Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

By C. L. Har­mon
They are man’s best friend and prob­a­bly the most loy­al of all crea­tures on the plan­et. They have been the joy of roy­al­ty and peas­antry alike for as long as any­one knows. They are God spelled back­ward and the def­i­n­i­tion of love spelled for­ward. It should sur­prise no one that there are those among us who devote great amounts of time and ener­gy to breed­ing and rais­ing such lov­ing crea­tures. One such Okla­homa cou­ple has devot­ed the last 25 years to breed­ing the Ger­man Shep­herd breed of these creatures…and not just aver­age shepherds…but many of them grand cham­pi­ons.
“We have been very suc­cess­ful rais­ing world class dogs. In fact, we had the first Grand Cham­pi­on Ger­man Shep­herd in Okla­homa and have had sev­er­al grand cham­pi­ons, both male and female over the years. We have raised 27 cham­pi­ons and grand cham­pi­ons since we began rais­ing them,” own­er of Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels, Dean Heckathorn said. He and his wife Pat­ty focus on rais­ing one breed and they pre­pare them to do every type of func­tion capa­ble to a Ger­man Shep­herd today. Through train­ing, these ani­mals can be used as ser­vice dogs, search and res­cue among many oth­er appli­ca­tions.


“We were rais­ing Ger­man Shep­herds when in 1996, we dis­cov­ered a Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herd dog ken­nel due to the advent of the inter­net. We made the 1,000-mile trip to see these Hei­del­bergs first hand. Once we dis­cov­ered them, we have nev­er bred any oth­er type of shep­herd. They tru­ly are the real deal. There are no more loy­al, intel­li­gent, health­i­er and beau­ti­ful Ger­man Shep­herds in the world,” Dean said.
One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of the oper­a­tion is the gen­uine love the cou­ple has for these ani­mals. It’s not just about breed­ing or rais­ing ani­mals that can fetch a good price, but about ensur­ing that the ani­mals live a hap­py and healthy life after they have been sold. The cou­ple explains to each poten­tial buy­er about the impor­tance of nutri­tion and how some­thing as sim­ple as prop­er nutri­tion alone will keep the dogs healthy and min­i­mize vet­eri­nar­i­an bills. The cou­ple even went the extra mile to ensure that own­ers can do just this with ease through a sup­ple­ment of their own cre­ation. Dean is not only a breed­er. He also holds degrees in biol­o­gy and chem­istry. So, he took that knowl­edge and expand­ed on a basic sup­ple­ment that was designed for Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herds. Using his under­stand­ing of anato­my and phys­i­ol­o­gy, he tweaked and improved the for­mu­la to be all nat­ur­al and much more effec­tive as well. In addi­tion, this for­mu­la is safe for all breeds to aid in keep­ing them health­i­er longer.
This con­coc­tion of health and vital­i­ty, how­ev­er, is not just avail­able to the dogs they raise and the own­ers who pur­chase them, but to every­one and at a rea­son­able price. A five-month sup­ply costs only 23 dol­lars and is easy to use by sim­ply sprin­kling a tad over the animal’s food.
“We have own­ers who come in and try it because of the price and are hooked for life. They can lit­er­al­ly see the trans­for­ma­tion in their dogs. We have peo­ple tell us that they can see their dogs ‘glow­ing’ after just a cou­ple of months. I am con­vinced that we have been able to have so many Ger­man Shep­herds cho­sen as grand cham­pi­ons because the judges can see how our ani­mals seem to glow,” Dean said.

The cou­ple also offers free train­ing class­es on Sat­ur­day morn­ings with a focus on obe­di­ence and devel­op­ing social skills. This train­ing teach­es the ani­mals how to act in pub­lic giv­ing peace of mind to the own­ers that the ani­mal won’t bite some­one, bark and growl or even lunge after a cat. It also lays the foun­da­tion for more exten­sive train­ing if the own­ers opt to pur­sue fur­ther spe­cif­ic train­ing in anoth­er area. This is a free ser­vice to any­one who is inter­est­ed.

