Voices of the Past Whisper to the Future with John Erling

Voices of the Past Whisper to the Future with John Erling

Voices are reminders that we live; words are proof that we have spoken and memories are what we leave as a result. Each life is a voice spoken in a graceful fluidity through seconds and years in time which becomes a whisper to the future. It is that voice which echoes beyond our years to become the stories of life and legacy. One man has become a voice for those voices. His name is John Erling. Many of us may remember hearing him on KRMG radio in Tulsa where he entertained listeners for over 25 years with news and commentary. However, now retired for the past ten years, Erling has continued the spirit of his morning radio show Erling in the Morning by bringing new interesting subject matter to listeners. Through his endeavor Voices of Oklahoma, he is allowing others to tell their stories and thus telling us all about Oklahoma and those who have made their mark in the panhandle state.
“Voices of Oklahoma is a collection of oral history stories. We have collected over 200 of them with 67 of the interviewees having already died. This emphasizes the reason we are doing this,” Erling said.

This project began simply over lunch between friends. He and Walt Helmerich III, most notably known for Helmerich & Payne Drilling company and the purchase and growth of Utica Square in Tulsa, met for lunch once a month for ten years. During those lunches, Helmerich would relay these interesting stories about his life and career to Erling. It occurred to Erling that he “should not be the only one who gets to sit at this table.” Helmerich agreed but was not keen on the idea of a book. Erling, intrigued by the idea of telling others’ stories, thought about how he could get these stories to the public.

While driving around one day, he thought about using a website as the vehicle to bring these stories to the public. He then suggested to Helmerich that he record the businessman and philanthropist for future generations in his own words and make it available to everyone. Helmerich liked the idea, and so Erling already thinking about future recording, asked if he would also ask his friend Henry Zarrow, owner of Sooner Pipe & Supply, and Bigheart Oil Company if he would agree to be recorded. Zarrow agreed and the program was born. Erling immediately began seeking out others he could record. Using his connections and friends in the community to find interesting candidates, suggestions for subjects soon began coming to light. So much so in fact, that Erling had to classify categories for the abundance of options from the different aspects of Oklahoma life.

It will be ten years this April since Voices of Oklahoma began publishing these oral histories on its site. Erling, with the help of John Hamill, has recently published the book Voices of Oklahoma with excerpts from many of those interviewed. Erling was kind enough to send me a copy, and after reviewing it, I must conclude that any lover of history, regardless of where they are from, will find this an enlightening and enjoyable read.

In our lives, we come into contact with intriguing and innovative people who have experienced remarkable events. Within the first few pages alone, one can find out what it was like to dine at a private castle with George Harrison and Ringo Starr of the Beatles fame along with Eric Clapton. One can tour with Bob Dylan, wait on J. Paul Getty at a department store (the richest man in the world at the time), Flip a coin of destiny with Ritchie Valens and watch your dad purchase a home from Will Rogers for $500 down and a verbal agreement for groceries for one year, without a contract. All of these stories are told in their own words from their perspectives as Oklahomans.

Erling said he does not have a favorite story as all have something that make them unique. But he does remember some quite fondly due to their historical connection. One, in particular, is of Marian Opala, a former Oklahoma State Supreme Court Justice. Erling tells of Opala’s service with the Polish Underground after the Nazis invasion of Poland in 1939 and subsequent service in the British Army. He goes on to speak about Opala’s capture and imprisonment in a concentration camp. Opala would later immigrate to Oklahoma, earn his degrees and work his way through the legal ranks to obtain the highest judicial office in the state. He died four days after recording his story to Erling.

Although the book is a valuable resource, there isn’t anything quite like listening to the stories told by those who actually experienced these incredible moments that made up their lives, Erling explained. The driving force behind this endeavor has been to offer a valuable learning resource to future generations. Many of these personal stories that have been shared with Voices of Oklahoma are bits of personal information that would certainly be lost to history if not for the efforts of those involved with the project. Erling said that many teachers and college professors use the website as a resource to enlighten the younger generations with a vivid history they will never be able to experience otherwise. It is available to anyone at no charge who has an interest in history or those who have helped forge it. One of the most interesting aspects of this project is that it does not focus on one element of society but all. Captains of industry, musicians, artists, philanthropists, celebrities or anyone who adds to the rich tapestry of our state can all become part of this valuable historical resource.

“Our experience with the book has been a good one and has attracted interests to the website that otherwise would not have been,” Erling said. The site brings in over 10,000 listeners each month, he added. There will also be more books to purchase in the future as Erling stated that there is enough material already to fill a set of encyclopedias.

“This book is hoping to add to what we are doing with the website, and we are getting a lot of attention with it. People get excited about books,” Erling said. He explained that the book came about because people were telling him that it was quicker for them to read the transcripts which accompany the recordings. So he thought about a book and using excerpts in story form to reach those who may not have heard of the website. The book, which published ten days before Christmas, allows those who love to read to experience these interesting historical stories in a format they enjoy. The book, however, only contains parts of the complete stories and so those interested in the full stories can still visit the site and read the full transcripts. All the proceeds from book sales go back into the project to fund more interviews and recordings.

“Our experience with the book has been a good one and has attracted interests to the website that otherwise would not have been,” Erling said. The site brings in over 10,000 listeners each month, he added. There will also be more books to purchase in the future as Erling stated that there is enough material already to fill a set of encyclopedias.

 

The project is funded by both individuals and foundations who believe in Voices of Oklahoma’s mission. These include, but are not limited to: The Chickasaw Nation, Burt B. Holmes, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation, H.A. and Mary Kay Chapman Charitable Trust, Helmerich Foundation, The William K. Warren Foundation, and Williams Companies. To visit the site or purchase the book, log onto voicesofoklahoma.com.

Authors Note: As owners of Uniquelahoma, my business partner Spencer Heckathorn and I believe this story to be one of the most important we can publish. The very mission of Voices of Oklahoma and Uniquelahoma is to highlight this incredible state, its people, history and cultures. Voices of Oklahoma is doing just that in a unique and powerful manner that benefits us now and for generations to come. It is our sincere hope that each of our readers will visit and support Voices of Oklahoma and help keep our history alive.
-CL

Santa is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet

Santa is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet

Santa is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

18 December 2018co-published with Tulsa Lifestyle Magazine

The True Spirit of Christmas Is Closer Than You Might ThinkYou better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus’ alter ego mayust whack you with a stainless steel candy cane! Okay…that’s not true, but he will find the exaggeration
funny as he does so many things. What is true though, is that he is the real Santa. I know that some may
scoff and proclaim there is no Santa, but those people have never met Richard Baxter Jr. Most people
though just call him Santa. He even has a belt buckle he wears year-round that reads Santa and is a card-
carrying Santa which he takes with him so he can prove he’s the sleigh riding jolly man when children
ask.Every day 365 days a year, he looks like, acts like and even laughs like Santa. But more than that, he
believes in the spirit of Christmas and the true meaning of the season every one of those days. He is a
reminder to each of us why we should truly celebrate and to also never forget that the innocence of a
child can teach us all that magic does exist if we just believe it does.“If it weren’t for the birth of Jesus, we would be out of a gig,” he quipped. He shares that meaning in all
other areas of his life by being an example of a giving person throughout the year. It’s almost as though
he was born with the spirit of Christmas; he was even born on December 25 and has been fascinated
with the holiday since he was a child.

Photos Courtesy of Amber Gregg Photography. To view more of her work, visit www.ambergreggphotography.com

You are who again?
The fact that he naturally looks and laughs like the Santa most of us envision just reinforces the belief
that he is Mr. Claus. The first time I saw Baxter, I told the person I was with that he looked like Santa.
Unbeknownst to me, he was behind me. Then a voice from behind me bellowed out, ‘well that’s
because I am Santa,’ followed by a ho-ho. Of course he was referring to what people call him, but still,
the image of Santa I have always had was very close to Baxter’s normal appearance. He even rolls his
mustache and has “Santa street clothes” which he wears for any season. Whenever he happens upon a
child and is out of his Santa suit and the child remarks he looks like Santa but is not dressed like him, he
always has a story about how he is Santa. He is just out checking on the naughty and nice list or that he
had to meet with toy makers. One might say he never misses an opportunity to be himself.

“It took off like wildfire”

Baxter is also a member of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas and takes the role of the
holiday character very seriously. Although he portrays the actual character in costume only part-time, he
is the spirit of Christmas full-time. It’s difficult to imagine for most how someone could play a character
year round, and so it makes sense that they wouldn’t believe. But that’s just it, it’s no act. That spirit of
giving and laughter is with him wherever he might be at the moment. I had the privilege of working with
him for two years at Webco Industries’ Stainless Division, and during that time, I never called him by his
legal name or heard anyone else do it either. He was always Santa. He treated every single person with
kindness and respect. He always conducted himself with humility and had a bellow of laughter that was
unending.

Photos Courtesy of Amber Gregg Photography.

His Highness King Jolly
He moved here from Washington, where he participated in many holiday activities including mall Santa.
This is where he got his start 35 years ago as a professional Santa. This was back in the days of
Polaroid's, and the “gig” lasted three years. In addition, it allowed him to become the photo location
manager where he had seen as many as 9,000 children in just over a five-week period. He eventually
tired of the mall scene and started his own business doing home visits, which included nursing homes,
parties and holiday gatherings. He has continued that business here, and it has grown to include
parades, organizations, and retail gigs.
“It took off like wildfire,” he said. Even his wife Rebecca got in on the act as Mrs. Claus during a cruise
gig where he performed as the jolly gift giver. It is during this cruise that he knighted a young boy as the
elf Sonic using a candy cane. This, he said, is one of his favorite memories as Santa, because the child
had suffered tragedy in his life involving his parents and this small act of kindness was a gift to that child
that made Christmas be the way it should for all children, Baxter expressed. He added that being Santa
is his legacy, a way to live on after ha has passed. Every person in which he interacts, takes a photo with
or who watches him with children keeps a little piece of him with them. It truly is an amazing experience
that one keeps with them always.

An ambassador of Goodwill
It should be noted that a professional Santa can work year round and make good money if he is willing
to travel. But Baxter would rather make sacrifices so that he can be close to home and care for Rebecca
who has health issues. Just another example of how he puts others before himself. Of course, what else
would one expect from the real Santa? He is a true believer in “the magic” of Christmas and that keeping
Christ in Christmas is Santa’s job; an ambassador of sorts for its true meaning.


He has a long list of activities this holiday season, and so he will be around the area spreading cheer and
making children smile. And though I can’t promise you will meet him while he is out and about, I can
promise that you will realize he is the true Santa if you do meet him. He won’t be the one with a fake
beard asking for a donation in front of the mall, but the one offering to share the true spirit of Christmas
with you between bellows of ho-ho-ho and granting wishes with his stainless steel candy cane. Merry
Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Oklahoma’s Own The Church Studio Former Stomping Grounds of Leon Russell

Oklahoma’s Own The Church Studio Former Stomping Grounds of Leon Russell

OPPORTUNITY KNOX, BUILDING A LEGACY ONE LANDMARK AT A TIME

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

02

Nov.

2018

As she sat there amid the hustle and bustle of the diner’s morning breakfast rush sporting a red Church Studio tee and a slight sense of anxiety, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was sitting with a celebrity. Dipping her tea bag into a hot cup of water, she soon appeared relieved to have made her appointment with me and offered a warm smile once we were seated. She had already been meeting people since 7 a.m., and it was now 10, and she was right on time. I admit I felt a bit nervous at first, but that feeling soon faded as we began to converse. I had been hoping for quite some time to have the opportunity to write about Teresa Knox. I learned some time ago about her and believed that she is the very definition of vision; a woman who sees value in what is broken, beauty in what is decaying and faith in what can be. With a fresh cup of coffee before me and pen in hand, I jotted down bits and pieces of her life in my notebook. Each stroke of the pen confirmed my belief that I certainly was in the presence of vision.

Allow Me To Introduce Teresa Knox

Although I consider her a celebrity, she would never refer to herself that way. The reason is, in part, because she is too humble to see herself that way and partly because she is too gracious to admit it even if she did. She would probably say that she is a person who finds purpose in everything she does; a person raised on the wrong side of the tracks who understands we define ourselves by our actions, not our circumstances. For those who may not know her name, she can be recognized from her accomplishments and causes. The list reads as an impressive resume of ingenuity and preservation. We met to talk about her latest project, the restoration and eventual reopening of famous Tulsa musician Leon Russell’s recording studio The Church Studio which she purchased in 2016. And, we will get to that project soon. But to understand her reason for taking on such a challenging project, it is necessary to know about Knox, the person.

She is the founder of Community Care, Oklahoma Technical and Clary Sage Colleges in Tulsa. She founded Community Care first under the name of Dental Directions, The School of Dental Assisting which she started while working as a dental assistant. She got into this profession at 18 years of age after growing up in what she called “poor.” She explained that people in that type of situation often live with low self-esteem and tend to make poor choices due to that feeling. Unlike many people in her situation who found escapes in drug dependency or crime, she had a willingness to work hard and to let her mistakes become a teacher. She spent three years as a carhop for Sonic Drive-In building a work ethic and learning business lessons from books she checked out from the library that still follow her to this day. These experiences gave her the confidence to move in a new direction.

Becoming A Better Decision Maker

“Dental assisting probably saved my life,” Knox said. Initially heading down a negative path in life, the profession gave her a sense of pride and self-worth that had been lacking in her life to that point. This new perspective allowed her to become what she called “a better decision maker” which ultimately led to her as an advocate for others who needed an opportunity to make better decisions in their lives. She realized early in her chosen profession that she had a knack for training and decided to market that skill. So she placed a four dollar ad in the classified ads of Tulsa World offering to train people to become dental assistants. As a young single mom working in a dental practice, she borrowed some equipment from the dentist for whom she was working and began training people at her Riverside Drive apartment on Saturdays. Things were going well…for a while anyway, she explained. Then her first snag hit when the state attorney general sent her a “nasty” letter informing her she was operating a school illegally and would have to stop and pay back the money she had accepted from her students.

The School of Hard Knox

“I was scared. I was devastated. I didn’t know I had to be licensed.” She said. She then spoke with her employer and offered to work for free if he would allow her to use his office to teach her dental assisting classes. He agreed, and she became licensed a short time later eventually turning that into the for-profit school Dental Directions. From that endeavor, Community Care College was developed with the other two schools following a few years later. With her confidence and desire to give others opportunities, she, along with others who shared her vision, created a learning legacy that continually grows while offering multiple programs of varied studies to hundreds of students each year. The schools have produced thousands of graduates since its inception in 1995.

“I made so many mistakes. But I would build on each success, and I learned from trial and error. I have a silly blog called ‘The School of Hard Knox’ a play on my last name and it literally was the school of hard knocks.” She quipped. She added that she loves to work with start-up businesses now and share all she has learned. She admits that she was a “screw-up” and knows how difficult it is to keep going when money is tight, and entrepreneurs can’t afford to pay for services such as attorneys and accountants that are so beneficial to business owners. She used her knowledge and experience to help business owners understand that the business principles of old are still the best. Treating others better than you want to be treated, the customer is always right, giving back to the community and truly showing gratitude are just a few of the ideas she offers to others. These, along with perseverance, are what bring about success, she said.

“I made so many mistakes. But I would build on each success, and I learned from trial and error. I have a silly blog called ‘The School of Hard Knox’ a play on my last name and it literally was the school of hard knocks.”

Graduating To Greater Things

“At our 20 year anniversary, I was going to sell the colleges, and then I just chickened out. I panicked. I thought about it, prayed about it and went to bed one night to awaken with the decision to make the organization a non-profit. It made sense. We employed the most generous team, hadn’t raised tuition in over a decade, gave millions away in scholarships, and I really felt like we were running a mission at the campus,” Knox said. It took two years to make the change, but upon completion, she stepped down as CEO, moved out of operations and voted on to become a board member. She had been tied to the schools for over 20 years, and now they would no longer be a part of her daily life. She found herself in a “funk” and realized that she was going through the grieving process. She also realized that the future was waiting with open arms.

She was already enjoying commercial real estate development but wanted to expand that business and pursue her love of historical preservation. She first purchased a property near the historic Circle Cinema in Tulsa and began restoring that with a friend. Soon to follow was various properties in the Pearl District including the Church Studio. Her love of Leon Russell’s music would be the hook, and the studio would be her greatest historical catch.

Finding A New Church

“First off, I am a huge Leon Russell fan. He was so talented, and I don’t think a lot of people truly realize the talent that he was. He wasn’t just a singer but a brilliant songwriter, composer, and entrepreneur. He was a top musician in the country in 1972 and could have gone anywhere. But, he chose to come back to his hometown. That alone is incredible,” she said. For her, it was as though she was drawn to The Church Studio as almost hearing Russell’s melody of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ beckoning her to turn the forgotten stranger into a new friend. With a nudge from her big brother, Larry-another huge Leon Russell fan—she found herself driving past it and even picking up the garbage that drifted onto the property. She sought out the owner and bought the studio without even going inside.

“At that point, I wanted it so badly! I wanted to bring it back to its original glory. I wanted it to be a positive reflection on Leon Russell.” He hadn’t passed away at that time but did a couple of months later. Russell had turned the church into a studio in the spring of 1972. It was also home office to Shelter Records. Russell closed the studio in 1976, and it was eventually sold. Knox purchased the studio in August of 2016 and decided to breathe new life into a withering landmark. She did not know Russell and was “purely a fan” but held his legacy in high regard as someone who mentored and propelled so many artists including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Dwight Twilley, and the Gap Band to stardom and for developing the “Tulsa Sound” with Tulsa native singer/songwriter J.J. Cale. Famed guitarist Eric Clapton would pick up this sound and record Cale’s songs ‘After Midnight’ and ‘Cocaine.’ Lynyrd Skynyrd would also record his song ‘Call Me The Breeze.’ Leon’s magnetism and the other Tulsa Sound musicians like Walt Richmond, David Teegarden, Carl Radle, Jamie Oldaker, Jimmy Markham, and Chuck Blackwell to name a few also attracted greats to Oklahoma such as Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Peter Tosh, Freddy King, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Kansas, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan, and Bonnie Raitt.

“I not only want to honor Leon’s legacy but have a place that inspires a younger generation of musicians and is an incubation center for these artists. I am very excited about this and believe the studio will be a destination for veteran musicians and new talent alike,” she said. The studio will be an analog, and digital state-of-the-art recording studio after the restoration is complete next year. She has hopes to make The Church Studio a beautiful and functional facility that can compete with the major studios around the world. In addition, Knox has also been able to get the studio listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is making it the home to the Church Studio Archive, a 4,000 piece collection associated with Leon Russell, The Tulsa Sound, Shelter Records, and the historic church.

Charity Begins At Home

There is also The Church Studio Music Foundation which focuses on the preservation of the studio as a landmark, the legacy of Leon Russell, the promotion of the Tulsa Sound and engage the general public through music, programs, film, video, recording, and activities. She is an avid lover of her home city of Tulsa.

She has recently completed the restoration of a historical building in the Kendall Whittier neighborhood and is in the process of restoring the Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa. The three-story mansion was built in 1923 by Tulsa oilman and philanthropist Earl Harwell. In recent years it has been used to host weddings, fundraisers, and other events. Knox plans to keep that tradition, along with adding a boutique hotel element, while preserving its historical significance. “In the future, I’d like to continue identifying historic properties that need attention, care and love and bring them back to relevance,” she said.

Writer’s Church Sermon

Much can be said about Knox, much more than can be written here. Her life with its interests, passions, and beliefs weave together in this complex and beautiful pattern making it difficult to categorize her and explain her with a simple definition. This pattern of hers connects and reconnects to everything in her life continually building a legacy while preserving the legacies of so many others and then offering the opportunities for so many more to create new legacies. Whether it’s a student from one of the schools she founded, a new musician who will be given a chance to make a mark in the music world, a historian who appreciates her restoration efforts or just a fan who believes he had coffee and tea with a celebrity at a Tulsa diner, I believe we could all agree that landmarks are created when someone takes the time, effort and passion to build them. Teresa Knox has become one of those Tulsa landmarks. I bet Leon would be proud!

For more information about The Church Studio and its history, visit https://thechurchstudio.com/

To learn more about The Church Studio Foundation, visit https://thechurchstudio.com/foundation/

Teresa Knox has kindly donated some items that we will give away! To join the giveaway click here: https://uniquelahoma.com/go/the-church-studio-giveaway/

People Are Freaking Out After Hearing the History of Halloween

People Are Freaking Out After Hearing the History of Halloween

Trick or treaters with their little pumpkin buckets or brown bags soliciting candy, tales of a headless horseman stalking the innocent in the chilly air of darkness.

Horror movies that bring to life the ghouls and goblins that rest dormant in our psyches have all different meanings for each of us on the night we call Halloween.

But to countless others, it has meant many different things over the last several thousand years.

The Real History of Halloween

It appears that the holiday originated umpteen centuries ago as a holiday of a different sort by the Celts who called it Samhain or their new year on October 31 as part of their belief, came the notion that the dead could walk the earth on that day stirring up mischief with their free pass to leave the realm of the dead and walk among the living.

Not to mention as well, that their presence made it easier for the Druid priests to predict the future. Perhaps a few secrets from the other side made it a little easier to know what’s coming just around the corner.

The Activities to Die For

As Samhain festivities progressed, a big bonfire would be built and sacrifices were made to the dead, while the locals would dress up in animal skins and try to tell their own fortunes. The skins would go on to become early costumes which were destined to become one of Halloween’s most enduring traditions.

Only for them, without the specialty shops and Walmarts in which to pick the most frightening skin. Their purpose was probably intended to either to calm the spirits or to blend in with them, as to not incur their wrath.

In A.D. 43 the Roman war machine felt like dancing with the dead too and so after rolling through Britain, conquering a large population of the Celtic people.

The Romans, always the master conquerors, blended two of their own holidays with the Celtic Samhain to make the transition to Roman rule more seamless.

After paganism lost its luster and the Romans found Christianity, the holiday would find a new direction where they could bend its meaning into a holiday fit for a prospering religion.

Like their pagan predecessors, the Christians incorporated their own holidays into the Samhain tradition. November 1 became All-hallow’s, a day to celebrate the saints and martyrs and October 31st became All-hallow’s Even (“Even” being short for “evening,” but providing the “n” in “Halloween”).

 

Halloween in a New Country

Through the course of time with different people putting their specific twangs and dialects towards and meanings, all-hallow’s even became Halloween.

By the time America rolled on to the world scene, the Halloween holiday had become a well-established holiday and as with all good holidays. Everyone adds a little of their own personality to the tradition. But it didn’t happen right away. Puritans in New England suppressed the superstitious holiday and fun became a dirty word.

But hanging witches did seem to catch on in a big way. In the South, down in the land of cotton (candy) where old times there were not forgotten, the Puritans could just look away, look away and look away some more because religious piety was a bit less important down there and so Halloween continued on American soil and was celebrated in much the same way as in Europe.

As the melting pot of America became a big kettle of witch’s brew stew with the great migration of immigration in the late 1800s, new life was given to the holiday and no amount of piety was going to keep sugar-loving citizens from their date with the dead…be them spirits Christian or pagan.

The holiday prospered and developed yet another personality. Through the years, the old meanings of Halloween slipped away and were replaced with a more wholesome community feel where trick-or-treating, horror films, costume parties, creepy home and yard decorations and of course the occasional Halloween prank became the holiday that defines its meaning we all know today.

As for the tradition of pumpkins and jack- o’- lanterns, a legend of old also appears to be at its root.

According to an Irish myth, a man named Stingy Jack once had a drink with the devil and when he didn’t want to pay for it, convinced the devil to turn into a coin.

However, Stingy Jack lived up to his name and pocketed the coin next to a cross, keeping the devil locked in a monetary state until he struck a deal with Jack to leave him alone and not claim his soul for Hell upon his death.

When Jack did die, Heaven rejected him and–true to his word–so did the Devil. But giving the devil his due, he proclaimed as punishment for Stingy Jack’s trickery, that Jack be out to wander the earth forever with a single coal in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way.

To Irish children, he was Jack of the Lantern. But Jack-o’-lanterns were not a part of Halloween celebrations in Britain; it would take a new country to cement that tradition.

However making vegetable lanterns can be traced back to the British Isles, where carving turnips, beets, and potatoes had been a fall tradition for many centuries. Pumpkins became a favorite in America because they were bigger and easier to carve.

The first mention of a Jack-o’- lantern being part of a Halloween celebration comes from a Canadian newspaper, which in 1866, wrote: “The old time custom of keeping up Hallowe’en was not forgotten last night by the youngsters of the city.

They had their maskings and their merry-makings and perambulated the streets after dark in a way which was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle.”

And so the ages have spoken leaving each new generation a bit of its darker side in which to ponder. A new tale to be told of a trick or possibly a treat in the darkness of night with all its ghosts and goblins of the past.

Halloween Events

Halloween Events

Join Uniquelahoma in celebrating the Halloween season with spooky events near you. Ghouls, ghosts and candy await with all the chilling, edge of your seat excitement you have craved for.

 

If you have an event we missed, please send us a message.

 

Halloween Festival 2018 – The Castle

The Hex House – Tulsa

Pumpkin Patch at Lake Eufaula Stables

Wizarding World of Tiger Safari

Pumpkin Festival at Shepherd’s Cross

The Sanctuary

The Asylum – Nowata

Frightfest – OKC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma Restaurant Gives Former Inmates a New Lease on Life

Oklahoma Restaurant Gives Former Inmates a New Lease on Life

Angela Ellis’ Garden Grows Prosperity & Harvests Hope

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

22 March 2016

Saying that something is criminal has been an expression that gets tossed around to describe a situation in a negative light. But Angela Ellis of Tulsa is giving a whole new meaning to that old expression…and it tastes so good it ought to be illegal.

“I wanted to create a business model that directly affected the women in the state of Oklahoma that were coming out of incarceration,” Ellis said. She had some insight that most people aren’t aware of because of her job with the Oklahoma State Department of Career Tech where she worked in economic development on the state level. In this capacity, she learned that every industry in the state had issues with acquiring a quality workforce. The issue got her thinking about a solution which led to the realization that an entire sector of the population was overlooked. This was an idea that she would put to good use at a later date.

She would eventually move from Lawton to Tulsa where she found it difficult to gain employment in her chosen field. Ellis would turn this problem into an opportunity to put her theory of utilizing that overlooked sector of the population to the test. She began her first business out of her church and started the Sugar Rush Bakery. But instead of looking at resumes when it was time to hire employees, she began looking at ex-convicts. She knows that it is difficult for people who make good choices to succeed in life and so it must be exceedingly more difficult for those with a criminal record. This knowledge brought her to the realization that she had to do something to help these people. She believes in her heart that these people deserve an opportunity to better themselves if they are willing to try.

System Failure

“The system is set up for these people to fail and go right back to what they were doing that initially landed them in prison,” Ellis said. She explained that she began focusing on women who had children. As a mother of four, she understood the desire for these women coming out of prison to provide for their children. They needed a chance to prove they could be productive parents and members of society; a virtually impossible objective to achieve when every employment door is slammed on them because of their history.

She believes in this endeavor as being a recipe for success, and she has been right. The bakery was working, and for over 2.5 years she was able to employ women in a part-time capacity. But this was not enough. She understood that if these women were ever going to be able to make it, they would need full-time employment. Last year she took a huge leap of faith and began setting up shop in a brick and mortar that would be her very own. Eight weeks ago Le Jardin Eatery opened in Bixby staffed with ex-convicts and a menu full of unique cuisine. Sugar Rush Bakery is also still in operation and continues operating out of her church.

A Different Perspective

Not all of her employees are ex-convicts, but they are the majority, Ellis noted. She further knew that the spectrum for those who needed a helping hand extended beyond those with felonies. These include substance abusers, those suffering from poverty and others with dramatic life-changing events. An example of such an event might be a divorced housewife with no marketable skills to enter the workforce. All of these people deserve a chance to prove themselves, Ellis stated. She has an old-fashioned view when it comes to hiring. She looks at the person and sees their capabilities, willingness to succeed and drive as opposed to so many businesses in today’s job market that focus on education, experience, and appearance. She has even hired those who have committed violent crimes because she feels that if these people seek her out for employment as opposed to returning to a criminal element, they are attempting to make a positive go for the future.

Her compassion aside, Ellis is a realist and will do what she must when employees don’t follow the rules. Le Jardin and Sugar Rush Bakery are businesses after all, and there are expectations to be met. In addition, she does not tolerate gossip and attitudes reflecting ‘that’s not my job.’ Those are quick tickets to unemployment because she knows that for the endeavors to succeed, they must be a family and work as a team. She explained that those who struggle with drug addiction are the ones most likely to fail, but as long as they make an effort she will help them. As a Christian, she reaches out to these people and goes beyond just being an employer. She talks with them, reads devotionals at work, offers to take them to court dates and even provide raise incentives to those willing to take classes which offer betterment to their lives.

“I love doing this. It’s rewarding, frustrating and heart-wrenching at the same time. But it’s an honor to get to serve the Lord. For me, it’s a privilege to impact someone else’s life in a positive way, but there is no pedestal in the workplace upon which I stand because we are all sinners and I am very transparent and talk with them about mine”

A Labor of Love

“I love doing this. It’s rewarding, frustrating and heart-wrenching at the same time. But it’s an honor to get to serve the Lord. For me, it’s a privilege to impact someone else’s life in a positive way, but there is no pedestal in the workplace upon which I stand because we are all sinners and I am very transparent and talk with them about mine,” Ellis said. She keeps a humble attitude, following the Christian fundamental of humility. She leads by example even keeping with the dress code she expects of her employees. She asks nothing of them that she will not do herself and treats them with the same respect she expects.

“I believe this my calling,” Ellis said. She seems to have taken this calling with open arms. Her life is revolved around helping others to live happier and healthier lives. In addition to helping ex-convicts and down-trodden, she has even started a non-profit organization to help anyone. Life’s Food – Nourishment for the Soul takes ones’ spirituality, family, intelligence, recreation and physical fitness then analyzes each to see how each can be better. It focuses on the whole person and works on the philosophy that each person is a circle. For the circle to remain unbroken, there must be a balance in the person’s life. The organization works to help people find and maintain that balance. They accomplish this by teaching classes about finances, parenting and other aspects of life educating them as to methods that help them find and maintain that balance. It also offers fellowship with others which opens the doors for friendships and social activities. Ellis funds this organization through profits from her bakery and restaurant. She has recently begun fundraising as the organization continues to grow.

