to get out of Ada as soon as possible. However, we found the town to be relatively prosperous and nice. It had a 1930s, Deco-inspired library and a stunning older library which is now a history center. We then had our usual evening routine of Bar-B-Q, blogging and a beer in Ada.

7/8/11 – Holdenville, OK was another surprise. Winding our way northeast of Ada through beautiful farm country we find a real mix of Native and Anglo cultures. We didn’t know what to expect in Holdenville but found another nice New Deal built library. The two librarians were very talkative and told us about the history of the Grace M. Pickens library. Grace’s son, T. Bone Pickens lived in Holdenville and the family donated money to rebuild and expand the library. The biggest part of the economy is the nearby private prison. It is a growth industry because California’s insanely over-crowded prisons are shipping the excess prisoners here. (Irony #1) The librarians also explained that one of the principal recreational activities for some of the locals is cooking meth. (Irony #2) The 1926 built library in Wewoka was another gem. It is the capitol of the Seminole Nation. The Seminoles were originally from Florida and were forced to  emigrate here along the famous 19th century Trail of Tears. The library was obviously well funded and well loved. There was an interesting ethnic mix here between whites, black and Natives Americans. The oldest Carnegie library in Oklahoma still used as a library was in El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City. It was packed on a hot afternoon and had some particularly beautiful hand-painted columns on the inside. Even though it was 5 PM it was well over 100 degrees on the outside. We are gradually getting adjusted to the unrelenting heat but I still melted under the dark cloth photographing out in the sun. We drive on to Oklahoma City and check in to our AC motel room. After stashing our stuff we head over to the Stockyard District to photograph the small Wright branch library. We then head to a nearby cowboy clothing store where I buy a much needed belt and Walker and Nick buy cowboy hats. Then, we drive down to the beautiful new Main Library to photograph in the early evening light. We finish the evening at the famous Cattlemans Steakhouse, another George Bush favorite. The is another classic Western steakhouse dripping with character and serving some of the best steak I have ever eaten.

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One response to “Oklahoma is OK

  1. pascale

    I love your blog and your project; it is very touching. I have traveled across the United States several times and have been to many of the same places. It’s true–Ada is a nice looking town so I don’t know why someone told you to get out as soon as possible. Good luck and god bless!

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