“Some­times I think I was crazy to get into this and I have no idea why I chose to do it, but I must admit how reward­ing this expe­ri­ence has been,” he quipped with a laugh. He added, refer­ring back to his crazy state­ment, that they are not get­ting rich doing this and most peo­ple don’t real­ize how much mon­ey and effort goes into rais­ing dogs cor­rect­ly. As crazy as they may think they are, one can quick­ly real­ize how much the cou­ple tru­ly cares for the ani­mals by sim­ply vis­it­ing the ken­nel and see­ing how hap­py and healthy these dogs are in their envi­ron­ment. The cou­ple even refus­es to put an ani­mal down because he/she is too old to show or sell. Instead, they choose to feed and care for those ani­mals until they pass on from nat­ur­al caus­es. Most breed­ers will not do this because of the cost, the cou­ple said.
Ger­man Shep­herds are one of those rare breeds that can be so much than just a pet. They are used the world over in a vari­ety of func­tions includ­ing law enforce­ment, the mil­i­tary, as ser­vice ani­mals, search and res­cue, herd­ing and even ther­a­py.  Per­haps the cou­ple may be crazy for get­ting into this, but that reward­ing expe­ri­ence he feels must be unde­ni­able and prob­a­bly stems from the fact that for over 25 years, they have been pro­duc­ing some­thing that tru­ly does enrich the lives of all those who are loved, helped and pro­tect­ed by Ger­man Shep­herds.

For more infor­ma­tion on pur­chas­ing a Ger­man Shep­herd, health sup­ple­ments, board­ing ser­vices or free train­ing class­es, vis­it keystonegermanshepherds.com.


Upon writ­ing this sto­ry, I was unaware of the cir­cum­stances per­tain­ing to the cou­ple who owns the busi­ness which is writ­ten about above. How­ev­er, short­ly after fin­ish­ing the arti­cle, I was enlight­ened to a blog post which prompt­ed me to place the arti­cle on hold until I could make sure the arti­cle has the prop­er end­ing. After sev­er­al weeks, I have decid­ed to run the arti­cle in its orig­i­nal draft and include the blog post from the own­ers. The fol­low­ing is in the owner’s own words.

Old Man

I haven’t blogged in a long time.  How­ev­er, after cyber-attacks to our web page, email, and social media our busi­ness at keystonegermanshepherds.com is at risk of clos­ing.  And, these beau­ti­ful Heidelberg’s will be lost for­ev­er. 


Nobody in the world is breed­ing pure Heidelberg’s Ger­man Shep­herds except for us, Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels.  My intent with start­ing blog­ging again is mul­ti­fac­eted, but the most press­ing rea­son is to save our ken­nel and these won­der­ful shep­herd lines. In decid­ing what to write, I start­ed think­ing about “The Old Man and the Sea”, a book I read sev­er­al times as a teenag­er and I haven’t giv­en it much thought since then.  How­ev­er, the love that “We” (our cus­tomers and us) have for these dogs inspired me to under­stand what that book was real­ly about.
Ernest Hem­ming­way was writ­ing an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sto­ry about the lost love of his life.  The one that got away.  If you haven’t read the book, read it after read­ing this.  Also, I’m doing this from 37-year-old mem­o­ries and I’m not fact-check­ing so please be kind.  Old San­ti­a­go is fish­ing for the love of his life.  He hooks a great blue Mar­lin, the largest fish San­ti­a­go can remem­ber any­body catch­ing even from when he was a young boy.  ‘The Great Prize’ rep­re­sents the woman that Hem­ming­way loved.  San­ti­a­go spent end­less strain­ing hours fight­ing this great fish, he had to pos­sess it and claim it as his own.  The bat­tle with the fish rep­re­sents Hem­ming­way and his lover’s courtship.

The rea­son he wrote in such short con­cise and pre­cise sen­tences is because that is the lan­guage of love and love­mak­ing.  San­ti­a­go catch­es his great prize and fas­tens her to the skip, but in pos­sess­ing her San­ti­a­go begins to cor­rupt her spir­it.  The pack of attack­ing sharks rip away the valu­able flesh of this great fish.  San­ti­a­go returns to his hut after suf­fer­ing a heart attack with only the skele­ton of his great fish tied to the skiff, he lays down on his blan­ket in the floor of his hut and falls asleep.  Like­wise, Hem­ming­way returned home with a bro­ken heart after los­ing the only true love of his life.  The book ends with ‘San­ti­a­go dream­ing of ele­phants’.  San­ti­a­go wasn’t defeat­ed or bro­ken, and he would have anoth­er con­quest.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I believe Hem­ming­way was defeat­ed and this loss may have result­ed in his sui­cide.