Time Served

As for that taste which is so good, it should be criminal; Le Jardin offers what she calls global cuisine. She explained that is a compilation of her children’s favorite foods and hers which is comprised mostly of breakfast foods. She also wanted to add a European café feel with a variety of coffees and serving breakfast and brunch all day. They have a smoked salmon eggs Benedict, Belgium waffles, hot cakes filled with ricotta cheese served with maple bacon syrup, caramelized bananas and fresh berries and a big breakfast burger with a fried egg to name a few. She said the food is amazing and quips “it’s almost like a five-star restaurant…almost.”

“You can’t compare us to other nice restaurants because our mission is different. We are more of a training ground than one of the four or five-star restaurants in Tulsa that focus heavily on both food and service. We may look like one of those restaurants when you walk in and taste like one when you eat, but our service has had its challenges. But we are overcoming that challenge,” Ellis said. Oh, and if you are wondering what Le Jardin means, it translates to ‘The Garden’ in French. A fitting name considering Ellis uses hydroponic towers to grow her herbs and is preparing to buy property where she will grow a full garden to supply the restaurant. Of course, there is the connection to the Garden of Eden too which Ellis also mentioned during the interview.

Saint & Sinner

During the interview, the topic of how one person can make a difference, even change the world came up. What was so interesting to me was not that we share this view, but the realization that so few people seem to place faith in those who have failures or are lost in misfortune. Ellis not only realized this but chose to become that one person who would help change the world. She has made a difference by changing the world of everyone she employs and that offers them an opportunity to do the same in another’s life. You might say she is a saint with just enough sinner in her to know falling in the garden makes convicts of us all, but falling doesn’t always have to be a life sentence.

Le Jardin Eatery is located at 12345 S. Memorial Drive and is open 6 am to 3 pm Tuesday – Sunday.

 

 

Webco’s Industrious Founder Bill Weber Still at Work 50 Years Later

Webco’s Industrious Founder Bill Weber Still at Work 50 Years Later

Turning a Dream into a Forever Company

Kirk Richardson

6 October 2018

Webco Industries Founder Bill Weber died on Sunday, September 9. He was 92. On regular occasion, Mr. Weber was still showing up to work at Webco’s Sand Springs, OK headquarters through the summer of 2018. He continued to be active in the company that he built, sharing wisdom with colleagues in his office just weeks before his death. The following article inspired by an earlier visit and subsequently Mr. Weber’s last media interview was written in August 2018.

Bill Weber sits behind a well-organized desk, folders and various reports neatly arranged in front of him. He is in his comfort zone, dressed in a warm maroon sweater in the office that has been his home-away-from-home for nearly 50 years. His little white Westie/dog and best friend, Sabrina, watches him as she is curled up on a guest chair. The founder and Chairman of the Board of Webco Industries still come into work every day that he can, even though the 92-year-old businessman has been fighting cancer for the past few years. Weber is not only an inspiration to his employees, but to those who know him here in Tulsa, Oklahoma and countless others in the industries that his company serves around the world. That admiration has been hard-earned, over many years. After serving his country in the United States Air Force, the World War II veteran started his career with a Pittsburgh-area gas utility company, then went to work for U.S. Steel in 1954. Weber spent the first nine months of that new career track immersed in the National Tube Division’s intensive training program. From there he transferred to U.S. Steel’s Automotive Group in Detroit, Michigan, then on to a Product Section Group back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ultimately ended up in a Senior Sales position in Dallas, Texas. “I was in each of those places about a few years,” he recalls.

Spending much of his early career moving from job-to-job, location-to-location, with a wife and now three daughters in tow led Weber to consider settling down in one place for a while. That sparked an idea that made a pipe dream a real possibility. “Myself and two other people in operations talked about starting a new business in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he remembers. “I said ‘You know, we can do this better.’ By now, Weber had the confidence, competence, and contacts that he needed to compete in the metal tubing business. He just needed to find the perfect location to turn his bold plans into a manufacturing plant; oh, and put together the financing to buy equipment and build a plant.

“I said ‘You know, we can do this better.'”

Back in the late 1960s when Weber first entertained the thought of starting his own company 250 miles due north of Dallas in Northeast Oklahoma, Tulsa was nicknamed The Oil Capital of the World. That didn’t deter him. “First of all, there was a worker base here,” explains Weber. “But they were all oil-field oriented. If it didn’t flow oil, what do you want to do with it?” he shrugs his shoulders and smiles. For an industrious mind like Weber’s, that just meant they would require some time for retraining. In addition to having a very capable, hardworking labor pool, the heat exchanger industry was also centered in Tulsa. “The whole industry was focused in Tulsa and in Houston,” he continues. “Tulsa was the main builder of the equipment.” However, most of the mill products that were used to fabricate those heat exchangers, including mountains of carbon steel tubing, had to be shipped in by truck or rail. Weber saw a big opportunity. “Over the road trucking and train travel was dangerous and expensive, and damages could make it very costly,” he points out. “If we could eliminate that, we had cheap steel.”

 

Weber and four partners found the affordable land that they needed on the western outskirts of downtown Tulsa in Sand Springs. His partners contributed $10,000 each, and they started the business with $40,000. “That’s all the money we had,” he notes. That is until the partners secured a credit line, which helped the company survive in the early days. “I never realized in the past how important it was that you have a reputation,” he says. “Your reputation will carry you over where people shouldn’t give you a chance probably, but they do. What you have to do is say what you’re going to do, and then do it. Do that once or twice, and the doubts dissipate.” Do it many times, and you begin to build a business respected around the country. Despite building a business from nothing and withstanding competition from day one, Weber is a modest man and much more comfortable downplaying his own role in the early days. “The only thing I can figure out is that we are lucky as hell,” he laughs. “We made moves just ahead of the wolves. The wolves would come after us, and we would jump ahead.” Although some good fortune was certainly in play, he and his colleagues were also strategic thinkers.

“We branched out,” he says. “We expanded our product range. We looked for opportunities where the whole rest of the country – except the Northeast – was dependent on production from the Northeast. We knocked weeks off the delivery of steel. We uncomplicated the delivery. We could take an inquiry, produce the product, ship the product, and invoice the product before they could even answer the inquiry.” Notice the “we” over “me” theme? The team approach paid off as Webco continued to grow and prosper through its first and second decades in the metals business. “The trouble with most companies is you take a look at their organization chart, and what you have is top level down ― it’s a pyramid. Things filter down, and if they get blocked somewhere along the way, so be it.’ I said, ‘In my opinion, it’s totally wrong. Information has to flow from the bottom up. Because you should be measured on how effective you make the people working for you, not the other way around.’ So, that’s where our inverted pyramid came from” Weber felt the odds of success were better if people were empowered to make the decisions, even if some of them turned out to be wrong. Ultimately, this strategy morphed into the foundation of what are now Webco’s 16 Principles, a set of guiding values that has proven instrumental in the company’s growth to more than 1400 employees working in 12 facilities in five states. The cornerstone that holds all of this together and keeps the company on course is trust, according to Weber. “I have a philosophy that I can do amazing things if I trust you,” he shares. “If I don’t trust you, I’m cut in half, at best. Now, I have to worry about what your thoughts are and stop you from going off the rails. That’s a lost effort. If you know what your job is or what you’re expected to do, I should get the hell out of your way and let you do it! If you don’t know how to do it, I should put you in a position where you’ll be trained or educated or whatever it is, and then get the hell out of your road. If you have a job, we try to give you the responsibility to manage that job. You can manage this, and if you can’t, no one can. But if you have small segments of responsibility, and you put them into action, that’s a matrix, and that works.” Weber and his leadership team have used the 16 Principles as a foundation for the company’s culture, which not only motivates employees to trust one another but often earns their loyalty and welds them to the company long-term. He backs that up by pointing out there are a number of long-term Webco employees. This is remarkable in a country where some studies report growing numbers of employees who are disengaged at work. “There is no one here that is treated as a piece of furniture,” emphasizes Weber. “They’ve all got an important part to play.” But he’s also a realist and knows that not everyone will be the perfect fit at this fast-paced, ever-evolving manufacturing business. “If we have people who do not care, we try not to keep them,” he notes. “If you don’t care about being here, it’s okay. We understand that. There are other places you can work, but not here. If you want to be a part of something special, that’s a different story.” That doesn’t mean that Weber demands perfection from his employees, but he has always believed that everyone needs to be forthright and own up to problems. “I can handle mistakes,” he explains. “What I can’t handle is not knowing. Let me give you an example of that. We were a young company in the heat exchanger business only. That was the only market we had. We made long tubes for feed water heaters. Now, these tubes are anywhere from 60 feet to 100 and some feet in length. We had an order of about 100,000 feet total. We had no automation in those days. It was all by hand. You put the end of a tape measurer here, and you draw out 100 feet, and you cut.” But one employee was slightly off the mark, missing by a foot, and cutting the tubes in 99-foot lengths. “That cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he sighs. After the mistake, all the fledging operation had left was a very expensive pile of scrap. “The guy thought I was going to fire him,” remembers Weber. “I called him into the office, and we sat down and talked about it. I said ‘I’m not going to fire you, I can’t afford to. You’ve got a 100-foot versus 99-foot lesson. I don’t think you’ll do that again. Make sure you hold that damn tape measure on the end that you’re sure somebody is measuring 100 feet from. My point being is that people make mistakes. If you think that you’re going to get away with no mistakes being made, you’re crazy as hell. Good people make mistakes. And if they’re the right people, they’ve been given the confidence of management to support them. They’ll be the best that you have because they’ve already seen what can happen and what would happen if they do.” There are more success stories than failures here at Webco. They number more than the company’s iconic founder can recount. So he starts to recognize a long list of employees and their contributions to Webco, only to realize that is futile as well. There are just too many names and extraordinary achievements than he has time and energy to cover today. Instead, he focuses on the relatively recent addition of the Jeffrey Watt Williams Center for Manufacturing Excellence, a facility that opened at the Star Center Tube Complex. Weber mentions that a community services facility had been housed on the land that the Star Center Complex was built. It had been shuttered and was withering away for more than a decade. Webco bought the large piece of property and began turning it into a manufacturing facility that would provide jobs in the community and solutions to the company’s customers. “We spent over $60 million bringing this dream to fruition,” he reports. He is proud of the accomplishment, and of course, gives full credit to the team of employees who pulled it all together, including the late Jeffrey Williams. It’s rare enough to find someone on this planet with almost ten decades’ experience, let alone a guy who is still at work imparting this kind of wisdom to anyone wise enough to listen, while 99.9% of his remaining peers are deservedly taking it easy and quietly riding out their twilight years. “I keep working only because I love it,” he nearly whispers, having told enough stories this afternoon that his voice is wearing thin. “I always thought ‘Hey, I could do this,’ and I didn’t realize how hard it would be when I started. But I wanted to do it a different way.” They say that nothing good ever comes easy, so it’s hard to imagine all that it took for Webco to become truly “great.” Weber never imagined that his idea to “do this better” would turn into such a successful enterprise with such a positive effect on so many lives. True to form, he refuses to take credit. “Probably the greatest strength I had was the support of my family,” his eyes tear up. “They trusted me. There’s that word again – trust.” These days Bill still comes into work when he can, but he has entrusted the business that he launched to his middle daughter Dana Weber. Webco’s second CEO and President keeps an office just across the Executive Assistant’s workspace from her father. When both are at headquarters, they talk business, but the mantle has clearly been passed. “She is brilliant!” he beams. “Now she runs the company, and I’m an employee,” Weber adds that while Dana is in charge of the business, she plays other roles in Oklahoma, including serving on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Oklahoma City Branch Board of Director. As Webco reaches its golden anniversary, Weber says that there will be time to celebrate, but with an eye on the horizon. He believes that there is no reason that the company he founded 50 years ago can’t continue to prosper and grow even stronger on the way to its 75th and 100th anniversaries. “You’ve got to keep on, keepin’ on!” urges the 92-year-old. “It’s amazing what people are capable of when they are committed. For instance, we have people coming out of Oklahoma State University and other state universities, and they’re a wonderful resource for talent. We don’t know what we don’t know.” They are bringing in fresh perspectives and new ideas while learning on the job. “My own opinion is that if you know how to do it better, you do it better,” he continues. “Better means that you can improve the performance of a product you’re selling. If you can improve the performance of a product you’re selling, and you don’t do it, you’re crazy as hell. Always be at the head of the class. I think that will keep you in the lead or near the lead. Oh, and by the way, you’ve got to be willing to put your money where your mouth is. You’ve got to be able to take risks. “We look back, and we’ve amazed ourselves at what we’ve accomplished. It wasn’t one person, it wasn’t one organization, it wasn’t one thing. It was a collected multitude of decisions that were made – some have good results, some not so good. But, we’re here.” Now what was once a small start-up that survived on its resourcefulness and a little luck has become North America’s leading manufacturer of welded tubing with a mission to become a “forever company”. Fifty years later, that endlessly retreating goal line is only on the horizon because an industrious man and his team of dedicated employees made a tube and a pipe dream come true. As the visiting journalist leaves the warm office, petting Sabrina along the way, he thanks Weber for teaching him a few things: old dogs can learn new tricks. “If I taught you anything, you’re in trouble,” he chuckles, then volunteers one last pearl, “Remember, wherever you are, the best is always ahead of you.”

Major Spice Company in Cleveland, Ok

Major Spice Company in Cleveland, Ok

Daddy Hinkle’s, Adding Its Own Spice To Oklahoma Life

CL spends some time with David of Daddy Hinkle’s spice company based in Cleveland Oklahoma.

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

28 September 2018

Now and then the expression ‘the spice of life’ gets tossed around. Usually, it is referring to someone or something which adds a little more to life than what is the norm. It is a rare occasion when it happens and so to meet someone who spices up life both metaphorically and literally, is a flavor that has a taste all its own. Let me introduce you to the David Hinkle Southard, the man behind the Daddy Hinkle spices label.

Soft-spoken and with a subtle sense of humor, one immediately feels comfortable in his presence. He humbly works at keeping his intelligence from shining through, but it beams through the cracks as he explains the operations at Daddy Hinkle’s Spices company plant in Cleveland, Oklahoma. No, he is not Daddy Hinkle, but his grandson and one of three brothers who founded the company in 1993. At 50 years of age and living on a sailboat in the Florida Keys, David had plans to “bum around in paradise” as he put it when his younger brother approached him with the idea of starting a company selling spices.

Photograph by CL Harmon

As for the history of where the spices originated, David explained that his grandfather J. Frank Hinkle was the inspiration to build and operate a company using the same principles which the grandfather had used in building his successful oil drilling business. The family’s success would afford them an upper-class lifestyle and a love for entertaining friends and business associates. Since Hinkle was a lover of steak, it was usually the main course. As such, his wife Zula began mixing spices and ingredients of varying types and degrees to enhance the flavor. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was creating the foundation for products that her grandsons would use to add more taste to the world.

The family had been using the recipes through the years, but producing them for commercial use was not something that the brothers knew much about. David’s younger brother Denny was an endodontist, and his older brother Michael raises race horses. Denny, however, wanted to invest in the idea and David’s career choices made him the one most qualified to head up such an operation. He had spent the previous 20 years owning and working in different capacities at bars and restaurants. He knew how to cook various types of meats and seafood as well as even being a sautee cook in a French restaurant for a while. He had an understanding of what was required spice-wise to give the meat a flavorful, robust taste. When his brother Denny approached him about the idea, He wasn’t initially thrilled about running ashore and leaving behind paradise, but he was lured away by the thought of having what he calls “mailbox money.”

Photograph by CL Harmon

The plan initially David believed would be to take a couple of years off from “bumming around in paradise,” develop the product, market it and then head back to South Florida where he could sail around for a few months and then anchor long enough to cash the mailbox money checks. Fortunately for steak enthusiasts, that is not what happened! After three years, it became evident to David that his continued involvement and formula creations were crucial to the success of the company. So he debarked for good. His first order of business was to create the product. His grandparents had created the flavors to make great tasting meats, but they had done so using ready-made spices from the store and simply mixing different options until creating the taste they wanted. David had to recreate the flavors with formulas using raw ingredients.

This first formula would become the “Original” (Onion & Garlic based), which is still the largest seller. David has since added several other blends including the two other main flavors. The second of these main flavors is Southwest (Cumin & Oregano based), and the third is Spicy Pepper (Jalapeno & Red Pepper). All three blends are paired with Liquid Instant Meat Marinade. In addition, the company has all natural flavors seasoning rub marinades. These include Onion & Garlic- Sugar-Free, Tex Mex- Sugar-Free, Low Sodium- Made with Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper- Low Sodium and Spicy Pepper-Sugar Free. There is also a seasoned tenderizer, which is a liquid that has tenderizer, onion, and garlic already added.

Next would be the production aspect. David settled on three blending companies in the US that take his formula and create the product. The products are made in dry seasoning and a liquid form. The companies which produce the dry seasoning ship it in bulk to the Cleveland facility where it is then packaged or and sometimes bottled for sale. The company offers the dry seasoning in various sizes and both the dry and liquid in bulk packages. Also, it has gift baskets and combo packs.

The company has been in existence for 24 years has had steady growth since its inception. It currently distributes Daddy Hinkle’s spices in the following stores: Walmart, Reasors, Food Pyramid, Krogers, Price Chopper, Albertsons, Homeland, United, Hy-Vee, Brookshire Grocery, H.E.B., Dillon, and various meat markets all over the United States. The products can be ordered online www.daddyhinkles.com as well. The company also has customers in Canada, California, New York, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Products are also available on Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart.com. The company has several distributors that represent the company in selling its products.

Daddy Hinkle’s is certainly a unique addition to Oklahoma which continues the tradition of adding to the blend of flavors that can always be found cooking somewhere in the state. So crack open a bottle of Daddy Hinkle’s and enjoy the spice of Oklahoma life.

Tulsa Stained Glass

Tulsa Stained Glass

Tulsa Stained Glass, Teaching How To Pick Up The Pieces And Put Them Together

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

21 SEPTEMBER 2018

For over 1,000 years stained glass art has been a part of the creative world. It is an art form that is like no other in the world; a decoration viewed in churches, restaurants, businesses and even some homes.  What is most interesting about stained glass is how it is used to convey a message or story. One such instance was its use in Medieval Times as visual accounts of Biblical stories for those commoners who could not read the Bible.  Another instance was one I was not expecting. It was when I met Richard Bohm, owner of Tulsa Stained Glass Company.  This encounter would not be one of the art of telling a story, but of the artist telling how art was to become his story.

Expecting a simple interview about the mechanics and theory of stained glassworks, I was surprised to learn about a man who stepped out on faith, suffered loss, found purpose and shared hope. Life is always a journey and often what makes these journeys so interesting is how far we travel from the direction from which we began the journey. Bohm embarked on his life path using the left side of his brain as his compass. In other words, he was using logic and mathematics in a profession to problem solve for others. It provided an income and a certain amount of stability, but as with most journeys in life, there was a curve up ahead that would lead him into an entirely new direction.

“My wife Carol took a class on stained glass art, and she showed me how to do it. It was fun! That was 42 years ago,” Bohm said. The couple began playing around with their new found hobby at home and soon began to realize that there was a market for quality stained glass. Although Bohm used the left side of his brain to earn a living at this time, he did exercise his creative right side through his photography hobby. He had also been taught an appreciation for the arts by a high school teacher that obviously had a lasting impact. The discovery of stained glass art opened up that lesser used right brain, and it quickly became dominant. Using his skills from working as a problem solver, Bohm was able to mesh both sides of his brain into a fun and rewarding career.

Photograph by CL Harmon

Initially, the business started in their dining room. Less than two years later, the couple moved to their first commercial location in Tulsa. The business grew as they created and sold what Bohm calls “widgets” (various pieces of stained glass art and sculptures). The growth continued as customers would order custom pieces or need repairs on existing works of stained glass. The work kept them busy, and it was a labor of love for them. However, life would bring Bohm another curve. This time it was a sharp one that he did not see coming. After 28 years of struggling and operating the business together, Carol passed away. The art that had been his business, but now it needed to be something else…a therapist.

While dealing with his grief, Bohm began questioning if there was more to life. Although business was stable, there were always lean times and cash flow issues. With the passing of his wife, it was time to reflect and to heal. In his efforts to do so, he began taking the business aspect out of his business and replacing it with the art that had appealed to him all those years ago.  It’s what he calls “self-therapy.”

“I began to develop a passion for art, and that grew into self-therapy. And from this came my new passion of teaching others how to use art to solve problems, self-analyze and how to be happy,”

“I began to develop a passion for art, and that grew into self-therapy. And from this came my new passion of teaching others how to use art to solve problems, self-analyze and how to be happy,” Bohm said.  He began teaching others about the power of having a passion for art and how creating something releases inner healing properties and brings about answers to life’s questions. It has been a win-win that keeps paying off. In life, we are always looking to fit the pieces together and create an existence that is our own work of art. For Bohm, those pieces in his life began to take on a new shape when he began teaching others to how to pick and assemble their pieces into a work of art.

He currently teaches two classes now at his store/studio located at 4131 S. Sheridan Road in Tulsa. The first is a beginner class where he teaches about the process and technique that has been in practice since the Middle Ages. Each student is given the same assignment which is designed by Bohm and focuses on the fundamentals of creating a pane of art such as a small window which can be hung for decoration. In this lesson, all of the pieces must touch and then be soldered together to become a solid panel. Classes are available on Thursday evenings several times each year for 2.5-hour sessions running for eight weeks.

Photograph by CL Harmon

The second is called Garden Spirit Sculptures class which is one session only but it is a “fun and intense” three-hour class. This class allows each student to choose their materials and create a design of their choosing. In this lesson, the pieces do not have to interlock. Thus it is called a sculpture.  He emphasizes that the purpose of these projects is to allow students to create something that “feels good to them.” This feeling allows the students to discover passion and use their life experiences to create something tangible while allowing the process to help them work through issues in their lives. These classes are available every Saturday.

What’s most interesting about Bohm is not that he was able to build a business out of an interesting hobby, but that he has been able to build an interest in helping others through his business with these therapeutic classes. There is an excitement in his every word when he describes how art therapy affects people’s lives. It has become a part of his identity; a self-sculpture of what his life has become.  So much so that he has even published a book on the subject.  In addition to his regular classes, he even teaches professional therapists to use art therapy to help their patients overcome challenges.  Perhaps Bohm is onto something. People are always working to pick up the broken shards in their lives hoping to repair them. Bohm simply connects these people to those who have been putting the pieces together for over 1,000 years by soldering broken shards together to create something new, whole and beautiful.

To learn more about Bohm’s classes, visit his website tulsastainedglass.com. If you are interested in purchasing his book, Experience the Power of Art, they are available on Amazon and at his store.

 

New Osage Casino Opens With a Winning Hand

New Osage Casino Opens With a Winning Hand

 

New Osage Casino Opens With a Winning Hand

CL Harmon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Member

12 SEPTEMBER 2018

*This is not a paid advertisement and we have received no compensation for the publication of this story.

It’s an excitement like no other. The anticipation builds as you watch the dials spinning through the screen. The first dial stops and your eyes become fixed as the second one drops into place, matching the first one. Then your eyes widen, and a smile marks your face as the third dial drops into place…JACKPOT! Yeah, it’s an excitement like no other…like an arcade for adults. And thanks to the Indian gaming industry, Oklahoma gamblers have the opportunity to try their luck without having to go to Vegas. However, as the tribal casinos gain more popularity, the competition steadily stiffens. In this competitive game, the Osage Casino has just been dealt a new hand, and with it, the tribe may be now holding an Ace high hand.

The Osage tribe recently anted up $160 million to play in the high stakes competition that becomes more prevalent by the day it seems. Already a major player, the tribe has raised the stakes with their new casino located at 951 West 36th st North behind the one built in 2005. Unlike their other casinos, this one is constructed to compete with other tribes that have gambled on bringing more of a “Las Vegas” feel to the state with hotels and entertainment for its patrons. The 400,000 square foot casino opened on August 29 to a crowd of over 6,000 people.

“This elevates our product and brings our game to a whole new level. We are very excited to show it off to everyone,” Byron Bighorse, CEO for the Osage Casinos said. He added that the guests in Tulsa have become accustomed to a hotel/casino experience with their competition’s enterprises and this will certainly enhance that experience for Tulsa guests while offering some unique aspects that set them apart from their competitors.

Ribbon Cutting

Photograph by Shane Bevel

As for what one can find in this new addition to the Tulsa scene, there are 1,628 electronic games which triple the size of gaming floors in Tulsa. There are also currently 16 table games with the inclusion of roulette and craps to be added soon. The casino also offers a high-limit room for those high rollers who enjoy a night out of high stakes. Bighorse said, to make patrons even more comfortable, the casino has an updated ventilation system which turns out fresh air throughout the facility nine times every hour which is three more than an average office space.

There are also four food and beverage outlets on the floor. The first of these is Stone Creek Kitchen which is a sit-down style café/restaurant and doubles as a breakfast buffet bar for hotel guests. There is also a pizza place that is of their design dubbed ‘The Original Roni Peppos’ that works like a Subway where each customer picks his/her toppings. There is also a bar & grill called Thunder Bar & Grill which offers mixed drinks, beer and various styles of food. Lastly, is the Nine Band Brew Pub where there is a selection of craft beers from fruity to dark barleys.

As for the hotel, there are 137 hotel rooms and four hospitality suites which are unique to anything else in the area, Bighorse said. He added that “it’s getting a four or five-star hotel for a three-star price.” Another unique aspect of the rooms is that each one contains original art from Osage artists. The tribe commissioned these artists to provide the artwork for both the rooms and the décor of the hotel itself. Bighorse expressed how much artistic talent there is in the tribe. He said by using their art; it allowed the tribe to help out its members while adding a unique aspect of Osage culture and history to the hotel. In addition, there is a pool area which he said is “beautiful” and a 1,039 space parking garage for guest convenience and banquet space available.

“We know there is a need for new event venues, particularly in close proximity to downtown,” said Bighorse. “These versatile banquet spaces are fully staffed and give breathtaking views of the Osage Hills that you just can’t find anywhere else.”

One of the most unique aspects of the casino is that it has its own brewery…yes, they brew their own beer! Now, this is something to raise your mug in a toast for. The brand is Nine Band Brewery out of Allen, Texas. Bighorse explained that craft beer is very popular in Oklahoma and this brewery is the twelfth brewery to open in Tulsa within the last year. As a bonus, the casino is working on what Bighorse calls a “brewery crawl” where beer enthusiasts will ride in Mercedes shuttles from the Nine Band pub to other craft beer facilities where they can try different brands of crafts beers. Then each of the participants will be given a hotel room for the night to sleep off the evening crawl.

View of the new Slots!

Photograph by Shane Bevel

“We are going to make a major statement with some major talent with our event center. We are going to bring some major talent and rock n roll,” Bighorse said. In February of 2019, the 2,000 seat event center will be completed. He went on to say that this aspect adds to their new gaming experience they have brought to Tulsa. He added that it’s a very intimate setting that is modeled after the Brady Theatre in Tulsa and even has VIP boxes in the mezzanine.

The future is looking bright based on the initial opening response, according to Bighorse. He is already seeking approval for $30 million more dollars to add another hotel wing, spa, and a brand name steakhouse. He is hoping that approval will come this month and is poised to begin this phase in early 2019 with completion in early 2020.

“The new Tulsa Osage Casino in downtown Tulsa brings a great entertainment experience with the new games, event center, and hotel,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. “This casino revenue provides financial support of Osage language and culture activities, including the Osage language Immersion school. All profits go to education, health, housing, language, culture, and the other programs for our Osage people. Congratulations to all those involved in bringing this project into operation.”

Make a Run for Fashion at the Cain’s

Make a Run for Fashion at the Cain’s

Make a Run for Fashion at the Cain’s

CL HARMON

 

*This is not a paid advertisement and we have received no compensation for the publication of this story.

So I heard about this event where there are beautiful models sporting some of the coolest garbs around. There will be wine flowing like streaming ribbons and catchy music playing, and it’s at this really cool old building to boot. It’s kind of a New York meets Paris meets Tulsa soiree, and you are all invited. Sound fun? It is! So fun in fact that even the fashion police join in.

From someone who has experienced this event, I can only describe it as a living atmosphere where ideas, passion, and art jump to life creating a collective personality of energy, talent, and excitement. It was like finding buried treasure in my backyard…or for a woman, a closet full of designer clothes in their home I would guess. Clary Sage College in Tulsa has taken the best elements of the fashion industry and sewn together an ensemble that is runway worthy.

 

 

“The fashion scene in Tulsa is growing,” Department Head for Fashion Design at Clary Sage and owner of Dyana’s Designs clothing line, Dyana Harrison said. Clary Sage College is a cosmetology and design learning institution where students are trained to be professionals upon completion of studies as opposed to traditional colleges where students are prepared to enter professions at an entry level and then learn industry skills. This teaching philosophy lets the instructors create real business experiences for the students through an 11-month program that allows students to create their designs from conception to creation. These skills include sewing, pattern making and illustrations among many others that are relevant to the fashion world. Also, students learn the skills necessary to enter the industry as professionals with knowledge about fashion trends, design concepts, marketing strategies and the hands-on experience of actually creating products that can be the marketed.

Designer Ralph Lauren said, “Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you.” This quote describes the attitude behind the Clary Sage Runway Show and program because it encourages and fosters originality and character in each student’s designs. With this originality must come to the approval of their concepts by the public who then become clothes consumer. The Clary Runway show encourages creativity to flourish. From 3-D printed garments to a wedding gown or a dress created from zip ties, one never knows what will flow down that runway. Clary Sage pulls out all the stops to give this opportunity to its budding designers.

According to Campus Director Pam Martin, everyone gets to be involved. Skilled servers pouring wine and offering hors-d’oeuvres, interior designers creating the perfect set, marketing team members strategizing, hair, makeup and models, the entire college plays a role. The event is planned and implemented throughout the entire year. So planning for the next year begins as soon as the current show is over, she added.

“Our fashion show is an event, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a party where we are promoting all of the programs in the school with the fashion being only a part of the party,” Harrison said. The show has been performed for seven years growing larger each year. Harrison credits this, in part, to the creativity of the designers but acknowledges that it is the support of the whole college that makes the event so fun and successful. She explains how much fun it is for the attendees to experience joint creativity that they rarely see anywhere else. She added that the designers highlight the event by using their imaginations to incorporate objects not associated with clothing to create a garment that is truly unique as well as beautiful and elegant creations that would be appreciated on any runway.