Like­wise, we have a great prize here at Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels, the love of our col­lec­tive lives, the world’s best tem­pera­ment and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing Ger­man Shep­herds, the Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herd.  Thank you to all our friends that own or have owned and love our dogs.  Please help us keep this dream alive, if you are think­ing of buy­ing a pup­py or dog from us, please don’t wait.  We need your sup­port now.  We haven’t decid­ed on a date in which we will close down, but it will only be a cou­ple of months unless we have your sup­port.  Please vis­it us at keystonegermanshepherds.com

Help KGS

We sell show-qual­i­ty Ger­man Shep­herds. Our Ger­man Shep­herds are the best val­ue in top qual­i­ty pup­pies avail­able most any­where. Our pup­pies start at $2,500.00

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

The War At Home Memorial is Coming to Broken Arrow

The War At Home Memorial is Coming to Broken Arrow


Bro­ken Arrow’s Vet­er­ans Park is due to receive a new memo­r­i­al, on July 17th.  Stand­ing tall in the field, the mon­u­ment is in the form of 22 tow­er­ing steel plates, each hol­lowed out with the sil­hou­ette of a sol­dier lost to an ongo­ing war.  This war is of Post Trau­mat­ic Stress sui­cide. 

The first of it’s kind, the mon­u­ment is trav­el­ing for two days in a car­a­van of Mis­sion 22 vehi­cles and will be hon­ored its entire jour­ney to its new home.  Local vet­er­ans rep­re­sent­ing the Mil­i­tary His­to­ry Cen­ter will be promi­nent­ly in atten­dance.  The pub­lic is invit­ed to join in the solemn occa­sion.

One of the sil­hou­ettes is that of Michael Coon who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  The very impres­sive Mil­i­tary His­to­ry Cen­ter has a sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to three gen­er­a­tions of the Coon fam­i­ly’s ser­vice, span­ning WWII, Viet­nam War, Afghan War & the War in Iraq.

Mis­sion 22, the non-prof­it respon­si­ble for the memo­r­i­al, is on a mis­sion to end vet­er­an sui­cide.  Vet­er­an sui­cide is an ongo­ing tragedy that does­n’t get enough nation­wide recog­ni­tion.  Mis­sion 22 is doing their part in improv­ing aware­ness that an aver­age of 22 vet­er­ans that die dai­ly to sui­cide.  Per­haps this mon­u­ment in Bro­ken Arrow’s Vet­er­ans Park will help accel­er­ate the recog­ni­tion of and aid to the prob­lem, nation­wide.

Nathan Johns

Author, Graph­ic Design

Nathan spends most of his days sur­round­ed by his cre­ations, be it graph­ic design, fine art, or the occa­sion­al writ­ing.  He tries to bring all aspects of this pas­sion to Unique­la­homa.

Want to know about our arti­cles right as they get pub­lished?
Sub­scribe to our Awe­some Newslet­ter.

Adver­tise with us

Dream Sea­son Media

Dis­cov­er more about your­self

Uniqula­homa Quizes

Find some­thing to do

Uniqula­homa Events

OU Football is Making its Mark!

OU Football is Making its Mark!

A look at the unique impact the Sooners are having on America’s favorite pastime.


Remem­ber Bak­er May­field? A lot has hap­pened in the foot­ball world at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa since the Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner, and num­ber one pick over­all in the 2018 NFL draft, car­ried his lega­cy to lift a defunct Cleve­land Browns foot­ball team out of the dol­drums in his rook­ie year. Notably, anoth­er OU Quar­ter­back, Kyler Mur­ray, kept the torch in the OU camp by win­ning the Heis­man Tro­phy again before going num­ber one over­all in the 2019 draft to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals. Not bad Soon­ers…

Mean­while, May­field capped off his first sea­son in the NFL by pass­ing Pey­ton Man­ning and Rus­sell Wil­son to break the record for rook­ie pass­ing touch­downs at 27 (a feat he accom­plished in only 13 starts) and by lift­ing the Browns to their best sea­son since 2014. A year ago, this was far from a fore­gone con­clu­sion. Since the Browns last win­ning sea­son in 2007 they have run through sev­en dif­fer­ent Head Coach­es a host of young quar­ter­backs who had the hopes of a promis­ing career. Notable names such as John­ny Manziel, Bran­don Wee­den, Brady Quinn, and Colt McCoy all came in, and they all failed to lift Cleve­land past a los­ing trend. More­over, May­field had some con­tro­ver­sy to over­come with some ques­tion­ing his matu­ri­ty and lead­er­ship. Ques­tions that many Okla­homans and fans felt con­fi­dent he would answer on the field. And he did…


Now, with anoth­er full sea­son of OU foot­ball behind us, we are see­ing some inter­est­ing par­al­lels with Mur­ray. The Car­di­nals Head Coach, Kliff Kings­bury, had the bird’s eye view on Mur­ray through his stand­out high school career. Kings­bury, who had been the Head Coach of the Texas Tech pro­gram, and Mur­ray got to know each oth­er well through the recruit­ment process before fate would lead them in dif­fer­ent direc­tions. With Kings­bury hav­ing the over­all num­ber one draft choice for the upcom­ing sea­son it was no sur­prise who his pref­er­ence would be. Indeed, it would have been no sur­prise to see Mur­ray be any­one’s first pick, but this match has a ring of des­tiny to it. No doubt, antic­i­pa­tion is high, and it is going to be a lot of fun to watch what they do.


Speak­ing of those two Heis­man win­ners who went as the first over­all pick in the NFL draft two years in a row, it is worth cel­e­brat­ing that this all hap­pened under the first two years of Lin­coln Riley tak­ing over as the Head Coach. To that point, Riley’s first two sea­sons have been leg­endary as he went 11–1 through reg­u­lar sea­son play, won the BIG 12 Cham­pi­onship and made it to the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­offs both years.


While many Soon­er fans are a bit torn about com­ing so close two years in a row the fact remains the Riley is achiev­ing some his­toric accom­plish­ments. Fur­ther, Soon­er fans should be encour­aged to see that Riley is not stay­ing sat­is­fied with the sta­tus quo. It is no secret that while the Soon­ers had an immense­ly pow­er­ful offense, the defense seemed to go in the oppo­site direc­tion. And as suc­cess­ful as the Soon­ers have been, it’s been a frus­tra­tion to fans won­der­ing what might have been had the defense has been more ade­quate. It does­n’t seem that Soon­er fans will have to ask that ques­tion again in 2019.


Dur­ing the off-sea­son, Riley hired Alex Grinch, the cel­e­brat­ed Co-Defen­sive Coor­di­na­tor from the 13–1 Ohio State Buck­eyes. Riley is quot­ed as say­ing, “Alex has an out­stand­ing track record as a defen­sive coach and a defen­sive coor­di­na­tor, He’s been one of the most sought-after guys in the coun­try here the last cou­ple of years, espe­cial­ly for the work that he did at Wash­ing­ton State. Tak­ing that defense where he did in a short amount of time is one of the best coach­ing jobs in the coun­try over the last sev­er­al years.”

Much like the duo of Mur­ray and Kings­bury, the addi­tion of Grinch to the Soon­er coach­ing staff is cause for a high­ly antic­i­pat­ed sea­son, and the defense should be fun to watch this year. But how do you build on offense after two Heis­man Tro­phy-win­ning Quar­ter­backs two years in a row? You do it by mak­ing his­to­ry.


Jalen Hurts had a 26–2 record as a starter at Alaba­ma. Through a series of events, he lost his start­ing job to Tua Tago­v­ailoa, the even­tu­al Heis­man run­ner up to Mur­ray in 2018. Hurts is an immense­ly tal­ent­ed quar­ter­back and rather than spend his senior year at Alaba­ma he has trans­ferred to OU, and some­thing his­toric seems to be in the mak­ing.


Some­one of Hurt­s’s tal­ent being replaced as a starter is vir­tu­al­ly unheard of. But what a great for­tune for the Soon­ers, because it gave, Hurts a top tier pro­gram where he could go and get full use of his tal­ents. Replac­ing a string of Heis­man win­ners sounds impos­si­ble, but it is hap­pen­ing for the Soon­ers. So after two leg­endary years, could there be a chance for the OU Soon­ers to do it again? Is there a chance they could do more?

Soon­er fans can’t wait to find out.