More than just entertainment for fashion enthusiasts, the event is a fundraiser for the college. Clary Sage is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and public charity. Martin said that the show is the major fundraiser for the year and that all of the proceeds go for student scholarships so that more students have the opportunity to learn a skill and pursue a passion. Last year the show brought in over $100,000. This year the college has set their goal for $200,000. Although it is a high goal, Martin expressed how those who sponsor Clary Runway and the ticket buyers understand that they are investing in the futures of those who will eventually enter the workforce, pay taxes and add to the betterment of society.

“We had a great response last year. I think Cain’s Ballroom is a great venue and atmosphere that sells itself. We have music, wine, audience interaction and so many other activities happening. It’s exciting. As I said, it’s a party,” Harrison said. She explained that the school goes this extra step to give the show excitement and energy because people who have never been to a fashion show or those who have been to “flop” shows have preconceived ideas of a snooze fest and are apprehensive about coming. The extra step, however, is working as the show outgrows its venues every two years.

Several sponsors have stepped up to help make the show possible, but more are welcome. Martin said. These sponsorships include the Platinum $15,000, Diamond $10,000, Gold $10,000, Silver $5,000,  Bronze $2,500, VIP Ticket $250 and General Admission tickets at $50. Each of the sponsorships come with different and/or additional perks so check out claryrunway.com to learn what each package contains. Purchases and donations may be made on the site as well. The show is September 22 at Cain’s Ballroom located at 423 North Main Street in Tulsa. Doors open at 6 pm.

Check out the show!

 

 

It Was A Hell Of A Bite

It Was A Hell Of A Bite

How A Mosquito Can Change Your Life

CL HARMON

The following story is one that I felt compelled to write for a couple of reasons. The first is simply because it’s an incredible story about surviving when all of the odds appear stacked in the opposite direction. The second is the reason that caused the first. I think most would agree that we have an unusually wet summer in Oklahoma. Rain brings stagnant pools of water which unfortunately bring mosquitoes. Although most bites from these pests are just itchy annoyances, there is a deadly threat swarming amid those annoying pests. We at Uniquelahoma feel that the following story will help shed light on this dangerous threat and hopefully prompt our readers to take precautions to protect themselves during this summer season.        –C.L. Harmon

Uniquelahoma is about unique, hence the name. That term can cover many different aspects from people to places and events. On occasion, it can even involve an experience. After hearing of a man who death coded five times in a ten month period, I certainly thought that a unique experience had occurred. I was intrigued and decided to find out if it was true and, if so, how it happened. Nathan Johns relayed a story to me that is not only almost unbelievable but extremely unique in Oklahoma.

Imagine going from a completely normal life with a wife, one-year-old son, and business to a state of chaos that brings you to the edge of death within a matter of days. Johns lived, died and lived again and can tell us exactly what this is like. A tiny seemingly insignificant pest would prove to be the largest obstacle he has ever faced. A simple mosquito bite would change his life forever. During a backyard activity with his son in 2012, Johns was bitten and contracted West Nile virus.

A BACKYARD PEST

He lived in the 71st and Sheridan area in Tulsa at the time and it was later determined that the culverts within his neighborhood harbored the deadly mosquitoes when the culverts held standing water. The City of Tulsa did spray to keep the population down, but it’s impossible to kill them all, Johns explained. A month later, Johns became irritable, lethargic and weak. This prompted him to go to the hospital where he was misdiagnosed with gastroenteritis and sent home. By the following day, he was hallucinating from his high fever and began to become immobile.

Again he was misdiagnosed during his second trip to the emergency room. Due to his lower extremities becoming paralytic, the doctors believed he had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. Weakness and tingling in the extremities are usually the first symptoms, and so it seemed a plausible diagnosis. However, while treating Johns for this, test results came back that showed he had West Nile virus, which is difficult to diagnose due to the long gestation period after the bite coupled with the delay in the manifestation of symptoms. Because there is no cure for the virus, hospital staff could only monitor his vitals and offer supportive treatment at this point and keep him from dying from the symptoms.

 

THE GRIM REAPER VISITS

A short time later his brain began to inflame from encephalitis, and that was just the beginning. He then began suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which occurs when fluid builds up in the tiny, elastic air sacs in the lungs. This condition alone has a 85 percent mortality rate, Johns said. At this point, he had been transferred to a long-term facility after having been revived twice from death. The doctor in charge of his case decided that inducing a coma due to the plethora of issues Johns was having. As time passed, that same doctor informed Johns’ mother and wife that due to the brain swelling in combination with the other health issues, Johns was most likely going to be “vegetable-like” and die soon. Not trusting the doctor’s evaluation, his family requested the coma-inducing medicine be stopped. He recommended John’s be “unplugged” from the respirator and let nature take its course.

However, the doctor was wrong, and when he awoke, he was able to identify his mother and still appeared of a reasonable mind. That doctor was immediately fired from Johns’ care team and the pulmonologist who had been treating Johns took over the case.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

“This doctor was an amazing man. He saved my life. He called me his miracle patient,” Johns said. In addition to all of his other issues though and in spite of his continued mental health, Johns’ heart rate began to beat rapidly out of control. The new doctor moved him from the care facility back to the hospital to get his heart rate under control. The doctors eventually stopped his heart and revived him to reset the rate. At this point, he is completely paralyzed and on a ventilator to breathe. Doctors believed his peripheral nervous system was eradicated at this time.  This system consists of the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. Because it was not the central nervous system that was compromised, Johns was still able to feel the pain of his muscles seizing and atrophy. He said that he wished he would not have been able to feel anything at that time. Due to him being unable to move, he blinked his eyes to communicate using certain numbers of blinks to represent letters of the alphabet.

“I was very, very miserable and frustrated at this time, but I didn’t want to die. I wanted to be here for my son,” Johns said. He does admit thinking dying would be better for his family. Fortunately for him, his condition causing him to be out of the realm of continued cognitive thought kept him from focusing on all of the negativity that was surrounding him. At this point, Johns was teetering in no man’s land between the living and the dead.

“I was having vivid images. I really thought for a time I went to hell,” he said. Johns further explained that there were several repeating dream-like scenarios that occurred, but not sure if those were happening during the brief seconds when he was dead or during moments of extremely high fevers. He describes beings attempting to “destroy” him while he is trapped in his bed. He describes it as being tied to reality, but still feels as though he is not actually in the scenarios.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

“My recuperation was extremely gradual, and I couldn’t do anything for myself when I first left the hospital,” Johns said. An example of his condition at that time would be his inability even to hold a pencil. The first sign of hope that things might be getting better was his ability to move his big toe on one foot. With a friend’s ingenuity, Johns began using that toe to change the channel by tapping it in one direction while still in the hospital.

His condition began to improve slowly, and he was eventually discharged from the hospital after ten long months. However, he was still confined to a hospital bed at home. With months of physical and occupational therapy, he was able to regain some mobility and strength. However, the damage was done, and he would never fully recover including his diaphragm which makes it difficult to breathe at times. Many of his muscles have never fully recovered, and this makes it impossible to stand from a sitting position if he is not positioned in certain angles and heights. Also, he cannot pull himself up from the floor if he falls since his arms and legs no longer have the strength needed to do so.

FINDING PEACE IN FRUSTRATION

I thought a fitting way to end this story would be writing about Johns’ attitude. While many would feel as though they had been robbed of the life they had, Johns feels that focusing on what he no longer can do serves no purpose. He accepts that life is not fair and though his condition can be “frustrating,” he has a choice to make the best of life. Each day he chooses to look ahead and not behind, to focus on his family and to believe in his future…and this is something that not even death could take from him.

Who Says An Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

Who Says An Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

Who Says an Old Tiger Can’t Learn New Tricks

CL HARMON

While listening to Wiley Oleson during our interview, I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I heard the band Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from the big screen while Rocky Balboa was gearing up for the toughest fight of his career. As he spoke, I had images of him pushing himself to the limit in the gym where he shed pounds and built muscles as he prepared for his first MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match since 2011 in Oklahoma City.

But unlike Rocky who had his toughest fight ahead of him, Oleson has already fought his and emerged victoriously. The fact that he is stepping into a ring at all is already a victory and also what makes his story so unique. Having always been competitive and enjoying physical contact sports, Oleson began participating in wrestling and football from childhood. These childhood activities would set him on a path to become a professional wrestler later in life. As an adult, he began promoting himself as a wrestler while moving up the ranks and making a name for himself with five “tryout matches” for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

In 2007 a motorcycle accident and subsequent 21 surgeries would end that dream. The wreck resulted in broken ribs, a punctured lung, torn muscles from his neck to his groin area, knee damage, shoulder damage, both of which required reconstruction, and even the loss of a few teeth. Also, he had a retina detachment which required another 11 surgeries. The accident was not even his fault, but one of a lapse in judgment by a motorist who ran a stop sign.

As a result of the multiple surgeries, recuperating times and loss of his dream, depression set in and the pounds began stacking on until he reached 305 pounds. Having a competitive nature and the need to feel fit again, kept his desire alive to be in a ring of one type or another. He needed a push through. The Army National Guard would give him just that when they ordered him to lose weight or leave the service. He has been in the military as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic for 19 years and did not want to leave. So he hired a personal trainer, hit the gym and lost 75 pounds, 30 in the first month alone.

“I’ve always been a competitor, and it’s just always going to be there,” he said. Because of this, it is not surprising that he would seek out a new opportunity to compete.  He soon met a professional kickboxer who gave lessons for the sport. This man helped train and encouraged Oleson to get back into a ring with the new skills he was learning – which was all the encouragement he needed to begin serious consideration for fighting again.  The hard work and dedication have paid off, and Oleson said he is excited for this first fight that the many surgeries postponed beginning in 2011 with that last fight. By the way, he won that match in the second round.

“I am pretty excited about this fight because I want to prove all the naysayers wrong. I have people who ask me why I am doing this and telling me just because I lost weight doesn’t mean I can fight. My goal is to prove to myself and everyone else that I, or anyone my age, can do it. I am 48 years old,” he said. As if the motorcycle wreck, surgeries, and his age were not enough bad luck, Oleson has also had three heart surgeries within the last year, the most recent in December.

“Once I win this fight, I want to declare myself a professional and then get a few professional fights under my belt. I am just so old now that no organization is going to take me on seriously, so I will just have some fun at the local circuits and make the best of it,” he said. As a result of his age and thus lack of sponsor support, Oleson pays for all the costs associated with fighting himself. He did say that he would love to have a sponsor or two though since training and equipment are so expensive.

The crowd may not hear “Eye of the Tiger” on the night he fights, but it’s a good bet that they will at least be asking who let that old tiger out of his cage. Oleson is fighting Lee Bell on August 3 at River Spirit Casino for Dale “Apollo” Cook’s Extreme Fight Night.

 

Close To The Bone Is Closer To Home Than You Might Think

Close To The Bone Is Closer To Home Than You Might Think

Close To The Bone

CL HARMON

 

The image has sent shivers down the spines of countless throughout the ages. It has struck in our hearts fear and fright and the realization of mysterious shadows and spirits in the dim light. The mere sight reminds us of our mortality, and that life and death only exist between the years of dust to dust. From black flags on pirate ships to mass graves and horror movies, the images of bones and skulls, in particular, are imprinted in the human psyche.

 

 

What was once was taboo and a profession of thieves under cover of darkness, bone gathering has become a thriving business right here in Oklahoma. No longer are their hunchbacks moving about the autumn fog of a moonlit graveyard with a shovel and a burlap sack in which to gather a few bones to be sold to medical schools. In this modern age, we have Skulls Unlimited located in Moore, Oklahoma. Samantha Tutor, Director of Sales & Marketing for the company, spent a few minutes with Uniquelahoma to tell us how bones has become a business that is nothing to pick at.

Skulls Unlimited International Inc. is the largest distributor of osteological specimens (Bones) in the world. For those studying the structure and function of the skeleton and bony structures or just interested in owning a specimen to a skeleton, Skulls Unlimited is the place to check out. Who knew that most of the bones for study around the world came from Oklahoma? It’s an interesting story of how such an enterprise originated here. It starts with the fascination of a young boy who found the skeletal remains of a dog in the forest near his childhood home. Unlike many parents who would tell their child not to touch the bones, Jay Villemarette’s father encouraged him to follow his curiosity and even begin collecting bones. A passion was born that day.

As he grew into adulthood, his unusual hobby of collecting skeletal specimens grew as well. Following high school, he began selling his bony finds to those who shared his fascination, including even selling door to door, Tutor said. By 1986 Villemarette and his wife Kim were cleaning skulls in their kitchen and working on a plan to turn the hobby into a viable business. After four years of collecting and cleaning bones, the two had established a retail and mail order business. Two years later they went international with Skulls Unlimited International Inc. Then, with the help of the internet, the company then began professionally selling and distributing bone specimens to medical and veterinary schools and museums worldwide Tutor said.

Through a partnership with the body donor program, the company legally acquires human bones and complete skeletons to sell to medical professionals. Tutor stressed that the company does not promote the selling of human bones to the public because as it is still a sensitive subject, She went on to say that a need for human bones belongs to those learning and science institutions which have legitimate purposes for having them. So for those of you who want one as a Halloween decoration, Sorry! As for the remaining specimens of animals, the company only uses legal avenues to obtain them. Their website states they, do not condone and will not support the poaching of animals or approve of the destroying of an animal solely to gain an osteological item.

“Our suppliers and their sources obtain osteological material from natural & predator deaths, road kills, food source by-products in exotic regions, legal hunting & trapping operations, and from attrition in zoological gardens. You can be assured of, and take comfort in knowing that your purchase conserves treasures and promote the ethical utilization of limited resources,” the website reads. Tutor also points out that the bones they receive from their suppliers worldwide serve a great educational need that would be difficult to meet if bone suppliers such as themselves were not in business. Many of the specimens would be lost to the wild or incinerated and not be available as teaching tools.

Although human specimens are a part of the business, most of what they deal in consists of animal bones. Their affiliations with many zoos allow them to obtain exotic animal bones which the company uses to help educate children about the animals. It uses field trips to its museums and outreach programs to schools to achieve this objective, Tutor said. She goes on to explain that there has been a shift from skeletons and skulls being “taboo” items in society to an updated concept that they are simply a structure of nature that does not possess some negative connotation in and of themselves.

However, one does not erase thousands of years of superstition, folklore, and well…just creepy fascination with the dead. So obviously there is still a market for such items as decorative items as skulls and skeletons and for exotic animal bones which are not available in real bone. This too is a market that Skulls Unlimited has also tapped. They possess over 500 various replicas which are available to purchase.

But there is more for bone enthusiasts. In 2010, the company opened SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City to showcase specimens from Villemarette ‘s personal collection. In 2015 a second museum location was opened in Orlando, FL. These museums allow Skulls Unlimited to showcase hundreds of skull and skeletal specimens acquired over the years, but also to provide an insight into the otherwise hidden workings of the animal kingdom. The Oklahoma City location has 800 specimens, and the Orlando museum has 500 specimens on display. Tutor said that is an incredible experience for children and adults to see how animals are structured and to interact with a part of nature that most never experience.

“The goal of our museums is to serve as an educational experience, with the hopes that through education, an appreciation of the natural world will ultimately lead to conservation for the future,” Villemarette wrote on their website.

As with all things in life, even death evolves. Thanks to the innovations and actions of thinkers like Jay Villemarette and many physicians and scholars before him, the days of midnight Resurrectionists carting bodies and bones from dark cemeteries has vanished into the dust. In fact, make no bones about it, it’s something all these people felt was necessary deep in their own bones. And so maybe, just perhaps…the old taboos are finally finding their place among so many others that time has put to rest in the boneyard.

To learn more about Skulls Unlimited and the Museums of Osteology, visit their website at skullsunlimited.com

 

 

 

 

 

Find Your Oklahoma Fireworks and Freedom Celebrations – 2018

Find Your Oklahoma Fireworks and Freedom Celebrations – 2018

Celebrate the 4th of July all over Oklahoma with fireworks.  Here is a list of celebrations we know about coming up.  Not all are just on the 4th, rather on several different days!

There will be live music, food trucks, fireworks, and fun at some of the various events.  Click on the events below for the location and day you want to know more about.  There are so many events planned for this 4th of July that they are starting days in advance!  As we continue to locate information on the events happening in Oklahoma we will update THIS post.

Autonomy Anniversary, Emancipation Festivity, Liberation Jubilee, Self-determination memorialization, sovereignty spree, enfranchisement jollification… call it however you want.  Just make sure you show up!  Don’t know where to go?  Now you do!

Check often and tell your friends and family where you got your info.  Uniquelahoma is dedicated to finding these events and letting you know!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Celebrations on July 1st

Rockets Over Rhema

The American Dream

Rockin’ the Park

Liberty Fest

 

Celebrations on July 2nd

Blanchard’s Independence Celebration

Liberty Fest

 

Celebrations on July 3rd

Fantasy in the Sky

 

Red, White & Boom

Yukon’s Freedom Fest

Fairview’s Festival & Fireworks

Grand Lake Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks Spectacular

Independence Celebration

Fireworks Spectacular

Boom in the Valley Fireworks Spectacular

 

Celebrations on July 4th

Tulsa FreedomFest

OKC 4th Fest

Jenks Freedom Fest

Boomer Blast

Liberty Fest

Yukon’s Freedom Fest

Fireworks Extravaganza & 4th of July Celebration

Sallisaw 4th of July Celebration

4th of July BBQ Buffet and Fireworks

Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration

Freedom Celebration Parade

Laverne 4th of July Celebration

Cherokee 4th of July Celebration

Boomfest at Riverwalk

Fish and Fireworks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations already passed

Bixby Freedom Fireworks Celebration

Bob McSpadden Memorial Fireworks Show

Lawton-Ft. Sill Freedom Festival

Canton 4th of July Celebration

Rockin’ the Park

Johnston County Red, White & Boom Celebration

Honor America Day

Summerfest

Marble City Mayhem & Fireworks Show

Liberty Fest

 

 

 

Be sure to check out our other events on the Uniquelahoma Event Calendar!

If you would like for us to post about your event let us know.  We would love to hear from you.  Uniquelahoma is a very active community. We welcome you to join us in celebrating the unique, weird, and inspiring aspects of our lovely state.  Do you want to have the opportunity to let everyone know about your events? Here is your chance!

Uniquelahoma

Forget Not From Whence You Came: How One Oklahoman Gave Us Back Our History

Forget Not From Whence You Came: How One Oklahoman Gave Us Back Our History

How One Oklahoman Gave Us Back Our History

CL HARMON

History Lesson

I have this vivid memory while in junior high school of sitting in a classroom with other students my age and feeling the boredom in that room as being suffocating. Or maybe I was hoping that someone would put a pillow over my head and suffocate me to end the boredom. Either way, you get my point…It was a snooze fest! Back to my memory though, this old man, who must have been in his sixties, was rambling on about some world history event in a monotone voice out of a big textbook. I don’t recall what it was, but I do remember thinking why is this old guy reading that from the book. I mean, hell he is old enough, Why not just tell us about his life in his own words? So I thought at the time anyway. But, I was onto something. As I grew older, I did cultivate a love of history and remembered later as an adult how fascinating it would have been if that old man had told his class about historical experiences throughout his own life. Or at least weaved the history he was a part of into the history that he wasn’t involved. If my math is correct as to his age, this means that he would have been a child during the Great Depression, probably fought in WWII, witnessed the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the tumultuous sixties generation and its Civil Rights Movement, JFK assassination and the Nixon resignation, among countless other historical events. Why was this fountain of history spouting out boring bits of information from a book when he could have been sharing real-life historical accounts?

Photos from Forgotten Oklahoma Group on Facebook

Finding Flavor In Technology

I would venture to guess that there were others like me who thought the same, many of whom left high school with distaste for history. Fortunately though and as technology advanced, historians began to recognize a need to record history from the people who lived it through documentaries. This renewed interest as people was able to hear real-life accounts of actual battles, human experiences of pain and triumph and become emotionally involved in the experience. As technology progressed even further into the social media society of today, people like Amy Hedges of Cleveland, Oklahoma got involved. Not only did she just get involved, but she has also brought 60,000 others along with her to be a part of it as well.

“I remember when I got my first 500 likes, I freaked out! Holy cow there are 500 people who like what I am doing,”

Hedges said. She was referring to her Facebook page Forgotten Oklahoma. Like many of us, she was disenchanted with her experiences in history classes and did not initially have a great interest in the subject. What she did have though was a love of photography and old houses. These interests culminated in a large collection of photos of old homes throughout Oklahoma; her father convinced her to post them on Facebook. Apprehensive at first thinking no one else would be interested, she finally set up the page and began posting.

Getting History Rolling

Following this milestone, Don Taylor of Ralston joined in and began posting too. He is a Pawnee County history enthusiast and has a large collection of state historical memorabilia which he felt fit nicely with what Hedges was doing. Taylor had set in motion a practice of voluntary submissions into play, and suddenly they were coming in from all over the state. Hedges explained that it was initially only abandoned houses, but when Taylor began posting old photos of other objects and people, it started to take on a life of its own.

“We were really rolling on this deal! Word got out, and more people were sending in photos wanting me to repost them. I had so many that it was out of control,” Hedges said. She had struck a vein and hit a gusher it seemed. Trying to keep up was becoming a full-time job. She wanted everyone’s submissions to get exposure, but it was overwhelming to keep up with the flow. She thought changing the page into a group would help. At this point, she had 20,000 people on her page. She said many people were contacting her by messenger asking why their photos had not been shared. She had a year backlog and was working to get posted.

The group idea seemed like less work because people could post their own photos and memories. As with most things in life, it was, and it wasn’t. New problems arose such as people wanting to post entire family photo albums or just photos of the state with no historical significance. This led to the need for more new rules, guidelines and page administrators. However, Hedges dealt with each new issue, and the group continued growing. In fact, she even expanded outside of cyberspace and organized “group meet-ups” every few months which are field trips to historical places. These meets give members an opportunity to meet and share personal histories.

Also, the group sells merchandise, selling t-shirts and calendars and then donates part of the proceeds to museums in need of repairs.

“I am still flabbergasted every day. It’s crazy! I never imagined that it would get so big.

From Snooze To Schmooze

“I am still flabbergasted every day. It’s crazy! I never imagined that it would get so big. And honestly, we are growing so fast that we have almost one hundred requests per day to join. And our engagement level in the group is so high, it’s unbelievable. When I checked recently, we had 253,000 engaged,” Hedges said. She also receives fan mail. She said that people mail her cards telling her how much the site has touched their lives and the difference she is making. In some cases, members have even connected with family members they didn’t even know they had. She is in awe as to how many people have connected through the group and became friends. Many of these people have become such good friends that they take “Forgotten Oklahoma vacations” where they travel and take photos for the site, she said.

Hedges said what she loves most about the group is that it gets people excited about history and compels them to research their own family histories. It encourages them to take the boredom out of history and brings the old mundane pages of a textbook to a living breathing history. Hedges and her group members have taken the next step in the evolution of learning history. They have taken the traditional snoozefest of old and turned it into a vibrant schmoozefest for anyone who wishes to understand the people who made Oklahoma history. So forget about the Oklahoma class that killed off your interest in history and become revived with the Forgotten Oklahoma that has brought the subject back to life.

Check it out Here

Photo from Forgotten Oklahoma Group on Facebook

Short – Shall We Never Forget

Short – Shall We Never Forget

Uniquelahoma honors all those who fought for freedom on D-Day this 74th Anniversary.

C.L. Harmon

Wouldn’t it be a remarkable event if 5,000 ships came to the rescue of people who were being oppressed?
What if those ships were carrying 150,000 troops who were willing to die to ensure that those people could be free and safe? Now imagine 10,000 aircraft flying above those ships with men willing to sacrifice everything for what is right. It is an awesome vision and on June 6, 1944 it became a reality.
The Normandy invasion into Nazi occupied France was the largest armada ever assembled. It was the action of nations in their finest moments. There is no vision greater than that of a free society which defends the right that all should be equally
free. 
This Veterans Day take a moment to remember the 9,000 servicemen killed or wounded on the beaches of Normandy whose sacrifice rests in the hope of keeping the dream of global freedom alive.

Colin Warde Follows His Yellow Brick Road: Oklahoma and The Film Industry

Colin Warde Follows His Yellow Brick Road: Oklahoma and The Film Industry

Colin Warde and The Film Industry in Oklahoma

CL Harmon

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work on a movie set and in the showbiz field? I have, and so I asked someone who knows, a native Oklahoman who is a big part of the still small, yet growing film-making industry in our state. His descriptions of his experiences read much like a Showbiz 101 class for all those interested in various aspects of the field while giving insight as to what it’s like to pursue a career in the film and television career. This Stillwater resident recently spoke to Uniquelahoma about following his yellow brick road to a field of dreams amid an industry where jobs come and then are gone with the wind.

Colin Warde is one of the thousands of cogs in a machine necessary for the production of any product. As with any functioning piece of machinery, each cog, nut, bolt, and handle is a must if the machine is to keep running smoothly. Over the past ten years, Warde has played many roles in the big machine that projects new worlds on the big screen and the small one. His role in this capacity has led him to work in many places and among many fascinating people. But just as Dorothy on her yellow brick road, his path too leads him back home too. And there is no place like home…to be in the movie industry!

Behind The Scenes

Warde’s dream was not that of the actor who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Although he does act on occasion, he always felt that the acting gig was financially volatile. He, instead, chose a dream of doing something that he enjoyed which was still mentally and physically challenging. As an Eagle Scout, he had been challenged, and that was something he wanted in a career as well. Although unaware at the time in 2003 that working in the film industry was the path he would follow, an invitation to work with a friend on an amateur film project would set him on that course. His friend and fellow student at OSU asked him to act in a horror movie. (Think Blair Witch Project type of film.) However, the acting didn’t intrigue him as much as everything else did.

It wouldn’t take long before he began to realize how many different aspects are in involved in making a movie. As this was low budget, there wasn’t any money to pay for all of these different aspects, and so his friend was juggling them all on his own. This issue became an opportunity for Warde to begin working behind the scenes to help out his friend. After graduation, he was unsure as to which direction to go. He was not sure about acting, but he felt something in the entertainment field was calling to him. He initially thought Chicago was a good place to get his feet wet…he was wrong. There just wasn’t a market there at that time.

FILM 101

The lack of market has become a reality that I deal with all of the time, Warde said. He was learning how quickly the wind of fortune can sweep in and how quickly they can be gone to the wind. He moved back to Oklahoma and settled in the city (OKC). He had bought into all the hype of crime and gang activity in Los Angeles and New York City, and it had made him uneasy about moving out to one of those places where there was a thriving market. As such, he was at a standstill. Then his mother suggested that he check out Oklahoma City Community College because she had been told that it had a very good film and video program. At first, he was skeptical. After all, this was Oklahoma, not exactly a mecca for the film industry.

His skepticism was laid to rest though when he learned that Fritz Kiersch, Director of Children of the Corn and Gray Frederickson, Co-Producer of The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now were teaching classes in the program. So at 25 years of age and with a Bachelor Degree already in hand, he became a student again and loved it. His involvement there would lead to an interesting opportunity. Kiersch and Frederickson were producing a horror movie entitled “The Hunt” over spring break and naturally put out that they were looking for help.

The Tie That Binds

“I have a friend who always tells this story about me. While all of the other students were showing up for interviews in sweatshirts and dressed like they were going for a job at Pizza Hut, I came with a tie and resume prepared for a professional interview. He found out later Kiersch had said he hired him as soon as he saw he was wearing a tie. He was employed as a production assistant and had a great time learning how a movie gets made. He continued living in OKC and began making contacts and building his resume by working in production departments one movie or commercial at a time in the market that was growing in Oklahoma.

Warde explained that when people see you on set and notice that you work hard and show up on time, someone will eventually ‚”scoop you up and ask you what you like doing and what interests you‚”. When this happened to him, he ended up in the art department, which consists of the set and props. Something about creating an atmosphere and developing an ambiance appealed to him. This would benefit him greatly when he moved to Los Angeles. He was lured out there by a friend who got him a job on a television series. Unfortunately, that mid-season replacement didn’t  go anywhere, and four months later he was out of a job, but not for long. He then worked on the Jeff Goldblum cop show, Raines. Working in television was exciting for him even though the shows he worked on did not materialize into long-running series.

Winds of Fortune

“But hey I was working in LA, and it was exciting,” Warde said. He explains that everything on television as far as success and longevity is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Because of this, one might get on a show and have a job for ten years or one that lasts only a few months. He explains the type of is work like an adrenaline rush where there is intense energy followed by a calm nothingness. The film and television industry is not a steady paycheck, but there are so many avenues in show business with so many people involved that one can usually find work of one sort or another. A phone call from a network executive who remembered him from the first series he worked on remembered him and offered him a job that countless people must have envied.

ENERGIZE!

“Nobody knew that I had been watching Star Trek my entire life when they handed me the keys and code to the building with all of it‚ everything from the franchise! Warde was a huge fan who had just been given the responsibility to sort, categorize and sell the entire lot of memorabilia from one of the most successful franchises in cinematic history. He was in awe, and although it was not what he came to LA to do, he couldn’t turn it down. The toughest part was deciding what had to be destroyed. Unfortunately, not all of it could be sold. This was “heartbreaking” he said. There were six warehouses of everything from phasers to costumes to large set components. “It looked just like the warehouse in the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark with crate upon crate in a desolate location. Over the next three years, he ran online auctions averaging $100,000 per week in sales while making a very good living for himself. Although he was not working on a set at the time, it was an incredible opportunity to be working in an atmosphere of such historical significance.

The Voyage Home

Sadly though, all good things come to an end. Without another job lined up and a child on the way, the next step up was the voyage home. He came back to Oklahoma, became a father and began reinventing himself to fit into what was happening, production-wise at home. At that time, commercials were the big thing, and he found himself immersed in that aspect of it, again in the art department. The timing was perfect. The Oklahoma City Thunder had become a big deal, and suddenly huge companies like Nike and ESPN among others were there to cash in. This influx of new business made his talents in the art department very valuable. He was local and available. All of his hard work and patience was paying off.