Lee Bren­nan

Author, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment

Lee Bren­nan has worked across a broad spec­trum in his career rang­ing from jour­nal­ism, culi­nary arts, min­istry and liv­ing the life of an entre­pre­neur. Cur­rent­ly resid­ing in Tul­sa, OK where he is rais­ing his beloved daugh­ter, and enjoy­ing life with his friends and fam­i­ly, Lee is dri­ven by a love for peo­ple and a pas­sion for telling great sto­ries.

Want to know about our arti­cles right as they get pub­lished?
Sub­scribe to our Awe­some Newslet­ter.

Adver­tise with us

Dream Sea­son Media

Dis­cov­er more about your­self

Uniqula­homa Quizes

Find some­thing to do

Uniqula­homa Events

A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time

Today we remem­ber a day 75 years ago when prin­ci­ples were put before per­son­al choic­es, brav­ery was put forth to face the great­est of fears and sac­ri­fices were made that washed away in the tides of time. It was the day the great­est arma­da in his­to­ry was assem­bled. With 7,000 ships, 10,000 air­craft and over 156,000 souls, this force became one to com­bat a men­ace bent on glob­al dom­i­na­tion and ulti­mate destruc­tion. It was a few moments with­in an infin­i­ty where time stopped just long enough to allow right­eous­ness the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain a foothold with­in an evil ide­al. Men fell and sank with­in the swal­low­ing waters gasp­ing and dying as a dark­ness in human­i­ty blan­ket­ed them with destruc­tion. And yet, these men kept fight­ing the tide, mov­ing for­ward past the fall­en, to give back to oth­ers the free­dom that had been stolen.

We will nev­er taste the salt water or feel the warmth of blood as it seeps into the sand and water that those men expe­ri­enced on this day all those years ago. We can­not expe­ri­ence the volatil­i­ty of life in such moments as those where breath was so eas­i­ly extin­guished. We can­not fath­om such a loss where so many die and suf­fered in only min­utes. But today we can remem­ber that there were those who did. We can remem­ber that we speak and live in free­dom because a few fright­ened, yet brave souls gave us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to know it.

I will nev­er have the chance to meet those who per­ished on the Nor­mandy Beach­es in France on June 6, 1944. And I may nev­er meet any who fought their way through the chaos and sur­vived. But with these words, I can say thank you for what they gave me and the rest of the world. I hope we all take a moment to remem­ber what this day meant to so many oth­ers 75 years ago and what it rep­re­sents still today.

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

Want to know about our arti­cles right as they get pub­lished?
Sub­scribe to our Awe­some Newslet­ter.

Adver­tise with us

Dream Sea­son Media

Dis­cov­er more about your­self

Uniqula­homa Quizes

Find some­thing to do

Uniqula­homa Events

Who is Chuck Hoskin Jr.?

Who is Chuck Hoskin Jr.?

Meet the Unique Okla­homan run­ning for Chief of the Chero­kee Nation

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is a name that has been shared across nation­al air­ways con­cern­ing Chero­kee and Native Amer­i­can affairs and local­ly, in the state of Okla­homa, a name that has been asso­ci­at­ed with an excit­ing peri­od of growth with­in the Chero­kee Nation. More recent­ly, we are hear­ing a great deal of Hoskin Jr. as he is build­ing on a sto­ried career as Sec­re­tary of State for the Chero­kee Nation in run­ning an engag­ing cam­paign to become Prin­ci­pal Chief in the upcom­ing June 1 elec­tion. In look­ing back on the sto­ry of the man, it seems to be a jour­ney that was des­tined from the begin­ning.

Born at Clare­more Indi­an Hos­pi­tal, Hoskin Jr. was raised in Vini­ta by lov­ing par­ents with his sis­ter. Ini­tial­ly, his father was an iron work­er and his moth­er was a home­mak­er. How­ev­er, through the course of his child­hood, Hoskin Jr. was able to wit­ness progress by hard work through both of his par­ents. His father became a let­ter car­ri­er in order to work his way through col­lege to become a teacher. Like­wise, his moth­er worked hard through school while man­ag­ing a fam­i­ly to become a Reg­is­tered Nurse. These exam­ples undoubt­ed­ly nour­ished the work eth­ic that has become syn­ony­mous with Hoskin Jr. through­out his career. A career that start­ed at Braum’s when he was younger where he would meet his future wife, Jan­u­ary.

Upon grad­u­at­ing high school, Hoskin Jr. went to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa where he would obtain his Bachelor’s Degree and go on to com­plete his stud­ies at the OU Col­lege of Law. While he had always had an inter­est in pol­i­tics, it was at this time that Hoskin Jr.‘s father, who seems to be ever grow­ing in his own life, served on the Chero­kee Coun­cil from 1995–2007, which proved to be influ­en­tial.

Through his own desire to serve, and the inspi­ra­tion and influ­ence of his father, Hoskin Jr. became involved in attend­ing meet­ings regard­ing mod­ern­iz­ing the Chero­kee Con­sti­tu­tion. In 1999, while still in law school, Hoskin Jr. was invit­ed to be a part of the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion that led to the mod­ern Chero­kee Con­sti­tu­tion. “It was an hon­or”, he said, regard­ing being involved in such a his­toric moment. A moment that was also when the young Hoskin Jr. began to be rec­og­nized on his own for the ben­e­fits of his nat­ur­al tal­ents, plus the mer­its of his humil­i­ty and work eth­ic.

After prac­tic­ing law for some time after grad­u­a­tion, Hoskin Jr. served on the Coun­cil of Chero­kee Nation from 2007–2013. Through this time of ser­vice his expe­ri­ence in Fed­er­al and Trib­al Law, and accom­plish­ments in a mul­ti­tude of ini­tia­tives and roles with­in the Trib­al Coun­cil led to his nom­i­na­tion as Sec­re­tary of State by Prin­ci­pal Chief Bill John Bak­er in August 2013.

In the years that have passed, Hoskin Jr. has accom­plished quite a bit in his role as Sec­re­tary of State. In 2013 he worked on a cen­sus con­clud­ing, at the time, that there were 320,000 Chero­kees nation­wide, with cur­rent num­bers now approach­ing 370,000. When asked what has con­tributed to the mas­sive growth, he said the num­bers are, “dri­ven by the avail­abil­i­ty of resources. We’ve made room for direct­ing funds to com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions.” When it comes to keep­ing Chero­kees con­nect­ed nation­wide Hoskin Jr. said, “it’s a chal­lenge.” And it is a chal­lenge he has tak­en head-on.

Social media, cul­tur­al events and the cre­ation of twen­ty satel­lite orga­ni­za­tions nation­wide, pro­vid­ing urban resources and con­nec­tion, have served effec­tive­ly towards bring­ing Chero­kees togeth­er. More­over, in his time as Sec­re­tary of State, Chero­kees have begun to receive pho­to ID’s prov­ing mem­ber­ship and the local admin­is­tra­tion spends ten months out of the year trav­el­ing nation­wide to engage and con­nect with tribe mem­bers.

In terms of infra­struc­ture, Hoskin Jr. has seen the cre­ation of a 480,000 square foot out­pa­tient med­ical clin­ic in Tahle­quah, to be com­plet­ed this Sep­tem­ber. Hoskin Jr. and the Chero­kee Nation lob­bied the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in the largest Indi­an Health Ser­vice joint ven­ture in his­to­ry for 100 mil­lion to aid in the build-out, with the Chero­kees cov­er­ing 200 mil­lion. The facil­i­ty is expect­ed to cre­ate 850 jobs, fur­ther cre­at­ing a path for young Chero­kees to become doc­tors, nurs­es and med­ical pro­fes­sion­als. To this end, the Chero­kee Nation has cre­at­ed anoth­er joint ven­ture with Okla­homa State Uni­ver­si­ty, who is build­ing a med­ical school in Tahle­quah.