August Through December Osage County

“I was hungry and fierce. It was awesome! I was building my kit and all of my equipment and gear,” he said. All of the commercials would finally lead to his big opportunity in Oklahoma, working on August: Osage County with an all-star cast including Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard among others. An interesting fact from behind the scenes, Warde said that August Osage actually went all the way into December Osage. As per his job of keeping the set looking like it was summer (Set Continuity), the art department was painting the grass green and using zip ties to replace fallen leaves from the trees. There is no business like show business as the saying goes. Since his return to Oklahoma, he has become one of, if not the top art person in Oklahoma. This accomplishment is something he is very proud of and validation that he has been on the right road these past ten years. He also now works in production design as well which puts him working with the directors on the overall feel of the production.
Warde has worked with and loves mentoring people and considers himself a teacher to those who truly have a desire to work in the industry. During his career, he has had the opportunity to work in a lot of locations due to his desire to be a part of the film industry. Also, just like Film 101, he is always willing to teach newcomers how to find their role and become part of the bigger picture that is movie making.

Step Out Of Your Car And Into The Past

Step Out Of Your Car And Into The Past

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

Step Out Of Your Car And Into The Past

C. L. Harmon

May 25, 2016

When the wind came sweeping down the plains of Oklahoma in the 1870’s and 80’s, it brought Native Americans from all corners of what would become the continental United States. In addition, it brought settlers looking for a piece of earth to call their own and ultimately an end of the westward expansion.  It was a melting pot of challenges and changes that would eventually lead to a boiling point that history would remember as the Land Run of 1889. Thousands would stake claims of 160-acre plots for themselves while Native Americans were settled onto reservations and indoctrinated into “white man’s” culture. Whether one may argue as to what happened during that period was right or wrong, what cannot be argued is the incredible dynamic that poured out of that melting pot.

Various peoples from all types of different backgrounds found themselves in a territorial wilderness where they would create a society like no other. Each day these people were making history in their efforts to not only survive but thrive. One room school houses and community churches would sprout up, legends would be born, and customs would begin losing their origins only to be replaced by new ones under one name…Oklahomans.  In such a whirlwind, these people would become one; they would form a state and an identity as the years passed. One Oklahoma town would recognize this amazing accomplishment and showcase it to those of who were not there to experience it.

Pistol Pete Statue at the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza in Perkins, Ok.

C. L. Harmon Photo

In all, there were seven land runs beginning with the famous initial run of April 22, 1889. The town of Perkins near Stillwater was opened up shortly after one of those runs in 1891. It was the “gateway to the Ioway and Sac and Fox reservations and the symbolic joining of white man and Indian lands. Fast forward over a century later, and one can find a memorial of sorts to that time in state history when the building blocks of diverse cultures became a common people. It began in 2005 when the city manager of Perkins wanted to acquire congressional funding for a statue of its most famous citizen, Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton who is most known today as the mascot for Oklahoma State University.

“Initially, I thought this is a waste of time. There is no way Congress is going to give us $200,000 for a couple of statues. But lo and behold, they did give us the money,” David Sasser said. He was the one who the city manager asked to write the proposal for the project dubbed the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza. However, Sasser explined that at first, it was only going to be two statues; one of Pistol Pete and the other of Ioway Chief  Nacheninga or “No Heart”. The idea was to highlight the two cultures who worked together to form a society of unity and working together for the greater good.

“It has been really interesting how so many things came together to create the plaza from the beginning.”

It was an idea that would quickly gain momentum. As the word spread about this small project, other ideas would be suggested to create an entire vision. The first of these was to move an old church which the city-owned to the site. Next to be added was a log cabin built in 1901 and restored by the grandson of its original owners. The one-room school was moved to the site a short time later. With so many ideas for exhibits, space would quickly become an issue. Fortunately, a local developer stepped up and offered to donate three acres to the project if the organizers agreed to buy one across the street from the original location.  They did! Shortly, after that move, another donor offered up more land allowing the park to be six acres.

C. L. Harmon Photo

Now, the park needed a center attraction to go along with the statues and other exhibits. Eventually the trust would acquire Pistol Pete’s house. It would take some time though. After his death in 1958, the family had used it as a gift shop. But it had fallen into disrepair over the years, and the family eventually donated it to the plaza. With the help of an Oklahoma Historical grant, the organizers were able to restore the house.

“It has been really interesting how so many things came together to create the plaza from the beginning,” Sasser said. He is the chairman of the trust which operates the plaza and has been on board since the plaza’s inception. Another example of how “things came together” was the Cimarron Valley Railroad Museum established by Bob Reed in Cushing in 1970. Reed donated an old train depot building and all of the contents to the plaza upon his passing. Sasser explained that Reed’s collection is one of the best anywhere and makes a great addition to the plaza’s theme of early Oklahoma territorial history. The exhibit also includes a 1903 Canadian Pacific car, a caboose and even executive coach donated by other families. All of these are open and available for the public to walk through and experience what travel would have been like in those early days.

The best part about the plaza though is that it’s free. Also, it’s open every day of the year for those who like to walk the grounds and its trails. Although the buildings and train cars are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, visitors are welcome to peek into the windows anytime when they are locked. During the summer months, the grounds are operated by volunteers who make the buildings available to visitors. In addition, the grounds also have a splash pad for children to enjoy the summer heat and picnic pavilions for adults

Photos left and middle are the inside of Pistol Pete’s home. Photo right is inside the train depot building. C. L. Harmon Photos

As I mentioned, this is free. As such, it can be considered a gift that out of state travelers and Oklahomans alike can enjoy. Sasser explained that $1.5 million had been donated by locals to help bring this historical gift to life. He added that each year a fundraiser is held which raises money to sustain the plaza which is held as a municipal trust. As such, the City of Perkins allocates some funding for maintenance as it would for any city-operated park. Another source of income for the plaza is through renting out the old church and one of the two only modern buildings on the premises, the community center, for weddings, family reunions, and receptions.
Unfortunately, the plaza has reached its capacity to bring more exhibits with the completion of the other modern building, a small museum that houses many more artifacts that were not able to fit into the other exhibits. Sasser said he hopes it will be open this year.
The plaza is a unique journey through some of the state’s incredible history and life that poured out of that melting pot over the years. While walking about, one can almost feel the days of old…the ones that cannot be experienced from the teachings in a history book. The plaza truly is a gift from the City of Perkins to everyone who wants to see history come alive for a few minutes. It’s a rare find to experience history that is not safely protected behind a pane of glass. The territorial plaza gives one the up close and personal experience; the smells of the old buildings, the feel of a train seat, the creaks in the floors and the true understanding of what it must have been like all those years ago in a little place we like to call home. Let the winds of the plains sweep you into another time this summer at the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza.
The plaza is located at 750 N. Main Street in Perkins, OK. For more information, call (405) 547-2777 or visit [email protected]

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, A Thousand Pictures Tell of a Legacy

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, A Thousand Pictures Tell of a Legacy

A Thousand Pictures Tell of a Legacy

CL HARMON

 

Have you ever met someone for the first time and instantly know that this person is going to be your friend? There is just something about them that you connect with…as though you already knew them on a deeper level. I recently interviewed someone like that. He is a humble and kindred spirit of sorts, a follower of nostalgia who makes history in his efforts to capture it. He is a man who watched the original Pink Floyd’s The Wall and shot it with a camera he smuggled in. He is a man who shared a joint with Tom Petty during an interview. He is a man who got Pat Benatar to hold up a copy of a magazine with a Playboy Playmate on the cover. He is, without a doubt, a unique individual. Allow me to introduce Vernon Gowdy III.

Like many teens and young adults of the 1970’s, Gowdy fell in love with rock music and concerts. Back then, he was a “science nerd” who studied what was under a microscope and not behind a microphone. However, the idea of looking at something through a narrowed lens intrigued him. Just as an organism in biology class came alive to the human eye under magnification, music came alive to him behind the lens of a camera. This would start a life-long passion that would bring some of the most interesting people in the world into his frame of view.

VERNON GOWDY

PHOTO 101

He had been hooked on concerts as a live music fan since his first concert in 1975 when his sister took him to see Rod Stewart. But, during his college years at OU, he began to cultivate an interest in photography as well as concert going. Soon, an opportunity arose that he believed would allow him to merge the two interests. He was right!

“I had been taking pictures at concerts since 1976, but in 1977, I noticed a review of a show with photos in the college newspaper and thought I could get better pictures than that,”. He immediately applied for a position with the Oklahoma Daily college newspaper and was hired. It wouldn’t be long before he got his first assignment. Who could’ve known then that his first show would become of great historical significance worldwide? It would be a small event back then dubbed as the Sex Pistols at Cain’s Ballroom. In recent months, that show would be commemorated 40 years to the day by a large write-up in the Tulsa World and an interview with concert promoter Larry Shaeffer who booked them. Determined to succeed with this first show, he drove his Camaro for over four hours in a snowstorm to make the engagement. Anyone who has driven an old Camaro knows that it’s a sled with a mind of its own when it comes to ice and snow. Even then he was determined to get the shot.

RIGHT ON TARGET

Gowdy continued honing his photography skills while with the paper, including sports, concerts and other subject matter relative to a school paper. However, it was the concerts that he loved shooting. Because of this love, he had something that most people didn’t have; authentic, one-of-kind concert shots of famous musicians playing live. As impossible as it is today even to believe such things were ever possible, Gowdy used his position as a part-time employee for Target working in the Records & Camera department to not only spin the new albums released, bur also to display his photos on the counter and sell them for a dollar or two. He did this with management approval. It probably wouldn’t take security long today to toss an employee off the receiving dock today if they attempted such a thing. But hey, it was the 70’s!

“I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology in May 1979 and began working as a Senior Research Technician at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) doing cancer research. I worked there for about a year but then quit to do JAM Magazine full time,” Gowdy said. The “science nerd” still wanted to focus on what was alive, but it was what was living on a concert stage that captivated him more than what was living under a microscope. The first issue of JAM magazine debuted in September 1979. He was then able to work out a deal with the manager of the Boomer Theatre in Norman where he obtained an office in which to give JAM magazine a home.

SPREADING THE JAM

This opportunity turned out to be a goldmine for Gowdy. It just so happened that Larry Shaeffer of Little Wing Productions had started booking shows there. So now Gowdy had a steady stream of artists such as Pat Benatar, The Talking Heads, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and many more in the same building. Instant material! Even better was that he only had to walk downstairs to shoot photos of the shows for the magazine. Gowdy recalls a funny story in 1979 when Pat Benatar played that venue: Gowdy and his business partner asked her to hold up a JAM t-shirt and a copy of the recent edition, which happened to have a cover photo of Playboy’s 25th Anniversary Playmate Candy Loving. He recalled her facial expression as she held up the cover of Loving to be one of, ‘Uh…do I look weird holding this up?’. She was very “cool” about it though, he said.

The magazine idea had been the brainchild of three former employees of the college paper who saw a need for a publication about music in Oklahoma. With very little experience, the three men turned it into a popular publication that was even sponsored by area radio stations. Although the popularity was growing, profits were elusive, and by 1984 Gowdy began questioning if he was on the right track. He decided it was time to move on and his partner David Huff took the struggling magazine to Dallas where it continued in print for several more years. Eventually, it moved to online where it continues covering music entertainment. Gowdy began taking photos for them again several years ago and maintains the titles of senior staff photographer and co-founder.

THE WRITE STUFF

During his time with the magazine, Gowdy would hit the road in search of music. He seemed to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and always camera ready. He shot several historical shows at Texas Jam beginning with the first in 1978 at the Cotton Bowl. He also flew to Los Angeles and shot the original Pink Floyd The Wall show and St. Louis to shoot Fleetwood Mac. Still to come in his photography career were Robert Plant, Sammy Hagar, Steve Perry (Journey), Nancy Wilson (Heart) Niki Sixx (Motley Crue) and many others in various venues. What makes this man so amazing is the preservation of iconic music history for which he is responsible. Although this was not the initial reason to shoot, saving history is what he was doing. He has an incredible collection of unique moments in history that would otherwise not exist. There may have been other photographers at those venues, but as any photographer knows, each shot is a unique piece of art that is different by each one who points the lens.

At heart, this Oklahoman is a lover of history. To this end, Gowdy began putting words and photos to book pages. His desire to keep music history alive prompted him to write two books about the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City. While shooting there, he became excited about the many music legends that played there since its opening in 1964. He was fascinated as well how the ballroom had such an array of artists ranging from Country Swing to Heavy Metal throughout its existence. He felt the ballroom was a story worth telling and a piece of history that everyone should know.

“I feel that my books and photos contain history that people should know about and that is important to Oklahoma history,” Gowdy said. In addition to his books on the Diamond Ballroom, he has several works published that include compilations of photos from Rocklahoma and Texas Jam. In addition, he has published Adventures of a Rock Photographer Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, Diamond Ballroom: From Country Swing to Heavy Metal and From These Walls: History of the Diamond Ballroom. He is currently the house photographer for DCF Concerts and promotes his books at various venues. He even donates the proceeds from his Rocklahoma books to charity. As I wrote in the beginning, this is a man I certainly call a friend.

Oh…one more thing. If you ever get a chance to read Sammy Hagar’s biography, take a look at the back cover photo. There you will find the iconic Gowdy photo of Sammy jumping in the air with his Flying V guitar taken in Dallas in 1979. And that is a photo worthy of any history book!

One may purchase any of his books from the links below:

Diamond Ballroom BookVernon Gowdy's WebsiteRocklahoma BookTexxas Jam Book

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

CL HARMON

Uniquelahoma is primarily about unique and special people, ones who make the state a better place. This week, I thought I would write about the most unique and special person I know. She goes by many names to different people, but I just call her mom. She is a representation for all the wonderful mothers in our state who have made tremendous sacrifices for the children they love.

Her legal name is Sammie Dennison-Harmon, and she has graced this world since 1942. A friend and I shared a laugh recently about this article when he asked if I was going to interview her. “What? What the hell for.” I asked. “I already know everything I need to know about her,” I said. Without a doubt, my mother is an open book. I thought with Mother’s Day right around the corner, it’s a great time for all of you to get to know her too. Obviously, I cannot tell you everything about her so I will just hit some of the highlights.

Three is Not Enough

She is a mother of four. What makes this interesting I think is that her and my father had twins with their first pregnancy. A boy and a girl, the best of both worlds, right? Instant family right out of the gate with a child of both sexes seemed perfect…and complete. Wrong! Not for my mom. She told my father that there was someone missing, so back to the drawing board if you will, they went. Fortunately for me, they did, or someone else would be writing this article. Still though after me, she knew her family was not complete. With little money and struggling financially with a family of five, my mom knew she would know when it was finished…and it wasn’t finished. Two years later my younger brother made his way into this world. She knew then that everyone was now home where they were supposed to be.

Fast forward a few years, and there is a struggling business, four kids ranging in ages from four to eight and chaos that cannot be described accurately with any words in the English language. Amid the chaos though, there was always time for a soothing word, a kiss on the forehead and love pat for each ouchy. There was always time to run by the store for penny candy or to bake cupcakes. There was always time to listen to a child’s problem even with greater adult problems looming just overhead. What there always was it seems, is time for others…and that is the greatest of gifts anyone can give.

Hell on Wheels

It was the seventies, and my mom wore the hideous pant suits with the circles and arrows, smoked Kent cigarettes, chewed Juicy fruit gum and drank Pepsi while listening to the solid gold Country from the AM radio. She was a force to be reckoned with, a tornado that blew in every direction, a superhero with seemingly unlimited energy. In a Volkswagen Microbus without working air-conditioning and with six to seven kids (She often watched nieces, nephews, and a friend’s son), she was running errands, buying groceries, dodging traffic, settling arguments between kids who were not confined to seat belts and finding her way to the next stop without GPS. Mom didn’t need GPS because she had GSD aka Get Sh*t Done.

As my siblings and I got older and began activities in school, mom was there to make sure we made the practices, Cub Scout meetings, field trips and had the equipment, sack lunches, and uniforms even though money was often in short supply in those days. And, like any good mama bear, she was in that office with any teacher or principal who thought they were superior to those whom they taught. They quickly realized that hell hath no fury like my mother when her children were called out unfairly. If had been fairly, however, then there was a whole different kind of hell awaiting us at home. I call my mom’s parenting philosophy ‘Justice tempered with just enough mercy.’ In other words, “I love you so much that I will slap you into next week if you do that again. Now come on, I baked cookies.”

Then there were the eighties with four teens who enjoyed a good time. I will just leave it at that and plead the fifth on the details. I am sure my siblings appreciate this. She always trusted us and also allowed us to make our own mistakes with a freedom that I now know as a parent, must have been extremely difficult. She believed in our ability to make responsible decisions and loved us unconditionally even when we made a choice that may not have been the best one. She knew when to hold on and when to let go. Any good parent knows that this is much easier said than done.

Left Is Right, Right Is Wrong

My mom has always lived in a backward world. AS a lefty in a right-handed world, everything seemed a bit more difficult for her than the rest of us. I think this was God’s way of giving her the patience and understanding to help others through their difficulties. Who better to understand the frustration of life’s difficulties than someone who has battled them naturally all of their lives in a world that is backward to them? When things are easy for us, I think it limits our patience with others. But my mom had always had the patience and willingness to listen when others needed to be heard and help out when it was warranted. There have been countless times in my life when she knew just the right thing to say, to do, and the right advice to offer. I know my siblings would agree.

A mother has the power to create a happy or a miserable childhood for her children. They are the most powerful force in a child’s life. It is the greatest responsibility on earth. I cannot imagine a better childhood than the one she gave me. I still remember waiting with my siblings on the driveway of my parent’s body shop, counting cars on the highway eagerly awaiting her arrival home from a day chasing parts, tending to her parent’s needs, buying groceries in bulk and whatever other selfless acts she was performing for someone else. Only then to see her step, frazzled and tired, out of that truck without air-conditioning or power steering into the summer evenings with a rare treat of coneys from Coney-Island.

One In A Million

There is not one particular large event that I can recall that I would say defined my childhood. What I can say with all certainty though, is that there were a million small ones that came in all shapes, sizes, and forms that define me to this day. I know my mom would say that there are three large events in her life that define here, each of those being a birthday of her four children. I could write for hours about this woman who has always put others before herself. I could tell stories about how she accepted our high school friends as her own, and they still are considered family. I could go on about this woman who never stops extending her family by always inviting others to be a part of it. I can even ramble about this woman who taught me that forgiveness is a gift I give myself. Or…I can simply say that this woman is one of the most unique people to have ever graced Oklahoma and the people in it she calls family.

 

Happy Mothers Day MOM!

Haunted Sacred Heart Mission

Haunted Sacred Heart Mission

Sacred Heart: Konawa Oklahoma

ERIC NEHER

Eric lives in Blanchard with his wife and son. He is a contributing author to Ozark Farm and Neighbors as well has having several flash fiction stories published.

On the evening of January 15th, 1901 a strange sight was witnessed by the people of Konawa Oklahoma. An eerie orange glow suddenly appeared from the east; as if the sun had decided to trick the world with an early rise. Forty miles away the truth of what they were seeing was gaining in strength as the uncontrollable flames jumped from structure to structure. The Sacred Heart Mission was burning, and no one could stop it.

 It is from here, just five miles outside of the town of Konawa, that I now stand, gazing at the crumbled remains of an integrated hope cut short. It is not often that I find myself surrounded by the physical remnants of a dream that has fallen to ruin, and yet the two cemeteries that lay upon these grounds seem to cry out just that. One cemetery sits open with rows of crosses lined and bent with age. Here lies the Priests, and it is here that you are free to walk amongst the crosses as if you were stepping back through time. The other cemetery is much more of a curiosity; small marker’s peek up from the jagged blades of grass, all of which face towards a large crucifix as Jesus gazes down. More interestingly is that this cemetery is fenced off.  However, why? The reasons are open to speculation, but some say that the bodies of the children who died in the fire lay there. Another guess is that the Sisters who were sworn to chastity can, even in death, still keep their distance. Maybe that is why on warm nights a lonesome hooded figure can be seen drifting from stone to stone as if to reassure them that they are not alone.

What a historical jewel, a true gamble of a harsher time when just traveling from point A to B gave one plenty of time to rethink their decision. In 1879 Dom Isidore Robot, a French Benedictine Priest must have had more than ample time to do just that as he braved the harsh lands on horseback and wagon. An agreement had been made between he and the Potawatomi tribe; a Catholic school would be built as long as the children of the tribe would be taught. With the help of the tribe the first monastery was erected; a fifteen by the fifteen-foot log cabin. However, the excitement went way beyond the small wooden walls, as the motto ‘Pray and Work’ became a contagious way of life amongst the monks and the Potawatomi children. Their day often began at 4:00 am and lasted until well beyond the western sunset. Soon the spirit of this new endeavor expanded beyond the secluded region, as word was spread throughout the world even leading to the arrival of the missions first Benedictine Sisters in 1880, six women who had made the journey to teach the schools first class of girls. By the end of the nineteenth century the mission, which had started out as a small log cabin, had grown into its own self-sustaining community, including a post office, newspaper and a bakery that was renowned for producing five hundred loaves of bread a day. The future looked bright as white children sat in the same classrooms as their Native American friends. At least that was until 1901. 

The screams of terror must have been drowned out by the flames as they danced from building to building, swallowing within hours what had taken years to create. The ashes lifted high by the gusts of an oncoming storm, its promising rain too far away to care, as the survivors watched helplessly. They claim that no lives were lost that night, but I wonder. Perhaps they all did walk away and perhaps not, but one thing is for sure; beyond the physical tally there was certain death, and on that night hope was massacred. Standing here now, with the faraway murder of crows crying out to each other across the tree line, it is easy to see why Sacred Heart is listed as one of the most haunted places in Oklahoma. Its legend lies deep in an oral pit of historic misery. The bakery now stands as the only surviving relic, chipped and drowned as water from an unknown source fills its lower chamber, like a motionless cesspool that dares you to try. From somewhere deep within the murky chamber a single drop can be heard, falling with a timed hesitation.

The growing shadows from the late afternoon sun invite the imagination to take its turn as the snapping of a branch from deep within the woods catches my attention. The trees know the truth. If they could only speak, what a tale they could tell. It is among them, it is said, that a pair of drifting blue orbs can be seen moving between the branches, pausing for only a second, then moving on, like the spectral eyes of a tribal sentinel from long ago. I move cautiously closer to where the sound came from and stopped suddenly at the worn down beginnings of a path. The trail weaves its way on into the foliage, sticks litter the narrow walkway along with the curled needles from the scattered pines. Another call from some unseen bird cries out, sending a shudder up my spine as I take my first step onto the path. At first, it seems as though I have walked into another world; a pre-Neolithic time before the saw and ax changed everything.

As I walk on, my romantic evening dream is brought abruptly back to a less than desirable reality, as the low, reflected gleam of a crushed beer can appears before me. Out of respect, I bend down to pick it up when the maddening laugh of coyotes suddenly echo throughout the woods. A momentary jolt of fear ripples through my body as the image of ‘Murdered By Human Wolves’ flashes like a neon warning sign in my mind. These were the words that had been carved into the tombstone of an eighteen-year-old girl who died in fall 1917. It happened one night after a fallout with her father. She had stormed out into the open night alone. The family farmhouse sat in a clearing that was surrounded by the very same woods where I now stood. She knew that she should not venture too far in, but she was angry, and at that moment she could care less. Further on she went until the lantern lit windows of her house disappeared like the closing of tired eyes. The forest floor shined with the silver glow of a full autumn moon, as the newly fallen leaves crunched beneath her steps. At some point, she had decided to stop, but the sound of leaves being crushed did not. The girl knew that her life would soon be over as a howl ripped through the night, soon answered by another.

This is the legend, fueled by decades of rumor and fiction, and like so many other stories that thrill when the campfires blaze, there is a grain of truth. Perhaps a fallout with her father really did happen after all, and maybe she did leave her home angry and alone. The story of Katherine Cross is more than just some story; it is a criminal case. In 1917 the thought of premarital sex wasn’t too far away from the act of murder, and if a young woman happened to find herself pregnant from such an event it was safe to assume that a life of shame was soon to follow, and not just for her, but the family as well. To be in that condition in the early nineteenth century must have been horrific enough, and it wasn’t uncommon for certain types of illegal procedures to follow. Moreover, for Katherine Cross, that decision to terminate the pregnancy proved to be fatal.

 They say that on the nights when the full moon is free to shoot its silver beams from a cloudless sky, you can see her spirit walking blindly through the forest, hunting for the ‘Human Wolves’ that took her life. Tales of werewolves and missing children, ghostly panthers that pounce with shadowy claws dead Friars are carrying their dark flamed lanterns for the forgotten children of a dwindling clan to follow in silence. All of this seems to be a mere fairytale when you think of the true horrors that have happened. The terrifying notion that within a nine-month period a person can go from innocence to legend through no fault of her own is something that I find to be truly horrifying. The Sacred Heart Mission is truly one of the most interesting places that I have ever had the pleasure to visit, and whether it is haunted or not, I say who cares. Just to be standing on those grounds, surrounded by the cemeteries, the woods, and the ruined buildings are enough.

Announcement – The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque

May 1, 2018

 

For Immediate Release

On May 12, 2018, Elder Care will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Good, The Bad &The Barbeque, the annual fundraiser which has become one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the area. With the unparalleled setting of the magnificent Cross Bell Ranch, the scent of barbeque drifting through the air and the toe-tapping western swing music in the background, this is a truly wonderful evening.

The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque

The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque includes a barbeque dinner from Dink’s Pit Bar-B-Que, music and dancing, and live and silent auctions, all held under a beautiful tent.  This year Shelby Eicher’s Western Swing All-Stars will be the featured band. A cash bar will be available.

The Live and Silent Auctions are always a highlight of the evening offering guests the opportunity to bid on travel packages, unique pieces of jewelry, private parties, tickets to sporting events and much more.

There will also be a raffle for a $750 travel voucher on Delta Airlines.

This wonderful event is made possible with the support of our many generous sponsors including:

Presenting Sponsors: Arvest Wealth Management, Bartlesville Radio, The H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Trust, ConocoPhillips, Diversified Systems Resources, Phillips 66 and The A. E. and Juanita Richardson Foundation.

Prime Sponsors:

Bank of Oklahoma, Bartlesville Print Shop, Bartlesville Regional United Way, Cable One, Central States Business Forms, Dink’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Shelley Koster-Keller Williams Realty, Magellan Mid-Stream Partners, Osage Casino, Regent Bank and Truity Credit Union.

Choice Sponsors: ABB, Amedisys Home Health, Comforting Hands Hospice and Thad and Andrea Satterfield.

Elder Care is this area’s leading not for profit provider of services to senior adults and caregivers. We help with issues ranging from simple housekeeping and meal preparation to the complex challenges associated with the physical and emotional management of Alzheimer’s disease.  In addition to the wide array of life-changing services that we offer, we are equally committed to providing a voice for seniors that might otherwise go unheard. 

 

For more information about The Good, The Bad & The Barbeque or to purchase raffle tickets, please call Elder Care at (918) 336-8500.

 

Contact:

 

Deirdre McArdle

Director of Development

Elder Care

1223 Swan Drive
Bartlesville, OK 74006
(918) 336-8500
www.abouteldercare.org

 

 

 

Dale Lewis Follows The Roads To Discovery

Dale Lewis Follows The Roads To Discovery

Dale Lewis Follows The Road to Discovery

CL HARMON

Individuality is one of the most abundant resources in Oklahoma. This is not to say that individuality isn’t prevalent in other places as well. But Oklahoma seems to have it almost oozing from the soil itself…much like the oil in our ground. There is almost always a great story to hear about someone or some event drifting upon the Oklahoma breeze at any given time. Of course, it’s always the people who are the most interesting. Sometime back I discovered one of these people. In a small town theatre, he spoke of murder, intrigue, and mystery. He continued about an eight-year investigative journey, his ties to a wealthy Oklahoma family forged from a decades-old crime and his bizarre relationship with a suspected murderer and convict. I left that night knowing that I must speak with this man again.

Chub’s autograph on a canvas bag used by cowboys for holding ropes

Meet Buffalo Dale Lewis

His name is Buffalo Dale Lewis, and he is another example of the rich individuality of this state we call home. But, before delving into the murder and intrigue, let’s learn a little about Buffalo Dale. He is a drifter type, “a bit of a hired gun as a writer” who follows a road map of not destinations, but of roads to interest. Born in Parsons, Kansas in 1951, his family moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma at the age of three. Growing up in the local school system and then attending different colleges where he played sports and became involved in the YMCA, he didn’t seem to be moving toward a type of career where he would help shed light on one of the most famous murders in the state.

Kicking Off A Carrer In Writing

After his college years, he would drift into the security profession. Never wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement, private investigating and protecting celebrities while traveling the country, seemed a good fit for him. But more than a paycheck, it also gave him the opportunity to see and experience the world outside of Oklahoma. These revelations would eventually prompt him to put pen to paper and write about subjects of interest to him even though he had no training as a writer.

Once Dale had many years under his belt in the security field, he returned to Bartlesville and picked up his interests in working with various non-profit organizations he supports. It was at this point he got the idea to write to support their fundraisers. This would lead to a weekly column with the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise newspaper and a new opportunity to explore his curious nature and history. As he began to expand on the subject matter, writing about places he had seen in his travels, his readership grew, and his column was picked up by other newspapers through Stephens Media.

The Subject Matter Gets Darker

“I just ventured out and started writing about people who I thought lived good lives and did good things,” Lewis said. After that, however, his interest grew into writing about the darker elements in life. It paid off. His readers were as engaged as ever wanting to know more about what interested this literary gunslinger for hire. One such story was the Whitey Bulger murder trial. Bulger was the organized crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston. Many might remember his name in connection with Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler’s murder in 1981. He covered that trial at the federal courthouse in Boston for several months. As a result of this new direction, his readership continued to increase…as did his interest in other similar stories such the American Sniper trial in Stephenville, Texas, which he also covered.

 

Anderson Was The Last To See Mullendore Alive

At this point, Lewis began filming his interviews with Anderson. He still had not conceived the idea for the book at that time. It was still just an interesting subject matter which he wrote about once each month in his column. But Lewis’ interest in the unsolved murder kept growing. So he sought out others who were involved in the original investigation. What became clear early on was that Anderson was Mullendore’s employee and the last person to see him alive. Even with Anderson, the prime suspect, the case remained unsolved. Lewis wanted to know why.