More­over, in addi­tion to facil­i­ties at the four-sto­ry out­pa­tient hos­pi­tal fea­tur­ing a full range of med­ical care for Chero­kees, the build­out is pay­ing atten­tion to art and form as a place that rep­re­sents Chero­kee cul­ture as well. Once com­plet­ed, it will be the largest med­ical facil­i­ty of any tribe in the Unit­ed States. It is a mon­u­men­tal moment for the Chero­kee Nation and a sign of their pros­per­i­ty and the for­ward think­ing of their lead­er­ship.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Hoskin Jr. has been a nation­al spokesper­son for the Chero­kee Nation and for Native Amer­i­can affairs both nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. He gave tes­ti­mo­ny con­cern­ing the Chero­kee Nation to the Unit­ed Nations and recent­ly, when a sto­ry sur­round­ing Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren inspired a nation­al dis­cus­sion on what it means to be Chero­kee, Hoskin Jr. was the voice that was sought after to bring rea­son and under­stand­ing to the issue. “Any­time we can talk about what it means to be Chero­kee and its pos­i­tive influ­ence on the world I am glad to do it’, he said. Through these accom­plish­ments, and many more, cou­pled with his char­ac­ter, it is no won­der that Hoskin Jr. is the front run­ner to become the next Prin­ci­pal Chief of the Chero­kee Nation.

Sit­ting Chief, Bill John Bak­er, has stat­ed that, “Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the most qual­i­fied, hard­est-work­ing per­son ever to run for Chief of the Chero­kee Nation.” And while his accom­plish­ments have cer­tain­ly been his­tor­i­cal, they are cou­pled with Hoskin Jr’s vision for the future in cre­at­ing a great deal of excite­ment sur­round­ing his cam­paign.

If elect­ed, some top pri­or­i­ties are health care, not­ing elder­ly care and reduced wait times, lan­guage and eco­nom­ic growth. He aims to con­tin­ue mak­ing improve­ments to health care and in mak­ing the recruit­ment and devel­op­ment of doc­tors, nurs­es and med­ical pro­fes­sion­als more robust. Along this vein, he has ini­tia­tives to inspire young Chero­kees to learn. Ever envi­sion­ing a path for­ward, Hoskin Jr. has a vision to help young peo­ple go to col­lege and to cre­ate jobs they can go into upon grad­u­a­tion. This vision is strong with­in the med­ical field, but Hoskin Jr. is set­ting his sights on bring­ing strong eco­nom­ic growth to small­er towns as well. The Chero­kee nation is main­ly found in small towns and “we don’t want to see them die on the vine. We find win­ning strate­gies that look at obsta­cles towns have and that’s how we win”, he said.

In devel­op­ing new gen­er­a­tions of young Chero­kees to go into the med­ical field, and to help turn the cor­ner on job growth, the preser­va­tion of the Chero­kee lan­guage is para­mount among edu­ca­tion­al ini­tia­tives. Cur­rent­ly, there is a full immer­sion pro­gram of a Chero­kee only school for K‑6th grade stu­dents in Sequoy­ah. Oth­er­wise, there is fur­ther devel­op­ment of adult immer­sion and lan­guage pro­grams at NSU to accom­plish this endeav­or.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Hoskin has said he wants to “tack­le envi­ron­men­tal issues con­cern­ing the water, the air, and the land. To be wise stew­ards of the land and be a part of the solu­tion.”

To make these accom­plish­ments an ever-grow­ing real­i­ty, Hoskin Jr. has cho­sen Bryan Warn­er as his run­ning mate to become Deputy Chief. Warn­er has a sto­ried back­ground as an edu­ca­tor, teach­ing chem­istry, biol­o­gy, micro­bi­ol­o­gy and botany, and is cur­rent­ly the Cam­pus Direc­tor, at Carl Albert State Col­lege. He was elect­ed to the Chero­kee Nation­al Trib­al Coun­cil in 2015 and has exten­sive recog­ni­tion and accom­plish­ments that speak to his heart for ser­vice, his lead­er­ship, and his ini­tia­tive. He and his wife raise their three chil­dren in Sal­li­saw where he has had a sig­nif­i­cant impact through civic involve­ment and vol­un­teer work. Hoskin Jr. has said of Warn­er that he is, “high­ly intel­li­gent and cre­ative. I know we will work well togeth­er because we already have worked well togeth­er.”

Anoth­er great part­ner­ship Hoskin Jr. was sure to speak to was his fam­i­ly. “Jan­u­ary and the kids keep me cen­tered”, he said. Speak­ing to her hard work and pas­sion on behalf of the Chero­kee peo­ple he said, “She [Jan­u­ary] has been intri­cate­ly involved with me and on her own. She takes time to make sure our chil­dren are get­ting involved in Chero­kee cul­ture.”