The circumstances surrounding the case are interesting in many ways. This case is certainly one of those that even television could not sum up in a one-hour crime show. There are many questions about how such a high profile murder can remain unsolved and why justice seemed to be left to die in the dew along with 32-year-old Mullendore that September in 1970. Without giving away details about the book, I will say that this story is certainly one that sheds light and darkness on a subject that only gains interest as time passes.

We All Leave Footprints

Lewis is a unique individual. He is one of those Oklahomans whose entire life and career choices seem to have led him to a life of discovery for himself and others. We all leave footprints; some leave them in the dew running away, others in the pages of history and then there is Lewis, who leaves them in his path to discovery.

 

 

Notes on the Author and Interview

Footprints in the Dew has been on the Oklahoma Best Seller list multiple times including at the number one position since its release almost two years ago.

Lewis travels the country for book signings and the theatre shows of film interviews like the one I attended last year and mentioned at the beginning of this article. It is time well spent to listen to Lewis speak about this case and his involvement for anyone who is interested in the Mullendore murder or just a good old Oklahoma story. He has hinted to another book that is a “similar type story” as Footprints in the Dew that will hopefully be released by Christmas of this year. Another great Oklahoma story that is drifting upon the breeze it seems…

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Many details of Lewis’ book were intentionally omitted from this article due to our desire to keep just enough intrigue for the public to want to experience the story for themselves. It is an interesting journey about one of Oklahoma’s most mysterious murder cases that should be discovered within the pages presented by the author.

 

To Purchase a copy of Footprints In The Dew you can use our Amazon Link and help support this site!

You can also find a lower cost edition direct from the author’s website OriginalBuffaloDale.com

Footprints In The Dew Book

Kelly B. Todd: Helping Children One Session At A Time

Kelly B. Todd: Helping Children One Session At A Time

Kelly B. Todd: Helping Children One Session At A Time

CL HARMON

If necessity is the mother of invention then need must be the father of charity. Across the globe, there are organizations whose purpose is to help those who may not otherwise be able to receive assistance. Each one of these offers a service to humanity that is met by those who understand that just a small amount of effort can make have a huge impact in someone else’s life. In Muskogee, there is such a place which makes such an impact in families with special needs children.

The Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy & Neuro-Muscular Foundation has its mission rooted in helping those families who are faced with the added challenges of raising children with physically limited capabilities. Not only helping, but doing so free of charge.

The foundation (Center) began in 1975 under the name Green Country but changed in 1979 after the death of Kelly Todd whose parents David and Beverly Todd founded the center. When Kelly was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the couple realized that there weren’t any facilities in the Muskogee area to help children like Kelly with outpatient therapy…so they started one.

The couple met with staff at the Muskogee Regional Medical Center, doctors, and business leaders to help orchestrate an initiative that would soon become the foundation. That year began a 43 year-run of no charge therapy for special needs children, according to the foundation’s Executive Director Sharon Riggs. She explained that any child who is referred by a pediatrician for therapy is welcome. The Center sees children from newborns to 21 years of age.

As the Center is a non-charging facility to the families of special needs children, Riggs has used grant writing to acquire money. This allows the center to keep up with its mission. Two different grants in recent years have allowed for a speech-language pathologist, a second physical therapist and an occupational therapist to be brought into the Center. This was an important step as it allowed the focus to not only be on children with cerebral palsy but with any child who with suffers neurological and muscular disorders as well as injury-related conditions and autistic children.

“Funding is getting harder and harder each year,” Riggs said. Sooner Care and families with insurance are billed to help cover the costs of operations, but it is not sufficient. So in addition to these sources, there is still much funding necessary to keep up with the rising costs of maintaining the facility. Fundraising is a large part of acquiring those much-needed funds.

One fundraiser is the Christmas home Tour which is held each December. There is also “A Night in the Tropics” held in June and this year a special charity golf tournament in Tahlequah is scheduled for May 21. Riggs explained that it is vital people understand how important these fundraisers are to the families who utilize the center. She added that 95 percent of the money coming into the center is for program use with the remaining five for administrative.

There is also a huge need for volunteers as many of the services needed at the center can’t be afforded with its limited budget. Volunteering not only helps get chores accomplished. It also allows people who have not been involved with special needs children to garner an understanding of what that world is like for these children and their families. Also, it offers insight as to how much enrichment is brought into these children’s lives through learning and overcoming obstacles that most of us take for granted.

Riggs said that she hopes this article helps get the word out about what they are providing to these families and the needs required to maintain the Center. She understands that the majority of people, who do not have close associations with special needs children and their families, don’t give much thought about the challenges they face simply due to not being exposed to that element within our society. She added that once people become familiar with Center and the difference it makes in the lives of these children, they often become involved with the foundation.

Once people become aware that facilities like Kelly B. Todd are the only places where children can obtain the therapy that offers them a better quality of life, they understand the importance that one hour of volunteer work, one donation or just one simple visit to the Center can make in a child’s life.

For more information about donating or volunteering, visit www.kbtoddcpcenter.org

The Wizards of Tech are Over the Rainbow

The Wizards of Tech are Over the Rainbow

The Wizards of Tech: Techsico & Todd Blackburn
CL HARMON
You push a button on your phone, and you’re connected to anyone you wish to speak with. You strike a key on your computer, and you have access to the entire world. You type a quick message on your cell, and a text can be sent to anyone anywhere. However, how is all of this possible and who is this Oz behind the curtain that makes all of these modern wonders available to us? Would you believe he is a Tulsa native with a dry sense of humor who began with an idea in his living room?Todd Blackburn is a founding partner of Techsico which began and is headquartered in Tulsa. The company has currently seven offices in six states with the other Oklahoma office in Oklahoma City. He and his business partner James Lytal started the company in Blackburn’s dining room after having been laid off from MCI WorldCom. Both men were engineers for installs on the carrier side for the company from 1996-2000. Then MCI went into bankruptcy in 2000, they found themselves without a paycheck. That blow actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. MCI still had to deploy its network, so it began using contractors. Already knowing the job, the two men became contractors with its former employer as its first client. Within six months and completion of its first year in business, the company made $50,000 in revenue.
FROM THE TECHSICO FACEBOOK PAGE
Living on minimal salaries and remaining in Blackburn’s dining room for 18 months coupled with a growing client list, allowed the company to move into its first office space in downtown Tulsa. That space was 900-square feet. Within two years, the company had outgrown that space and then opted to build a 3,500-square foot building with a 900-square foot warehouse. Two years later, the company built another 4,000-square foot warehouse to keep up with their growth. Four years later, the company had outgrown that location as well and then bought its current location at 9th & Hudson. This was an 18,000-square foot complex with 8,000 of that space for office use alone. Still growing, the company bought the adjoining property in 2016 and added yet another 13,000-square foot to its operation for a grand total of 11,000-square feet of office and 20,000-square feet of warehouse space in Tulsa alone.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting out with just the partners and one employee, the company, also began doing work for AT&T, Windstream, and others telephone carrier companies which provided home and business phone lines, and business internet applications over copper line. The focus at this time was hard line engineering and installation for the systems which ran from those lines such as the phone lines and data within business office settings. The company began rapid growth at this point.

“Each year we were practically doubling revenue. We continued this trend for the first ten years,” Blackburn said. By 2005, the pair had already grown the company to eight employees. With the growing success, the company opened the new division Techsico Enterprise Solutions that same year. In laymen’s terms for those of us who are techie deficient, this division worked with the low voltage side of technology. It targeted businesses that were in need of internet connectivity. It worked with the carriers of internet providers and the businesses themselves to bring companies into the modern age of web commerce. This technology included fiber optics, voice and data systems, wireless access points, business security, fire alarm systems, audio and visual, setting up servers and networks, troubleshooting and remote desktop support. Three years later in 2008, the company acquired its first competitor Pillar Communications. Following this, the company took six more competitors under its control.

As technology evolved, the wizards at Techsico kicked off Towers Unlimited in 2010. The company looked toward the sky and began building, updating and repairing cell phone towers. Think back to the stone-age for a minute, and you may remember 1G technology…oh the horror! Techisco is the company that continually brings us out of those dark ages. Each update from 1G to 2G, then 3G to 4G to LTE to the latest 5G technology happens through the efforts of those behind the curtain. Although the tower remains viable, the other components such as radios and antennas must be changed to accept the new technology. With this new feather in the company cap, the partners’ success kept gaining momentum and growing alongside the technology it provided.

“One of the reasons we have been successful is we’re big on if we say we will do it, we will do it. And if we miss something, we don’t go back after the customer with change orders,” Blackburn said. He added that they offer top talent and don’t “nickel and dime” the customer. Also, they meet their commitments, which drives good retention, he said.

“One of the other things I believe attributes to our success is that neither one of us owners take out of the company. We pay ourselves a salary and leave the profits to reinvest in the company continuing to build it. We have left the majority of the profits in the company,” Blackburn explained.

As for profits and what that means to Oklahoma, the enterprise division alone generates $10 million per year. With this and the people employed, it brings a lot of positive to the state. The other divisions located in other states produce an additional $15 million. For the Oz behind the curtain who dropped out of college to become a ‘learn on the job’ engineer, this is truly a dream come true.

It takes heart, courage, and brains to build a successful dream. Blackburn and Lytal did this…and they were already home when they began their journey down the yellow brick road and over the rainbow to success.

“To be honest, every time we would move to a new building, in my head I thought, this will last us a long time, and we will be able to grow. Even with the first 900 square foot building, I thought oh we have room for four or five employees, and this space is going to take us five years in the future. It didn’t. It lasted one or two years. Each year I say well we’re probably as big as we are going to get and two years down the road were growing even larger. It never ceases to amaze me,” Blackburn said. Following his business success in Oklahoma, Blackburn has recently decided to bring his skills and insight into politics. He has recently thrown his hat into the political ring by running for District 77 in the House of Representatives.

As the Wizard of Oz said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Most of us probably don’t pay attention to what is going on behind the curtain. We simply push a button, strike a key or type a text and magical things happen that connects us to one another and our world. Perhaps, just this once though, we recognize the great wizards behind the curtain who keep us all on our very own yellow brick road to success.

Oklahoma’s Own Haunted Cemetery: The Blanchard Cemetery

Oklahoma’s Own Haunted Cemetery: The Blanchard Cemetery

Haunted: The Blanchard Cemetery

ERIC NEHER

Eric lives in Blanchard with his wife and son. He is a contributing author to Ozark Farm and Neighbors as well has having several flash fiction stories published.

There is a town just thirty minutes south of Oklahoma City called Blanchard. A small community of roughly 8400 people that epitomizes the slow retreat of what once was with what must now be. A rare place where the past and the future nestle comfortably together in its archaic seclusion as Old Glory proudly waves in the middle of the Main Street and Broadway intersection. Further to the east on the corner sits a Subway restaurant next to its neighbor, the barber shop, each sharing the same brick veneered front that harbors a dozen other stores.

 

It is just one and a half miles north of that point that you will find the notoriously haunted Blanchard Cemetery. This popular resting place for the dead was established in 1917 on a 20-acre lot right off of Highway 76 and can consistently be found on any of the many top ten lists of the most haunted places in Oklahoma to visit. What is it about this place that leads Amazon supplied ghost hunters to drive hundreds of miles to investigate this location? Well, as one of those hunters who was unafraid to purchase the two hundred dollar ghost kit, I am prepared to try and answer that question.

ERIC NEHER

 

Let us first consider what constitutes making a place haunted; rumors mostly, which the cemetery has in dead man hand aces. As you enter under the rusted lettered arch, you will first notice the leaning oaks scattered here and there. It is between them that a shadowy figure (it is said) can often be seen walking in a dark trench coat, giving an occasional wave to whatever horrified audience is there at the time. To some this friendly apparition has even appeared regaled in a nineteenth-century top hat, casually leaning against one of the larger oaks as a transparent knife switches from hand to hand. Some say it is a man who once took it upon himself to be the caretaker of the cemetery when it first opened, whose family, over the years, were placed in a section he had purchased, and that he still guards the resting place of his fallen kin.

 

And if you by chance hear the anguished cry of a small child, you are not alone, many people have reported seeing a little girl weaving in and out of the stone markers.  It was during a spring tempest that she walked mysteriously out of her house and into the night, oblivious to the torrential beating of the rain as it slashed against her face.  The Washita River raged as she continued her journey with its white-capped current racing, an obesity feeding on the many helpless washouts that breached the area. Perhaps it was one those incoming supplies that caught the little girl unaware, seizing her with a constrictor strength as it carried her to the river. It is unclear what happened that night but what is clear is that two days later her lifeless body was found washed up on the bank two miles away.  Now, swathed in her burial robe this young girl can be seen traipsing through the yard, forever searching for something that she will never find.

 

A few hundred feet beyond the gate and to the left lies section 2. It is there that mysterious blue light has been seen hovering over one of the older family plots. Perhaps a lost soul who missed their chance to go through the ethereal doorway or simply chose not to.

 

These claims have all been repeated by the many people who had decided to forgo an evening of Netflix binge-watching, only to summon up the courage to brave the unknown. Spiritual frontiersman, able to turn a blind eye to what is known and plunder on into the supernatural darkness. As a fellow wanderer I, with the help of my two very amateur associates, ventured into this cemetery, our hopes orbiting somewhere past the moon with our senses fine-tuned and opened for anything.

 

The moon was waning as we pulled into the entrance, scattered trees sat lifeless as the early spring air had yet to spark them to life. Stepping out of my Suburban with one working headlight, I was instantly aware of a cool northern breeze as it whispered its way through the leafless branches. The cemetery sat cold and barren,  the ageless tombstones decorated with wilting flowers seemed oblivious to our presence. Slowly we began to make our way on foot, the EMP detector alive and alert. From Highway 76 the hum of motors continued by and then faded,  automotive beams throwing running shadows across the headstones. After walking for a few minutes, we suddenly found ourselves confronted by the recorded stone of a man who had been born in 1843. A jewel of history planted and forgotten. Thoughts and imagination created an image of this man who would have been eighteen at the beginning of the Civil War. Possibly a voter; either for or against Lincoln. What a tale he must have had. Did he fight in the war? The headstones chipped inscription did not say.

 

A motion to my left brought me back to the present as a shadow streaked past. The low light of the moon was of little help, as I quickly turned to follow it I accidentally defiled the man’s headstone with the tip of my big toe. A wail could suddenly be heard ringing over the eternal resting place as I fell to the ground. The shadow, obviously startled by the reflexive siren that had escaped from my mouth, scuttled off into the night but not before one of my associates was able to illuminate the hairless tail that it was dragging behind it with his flashlight.

ERIC NEHER

 

Slowly, I rose to my feet. The throbbing felt like a hammer steadily beating on my toe. From further in, past where I had last seen the fleeing opossum, stood a large oak tree. Long leafless branches forked their way skyward, shadows within a shadow. With my newly found limp, I made my way towards the wide trunk. With my two comrades offering their physical support, I soon found myself leaning against the old oak tree where the man in the coat could often be seen holding a spectral blade in hand. Fortunately, the spirit had opted out this evening. Feint giggles blended with continuous whispered recounts of my earlier collision as I removed my tennis shoe and sock, revealing a cracked nail. From the highway vehicles continued by unaware of the nightmare that was happening. It occurred to me that if by chance someone was to look into the cemetery at this moment they might see a strange shape as it leaned on an old withered tree. Thus, the legend would continue.

 

It was at this point that a decision was made to conclude the investigation. At first, I was hesitant to ‘fold up camp’ so early, one reason being that we had accomplished so little, and the other being the distance that I would now have to walk to get back to the Suburban. It was soon clear that the votes were against me as our tiny three-man democracy had spoken. With great effort I pushed myself off of the tree and lumbered my way towards the nearest path, perhaps creating a new legend about a zombie.

 

There will be some who will read this article and might doubt the honesty of the events, but I assure you that these are the facts. The cemetery had not yielded the supernatural results that I had hoped for, that is true, however, let us not be too quick to discard this area as mere fiction or an old wives tale. In the end, who’s to say what a true haunting is?  And let us not forget that after only an hour into our investigation I could be seen hobbled and on my way home. That, in itself, could be construed as proof. Perhaps a subtle warning to myself and to others that the dead are not quite as harmless as we might assume and that if you are so inclined to visit the Blanchard Cemetery, it might not be such a bad idea to bring along with you a first aid kit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Enlightened Musical Experience Is No Myth

An Enlightened Musical Experience Is No Myth

An Enlightened Musical Experience Is No Myth

CL HARMON

Discovering something new and different is usually an interesting or at least an enlightening experience. Doing this and realizing that you like it, well that is just is cool.  It’s like tasting an unknown chocolate in a picked over box Russell Stovers’ candy and being pleasantly surprised. Tulsa area band ModernMyth was just such a morsel in an array of the metaphorical box of musicians in the Tulsa area.

Having a sit-down interview before a recent show in Tulsa, I was drawn into an unexpected dynamic. Fired up to hear stories about their methods of creating music and the philosophies behind them, I was instead exposed to a sense of brotherhood where unity was the central focus.  All in their early thirties, the members are Aaron Harris singing vocals, Johnny Digges on guitar, Elliot Hett on bass, Matt Walker on guitar and Jake White on drums.  To my surprise, each member spoke about the other members and their contributions to the band.  The appreciation for the other member’s talents and the elements each brings to the music was refreshing in a business not usually known for such courtesy and loyalty.

Modern Myth playing at the Vanguard in Tulsa.

Photos By Chad J. Clark.

Perhaps, part of this mentality stems from the fact that each is a self-taught musician. Therefore they share a natural love for just music and the discipline required to become intimately engaged in its creation. The members all agree as well that they are drawn to others who share a “passion” for music. To break this down, they do all share some similar tastes in music such as the Deftones and much of the music which came out of the nineties. But they also have varied tastes as well which their fellow members embrace and invite into the music they are creating and playing.

“We are a 100 percent feel band,” Digges said. So when new ideas are brought in, the musicians bring them to the forefront and experiment to see if they are all feeling it as something worthy to pursue further.  Harris explained that they explore all music options. This allows them to evolve and grow in the music and in their friendships with each other.

The band has been together for six years. Harris, Digges, and White played together in the band The Dawn Armada for five years before forming ModernMyth. That band released one album and then played the release show with Walker’s band at the time, Hail the Blessed Hour, as the opening band.  As fate would have it, The Dawn Armada broke up immediately following the release, but the three kept playing together as friends without a band name.  A short time later, a few members of Walker’s band quit, and he asked the former members of The Dawn Armada to fill in for them. Friendships formed followed by the creation of ModernMyth.

Digges explained that the band began looking for a new unique sound which they achieved in part through the use of seven-string guitars.  Both of the former bands had played heavier metal music and with their former bands but decided to go more melodic with ModernMyth. They found that by using the heavier equipment to formulate a more mellow music, they created something that doesn’t quite fit into a specific genre. White calls it close to heavy classic rock, but not in the manner known as acid rock in the 70s. Walker says, that to him, it’s a classic heavy metal sound with a twist of alternative.

They all agree it’s a “very Def Tone vibe,” but yet altogether something different found out in the no man’s land of post Grunge and the expanding land of Progressive music.

“We definitely don’t turn our noses up in the air to any music. We love all types of music,” Walker said. With each member having diverse tastes in music ranging from heavy metal to smooth jazz to Indie Rock to even Pink Floyd, they can create without the limits of prejudicial opinions against any genre. Digges explained that the moments during practice when all of the different elements from the instruments and the imaginations of the individuals playing them come together in a chaotic rhythm to form a spark is the band’s favorite aspect. Although they do enjoy performing and recording, those moments of true creation are what drives them. As with their creation of music, they also operate on an enlightened level personally as well through respect and humility, according to all the members.

“If you ask any of them which is more important, our music or our friendship, we will take our friendship every time,” Digges said. All of the other members chimed in as well in agreement with this statement. They consider themselves brothers. And as all brothers, they don’t always agree. However, part of that enlightened status they have achieved and the mutual respect they share provides them with the insight to keep egos out of the creation process. Without egos to get in the way, there is an opportunity to create something new and different that can’t even be classified in a specific genre. ModernMyth has created a modern sound one could say.

“There is something almost spiritual about what we do within the chemistry we share. They are moments in time encapsulated into something real that cannot be analyzed or faked.” Walker said. This chemistry produced over 30 songs, ten which are due out this summer on their new album.

“We want to stay friends and play music. That is what is most important to me,” White said about where the members see themselves in the future. As expected, his fellow members agreed. This is in line with their enlightened philosophy. It goes without saying that there must be a level of camaraderie between members of any band with longevity. But for ModernMyth, they take it to a level where what is truly important in life trumps what appears lacking in so many other aspects of the arts. Perhaps this is why they can create unique and powerfully melodic music that may never find its way into a genre. They are definitely a surprising and flavorful taste within a box of assorted of treats that is as unique as it is fulfilling.

Renaissance Brewing Brings Oklahoma The Timeless Taste Of The Ages

Renaissance Brewing Brings Oklahoma The Timeless Taste Of The Ages

Renaissance Brewing Brings Oklahoma The Timeless Taste Of The Ages

5

APRIL, 2018

Beer
Brewery
Oklahoma

It’s Beer Thirty! Yes, it is time to soak up the suds, open up the taps, and let the golden elixir flow. It is a potion of old dating back over 5,000 years to Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China.  It was history’s first kegger which began with the world’s first civilizations.  Interesting, don’t you think…as soon as man realizes he can use fire for something else other than staying warm…he brews a beer with it? Beer is one of those man-made creations that appear to just keep getting better with time, never losing its luster.  It’s a recipe that transcends borders and beliefs with its ingredients that draw peoples together into a toast to celebrate a taste for life…and the occasional buzz of course.

Thanks, in part, to some new alcohol-related laws in Oklahoma and the continued desire to brew and toast, the state has seen an enthusiastic jumpstart to what could become a thriving industry. Beer brewing is heating up. Although it has been legal to home brew beer since 2010, selling to the public on a brewery site has not been a legal option since August of 2016. With these and other legal changes, the opportunities for breweries to make income outside the wholesale market have created quite a buzz themselves amongst wannabe brewers in the state.

The taproom at Renaissance Brewery.

C.L. Harmon

One of those beer enthusiasts is a real Renaissance man by the name of Glenn Hall. The definition, according to the dictionary, is a man who has expertise in several different subject matters. Hall definitely fits into this category when it comes to building Oklahoma’s first brewery from the ground up.  The project began six years ago when he and his wife Sarah began looking for industrial zoned property to build what is now Renaissance Brewing Company located in the heart of mid-town Tulsa.

This location was originally three separate lots with dilapidated homes on them and zoned for commercial use.  He spent 2011-12 acquiring the properties and then the following year he spent doing internships at different breweries and acquiring his formal education in the beer brewing sciences. He also attended the World Brewing Academy achieving his Masters in Brewing Technology and spent time in, Munich, Germany for his apprenticeship in 2013. He then spent the entire year of 2014 getting his new properties zoned for industrial use.  It was an arduous endeavor, but success for the couple and paving the way for others to get properties zoned industrial much easier was the result.

“We were the first brewery to ever challenge any of the zoning laws in Tulsa and the first and only brewery in Oklahoma to build from the ground up”.

“We were the first brewery to ever challenge any of the zoning laws in Tulsa and the first and only brewery in Oklahoma to build from the ground up,” Hall said. He also helped city leaders understand what breweries are really about. Although the city did have some experience working with Marshall’s Brewing, also in Tulsa, that brewery had been zoned industrial from the beginning. So Renaissance Brewery and the City of Tulsa became classmates of sort of Building a brewery 101.

After nine months of waiting on permits, the Halls began building in December of 2015. The construction would take two years to complete. The colossal effort of building as opposed to taking a much easier job working for an existing brewery boils down to a simple philosophy; “I just like my own stuff,” he quipped. In actuality, he is one of those people who believe in investing in his own ideas over those of others.

“I had a really good job in IT for 16 years with a good salary. I basically let that go to move backward,” he quipped. “I have been brewing since 1994 and so I have always loved the brewing aspect. I like the engineering side of brewing and the equipment even more than the beer. I have wanted to do it professionally for a long time. This has actually been a 20-year plan or vision if you will.  When Hall completed his apprenticeship in Munich, Germany, he knew it was time to follow the teaching of philosopher Plato who said, “He is a wise man who invented beer”.  The time had come to become a real Renaissance man and apply his new knowledge to the art of craft beer. In his efforts, he became the general contractor for the construction, along with handling many other aspects of designing, financing and building a brewery from the ground up.

Hall explained that the brewery itself is debt free, leaving only the construction loan and operations costs. In essence, the couple already has over 50 percent equity in the enterprise.  The brewery paid for itself within two months of its public opening on January 11. In addition, he and his wife are proud of the fact that they have made the neighborhood a better place and increased property values by removing decaying structures and building an asset within the community.

“The business is really doing what we believed it could. Of course, we have to grow it more to get where we want to be. One of those future visions is completing two bed and breakfast type apartments on the second floor where ‘beer travelers’ can stop in Tulsa and spend a couple of nights”.  The vision beginning to bring people into the brewery and allow them to experience some of the craft beers Renaissance has to offer. They believe the idea of people being able to stay in a brewery and be exposed to the operation will be very enticing to beer enthusiasts.

“Our main focus is here at the brewery,” Hall said. He explained that it is not their intent to saturate the market and push the beer into the mainstream.  He and Sarah want to use the brewery as somewhat of a social gathering. A place for tasters in the tap room, occasional beer dinners where diners can try new beers and have meals prepared by chefs, have short order foods and even become a place to host events.

“We are not going to beg and plead to get our taps everywhere. We want those places that like our beer to carry us. We want to establish relationships with various establishments that we really like and who like us,” Hall said. Renaissance actually got started and was able to get into the wholesale market by using its own equipment to brew at the Dead Armadillo brewery location. While there, they were able to get their four flagship beers perfected and available to the wholesale market.

Since the opening of the brewery, the main focus has been to get the taproom open. Now that this is completed and patrons are stopping by to try their beers, they have begun to work on brewing new ones. They pride themselves on having a variety of specialty beers every week, along with their seasonal line-up for the year.  Every Wednesday they release a new beer list which always sells out within that week.

“We now have people showing up early in the week to try some of our new specialty beers.” Thus far, the brewery has produced 40 different beers that are “proven recipes,” Hall said. The tap room is vital to the experimentation process, he explained. As they produce these specialty beers, the customer demands them allow them to see which ones are popular and could eventually become flagship brews. Currently, there is Renaissance Gold, Indian Wheat, Gamma Ray IPA and Black Gold as flagships.  Renaissance Gold and Indian Wheat are light beers, Gamma Ray IPA is more of a hoppy beer and Black Gold is a dark beer.

“We are selling everything we can make right now,” Hall said.  This is with nine current part-time employs and a few tanks. Renaissance has built in the capacity for several more tank operations, but Hall said that growing slowly and using earned cash flow to move forward is much more of a priority than quick expansion.

“I am a Renaissance man because I like to do so many of the things myself,” Hall said about his involvement with the day to day operations of the brewery. Although he calls himself owner and brewer, he is also the bookkeeper, janitor, recipe maker and packager as well.  With his renaissance mentality, and the neighborhood being known as the Renaissance area, it seemed as though the name was meant to be.

Still 5,000 years later that crisp and often bitter drink we call beer is still as popular as it has been through the ages. Hall has now joined the ranks of many before him who have taken what nature provides to quench a thirst that seems never-ending. Although it is disputed that Ben Franklin ever said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” someone certainly said it. And whoever it was, I bet that man was a Renaissance man just like Glenn Hall.

The Renaissance area is in the heart of Tulsa’s historic midtown, bordering streets are East 11th to 15th and from South Harvard to Lewis with the brewery located at 1147 S Lewis Ave. Hours are Wednesday-Friday from 4-9 pm, 12-9 pm on Saturday and 12-6 pm on Sunday.  For more information about their flagship beers, visit renaissancebeer.com. To try one of their specialty beers, stop by and belly up to the bar.

On A Collision Course: The Larry Shaeffer Legacy

On A Collision Course: The Larry Shaeffer Legacy

On A Collision Course

CL HARMON

 

It’s as though one is standing inside his memories while gazing at the walls of his office. Remnants of almost 50 years aboard a metaphorical train that has sped through the years on a mystery track leading him on a journey that most only dream of. As the conductor, this man chose to travel through melodic scenery as well as the darkest recesses to discovery for the destinations only available to those who believe in them enough to board a train to nowhere in hopes of finding everywhere.

GETTING OFF THE GRAVY TRAIN

When we left off last, Larry Shaeffer had decided it was time to return home to Tulsa after having spent several years on the road with Hank Williams Jr., promoting his shows. Now a family man with his wife and one-year-old son Jake, it was time for him to evaluate his priorities. As he would soon discover, acting upon those desires would be much more difficult than he initially believed.

Having been in the midst of the fast lane lifestyle since the early 1970s with the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll associated with that scene, becoming family a man was a lifestyle that was on the opposite side of the tracks for Larry. Being in the music business had been all he had known since those early days of flipping cars and selling fireworks and t-shirts to make a few bucks. Even with a degree from the University of Tulsa, he still only had his music business experience and the desire to keep the music playing in Oklahoma. Fortunately, though, he still owned Cain’s Ballroom and had a hefty bank account from his successful promoting ventures. He believed at that point that there would be “no more big money” but he was okay with that situation.

Larry with Van Halen

“One of the reasons I came back to Tulsa was that I thought I had enough money to last forever. I had done very well financially and I had proven to myself that I could do some bigger things than what I had been doing…but, then I got into a marriage that did not last forever…and it took a lot of money,” Larry said. He also felt that he had not really put the effort into Cain’s that he should have and it was time to remedy that.
By his own admission, his best years were 1975 to 1995. His focus on Cain’s was paying off and it became a mecca for live music in Tulsa. Yet, even as a family man, he still could not stop chasing the big money and was “scratching and clawing” with the competition to bring in arena shows. His efforts were able to bring Prince, Judas Priest, Tina Turner, Van Halen, Willie Nelson, Kiss, Aerosmith, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and even the great Frank Sinatra among others in this attempt and desire to continue growing in the business.

He was initially happy to be home and enjoying the absence of travel. But in many ways, he was in uncharted territory. He admits loving the lifestyle and the women who were involved in the music scene as well the wild side of the business. He had never seen himself as married with a normal home life, but there he was, just that. The love for his sons and daughters inspired him to learn how to be a good father, but this alone was not enough for him to keep from dragging the chaos surrounding him into his marriage and home life. It would soon become obvious to him that the train was on a collision course. Yet, he still continued gaining steam to feed what he believed to be chasing the American dream.

OBSTACLES ON THE TRACKS

He admits that the stress of his home life coupled with the chaos of the business pushed him further into drugs and alcohol.

“I had been warned that drugs and alcohol don’t mix with money. But I just wasn’t listening. So I made a lot of tactical errors. This is where my demise starts,” Larry said. On a more philosophical note and one of retrospect, he explains that when asked if he would do it over differently, the answer is a resounding YES! Perhaps, the best way to describe his response as it relates to this story is looking back at the tracks from where a speeding train had just been. Reviewing what had been on the tracks and decimated by its sheer force and the realization that what had been so close was now gone forever in the distance.

Maybe there were regrets. Maybe even life lessons. Whatever they may have been, it was most certainly a realization that he was destroying what he had so hoped to build by coming back to Tulsa. There would be other obstacles on the track in the near future as well such as a rape accusation and trial before a jury. But those obstacles would be just what he needed to slow down. He would be cleared of the rape charge, but the damage to his reputation and the continuing spiral into drugs and alcohol were enough to almost derail him.

 

“It’s been one helluva party, hasn’t it?”  ~ Larry Shaeffer

TRAVELING IN THE DARKNESS

“I became my own environment. I woke up in the morning being me and doing the same things I did the day before and hoped that it would work,” Larry said. “I also never thought that the flow of money would quit coming. It was so easy to get. This thought process, along with the substance abuse, would usher in consequences detrimental to his promoting enterprise. He admits that there were show settlements that he closed while high that was not handled as well as they should have been and this caused riffs between he and the artists. Many of these would have long-lasting effects.

“The show may have sold out and we all made good money. But I did not make a good impression with the artists I was working with.  There were several instances when I nuked myself because of the drugs and alcohol.” Larry said. One example of this behavior was casually offering Garth Brooks’ manager Bob Doyle cocaine after a show. Doyle was so insulted that he informed Brooks, who then refused to work with Little Wing again. He kept true to his word and has never worked with Larry since.

“Some mistakes you make, you never get through paying for,” Larry said about the Brooks’ incident. He went on to explain that though there were not a large number of those types of mistakes, there were enough to cripple his position in the business. He admits that at the time, he had no idea as to how much damage to his career he was inflicting upon himself. Interestingly though, he knew to some degree that he was going to derail if things didn’t change, but had no clue as to how to get off the speeding train or to stop it.

RUNNING OFF THE RAILS

During this period, he had been arrested on multiple occasions for what he refers to as alcohol offenses and his party lifestyle. To add some perspective about where he was at this point in his life, it should be noted that it was not ego that had landed Larry into this myriad of issues he was battling. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

“This level of fatigue had set in and I had managed to keep three balls in the air for many years and I didn’t know how much longer I could do that.  I never really thought I was equipped or even qualified to be in the business I was in.  I kind of thought I was pulling off a fast one here,” Larry said.

“I also had the false illusion that success was measured by money. I think that is one of the flaws in the American dream…that we all get measured by how much money we make,”. When asked if he had given any thought at this stage of his life as to how much joy and how many memories he had given to music lovers over the years by his efforts, he replied, “absolutely not, I never thought about it”. He felt good about how far he had been able to build Little Wing. But on the simple level of how he had touched so many lives or that what he was doing had significant historical value, he was oblivious. “I am realizing it now, finally” he quipped.

FINDING THE BRAKES

“I finally had an epiphany that my values were wrong and had been for decades. I wanted to get away from it,” he said. And the cost to own such an awakening? Everything I owned. “I had to lose everything! I filed for bankruptcy in 2001 with nothing left. I simply walked away from Cain’s Ballroom.  It was not a big sale where I garnered any money. But I finally learned that you can’t buy happiness at all. I had just bought into the idea that too much is never enough,” he said. He went on to say that if losing his wife, everything he owned and almost his children wasn’t enough to wake him up, then he was in a lot more trouble than even he thought possible.

But it was enough. For the first time in his adult life, he had become available to those he loved and cared about. In this action rests the wisdom of how important it is to be there for others during this journey through life. It took the battering of obstacles to finally bring the slowing down of the speeding train he was on. He finally understood what was most important in life had been passing him by while he had been roaring that speeding train through the stations without so much as a thought to see what beauty was around him.

 

“There was a time after the bottom had fallen out that I had no intention of booking even one more show. I just had no direction at that point. I was done with the business and it was done with me. I was drifting and wondering what my next move was.” Larry said. That next move would come a short time later. An agent in California called him and offered him an opportunity. Knowing that Larry was on a bad roll, he told him point blank that he may as well take the opportunity since he didn’t have anything else better to do. Larry accepted. He began booking shows for Willie Nelson. Within a year, he was making money again and back on the upswing.

 A NEW TRAIN OF THOUGHT

He loved it! There were no more big shows to scramble for and no more drugs and alcohol. He was a “handyman” as he calls himself, booking shows for Willie Nelson in the “B markets” between his big arena shows in the larger cities. This led him into doing the same for others such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Don Williams, Gordon Lightfoot and B.B. King.  He had found zeal again and was able to work with only those whom he considered to be professional and easy to work with artists. He had found a niche that worked and made him happy. And he was sober to boot.

For the better part of the last 17 years, Larry has maintained his business with these “elder statesmen” of the music business. In recent years though, many of those great performers have passed on and now nearing 70 years of age, he has no desire to add any more performers. He is happy with promoting shows for Willie Nelson and Gordon Lightfoot while enjoying time with his family,  11  stray dogs and a 1961 Cadillac which is often as temperamental as any difficult artist on a bad day.

 

The days of the speeding train may be over but he is more than okay with this fact. He has finally learned that it’s not about how fast he gets somewhere or the number of cars he has attached behind him; it’s about enjoying the scenery within this world he has created for himself and for countless music fans.

“It’s been one helluva party, hasn’t it?”  ~ Larry Shaeffer

Coming soon is the release of a podcast containing the interviews I have conducted with Larry for these series of stories. These recordings are colorful and entertaining, giving insight into the man and his career. They contain amusing anecdotes about interactions with artists and shows as well as personal information not included in the written stories. We at Uniquelahoma truly appreciate Larry’s candor and willingness to open up about events in his life that are very personal. It is never easy for someone to open up to the public about the choices made during life and any subsequent negativity resulting from them. It has been our great pleasure and honor to have been chosen by Larry to convey so many details about his personal and professional life.

Thanks for Reading!

 

Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

Nic ‘Nos’ What The Future Holds

22

MARCH, 2018

Culture

Music

Oklahoma City

“Let’s just ask Nick, he will know”. And with that statement came the birth of the Oklahoma City band Nicnos. After playing an open mike night for fun several years back, the young musicians were asked the band’s name. After a few awkward looks at each other, the words Nick Knows came out as a response. This was an inside joke among the friends about Nick always knowing the answers to almost everything. Nic being the guitarist Nick Sigman and “nos” being a play on knows to match “nic”.

As for the remainder of the band, they are lead singer and lyricist Josh Cox, drummer, Jerred Bauer and bassist Parker Rhea. The band formed in 2009 with its original line-up which then consisted of bassist, Jared Gaiser who played in high school with Bauer and both were state jazz champions. Fiddle player Blake Parks joined them in 2011 and together they formed a unique rock sound.

Nicnos Video.

For the last nine years, the band has seen a few changes. The main one is the leaving of Blake Parks. As a fiddler player, Parks brought a very unique twang to an otherwise all rock band. Cox said that Parks ventured off do play more Bluegrass type music and now has his own band Steelwind. They are very happy and supportive of him, Cox said. They are a four piece rock band again, Cox said.
“We were always feeling more rock n roll. Throughout our entire career, we always wanted to be more rock and so with this new album and writing it and all, it just felt like a good time to part ways. We could go on to do our thing and he could do his. We were really excited that it was amicable and that we could part ways and all continue playing music”.

“We were always feeling more rock n roll. Throughout our entire career, we always wanted to be more rock and so with this new album and writing it and all, it just felt like a good time to part ways.”

The former sound with the fiddle was a unique one that certainly set them apart. But it has always been the rock sound and soulful bellowing of Cox’s voice that is at the forefront of the music. The lyrics grow out of everyday personal struggles people go through is their inspiration and also gives them a connection to the fans that is not generic They do not, however, wish to make a specific point with the music, but more so leave the songs open for interpretation by the listener with the underlying theme always being that “music is life and life is full of crazy stuff”.

Cox explained that they were nervous initially following the leaving of Parks; not sure how the fans would react without the fiddle sounding through the rock riffs and bass lines that they had come to know. He went on to say that they were pleasantly surprised that the fans stuck by them. Although it was disappointing to the fans that the fiddle element was absent, they embraced the new sound that will become their new album due out later this year.

“We were playing a lot of the new material in our sets trying to get feedback and the transition has been one of the most gratifying times for me musically having the fans give so much positive feedback so quickly,” Cox said. He added that it was a relief that fans were not complaining or asking why they weren’t playing the old songs.

The band is also moving into the YouTube arena. Cox explained that in the past this had not been something that they pursued, but fans have posted over 200 videos of their live shows. The members feel like it is time to move into that digital area and with the help of bass player Parker Rhea, who is very talented with video and film production as well as a phenomenal musician. With his skills as part of their arsenal, they knew it was the right time to move into the digital aspect of music. “Rhea is the band’s Swiss army knife who can do anything and everything,” Cox quipped. Getting digital content out to the fans has since become a priority for the band,” Cox said. Although it is new territory, it is the digital age and musicians must keep up with the technology that fans are using.

In addition, the guys have put out two albums, Nicnos I and Nicnos II both of which are currently on Spotify, Pandora, Itunes, Amazon Music and Google Play.
To listen to Cox talk about the band and hear his passion for the music and performing it live, it is obvious that he has that same passion during his vocal performances on stage. All the members love performing live and this is obvious to anyone who watches one of their shows. The live performances seem to be the energy that the members use to stay plugged into their desire to continue making music. The members also all work day jobs and continually use the revenues earned to invest into the art of creating and playing music for their fans. It’s not about the money after nine years, it’s about the relationship they continually build with the fans who invest their time and interest in this Oklahoma City band.

To catch one of their upcoming shows mark your calendar. Nicnos has shows scheduled for March 23 in Conway, Arkansas at Kings Live Music, April 20 at Ponca City Arts & Humanities and May 12 at the Cain’s Ball Room in Tulsa. For more information about the band, check out their Facebook Page.

The Road To Success: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

The Road To Success: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

LARRY SHAEFFER’S LEGACY

The Road to Success

CL Harmon

15 March 2018

Some make history while others preserve it. It is rare to find an individual that does both. It takes one who marries the past to the future and forms a union which introduces ignorance to wisdom, wrong to right, arrogance to humility and fear to hope to truly understand that everyone can own a part of history if only willing to make their own while saving the history of others. Larry Shaeffer is such a man.

The skinny kid from the Lake Keystone area now had a band to promote with Black Oak Arkansas. Larry was about to make his debut performance into the music business with his then partner David Miller and their company Little Wing Productions, a name that comes from the Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. He knew that he had a lot riding on this. In those days, Black Oak wasn’t a sold-out show band and so he had to become creative in order to sell enough tickets to make the show successful.

Although he did have his first show on the books, he had no idea what to expect or how to even sell a show.

“There was no road map or set of instructions on how to do this,” Larry said.  Parking cars for a living making $44 per week with the occasional quarter as a tip, Larry had a lot of hopes on this first show if he was ever going to go from parking cars to driving ones others would park.  Always being one who can spot an opportunity, he took advantage of the state fair in Tulsa and was on the lookout for any hippie that reeked of weed and/or rock n’ roll.

Using $3,000 borrowed from his local bank which he secured as collateral with his 1965 Volkswagen and 1950 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, he bought a radio ad from a Tulsa station, rented out the Tulsa Municipal Theatre (Now the Brady Theatre) and printed out mini-posters which he handed out at the fair to those hippies for its duration of ten days. It turns out that his efforts paid off. The show sold out. (For a fun anecdote about the day of the show, tune into the podcast with Larry which will be released soon.)

Information coming soon.

Photograph by Coming Soon

It’s Raining Money!

By his own admission, Larry says that he was not astute enough to know if he was going to make any money from the show. But he was finally in the music business…and a concert promoter no less.

“I made enough money that evening to pay the band and the bank and still put $4,000 in my pocket! I had a bag of cash at settlement. One of my favorite memories is getting back to my apartment in downtown Tulsa after the show, opening that bag of cash and slinging it in the bathroom floor, living room floor, on the couch, in the kitchen, on the TV and everywhere else. It looked like it was raining money,” Larry remembered as he grinned from across his desk.

This was his first redemption as he called it that he was on the right track. Little did he know back then that all shows aren’t that successful. However, his tenacity and boldness would once again strike gold before he would eventually conceive the thought that gold mines have shafts. His next move would certainly be bold and show how committed he was to his endeavor.

“I was pumped! So the next day, after picking up the money, I had it in the back of my head that Merle Haggard was going to be a big star. I don’t know why but that was the name I came up with,” Larry said. After some quick research, he learned that Haggard had played Tulsa the year before when he had been drunk and “played a half-ass show”. However, he still believed that Haggard would be a hit.

He began calling Haggard’s office in Bakersfield, California hoping to talk with his manager Tex Whitson. As had been his luck for most of the previous year, no one called back. The receptionist would take his messages but the phone on his end wasn’t ringing.  He needed an in…and it soon came when finally a different receptionist answered the phone. As impossible as it may seem today, She non-chalantly told Larry that Haggard was in Nashville at the annual DJ Convention. She then went further and proceeded to tell him that Haggard and Whitson were staying at the King of the Road Hotel. That was what all that he needed to hear.

“I knock on the door and a man named Fuzzy Owen answers.”

Flying High On Stand-By

“My father worked for American Airlines back then and so family could fly stand-by for free. The very next day I am flying to Nashville. As soon as I land, I take a cab to the King of the Road Hotel, walk in and ask what room Haggard was in.” And without any hesitation from the desk clerk, he was given the room number. (Oh the times of innocence…how they have faded.) That knock on the door in the King of the Road Hotel would open to the opportunity of which he had so dreamed.

“I knock on the door and a man named Fuzzy Owen answers. These guys stay up late and it’s obvious that they are just waking up. I see Merle through the doorway rubbing his eyes. I looked like this anemic blond guy who was too young to be talking to them. (Or so he thought that’s what they thought.) Fuzzy was very gracious as I told him why I had come there. He then told me to go down to the lobby and he would join him in 45 minutes.”  Sure enough Owen came down and asked what he wanted. Larry informed him that he is the concert promoter in Tulsa and that he believed they could do huge ticket sales with Merle. After an hour of discussion, Owen agreed.

“I went up to the check-in desk and asked for two pieces of King of the Road Hotel stationary. We wrote up the deal, I signed it and Fuzzy signed it. It was a big win! I flew home as soon as I found a cab. Upon his arrival back home, he went to the then “powerhouse” Country music radio station in Tulsa, KVOO. He needed them on his side and so proceeds to tell the manager who he has booked. That experience would be his first lesson that the music business is not always a nice place.

Willie Nelson & Larry Shaeffer

Photograph by Coming Soon

Music Business 101

“The manager at KVOO goes ballistic! Because all of the sudden, this nobody, me, had the Merle Haggard show. There is some hostility that comes out of that. He actually calls Fuzzy Owen and Tex Whitson and tells them that KVOO needs to bring this show and not some nobody.”  Owen tells the manager that the station isn’t getting the show. He then informs him that Larry is the one who took the initiative to fly out to Nashville and ask for the show and therefore deserves the show. This gives Larry much needed clout with the station. He then decided to bring KVOO in as a media sponsor. Now he has the show and free publicity to promote it!

Larry booked the show in the Fairgrounds Pavilion which held 8,000 seats. He promoted the concert with all the tenacity he is known for including convincing Haggard to call in and do radio interviews. He actually oversold the show putting the largest crowd that has ever been put into the Pavilion. Larry walks away from the show with $40,000 in 1972. In today’s market, that equals right under $240,000.

“I was cocky! I had two sellouts for my first two shows. The worst thing that can happen to a promoter is to make money on the first show. It’s better that he loses his ass so he can go to selling life insurance or parking cars,” Larry quips with a hearty laugh. His sarcasm is not without merit as you will soon discover.

“The next thing I did was go out and lose all that money on more shows…as quickly as I could,” he quipped. On a roll or so he thought, he placed his money on Country music singer Mel Tillis in Kansas.

“I had borrowed my mom and dad’s Lincoln Continental to drive up there and I drove home sad. I had lost it all. I still hate Kansas because of those Mel Tillis shows,” he said in a comical tone. So now he began to regroup and a national crisis would help him do it. At his time, his partner Dave Miller decides he is out. Miller felt like it was a good time to get out before suffering another loss. Larry, however, felt it was time to delve in even deeper. But first, he would need to regroup.

Little Wing Begins To Soar

In 1972 what would become known as the gas crunch hit the US and gas prices doubled. People began immediately selling off their big cars with big block engines and looking to buy Volkswagens to save on fuel costs. Broke now, Larry saw this as an opportunity to make some cash that would allow him to book more shows and get back into the game. Once again he borrowed $3,000 from the bank and began buying cheap Volkswagens, fixing them up and selling them. This and a few other small ventures such as selling fireworks allowed him to continue following his dream. (For a comical story on one of those venture which ended in cease and desists letters, check out the upcoming podcast.)

These ventures kept him afloat and gave him enough money to begin making offers again to agents. He had two successful shows to give him credibility and by 1974 things had begun to move for him.  He was able to bring several shows throughout the course of the year and was building Little Wing into a reputable business that could deliver the goods to music fans.

Stepping into 1975, things continued gaining momentum. A phone call from Bill Elson, the man who had sold him his first show with Black Oak Arkansas, would become a call that would solidify Little Wing and propel Larry into Oklahoma’s promoter.  Elson provides him with a tip and tells him to book a large venue for June of 1976. He explains to Larry that although he may not understand what was happening, he needed to trust him. The biggest thing is music was coming and he wanted Larry to be in on it.

Larry took the advice and “Show Me The Way” as it were would be the way into a new endeavor for him. In January of 1976, what would become the largest selling album of that year with over eight million sales was released. Peter Frampton’s album Frampton Comes Alive, would go to number one and become album of the year. The Frampton show sold over 30,000 tickets. But more than that, it was a ticket into the past that would become Larry’s future.

“He profited $90,000 the first weekend and knew that Hank was definitely the next biggest thing in country music.”

Swingin’ Into Cain’s

That past would be an old building that opened its ‘swinging’ doors in 1924; a place of history and ghosts of the past who spoke to Larry as though inviting him to come and take part in making history. With his profits from the Frampton show, he purchased the decaying property from its owner Marie Meyers. He owned a piece of history where Bob Wills and many other great performers had entertained crowds of Oklahomans…he owned the Carnegie Hall of Western Swing. But now that he had the ‘House That Bob Built’ as it is often dubbed, what was he going to do with it. That location had become part of Tulsa that people were moving away from. Even the city wouldn’t come down to sweep the streets or change street lights, Larry said. Perhaps, those ghosts from the pasts such as Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Johnnie Lee Wills, Tex Ritter and Tennessee Ernie Ford were asking him to save their Tulsa spiritual presence from being lost.  He obliged.

Cain’s became Little Wing headquarters and a spring board for ideas as to how he could make the ballroom profitable. Again Larry reiterated that he had no one to show him how. And yet again Larry saw another opportunity. He began booking anything and everything he could get to play Cain’s. The opportunity arose a short time later when record companies, then in a signing frenzy for new artists, needed venues for these artists to perform. These new musicians weren’t popular enough to sell large venues, but would fit nicely into Cain’s. Larry had been in a good rotation for a while and was on agents’ radar. This coupled with Tulsa geographically in the middle of the US placed Larry on the front row of the success show.

It’s late 70’s and early 80’s by this time and Larry was packing the ballroom with acts that were not popular yet but did have followings and were on their way to the top. Some of those acts include Hank Williams Jr., Pure Prairie League, Van Halen, Mountain, The Pretenders, Bon Jovi, Annie Lennox, The Police and U2. Larry was fed these “baby bands” by agents to help showcase them to the public. It kept the music going and the money flowing. It also created loyalty between him and the bands. This meant that they were his in Oklahoma no matter how successful they became. He was also still doing arena shows in Tulsa and Oklahoma City for the more popular musicians.

One of those Cain’s shows would spark a 12 year friendship and opportunity that would grow into a very lucrative relationship for Larry. In 1978, he brought in Hank Williams Jr. At this time, Williams was still in his father’s shadow and desperately wanting to find his own voice. The atmosphere of country kids at heart with rock n’ roll in their souls partying at Cain’s would be the revelation he needed to find his voice.  In 1981, Larry gets a call from Hank Jr.’s agent telling him that Hank Jr. was going to be the next big thing in music.

The agent then told him that Hank Jr. wanted him to promote his shows all across the US. Still involved with Cain’s and somewhat struggling with that endeavor, he didn’t have the money to fund Hank Jr. all the deposit money needed for a full tour. But Hank Jr. wanted him badly enough to accept Larry’s counter proposal to promote weekend shows. He profited $90,000 the first weekend and knew that Hank was definitely the next biggest thing in country music.

Still young at this time and approaching millionaire status, he knew Hank Jr. shows was a ride he just couldn’t get off. His success was growing and other entertainers such as George Strait and Reba McEntire began approaching him to promote them. Not to mention that he was still bringing big shows to Oklahoma. By 1990,  now perched high upon the money tree and having a one year-old son, he felt it was time to exit the Hank Jr. gravy train and come back home to Tulsa. Hank did not take it well, Larry said. Financially, he admits that it was stupid to end that relationship. But he had enough and decided it was time to go back home and make a lot less money but a lot more history in Oklahoma.

We hope you enjoyed reading segment two of our Larry Shaeffer story. Please check back as the third and final segment will be out very soon. Thanks for visiting Uniquelahoma!

In The Beginning, There Was Music: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

In The Beginning, There Was Music: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

01

MARCH, 2018

Music
Life
& The Best Music in Oklahoma

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:  Due to the expanse of Larry Shaeffer’s career, we have opted to release this story in three posts. The first segment covers the beginning of his career and his rise to success. The middle and final segments will touch on his ownership of Cain’s Ball Room in Tulsa, promoting concerts and the growth of Little Wing Productions.

There is a good chance you never met this man or have even heard of his name for that matter, but odds are that this man was probably partly responsible for some great memory in your life. This, of course, is contingent upon you growing up in Oklahoma in the 1970s 80s or 90s and liking music…and who doesn’t like music? If you are one of us who have met him, it’s a sure bet that you wouldn’t forget him. Once you meet, it becomes clear as to how this man from the Keystone Lake area became synonymous with entertainment in Oklahoma.

 

Rhinestone Revelation

Growing up in rural Oklahoma in the mid-fifties, wasn’t exactly a breeding ground for the type of dream that would become Larry’s career. There was, however, one “window to the outside world” back then and it was television. Music television at that time was in its infancy, but it did provide entertainment such as the Lawrence Welk Show, Ed Sullivan Show and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. These programs struck a chord in the pre-teen Shaeffer and an interest in music began to cultivate within him.

A specific incident on a day trip to downtown Tulsa in 1955 or 56’ would further his desire to gravitate toward the music industry. He and his parents were walking along Denver Avenue one afternoon near what used to be the Cimarron Ball Room when he saw what he said was, “the most unbelievable vision he had ever seen”. At that moment he was blinded by these beams of sunlight that were reflecting off the rhinestones from the suit that Leon McAuliffe of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys band was wearing as he exited the ballroom.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

“I was so zapped by that event that I asked my mom who that man was. She said that was Leon McAuliffe, ‘take it away Leon’. McAuliffe was Wills’ steel guitarist and he was famous for the song Steel Guitar Rag, which just happened to be a song Larry knew well. Wills would introduce the song with the phrase “take it away Leon” which became every bit as popular as the song itself. That moment would always stay with him. Years later the two men would become friends and Larry would even acquire McAuliffe’s steel guitar which he still owns.

This would be the first major event in Larry’s life that would guide him toward the music business. He would eventually take his first active step down this path by acquiring a guitar and taking lessons.  The path ahead would be one that would shine on in Oklahoma history as bright as any rhinestones in the sun ever could.

“The Beatles’ performance that night is when my intensity for my involvement in the music business started.”

The Day Rock n’ Roll Came To Town.

For Larry, everything really got rolling for him on February 9, 1964, when he witnessed the second event which would further his path along the long and winding road into the music business. That was the night the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show. The following day in the cafeteria at school, he and a few friends agreed that rock n’ roll was the life for them. Their eyes had been opened to an opportunity that had never before seemed real, let alone attainable. Already playing steel guitar at this time, an art that he quipped he was not very good at, it wouldn’t take long for him to form a band.

“The Beatles’ performance that night is when my intensity for my involvement in the music business started.” He said.  He explained that Mannford High School where he attended had maybe 40 students in his class. The majority of these kids had an old car or at least access to their parents ‘cars and thus had a life if you will. The remaining students, of which group he was in, are what Larry called the “school bus boys”,…the guys with no girlfriends, future or even reason to live he jokingly quips, were the ones most affected by the Beatles’ performance.

Taking The Stage

From that came the creation of their local band the Undertakers. It was a way to create an identity for these school bus kids and make a few bucks to buy an old Thunderbird, Chevy or another car to cruise around in. So it wasn’t so much about fame and fortune back then for the wannabe musicians as it was about girls, cars and a few more dollars than working at a grocery store or gas station could provide.

“We were gigging on weekends and going from school bus kids with three dollars in our pockets to having $100-150 on Monday mornings after the shows. “ That was a lot of money in the late 60s. He said that it changed the way we saw life.” Being able to afford cars and perform songs in front of live audiences at sock hops and local functions fanned the flames of desire within these young rockers. It was just fun and exciting for a bunch of kids to be on stage and get paid for it. Having money to ditch the school bus probably felt good too for these teens.

But for Larry, there was more to it than just playing gigs. He saw an opportunity, the writing of song lyrics on the wall if you will. There could be a real future in music. Since that performance by The Beatles, young musicians began popping up everywhere. This was not a fad that was going to fade away.

Calling Dr. Shaeffer…

Nor was it going to fade to black after he graduated high school, but college, not rock n roll seemed to be in his future as far as his parents were concerned. They wanted him to go to medical or dental school and so Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma is where he wound up…for a while anyway. It wouldn’t take long for the 17-year-old Shaeffer to realize that the pre-med classes were of absolutely no interest to him. Nor was pulling teeth and treating ear infections.

“Wait a minute “,  he thought. “I don’t want to be a dentist, doctor or sell life insurance. I don’t want to be a school teacher either…I want to be in the music business.” He told himself this back in the late 1960s.  By his own admission, he didn’t even know what the music business was, but he knew that whatever it was, he had to be a part of it. However, it would still be a while before he could make his pitch into the music business world.

Unwillingness To Adapt

By mid-December 1970 he had graduated from the University of Tulsa. The day after graduation, he was on a bus headed to the induction center for the US Army having received his draft notice. Although he was willing to serve his country, in his heart, he knew that he marched to a different drummer than most others.

“They wouldn’t run the [email protected]& !^%n army the way I wanted them to,” Larry joked. He and the army’s problem of not seeing eye to eye soon led to an early honorable discharge for Unwillingness to Adapt to Military Life. (For more of Larry’s opinions and thoughts on the late 1960’s political status, the Vietnam War and his college degree, tune into the upcoming podcast due out soon.)

By June of 1971, he was out of the Army and it was “reality time” as he called it. He had a college degree which was not worth the paper it was printed on as far he was…and is still concerned. So with college and the Army behind him, he began hauling hay for a company out of Terlton, Oklahoma receiving three cents per bale.

It’s Elementary My Dear Larry

“At this time, I had no idea as to how I was going to get into the music business. All I knew was that I was not thinking about hay bales. I didn’t have any desire or hopes that I could be a professional musician either”.  With pressure from his parents and others asking about his future plans, the winds of fate blew an idea his way. An elementary school friend reached out to him after having moved back from Texas. His old friend David Miller was now a barber working in Prattville, Oklahoma. He had been a rock n roll singer in Lubbock, Texas with a band called The Tracers and was interested in keeping a foot on the stage in the music business.

After returning, he had heard that Larry had had the band The Undertakers. Larry’s band would perform until 1969 when the drafting of members and other issues forced them to quit. So with no band, no prospects and a job baling hay, Larry was eager to hear what David had to say. Miller tells him of a man he had met while in Lubbock who had been a friend of the famous musician Buddy Holly. What he tells him about this man was just what Larry needed to hear…his way into the music business. Miller told him how this man he met had become a local concert promoter and made trunkloads of cash.

Long Distance Longing

“That conversation with David was the first sign of light of me taking some serious direction toward anything musically oriented. We partnered up and decided to promote a show.” Larry said.  Larry started calling agents in New York and Los Angeles but was not hearing anything that was music to his ears. The two were using Miller’s barber shop as an office using a shower curtain to separate two of the six barber chairs as an office and the outside payphone as their business phone.

For an entire year, not one single booking agent would take his call. Although frustrated, he kept pumping dimes and quarters into that payphone. Finally, an agent named Bill Elson from Premiere Talent in New York City did take his call. More than that though, he listened to Larry’s pitch and agreed to take a chance on him. Although Elson had some of the biggest names of the time on his roster, he found one band to offer him. After that call, both men borrowed some money, had posters printed up and called themselves concert promoters. Elson had agreed to let Larry bring Black Oak Arkansas to Tulsa. And with that came Jim Dandy to the rescue and the birth of Little Wing Productions.

Please check back in the very near future for part two of this story. Thanks for reading!

Never Tell Me The Odds

Never Tell Me The Odds

Never Tell Me The Odds

JESSICA WILLIAMS

Strategic

Communications major at OSU.

“If you find happiness you need to hold on to it because it is never guaranteed that it will last.”

 

Shane Hoffman, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University, seems to be a normal member of the faculty. His history, on the other hand, is an inspiring story to be told.

Hoffman grew up in a small town in New Mexico. He said he never pictured himself in Oklahoma nor did he know about OSU (let alone that he would become a teacher there). He was the middle child in a set of triplets to a single mother.

“My mom didn’t really go to college and we didn’t know anybody that really went,” Hoffman said. “We had no money. You know government housing, food stamps, and just dirt poverty. So, it wasn’t that we couldn’t go to college, but we knew that we would not be able to afford anything other than what we could afford which was basically all student loans. In seventh grade, I dreamed of being a sports writer and learned that the University of Missouri was the number one school in the nation for it. So that’s the only college that I applied for and the good news is that I got in.”

Although he was accepted, Hoffman still had many obstacles to overcome to get to his dream school. His mother had been approved for the loans in her name to both of their surprise, but he still lacked a car, a license, a phone and money to get him there. He had also missed every scholarship by one point on the ACT. His saving grace, one of many, was his high school guidance counselor. On the condition that he got in, Hoffman’s counselor offered to personally drive him there and drop him off at the campus.

“I was there but I knew no one,” Hoffman said. “So, my financial aid advisor met with me and I was trying to figure out if there was more funding because I literally had nothing but loans. And she said, ‘not only do you not qualify for more loans, but I really think that you’re setting yourself up to be home by Thanksgiving because the quality of student here is greater than what I see in your application.’ And when you’re told something like that, you can either give up or you can say you know what, even if you’re right and I am going to be home by Thanksgiving I am not going to quit without giving my all. I am one of those people that really like having a chip on my shoulder because I like proving people wrong.”

He worked hard and earned straight A’s in his first semester of college. He went back later to show the advisor she was wrong, but he learned she no longer worked at the school.

“The financial aid office has a high turnover rate, so I don’t know if she was fired or if she moved up or what,” Hoffman said. “But to this day I wish I could give her the first copy of my printed book just to say thanks for the motivation.”

Hoffman survived his first semester, but it wasn’t without the worry of his student debt. At around thirty thousand dollars a year with his housing and tuition, he would owe over one hundred thousand dollars at the time of his graduation. He knew it would be hard if not impossible to pay this back on a journalism salary.

“As fate would have it I knew the president of the journalism school at Mizzou,” Hoffman said. “So, one day I just walked up to him and I said, ‘sir I know you don’t know who I am, but I won’t be able to stay another semester at this school if I don’t meet with you and talk about finances.’ He recommended I make an appointment with his secretary and so I did.”

The journalism school president combed Hoffman’s options and found one scholarship he could apply for. However, it meant he would have to maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher for his entire college career. Hoffman was thankful and set out to prove himself. Around the same time, Hoffman applied to be an RA in his dorm building. He knew nothing of the job but the idea of finally having his own room excited him.

“The financial aid office has a high turnover rate, so I don’t know if she was fired or if she moved up or what.”

Shane Hoffman

“As a triplet, my brothers and I grew up in the same room about half the size of a college dorm room,” Hoffman said. “We had no floor space. We had one closet; we shared everything. We had one packet of deodorant and one razor between the three of us. It was literally sharing everything. So, my dream had always been to have my own room. To me, that was what the American dream was in my world. It was not owning a car or getting married or buying a house or making a bunch of money. It was having my own space.”

 

Hoffman was accepted for the position but was upset when he realized that having the job meant the school wanted him to pick a meal plan when he could not even afford the cheapest one. He visited the director of his dorm to respectfully turn down the job when he was shocked to realize that he had misunderstood and that the meal plan was not recommended, it was compensation for the job.

 

“I started crying,” Hoffman said. “I just remember thinking that I didn’t have to worry about paying for food and I was so happy. When I gathered myself, I asked her if there was some sort of discount since I would be moving from a double to a single room. That’s when she told me I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for housing either and I really lost it. I bawled like a baby.”

 

His RA position provided more benefits than he knew at the time. The job not only saved almost him eight grand a year, but it served as the base for his teaching career. The RA’s at the University of Missouri are actually allowed to teach the residents they look after with a full 16-week syllabus and a faculty member serving as their teaching assistant.

 

“It was very intimidating,” Hoffman said. “Especially since I was nineteen and they were eighteen. But I remembered the woman who had told me I was going to be home next Thanksgiving and I never wanted another student to be told such a cold and horrible thing. So, I wanted to be that light in their life and the support they needed.”

Hoffman’s life was definitely looking up. He got the scholarship, the RA package and that summer he earned his residency. He took advantage of a program that sadly no longer exists where if a student stays in their college state and works during summer break they can obtain in-state residency. Hoffman worked as a gas station attendant all summer and took himself from almost thirty-two thousand dollars in loans to two.

 

Hold onto your happiness, right?

 

“I went home the Christmas break of my junior year and discovered I would be homeless,” Hoffman said. “My mother had moved from the government apartment to the property of a cabin estate she managed but she was about to be laid off and since her house was tied to her job it meant she would be homeless. This meant that when I wasn’t at school I would be homeless too.”

 

Not only was Hoffman battling personal issues, but he was also entering the toughest semester of his academic life. He was enrolled in a broadcasting class that was notorious for separating the determined majors from the switchers. His professor warned his students that the only way to pass the class would be to get off campus and tell some amazing stories. This scared him and for good reason.

 

“I didn’t have a way to get off campus,” Hoffman said. “It wasn’t like Stillwater with the great bus situation. I didn’t even have money to buy a bus ticket. So every story I did for that class I had to walk. And as part of that class, I worked for the NPR broadcast station at Mizzou, so I walked and found all my NPR broadcast stories. That spring break my girlfriend at the time was letting me sleep on her couch when the dorm closed so I wasn’t homeless. Thank God for that. I learned that her roommate’s boyfriend was the only person in the world who had predicted the NCAA tournament correctly in the first two rounds. Millions of people fill out brackets to win money and he was one of the only people who could have filled that out and won I think around five million dollars. And I only found this out because I was homeless. “

 

Hoffman was the first person to interview this man dubbed the “Oracle of the World” on the internet. He broke the news before the New York Times, the Dallas news, and ESPN and it earned him an A+ (the first A his professor had given and the highest grade he has given to this day). Things were looking up for Hoffman and his life changed again with three phone calls the fall of his senior year.

 

“My brother called me, and I know he hates talking on the phone, so it was either going to be about sports or something was wrong,” Hoffman said. “There was almost an excited nervousness as he spoke to me. He told me he had just checked his Myspace for the first time in a while and he had a message from a girl he had never met. The gist of the message was ‘Hi, you probably have no idea who I am, but my name is Jessica, I am your half-sister and if you ever want to learn more about me here is my cell phone number.’ He said he was shocked and had immediately dialed me and now I was shocked. “

 

Maybe it was the stress of his mid-terms, but Hoffman said he barely remembered dialing the number. He didn’t expect anyone to pick up. He didn’t even know if he expected the number to be real or whether a man would answer claiming to be a Nigerian prince. But a woman answered the phone and it was at this moment that he realized he had to speak.

 

“I had no idea what to say so I went with the first thing that came into my mind and it’s usually bad, “Hoffman said. “So, I say ‘Hi my name is Shane Hoffman I’m apparently your half-brother.’ And I expect her to be awkward, but she starts screaming with excitement like she’s just won the lottery. I’m confused because this woman is celebrating like I have never heard before. I don’t know who she is. So finally when she calms down, which takes a few seconds, she says ‘I’m sorry I know this is going to come as a shock to you. I never thought this day would happen. We have been searching for you guys for over fifteen years.’ And there is not a moment of your life that can prepare you for that.”

 

As a child, Hoffman and his siblings had been told one statement about their father. That he didn’t care about them and didn’t want to see them. That was far from the truth. During his phone call with his new half-sister Jessica, Hoffman figured out he had not only one sister, but three. Jessica was also pregnant so soon he would be an uncle which made him incredibly happy. When he asked about his father she told him that he was on a last-minute vacation to Jamaica. He had terminal liver cancer and unless he received a miracle transplant he would die. In a short span of a day, Hoffman went from having no family to having a big family and a father who would possibly want to be involved, to then being told his father may be gone soon.

 

“So when he got back into the country I got his information and I called him,” Hoffman said. “I was so used to what my mom had drilled in for years that he didn’t want me. But I called him. I later had been told that he thought it was my mother calling which was why he answered the phone with ‘why am I getting a phone call from New Mexico?’ I mustered my courage though and said, ‘because this is your son Shane’. He was not ready for that at all. “

 

Hoffman’s conversation with his father let to the realization that he had been lied to his entire life. His father was an alcoholic and spent most of his life battling substance abuse and paying child support. His mother, however, had abruptly fled Texas (where they lived for the first eight years) with her three sons and left behind no contact information to their father who had visitation rights. Their father, whom they had been told their entire life didn’t care or want them, had actually been searching for them. He hoped they were better off without him due to his substance abuse but was ecstatic to hear from Hoffman. Unfortunately, it is a hard topic with his mother who still thinks she did nothing wrong. His father, however, did end up getting the transplant and is still alive today.

 

Despite this tough situation, Hoffman’s journey was far from over.

 

“I’m honestly here because of a clerical error,” Hoffman said.  “I switched advisors because the alphabet switched and unfortunately my new advisor had not double checked the work of the person before him, so I had been counted for a class I had not actually taken. It resulted in me having to extend my school year by another semester. But I had no more funding. So, I found out because I am a first-generation college student that I can apply for this thing called the McNair scholarship which is this highly-competitive research program that prepares first-generation college students for graduate school. I never thought of graduate school. I never wanted to be in graduate school. But I had to be in college for another half a year anyway, so I applied and was approved. And it was a really competitive year.”

 

The only way Hoffman could stay in the program was if he stayed a full extra year instead of the extra semester, so he filled his time with elective classes like piano lessons and defective dairy tasting. Because Hoffman was a McNair scholar, he was viewed as a five-star athlete by graduate schools since these schools receive extra money for bringing first-semester college graduate students to their campus. Hoffman was approached by Oklahoma State University. He had never actually heard of them. The school was so interested in bringing Hoffman on that they agreed to fund his master’s degree for free and pay assistance-ship for his housing. He attended Oklahoma State University for a semester and during this semester the professor he was under relapsed as an alcoholic and left the school for rehab. Since the staff had no time to replace his classes, Hoffman (as a graduate student with previous teaching experience at the University of Missouri) was thrown in to replace him. He made such a good impression with the OSU staff that they offered him a one-year contract after he graduated. Oklahoma State University would have stuck to their one-year deal except Hoffman was awarded Professor of the Year for Arts and Sciences. Since the voting was done by the students, Hoffman was offered a second contract. He is almost done with his fifth contract.

 

“I know statistically speaking, giving my background, my mom having a severe mental illness (bipolar schizophrenia) I should be in jail or still in New Mexico working two dead-end jobs with multiple kids to support,” Hoffman said.  “And yet I get to be a multimedia journalism professor at OSU. I have never forgotten that and so it always feels like every day is Disneyland to me. Every day I wake up wanting to prove not only to myself but to my students that I can help them. My job is not done until they have one. And even though it’s very strenuous I love what I do. I get to be the catalyst that makes other students’ dreams come true. I wouldn’t trade any of it. Because what I have also realized that when I share my story with my students it gives me the opportunity to talk to them about their pain and their story.  It’s the students that are struggling the most with grief or grades or finances that I can sit down with and try to be that light and that example. That means more to me than anything.”

 

Hoffman still loves his job and hopes that in the future he can have contracts for longer years at a time and possibly a raise but will stay on at Oklahoma State University while he is valued and needed.

 

“I never want students to feel like they are alone,” Hoffman said. “And I want every day when I get out of bed to have those students out there that feel that loneliness know by the time they get out of my class that they will always have an ally. “

 

An amazing story about an amazing man. He has had a profound effect on the lives of many students (including my own).  I hope that he continues to do what he loves the most; helping those who need it.

Publisher’s Note: We at Uniquelahoma strive to bring positive, enlightening and entertaining stories to our readers. We write and publish stories on all aspects of Oklahoma and its people, places, and businesses. It is our hope that our stories touch others through the uniqueness of each person and place we highlight. The following story is one such story we hope impacts you in a positive manner. 

Carving Out A New Place In The World

Carving Out A New Place In The World

Carving Out A New Place In The World

22

FEB, 2018

Woodworking Giveaway

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I think most would agree that art is a form of expression. Some artists use paint and a canvas. Others use words and paper, while still others use clay and a potter’s wheel. And then there are those who wield chainsaws. Yes, it’s true! I saw it unfold before me; a lump of wood became a mushroom under the gnawing bite of a chainsaw. It is a tad unconventional, I will grant you. But nonetheless, it is it definitely an art form.

Lumberjack or firewood probably comes to mind when one hears the word chainsaw. Or maybe even the thought of Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when we hear one fire up at a racing tempo. But in the hands of Chuck Williams, unique art will come to mind with the wielding of a chainsaw and a 3-D vision of what a chunk of wood can become.

Photograph by CL Harmon

While watching Chuck whittle away at that lump of dead wood, I saw something come to life. Not only the piece of art he was creating but a passion inside of him that began to breathe and function as one. Imagine if you will, the wild, long-haired rock guitarist ripping it up on stage wielding his musical ax in a frenzy of energy and creative flow with his long hair vibrating with static in the sound waves. Now imagine the same image only with a chainsaw instead of a guitar and you will see Chuck in his creative state. Woodchips are flying through the air like sparks from a rock concert’s pyrotechnics. The noise is loud yet with a flowing rhythm and the art of it all unfolds before anyone watching the show.

“It just hit me one day. I want to carve a turkey and so I thought I would give it a shot. After the class, I took to it like a fish to water. I can see 3-D but for some reason, I can’t draw”

This wood carving gig started over three years ago for Chuck when he got a notion to carve a turkey. He had a problem though; he didn’t know how to do it. So, he did what most of do these days and Googled it. The results led him to a man in Washington who taught a class on chainsaw carvings. After an agreement on price, the family headed up there for a vacation and a three-day class for Chuck.

Photograph by CL Harmon

“It just hit me one day. I want to carve a turkey and so I thought I would give it a shot. After the class, I took to it like a fish to water. I can see 3-D but for some reason, I can’t draw,” Chuck said. Being a tile layer for over 30 years, this carving and chainsaw sculpting idea was not some childhood dream that had whittled away at him for years, he explained. He enjoyed his profession and had not given any thought to a career change. However, after returning from Washington, carving a bear and a few eagles and then tackling the turkey, his business Beyond The Bark Carvings was born.
“While I was taking that class, I saw all these mammoth, beautiful pieces and I was inspired. This year I went full time and quit doing tile,” Chuck said.

I have used the word whittle in this article because it describes his methodology for creating a piece. In fact, many of his carving friends call him “The Whittler” because of his cautious nature of trimming. He quipped that many of his carving friends just go in there and start knocking chunks of wood off…and are very good at.
“It’s a process of elimination and once you cut it off, you can’t get it back,” Chuck said. He quipped that he is getting quicker at it though.

He does a variety of pieces, but his favorites are Native American pieces such as busts and feathers. He plans to begin a project in the near future where he will carve busts of what he calls the four great chiefs. These comprise of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Quanah Parker and Geronimo. Each one will be 18-20 inches tall when completed.

He recently gained a great deal of recognition for his work due to his giving nature and generosity to those families who recently suffered a devastating loss in the gas explosion near Quinton, Oklahoma in January of this year. Channel 6 News spotlighted him for his kindness in donating the “oil field cross” to the families who lost their loved ones in the explosion. The news segment had over 18,000 shares and went worldwide, Chuck said. He has been getting orders ever since.

As for the crosses, the idea came to him after seeing a message on Facebook that asked for people to pray for the families of those men taken so tragically. The message had the picture of a hardhat, pipe wrench and pair of boots on the ground as a memorial. He thought what a great carving that would make. He decided to make the carving and then donate it to the well site or the town. He used Facebook to help locate the right people but instead received a simple request for even a better idea.

“Someone reached out to me and asked if I would do one for one of the families. I thought to myself, I can’t do just one for only one family. So I decided to make one for each of the families and donate all of them.” After the news story, his gesture of goodwill went viral and the orders began coming in left and right, he said.

One of the most intriguing parts of Chuck’s work is not the actual artwork that he creates, but the attitude in which he employs for his enterprise. He believes in the best outcome as opposed to the best income. By this I mean, he cares about other aspects besides just the dollar amount bottom line. For instance, he doesn’t believe in chopping down a beautiful healthy tree because he can use it as a means to make money. Instead, he only works with trees that have been damaged and uprooted by high winds or have fallen by other means which occur naturally. The oil field crosses, for example, are all being carved from the downed sycamore trees that fell as a result of the tornado that blew through mid-town this past August.
An interesting note about Chuck is that he is not one of those artists who see the art in the raw material that needs to be set free by chipping or chiseling away at it. Instead, he sees the art inside himself and the raw material as the canvas in which to create it. He is by far a talented artist with the ability to carve out a unique place in the world of art…and of course in any tree that might fall when he is in a-rockin’ creative frenzy.

 

To inquire about Beyond The Bark Carving art pieces or to get more information about live demos, call Chuck at 918-261-8453.

In the Midst of Reality

In the Midst of Reality

In the Midst of Reality

What Kind of Change Do You Want To Be?

Marco Pitt, Senior Travelers, Italy

Febuary 15, 2018

“What you hold onto holds on to you.”

This is a mantra that C.L. Harmon, author of In the Midst of Reality, lives by. His novel was self-published on Amazon in 2013 and is a collection of what Harmon refers to as mindsets. Mindsets are short works of non-fiction that reflect how Harmon sees the world as well as how to deal with and overcome obstacles in life.

“They originally started out as dark poetry,” Harmon said. “Despite a perfectly normal and happy childhood, I became clinically depressed around the time I was 19 and I started writing these dark poems to help deal with what I was going through. Eventually, the writing morphed from dark verses to more positive creations.”

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Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

Mindsets are written to be relatable to people from all walks of life. They tackle not one, but many issues that people face such as pain, freedom, happiness and many more. The creation of mindsets helped Harmon to learn how to write and convey his feelings. His career goal is to use mindsets as well as his novel to help others.

“There was a lady when I worked for a newspaper who called my superior one day about a mindset I had written,” Harmon said. “She said she did not normally read the paper but for some odd reason she felt compelled to that day and she read what I had published. She was a Christian and had recently lost her son. She talked about how she had struggled with his loss and that nothing, including her faith, had helped her work through her confusion and grief. But that day, reading my mindset, she managed to find the peace and resolve over her loss. And that made me so happy. It was my little incentive to keep going, knowing that I was making a difference in someone’s life and could do that for others.”

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While Harmon’s work is deeply rooted in his personal faith, he does not segregate his writing to people that hold the same beliefs. He believes that every person has their own creator and path and his writing serves to influence people to find that path and pursue it.

“One of my biggest goals in my writing was to ensure that I did not tailor it to just one audience,” Harmon said. “Whether you are Christian and believe in God or Jewish or belong to the Islamic faith, I want the message to reach and help everyone. Every person is so important and has so much potential inside them. They are able to create and do things that no one else can and sometimes I think they forget that. We get so caught up in our day to day lives that we forget that we can make a difference on our own. Every action and decision we make affects people and we choose whether it’s a good or bad affect.”

I’m a standard Image Caption.

Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

Harmon stated that he will probably continue to write mindsets until he dies. Second only to raising his children, it is his most proud accomplishment. He believes that every person has talents within them and that they should use these talents to do what they can to better themselves as well as the world around them.

“I want my writing to affect people, but I don’t want them to think I am preaching,” Harmon said. “I don’t want them to think I am telling them to go out and do something. I want them to find the action within themselves. But I want everyone to have this opportunity. Even though I have published the book I have published many mindsets for free online for people to access. I don’t want to get rich on my writing. I want to be rich on knowing that I have helped others and that is a vastly different and amazing thing.”

So what kind of change do you want to be?

Purchase In the Midst of Reality

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Savor The Flavor Of Extraordinary

Savor The Flavor Of
Extraordinary

There is just something about taste that sets it apart from the other senses. We can all touch something and feel whether it is hot or cold, differentiate between odor and fragrance and so on with the other senses. But with taste, we send our mind on a journey that has no limits or boundaries. At times what we taste can be an awakening that reminds us that life is not always just about sustenance for survival…sometimes it’s just about the small pleasures which frolic among the taste buds and the savoring of extraordinary taste that only the living can indulge.

One could say that my tongue was slapped out of a restless slumber after it became entangled with a lemon treat from artisan of flour and butter, Hope Alexander. Meeting Hope on assignment for another magazine, I was taken aback by her passion to provide pastries of perfection. So much so in fact, that I could see “unique” in everything about her dream and drive to bake that which ignites the tongue and creates a flavorful fire in the soul.

Photograph by Saraya Harmon

From the name Esperance (hope in French) to her willingness to arrive at work at 2:30 a.m., Hope exhibits a passion that is often lost in the mainstream business world. Details matter to her. Customer satisfaction, which is a lost business principle to many these days, is in everything she does. From the greeting when entering the bakery to the organic ingredients used in her croissants, the attention to detail sets her apart

Hope has been baking for 14 years. As to how she found her calling, she explains with a jovial laugh that her love of chemistry fit naturally into her love of cooking, baking and most of all…feeding people. With so many options for baking, how did she come to focus on Croissants?

“The dough just felt so good to me. I have always enjoyed making bread and being able to knead.” A tasteless experience with some store bought croissants also helped facilitate her move into the baking market. Her love of chemistry and her success experimenting with recipes felt as though the universe was beckoning her to the kitchen.

“I wanted something to do that I enjoyed. And I thoroughly enjoy feeding people good food…no…great food.”

“I wanted something to do that I enjoyed. And I thoroughly enjoy feeding people good food…no…great food.” After enough friends and family members began offering her payment for her croissants, she began asking herself if making them was something she could do every day. Would she be happy doing it? Could the universe be right? Perhaps a bakers’ kitchen was just the right ingredient in life she needed to bring a new hope in her life.

Working a job where she was stuck in an office all day was just not doing it for her. So she began putting her business plan together and working out the details. It would take a few years before all the ingredients were just right before she was ready to put it in the oven. But once the recipe was complete, she began rolling the dough and warming up the stoves.

On June 28, 2016, Esperance Bakery opened its doors. Hope said that since opening, certain aspects have been better than she expected and others have not. Again this is followed by her giddy laugh. She expresses that words can’t convey what she creates. She was right. Having interviewed her before tasting her creations, I quickly understood what she meant and a few rewrites were certainly warranted. Her bakery is not to grab a quick breakfast or snack, it’s an experience. Although this writer does his best to describe Hope’s creations, I must admit as well that she is right. To understand true taste, one mustn’t just read about it. One must experience the creative mixture of ingredients and passion of a kitchen chemist and let all of the senses come to remember that it really is the small things in life that are worth savoring.

Esperance Bakery is located at 610 W. Main St. Jenks. They are open Thursdays until 2 pm, Fridays until 6 pm and noon on Saturday and Sunday

918-5258-6544

EsperanceBakery.com

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Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’… Anything but Plain

Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’… Anything but Plain

Oklahoma and me… and I… and my eye

Where the Wind Comes a-Sweepin’ … Anything but Plain

I’m a fifth-generation Oklahoman. My great-great grandparents bought 40 acres in Haskell County in 1913 and my family has alternately farmed and ranched it ever since. My folks still live about a quarter mile from there, and my dad ran his cattle there until about a month ago. Now my nephew runs them there. I love this state. It’s in my blood as much as my blood is here. I knew that as a boy and I know it today. Its prairies, mountains, hills, swamps, and deserts are a part of my whole self. It’s true, just as sure as my lifeblood flows through me like the ancient rivers rill and roll –  Red, Cimarron, Canadian, Arkansas and Poteau, all.

About … a long time ago, I had the good fortune to attend a major university here to study whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, part of that good fortune included doing just that, and THAT turned out to be a career in Journalism. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been a lifetime rich in experience in adventure, and a lot of experience living parsimoniously. Google it.

During that long tenure, I have alternately learned about being a good writer, taught others about it, practiced it, cursed it, praised it and tried to escape it. The latter being marginally unsuccessful.

But, as is the case with most long-winded life stories, I have had a lot of fun. I’ve met and worked with good people from all over the world, and some bad people from those very same places. I’ve even married some of them. The latter being tragically unsuccessful.

Repeatedly.

However in about 1993, after an enjoyable, albeit un-storied stint as a graduate student, I got the chance to work for a handful of different magazines. So varied in theme were these publications that anyone who looked at one of the covers might never guess that they shared one important core value.

They ALL loved Oklahoma and its people.

Seriously. LOVED.

So for about the ten years with these various pubs, I enjoyed myself tremendously. Telling stories about famous sports figures for one publication was a favorite. It wasn’t so much that I was a big sports mind – I wasn’t. It was instead that I was something of an Oklahoma sports historian – I was… kinda. I’d lived through a great deal of some very important times in Oklahoma football as it was conceived and played out by names like Switzer, Sutton, Semore and Sims; Barry Sanders, Pistol Pete and Bryant Reeves. I hadn’t actually known any of those great men, but I’d sat in the student sections with the sort of intense attention and enthusiasm only afforded to young men. And then, only those unfettered by family duties and upside-down mortgages.

So, I told those stories. Looked those men up and talked to them too. I got to travel across the cow pastures of central Oklahoma, through the dusty farm towns of Green Country and visit the waning burgs of the Red Mesas. I went to towns with names like Winona, Frederick, Gotebo, Wilburton, Alice, Maud, and Bowlegs. “You have to go through Bowlegs to get to Maud.” HA ! (I didn’t make that one up. It’s a local favorite saying.)

What was remarkable about those places wasn’t that they had huge populations of immensely talented artists. There were few, if any, tremendously profitable smokestack industries from which those people could make a living. Truly, there was little money to be made at all in most of them. I remember one man who owned property passed to him from the time Oklahoma first became a state. He still scratched a living out of the soil his great-grandfather had worn out with corn and cotton seventy years before. It was still good for the cattle he loved to raise, so he stayed to live and die there. Always working the cattle. He told me that living in his county was never making a living. But instead to just “live on what you make.”

So, sports legacies and beautiful scenery aside… one might ask why in the HELL do people stay in Oklahoma. We’re a Flyover State. The Middle of Nowhere. Only steers and Queers. Outlaws and Hillbillies. Farmers. Shitkickers. Lazy Republicans who vote against their own best interests.

So again… why do we stay?

It’s the People. Oklahoma is a true melting pot. Rich with the heritage of Native Americans and their fascinating, basically magical cultures. It was a time which I never expected to relive, with a wonderful group of people whose philosophies I never expected to encounter again. The adventures I had were so varied and rich that basically, no one could hope to re-visit anything like that.

For instance, from the good folks down Hugo way, I’d soon learn the value of a good circus performer, how they determined their own value and that the “pie car” people were the ones who fed the whole group. Concessions were the golden ticket in those performing arts. Among them, I’d make friends with a rhino named Goliath, 39 adult elephants, a 600-pound juvenile Siberian tiger named Samson and a cantankerous camel named Clyde whose practice of biting was only surpassed by his prodigious foamy slobbers.

Goliath and I became fast friends, and for some reason, I miss Clyde …

I’d meet an octogenarian circus owner who’d started his multi-million dollar shows in Vaudeville. FYI: all circuses and those who work them have roots in Vaudeville. ALL of them.  His humble origins began  with a single pony, a monkey, three dogs, a Model A Ford and 36 cents.

No kidding. He told me that. I had to ask him to repeat it twice. Not because I couldn’t believe it. Instead it was because I couldn’t understand him because he refused to put his teeth in for the interview. The words just wouln’t form.

Try it. Take a sip of your coffee and hold it in your mouth. Now curl your lips over your teeth and try to say, “Thirty-six cents.”

Yeah.

So, anyway …

During his sixty odd years on the road, he’d walk away from multiple truck collisions, some of them head-on; several motorcycle wrecks – some of THEM head-on, and an airplane crash from which he climbed into another new plane in two hours and flew away to the next show. You see, he had to use another plane because the first one had burned.

Wow… reliving those interviews makes ME tired.

The artists in Red Carpet country were amazing, as were the ancient mountains near Mears Oklahoma, which boasts a fine cheeseburger, but none match the juicy double meat masterpieces they serve at the Busy Bee in Hugo. There, the scarce seats are at a premium and you’re better to get your magnificent greasy ground beef through the drive-thru.

I could talk about the time a dude pulled a knife on me in the beer joint in SE Oklahoma; then a gun. And nobody looked up either time. Or the story I did on a business owner who was either a man… or a woman… or both. No one knew for sure, so I wrote the whole story without using a single gender-bound pronoun. I liked that though. Gave me a chance to show off to you and your kind, Decent Reader.

Then there were the Mom and Pop museums and their eclectic owners. Like the dude whose proclivities for collecting stuffed cats, hundreds of typewriters and various doodads was surpassed only by his penchant for grave robbing.

And then there was the little old lady from Duncan who met me at her front door in a tube top and Daisy Dukes, insisting that we “go in a-swimmin’” at her stock pond later. I didn’t go. She was insulted. I remained clothed and in charge of my lunch.

There exist in my memory dozens, if not hundreds of such stories. I’m proud to say that it was a colorful period filled with four-pound turnips (four pounds !), 800 pound wild hogs and a 60-foot totem pole made of concrete and wire mesh. There were fiddle makers, metal sculptors, pecan grovers, sheep drovers and a roving ratite rancher who fed his flocks of ostrich and cassowary from Cessna airplanes.

Then there was the sweet little old lady from Anadarko named Clara Moonlight. I didn’t have the honor of interviewing her, but I love that name.

I could go on and on, and probably would, except that I wrote many of these stories over 20 years ago, and I’m convinced that there are many, many more out there today which have yet to be told. They’re amazing stories. Cool stories. Almost UNBELIEVABLE stories. But they were real. Real as real gets.

I know because the people who told me were real. They were the stories of their parents, neighbors, friends and church families. They were THEIR stories.

And the ones I’m “fixin’ to tell… they’re YOUR stories.

I want to tell the world about you and yours. This is my plea, Good and Faithful Reader. I want to tell about your neighbors, your grandparents, your colossal farm animals, titanic turnips and other ponderous produce. I want to tell the world about the prairie dog city under your garage, the 2 x 4 blown through your oak tree by a Cat 3 tornado last summer, and the warehouse-sized concrete bunker you built underground to escape the next one.

Give me your coal mine fires, your world class miniature horse farms, your herds of fainting goats.

Seriously. I know you’re out there.

So what’s in it for you? Fame? Probably, if only of a mild sort. Fortune? Maybe. Not a nickel from me, but maybe still; that is if you consider yourself lucky.

Truthfully, I can offer a few guarantees. I can assure that they’ll almost surely NEVER make New Yorker Magazine, or find their way to the Nobel Laureate Dinner. But they’ll be good times for you, good reads for the world and great stories.

You can be there. You will be part of a continuing effort to chronicle the astonishing group of people who have woven the humanity and rich fabric of a unique and awe-inspiring land …
… with the latter being wonderfully successful.

Jeff Brown

Contributing Writer, Uniquelahoma Magazine

Healing Rock Skiatook, Ok – Smoke Signals By Sammie

Healing Rock Skiatook, Ok &#8211; Smoke Signals By Sammie

The Healing Rock in Skiatook
Sammie Harmon
A direct descendant of Chief Whitehair I. I write and research Osage history.

Legends are a very important link that connects us to our ancestors and are a positive force from our Creator. Are these true stories or based on actual events?  I believe the legends of the Healing Rock speak for itself.

The Main Player Moonhead Wilson

Moonhead Wilson, a Caddo Indian, John Wilson was a motivating character.  As legend goes, while fasting, Moonhead would go into a trance and “die” for three days, before coming back to life; here are two stories related to Osage history:

  1. Moonhead went into a death-like stupor at the original site of the Healing Rock and was presumed dead, until before the eyes of the onlookers he awakened.
  2. Moonhead lay injured near the rock and was brought back to health by an opossum which cleaned his wounds and brought him food.
John Wilson the Revealer of Peyote”

Old Peyote Religion

During the 1890s, the Hominy Creek Valley was frequently visited by (Moonhead), whose version of the peyote religion was combined with Christian symbols in his Moon Altar.  This was acceptable to the Catholic Osages.  The religion known as the Native American Church was accepted and is practiced today.

 

Is it possible that Moonhead’s experience was the revealing of the Healing Rock’s power?

According to legend, in the late 19th century, the Indians brought their sick ones there and leaned them up against the rock to be healed. Witnesses told that in the 1940’s the practice of bringing sick Osages by stretcher continued.

Why is this not practiced today?
Has a contemporary society overshadowed the gifts from our great Creator, Wah-ka-ton and we have miracles around us still, but fail to practice the pure, unconditional faith of our Ancestors?

Old Legends Die or Fade Away

As has happened with so many of our beautiful legends, the rock was rarely thought about for years. After the wagon train that passed near it was no longer violable, the “Teepee Rock,” was all but forgotten, hidden among the trees and tall grasses.  One can only imagine what miracles the rock could tell if it could only speak

 

The Coming Flood Skiatook Lake

When the plans for Skiatook Lake were finalized, it became clear the rock would be covered by water. Descendents of Tallchief, led by Skiatook resident, Bill Kugee Supernaw, contacted the Corps of Engineers to ask that the rock is saved. The Skiatook Chamber of Commerce and The Skiatook Museum Board campaigned to get the rock moved above the planned lake waters.

In 1985, the Corps moved the rock to its present location 1/8 mile south of the project office on Skiatook Lake. An access trail, built by the Corps, leads from the project office to this unique natural feature.

Archaeologists from the Corps of Engineers and The University of Tulsa examined the formation. Evidence obtained from digs and aerial photographs proved the rock was a natural formation and had been set in near perfect vertical alignment by natural erosion … ending any speculation that the rock was man-made. The rock stands 12 feet high, has a 17-foot base, and is 14 to 16 inches thick. It is triangular in shape with its jagged apex pointing upward to the heavens.
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Uniquelahoma – Just A Small Look At Where We Are

Who’s Working Here:

Uniquelahoma is very much “in the works” while CL and Jessica are hard at work gathering up story ideas, interviewing people, writing, posting, etc. I am working behind the scenes to ensure things are running smoothly and that they have the tools they need to make things work long term.

I take care of the hosting, programming, WordPress Management, SEO, and all the other technical connections between social media accounts and the website. I still have a lot of things to do at this point.

Sometimes Things Aren’t As Expected

Some things are great and working as expected. Others, however, are more or less just working for now. For instance, the email signup popup is supposed to show once every 30 days and then never again when you sign up. So far this is not what happens, but right now in our early development while our content release cycles are slow and unpredictable it is very important for us to have a way to get in touch. This importance goes away once we reach the backlog and capacity to release stories regularly, but it doesn’t diminish the desire to make that direct connection.

We Are All About Connection

The main reason for this entire site is “the connection”. We want to build connections with the people that make Oklahoma a unique place. We want you to be able to build connections with them as well.

I will keep working away at things doing what I can to move things forward and I hope that this site is all you hope it to be, if not now sometime in the near future. Thank you so much for reading this, I hope to have one of us making regular updates along the path on our journey to showcase the Uniqueness of Oklahoma.

A Visionary Touch

A Visionary Touch

 

He is not a large man in stature but put a paintbrush in his hand and he becomes larger than life. Frank Lorenzo of Pawhuska is the first to say that he prefers to paint outside the lines. Even as a young man with crayons, he realized that he interpreted life differently than those around him. It’s what his family called a “visionary touch”. His family realized his unique take on his surroundings and encouraged him to color his world as a young artist at the age of ten.

FINDING INSPIRATION

Spending a great deal of time at his grandparents’ farm while growing up, he found that though his surroundings were his subject matter, they were not his only inspiration; much of that, he explained, came from inside him. Seeing things as they were and drawing them was not the vision he saw from his internal eye, seeing them as a collection of items needing to be placed in a manner which gave them new meaning was the vision. As with any visionary, seeing the world differently than others opens up a new course of thought. Although Lorenzo did not quite understand this as a child, he did feel that what he expressed through his art was somehow different. It was the incorporation of those images surrounding him into a work of art that set him apart. “I feel it. I sense it. I use colors to create that feeling,” is how Lorenzo describes where his ideas come from. The art is not a single idea but a collaboration of feelings that materialize into a single work of art.

A STROKE OF GENIUS

“I try to create an element that people can respond to.” Painting for him is like a liquid puzzle with each stroke of the brush laying a new piece, thus connecting them into a complete image. Painters want people to connect to the feeling of what they are painting, he explained. Light became an important element and he always works to connect to the elements of life and bring that light to those who experience his works of art. He has an innate sense of seeing what is beyond the surface of an object.

“I like color and the light. The light is the beyond element. It is the essence of giving life to an object or thing,” Lorenzo said As an art teacher he would ask his students to create by exploring beyond what they could see. His concept is using the light and allowing his art to grow out of the light. Lorenzo was a teacher at a high school and college for ten years. As a high school teacher, in 1975, he was selected as one the Most Outstanding Educators of America.

MOLDING A VISION

. In addition to painting the world around him, he also has a background in classical pottery even once making a complete table set during college. As with his painting, he uses the same philosophy of not letting the clay become the art but using colors through a technique he created to allow the art to grow out of the clay. He is a skilled, wheel thrown, classical potter, he also attended San Francisco State University to work on a Masters of Art in ceramics, with a concentration in Raku. (A low firing process inspired by the traditional Japanese.) “I believe the level of commitment creates the level of success,” Lorenzo explained.  In 1984, he was selected to exhibit four paintings in the Salon des Nation juried show in Paris, France. The painting “Fury” won an international award.  The painting was made into a litho Limited Edition Print.

 

BURIED TREASURE

This Oklahoma artist uses nature as symbols for defining the concepts in his art. Birds seem to be a strong presence for humanity and they are calming, he said. “My job as a creator is to bury a treasure that others can seek out in the art and hopefully discover what I buried.”

Lorenzo is a recipient of many awards in painting and pottery.  Over his productive years in creating works of art, he has exhibited in galleries and some museums and is recognized nationally and internationally. He is considered a creative Renaissance person, combining fantasy, reality, emotion and dynamic color in juxtaposition between what is real and not real.  His biography reflects an early interest in creating art and the challenge evolving through architecture and back into the painting and pottery world. The skill, talent, and commitment are the response to his creations.

In addition to his artistic abilities, Lorenzo has also used his talents to cross barriers that lead into areas of the world that are mostly acquainted with the math and science of life. Due to divergent of creative interest that occurred from 1985 to 2015, Frank moved into the area of real estate development and later into becoming an Associate member of the American Institute of Architects.  He established an architectural design business, restored and certified a building that became a registered historical landmark, and was an Associate Director of his local Chapter of the AIA.  He also published a Homeowners Portable Construction Handbook.

 

To view Lorenzo’s work or inquire as to purchasing his pieces, visit artistfranklorenzopainterpotter.wordpress.com

 

 

Local Man Enjoys ‘Beeing’ The Keeper Of His Fellow Man In Africa

Local Man Enjoys ‘Beeing’ The Keeper Of His Fellow Man In Africa

Ziegler in Kurobonla, Sierra Leone during his time in the Peace Corp.

“Getting stung is just part of it,” he quipped. But in the grand scheme of things, a sour sting now and then is well worth the sweet results Lloyd Ziegler of Mannford, Oklahoma sees by volunteering his time as a beekeeping consultant in Africa. As in many cases for entrepreneurial pursuits, this is a hobby turned profession that Ziegler became interested in during his time in the Peace Corp while in Sierra Leone in 1969.

U.S Aid has become interested in the prospect of helping these people in the rural areas by teaching them a method to turn the vast amounts of honey produced in those areas into a commodity that can improve their or even provide partial financial stability, Ziegler explained. He went on to say that one village can have as many as 100 beehives and those hives produce so much honey that the villagers don’t know what to do with it. In short, many areas are potentially rich with a product commodity but do not have the infrastructure and knowledge to harvest and market the commodity.

Fresh honeycomb ready for packaging.

As a beekeeper with over 40 years of experience and the successful business owner of Ace Bee & Wasp, Control, Ziegler is able to teach these people the methods necessary to turn their liquid gold into a sweet nectar of potential profit. Teaching others is yet another skill set he possesses as a former math teacher. To give one the idea of how badly these people need guidance in their quest to harvest the potentials of beekeeping, Ziegler said that when he first began going to Africa the villagers were working with the African killer bees without any protection whatsoever. In fact, they were working the hives at night in nothing but their underwear.

Ziegler and a swarm of bees.

“When I first saw them doing this, I thought to myself, these people aren’t beekeepers, they are warriors!” He followed this with a laugh, but one can certainly see from this image the desperate need these people have for guidance. He explained that these beekeepers would get stung multiple times and when they finished the task of collecting the honey, their wives would bathe them and pull the stingers out for them. This was a way of life for these people, he said. Another downfall to the method of harvesting the honey in this manner is the fact that the bees would have to be killed. As terrible as this is, the people had no other choice since they did not have protective gear, he said.

By teaching them to harvest with protective gear technology, Ziegler is slowly being able to protect both the villagers and the environment by saving the bees. However, for every solution, there seem to be two new problems as any business owner can attest. Although Ziegler has been able to help increase production, marketing and packaging present a whole new set of challenges. In some areas, the availability of packaging products are not even available and villagers procure used water bottles to place the honey for sale. This is obviously not a viable or safe option to market on a large scale and one of the aspects that Ziegler is hoping to improve through his involvement with U.S. Aid. He hopes to continue being a problem solver for these people and giving them new hope to taste the sweet rewards within their golden opportunity.

He was honored with the Oklahoma Beekeeper of the Year award in 2012 and uses his 40 hives near Mannford to produce products such as pollen, beeswax, propolis, and various value-added products such as propolis tincture and skin balms in addition to honey. To learn more about Ace, visit http://acebeeandwaspcontrol.com.

Remembering A Century In The Making

Remembering A Century In The Making

Two years ago on this day, a very special lady passed away. She was not famous or rich, but to many, she had a great impact on their lives. She embodied a life of struggles and faith that should be a reminder to all how we should live our own lives. For 100 years she experienced the difficulties, sorrows, and joys of this life, never giving up and never giving in. Below is a story I wrote a few months before her death. I felt that on this anniversary of her passing would be the perfect time to share with Uniquelahoma readers the story of an Oklahoma woman who made this state a little better just by making a life here. I miss you, Grandma!

A Century In The Making

Only 14 years after the invention of the first modern car and just 12 years after the first flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, she came into this world. Now 100 years later in an age where there is a nuclear power, much speed aircraft, an International Space Station and computer technology that processes an unfathomable amount of information within the blink of an eye, she remains a witness to it all.

A CENTURION

Her name is Marguerite Pease Dennison, and on May 15, 2015, she became a centurion. In her home in Cleveland, 186 family members funneled in to pay their respects to this family patriarch who raised four children while doing her small part of forging a nation the rest of us call home. She supported the war effort…and her family during WWII as a “Rosie the Riveter” working at McDonnell Douglas and then an inspector at Spartan. She would go on to hold other jobs, be active in her children’s education through the PTA and take care of her mother and mother-in-law as their health declined.

MOTHER OF THE YEAR

She was raised in an era where work was the fundamental practice of the day. And she has spent the majority of her century working on one aspect or another. As any mother worth her salt can attest, raising children is not only a labor of love but a love of the labor it takes to teach children how to be successful, productive citizens in society. She accomplished these efforts while being a wife to her late husband Charles (Kih-ek-ah) and was recognized for hard work in 1950 as KOTV’s Mother of the Year. Her daughters Charlene and Mary recognized how special their mother was and wrote a letter describing her commitment to her entire family to the station for a contest. They further explained that her golden rule to her children was always to treat others the way they wished to be treated. The station too recognized her efforts and she was awarded her prizes and honors on the Bill & Dottie Show. The rest is history as they say.

FIRST ELEVATOR OPERATOR IN TULSA

Beginning in 1949, she went to work for the First National Bank in Tulsa as an elevator operator…yes I wrote “elevator operator.” People didn’t always push their own buttons. An interesting footnote to that job was her being a witness to the first escalator installed in Tulsa. Her daughter Sammie recalled visiting her mother at work on the day it was completed and was one of the first to ride on the new contraption.

Before all of that though, she was a member of the first graduating class of Monte Casino completing her eighth-grade education. She would go on to complete the tenth grade at Cherokee High School and even attended Draughn’s Business School.

SISTER TO A CELEBRITY

It’s no wonder this woman understands the true meaning of family. This Osage mixed centurion was raised with 17 siblings, one of which shared the limelight with the likes of Will Rogers, Ben Johnson, and other famous cowboys. Barton Carter’s celebrity came after winning the World Roping Championship in 1925 at Madison Square Gardens. She had a little sliver of fame in her own right too by playing a role in the movie “The Prisoner” as a young girl. Her mother owned a movie studio and made movies with Cecil B. DeMill…well it’s who you know in Hollywood as the old saying goes.

A LEGACY OF FAMILY

Sadly the Depression would come, and the studio would go. But she was okay with that. God had different plans for her, and they were ones that would allow people to remember her without a movie screen. She followed God and her mother back to her birthplace of Oklahoma on her mother’s Osage allotment in Osage County. He then put her on a path that has led to 125 descendants, memories of helping countless family members and friends over the last century and the respect that is earned by doing what is right even when the world around her is doing wrong.

IN THE LIMELIGHT AT 100

Marguerite was recently honored by the Osage Tribe with the Sacred Eagle Fan Ceremony. This was done in honor of her 100 years in this life. The Osages believe that the eagle is the only creature that can fly to the right hand of God and then return to earth.
Also, OSU interviewed her for its Centenarian Project.

“I am very pleased that OSU interviewed me for their project. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who went to school there, and I know it must make them proud of me.”
By the way, did I mention that this remarkable woman is my grandmother? As a lover of history, I must say that I am in awe each time she and I visit. Not just by what she teaches me about a world that existed before me, but by the person she has helped mold in me through her countless examples of how a century of life should be spent.

 

 

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A Grandmother To All

Kelly B. Todd: Helping Children One Session At A Time

A Grandmother To All

A Grandmother To All

By C.L. Harmon

It’s a bond beyond explanation. One that revives a tired soul back into jubilation. In many ways it makes the old feel young again by magically building a bridge that leads to a playground where love and fun are the only rules. I believe whoever said, “A grandparent is old on the outside but young on the inside,” perfectly defined the definition of a grandparent.

Betty Stewart of Mannford definitely fits that meaning. However, for Stewart, feeling young while spending time with her grandchildren just wasn’t quite enough for her. She wanted to be a grandmother to as many children as she could. At 76, she had a lifetime of life lessons and stories that she wanted to share with everyone’s grandchildren.

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Stewart never had aspirations to be a writer as she worked as a stay home mother raising her five children. Little did she realize during those days that inside her heart was a creative spark that would one day warm the smiles of her grandchildren…and those of others as well.

Stewart recently had her first book, ‘The Adventures of Milo & Pookie’, published.

The illustrated children’s book focuses on an unlikely friendship between a hamster and a goldfish. To avoid spoiler alerts, I won’t write about their adventures. However, I will convey that the book is an innocent and intelligent read that allows children to learn the value of friendship and working together.

Initially, she would use the traditional method of oral story-telling to her grandchildren to connect with them in a loving and learning way. However, influence from a friend several years ago, prompted her to put those stories on paper.

“I would start writing and the words would come so fast in my mind,” she said. Her friend convinced her to get copyrights and then to eventually consider publishing. But before the publishing came into play, she decided to visit the local schools dressed up in what most consider the typical grandmother image of old, or as she calls it, “a granny in the wagon wheeler days.” She would read her stories and the responses from her young audience told her she had a real knack for the art of story telling.

After her mother passed away, Stewart felt it was time to move to Oklahoma and be closer to her daughter and grandchildren who were living in the Round Mountain area. That has been ten years ago, she said. Before moving here, she would travel up here to tell new stories to her grandchildren. It wasn’t long after that move that Mannford school children also had the opportunity to receive a visit from a grandma with a story or two to tell.

“Those children love hearing the stories as much as I love telling them,” she said. Although the stories are hers, the illustrations are provided by her nephew who resides in Tennessee. Together they create a magical world that appeals to children in a fun and innocent manner while providing valuable messages important to young minds and hearts.

“I never thought about making any money when I started publishing. It was just such an honor to be able to publish these books that I write for my grandchildren and great grandchildren and to give them something of me that they will have in 100 years,” she explained. Although the book does sell, Stewart says it was and is still not about the money this book generates. It’s about the stories and the privilege to be a grandmother to all the children who have the opportunity to hear her read about the adventures of the Milo and Pookie.

The Milo and Pookie characters came from her grandson Jeremy who actually had a hamster and a tropical fish as pets when he was a small boy. He is now a young adult. Stewart wanted to write a story for him about those pets. That story prompted two more stories with those characters which are currently in the editing process at a publishing house in New York City. Although the stories were written several years ago, Stewart only recently decided to put her stories in book form.

On the cover of this colorful book there is no mention of Stewart, but only the name of YaYa as the author, which is a sweet message to her great-grandson Dustin Andrews who addresses her with that term of endearment and loves her stories. She quipped that he is the only great grandchild allowed to call her that, according to him.

It is interesting to note that Stewart writes all of her stories by hand and says that she is very blessed to be so happy in her life. She explains that one must have a child like happiness free from anger and hate to write stories that will connect with children. Soon to come is the story, ‘The Adventures of Round Mountain’. he has already tested its content with Mannford children with overwhelming acceptance.

To purchase Stewart’s book, click here for paperback and here for Kindle versions. By using our links you help make this site possible!

Welcome To Uniquelahoma!

We want to share what makes you special with the world.

Welcome to the world of unique! Welcome to Uniquelahoma!

This is your invitation for a glimpse into the people, places, and beauty of Oklahoma.

Being a journalist for many years has afforded me the opportunity to meet and write about some very interesting and creative people. It has allowed me to be a part of some very exciting events and witness to some remarkable experiences. However, on a deeper level, it has allowed me to learn about this great state I call home through its inhabitants and the dynamic which makes it so unique. That dynamic is the individuality that each person brings to Oklahoma.

Ironically, it’s the collective individualism woven together that creates a tapestry of beaded artwork into a design like no other on the planet. Each person representing a bead that is sewn into the fabric of our society to create a culture worthy of the name “Uniqulahoma”.

Unlike a newspaper or themed magazine, we do not bind our online periodical by strict guidelines that fit into metaphorical margins. We are more of a philosophical coloring book without lines where we want to explore the dynamic of Oklahomans and the places they call home.

In essence, you are the subject matter and we are the readers interested in what you have to say to us. Each of you has a story to tell, a talent to share or a dream that is coming to life. All of these beads contain gems within them that add beauty and design to our ever-growing tapestry that we call our unique Oklahoma.

We want to be an information source for you on events, interesting places to visit and explore and fun and interesting activities to do within Oklahoma.

We will including an “Artists Spotlight” section allowing artisans a place to showcase a piece of their work. Perhaps it may be a painting, drawing, comic book, poem or sculpture that you would like to display. This will allow a venue for the artist to display their work and gain exposure.

We also welcome photos from photographers who capture the essence and beauty of Oklahoma. Uniquelahoma is designed to be an interactive source, meaning that we encourage all of our readers to contact us about the unique people and events within their communities.

We want to share what makes you special with the world. What is important to you is important to us! Help us explore this great state and find all of the headlines that will showcase your unique stories to your friends and neighbors.

2017 Flood Alternatives | The Lake Is Up But Oklahoma Has A Lot To Offer

2017 Flood Alternatives | The Lake Is Up But Oklahoma Has A Lot To Offer

What to do for Summer Fun while all the lakes are flooded

The 2017 Flood has left many of Oklahoma’s lakes flooded and families wondering what to do for fun summer activities. Fortunately, our state boasts a wealth of exciting activities. That will make it easier for you to find alternative summer fun. Each of the options below will give you a unique taste of everything Oklahoma has in store. Who knows, as the flood waters recede you might decide to make them a regular part of your vacation fun.

1. Go Bird Watching at Black Mesa State Park

Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve is a great place to head to if the 2017 flood disrupted your original plans. Oklahoma is in the path of many migratory bird species, making this preserve a top attraction to keep under consideration. Your kids will enjoy this unique chance to go on an outdoor adventure. They will easily imagine themselves back in the old days when Native American tribes and cowboys roamed the area. Many of the birds that pass through this area are species abundant in the Rockies. This giving you a unique chance to spot them without leaving the state. Some of the most popular winged visitors include Bald Eagles, Burrowing Owls, Lesser Prairie Chickens and Mountain Bluebirds. Be sure to bring your camera, because the surroundings provide a perfect backdrop for some pictures that you’ll treasure.

Unlike visiting a lake you won’t get sand in your hair. Click here for a map and more information. While this might be a long drive for most of us it would allow you to stop at #5 along the way

2. Attend the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City (June 9-11)

If bird watching isn’t your thing then this summer holds many alternative 2017 flood activities. One such as Red Earth Festival in OKC. This annual festival brings tribal culture and heritage to life before your eyes. Over 1000 dancers and artists representing over 100 tribes. The festival offers fun for art and craft enthusiasts. Offering the chance to shop for authentic crafts made by genuine tribal artisans. All ages will enjoy the dances that feature colorful costumes and it’s always fun to see who will win the competitions. Attendees will have a whole new appreciation for Native culture and local history. There are few experiences that come close to living Native American culture first-hand.

You better gather the gang up quick. This one is only June 9th-11th click here for a map and more information.*

Red Earth Festival Hours 
Fri June 9 – 10 to 7 pm
Sat June 10 – 10 to 9 pm
Sun June 11 – 10 to 5 pm

3. Visit with the Mustangs at Mowdy Ranch

When summers comin’ and you got the lake on your mind. Mowdy Wild Mustang Ranch might be just the place to get that overfilled lake off your mind. If you’re looking for a great taste of the Old West, there are few things that provide this experience better than visiting with wild mustangs. When you’re among wild horses, it is very easy to imagine Oklahoma as it must have been before the state was settled. The 4,000-acre property is home to over 150 wild horses. They also have a population of blackbuck antelope and fallow deer. Guided tours give you the best access to these beautiful animals, also ensuring that you have plenty of chances to take pictures for lasting memories. These tours last an hour, a great length for visitors with kids. Equine enthusiasts of all ages will appreciate the efforts to save these beautiful symbols of Oklahoma’s heritage.

Click here to find a map and a few more details.*

4. Take a Road Trip Along Route 66

Even if Oklahoma’s lakes are out of the equation for summer fun, there are still plenty of activities throughout the state that will more than make up for them. The part of Route 66 that runs through Oklahoma offers some attractions that highlight the state’s unique character and provide a lot of fun for all ages. Some of the highlights that you’ll find along the highway include the Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, the Route 66 Museum and Totem Pole Park. No matter how long the length of your vacation, you’ll find a lot of fascinating things to do along this route.

Click here to find links to more information and a map.*

5. Do Some Exploring in the Alabaster Caverns State Park

While the 2017 flood might have the lake waters up and the kids feeling down (about not getting to swim that is). These caverns feature alabaster, which is a rare type of gypsum. Alabaster creates some truly stunning formations. The cave at this park is the largest of its kind that is open to the public, ensuring an amazing time for everyone that takes one of the tours. All of these tours are guided, and you’ll appreciate the unique insights that your guide offers. The total tour spans 3/4 of a mile and takes around 45 minutes. A lot of bats that call the cavern home, and seeing them take flight at dusk is well worth your time. Should you enjoy the idea of camping, tent and RV sites are available, along with picnic and grilling areas ideal for enjoying an evening under the stars.

Click here for a map and more details.*

*Maps and links coming soon when the Locations tab is updated.

Larry Sellers, The True Native American

Larry Sellers, The True Native American

Larry Sellers, The True Native American

CL HARMON

Outside my window is a woodpecker tapping away at an oak tree. To most, this is of no importance. But to Larry Sellers it has meaning. Perhaps even a message from one who has already passed on. There is the old comic quip, ‘I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV.’ If this were Sellers, he would tweak that quip and say I am an Indian and I played one on TV. However, to say he is just an Indian is a gross understatement. This Pawhuska native is the very definition of what it truly means to be a Native American. Sipping black coffee from a mug with the word “Lakota” stamped on it and surrounded by walls adorned with Indian art certainly reinforce his conviction for the pride that all native peoples should feel about their heritage.

HERITAGE VERSUS HOLLYWOOD

Although Sellers is of Osage/Cherokee heritage and an adopted member of the Lakota tribe, his character Cloud Dancing on the television show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was a role where he portrayed an Indian of the Cheyenne tribe. He told the producers that for him to play the part, the character must be brought across as the representation of the real Native American both of tribal ethnicity and as a whole of the Native American peoples. Sellars acting credits include movies such as “Son of the Morning Star,” “Quick and the Dead,” “Revolution,” “Like Father – Like Son,” “Assassination and “Wayne’s World II.” plus his television credits. He was also a stuntman during his career.

For Sellars though, acting was art imitating life. Above being an actor or stuntman, Sellars has always been true to himself first. He even turned down a role in the Kevin Costner film Dances With Wolves because an agreement could not be made that allowed him the four days required for him to participate in the Sundance Ceremony.

THE LONG JOURNEY

At the age of 28, his mother passed away, and his father’s health was in decline. Sellars then began walking around the Indian Camp not far from where he lived. Suddenly he sees a vision of Indians dancing and hears the word “Sundance” spoken to him.

He had no idea what that was as he had never heard the term. At that moment and feel compelled to act, he prayed and said if his dad’s health improved, he would track down the origins of that word.

“The very next day my father was totally different.” With his father’s restored health, he began carrying through with his promise and started researching just precisely what is Sundance. It didn’t take long to learn that it was a native ceremony. Learning its full meaning, however, would take a bit longer. The Sundance, he realized, was the most important ceremony practiced by the Lakota (Sioux) and nearly all Plains Indians. It was an act of renewal for the tribe, people and earth per definition. But as Sellars explains, it is actually a religious revival of sorts with humility at its core. The prayers and sacrifice of no food and water for four days and the dance are gifts to the universe and for all peoples as well. Also, they are pleas for help and offerings of thanks to those alive and those who have passed on to the next stage of life’s journey.

Sellars was instructed about the ceremony from the Lakota in South Dakota. After dancing with them, he was guided by them to bring the dance back to the Osage people. That was 19 years ago. Sellars has been dancing now for 38 years keeping the journey began by his ancestors moving into the 21st century.

THE NATIVE TONGUE

In his plight to keep the traditions of old alive, Sellars operates two non-profit organizations. The first is the Missionary Society for the Preservation of Traditional Values which emphasizes traditional native values of spirituality. People from all over the US are members of this organization and actively work to keep the heritage and history of Native Americans alive. The other is Friends of the Osage Language. This is where members raise money to help in providing students with the tools necessary for creating a positive self-image for themselves in using the language. One way in which he aids in the organization’s success is by speaking to students in Osage, thus prompting them to do the same and to be proud that they can talk in their ancestral tongue. “Our language is our identity, a part of who we are. It’s our culture.”

Dr. Quinn was the first show to incorporate native thought into their writing. It was a good thing for indigenous peoples because it was a chance to humanize us and not portray tribes as the mighty warrior bands.

“ We laugh, we cry, we joke, we mourn. We do all those things.” Sellars was the technical advisor on the show. As such, he pointed out distinctions such as why would the producers wish to portray a white man on the show that could speak Southern Cheyenne fluently but he, as a Cheyenne, could only speak broken English. In other words, why would one race of people be more intelligent than another race? This stereotype is what he worked to change through his efforts on the show and in his personal life.

He believes, as his ancestors did. Everything in nature is alive with a language to communicate and that all life is connected, even when that life passes into the spirit realm. Connecting with nature in modern churches is not something practiced. But traditional Indian ceremonies and customs were worship of all things in nature; a connection to all life, he explained Sellars hope through his efforts, those of Native American ancestry will embrace those elements of tribal culture which defines them as a single race worthy of preservation.

THE JOURNEY HOME

Without going into too much history of Indians and their removal from their homelands in the expanding US of the 19th century. Sellars explained the white culture should understand that through European beliefs of civilization and Christianity and their use of techniques such as boarding schools designed to ‘educate’ their native lifestyle out and reprogram them to the white ways and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Was a type of cultural genocide was used to drive out the old ways to make way for the white man’s definition of civilization and assimilation to the majority-European culture.

It’s not that Sellars has an issue with the modern world or its beliefs. He doesn’t. His passion for preserving traditional customs and values come from the realization, that what was once a trusted belief system for generations, is not wrong now merely because it is no longer the dominant belief system of the modern culture. In many ways, his efforts are to provide a journey home. Taking all people back to a time and place where the connection between people and nature was nourished, and those native peoples flourished within the embrace of Mother Nature.

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