Vot­ing occurs on June 1. For infor­ma­tion regard­ing the elec­tion, you can vis­it the Chero­kee Nation Elec­tion Com­mis­sion at https://cherokee.org/Our-Government/Boards-Commissions/Election-Commission/Election-Information.

For more infor­ma­tion on Chuck Hoskin Jr. and his cam­paign you can vis­it hoskinwarner.com or fol­low the cam­paign on Face­book at https://www.facebook.com/HoskinWarner

Lee Bren­nan

Author, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment

Lee Bren­nan has worked across a broad spec­trum in his career rang­ing from jour­nal­ism, culi­nary arts, min­istry and liv­ing the life of an entre­pre­neur. Cur­rent­ly resid­ing in Tul­sa, OK where he is rais­ing his beloved daugh­ter, and enjoy­ing life with his friends and fam­i­ly, Lee is dri­ven by a love for peo­ple and a pas­sion for telling great sto­ries.

Want to know about our arti­cles right as they get pub­lished?
Sub­scribe to our Awe­some Newslet­ter.

Adver­tise with us

Dream Sea­son Media

Dis­cov­er more about your­self

Uniqula­homa Quizes

Find some­thing to do

Uniqula­homa Events

How to Make a Sandwich

How to Make a Sandwich

I sat across the table from her as we enjoyed our per­son­al­ized pizza’s win­dow side, a world away from the bus­tle hap­pen­ing through the thin veil of the win­dow pane. It was a teach­ing moment with my astute and, at times, very direct daugh­ter of shar­ing the men­tal tac­tic of rec­og­niz­ing two plus­es for any minus­es. “Does this have any­thing to do with me let­ting you know it was time to update your wardrobe ear­li­er, Dad?!”

She may have been right. On both counts…

I checked out the social media reviews of the restau­rant we were in a few min­utes lat­er and it made me think; do we prac­tice this same cour­tesy in the dig­i­tal uni­verse?

It’s the sand­wich tac­tic, where a cri­tique is deliv­ered wise­ly, the meat of which is buffered by the soft­er effects of a com­pli­ment, and the encour­age­ment of recog­ni­tion. We all appre­ci­ate it when the spot­light is on us but seem to often for­get our graces when the gav­el is in our hands. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true when it comes to the restau­rant indus­try.

While it may be true that restau­rants have a mas­sive tool in social media if they use it well, the pow­er the con­sumer wields over them is unde­ni­able. Those col­lec­tive stars, inter­mit­tent blogs, tweets and shares can cause incomes to rise and fall with dra­mat­ic effect. Con­sumers know this and, in some cas­es, are frankly a bit drunk with the pow­er of the posi­tion they are in.

Restau­rants make a lot of mis­takes. It is a hard busi­ness and good help is hard to come by. Near­ly all restau­rant own­ers and man­agers man­age chaos to a degree that most could not han­dle and, gen­er­al­ly, it is their pas­sion for the work that enables them to endure the grind.

Con­se­quent­ly, being in the peo­ple busi­ness, they tend to val­ue the feed­back of peo­ple to a degree that can make or break their day and the mood of their teams.

As con­sumers, we can evolve when it comes to using this pow­er to cre­ate a cul­ture of improve­ment in our com­mu­ni­ty restau­rants.

Sure, there may be the occa­sion­al soup nazi, and some expe­ri­ences are gen­uine­ly bad.  How­ev­er, why do we trade our cour­tesy sole­ly in favor of crit­i­cism when we rec­og­nize a deficit.

The same capac­i­ty that allows you to rec­og­nize a prob­lem is mir­rored with an equal capa­bil­i­ty to rec­og­nize a solu­tion and, as impor­tant­ly, the things they are doing right. Talk about these things in your feed­back.

“…they tend to val­ue the feed­back of peo­ple to a degree that can make or break their day and the mood of their teams. ”

I promise you, they are lis­ten­ing with intent and they are shar­ing it with their teams. It’s not sug­ar coat­ing and it’s not B.S. to tell some­one some­thing affirm­ing when it’s time to share some­thing dif­fi­cult. It’s sim­ply polite, and it’s wise in terms of the effect it has. And this, is how you make a sand­wich.

Lee Bren­nan

Author, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment

With a back­ground forg­ing words, food, and liba­tions into recipes Lee Bren­nan has com­bined this back­ground, and a love for peo­ple, into a cel­e­bra­tion of it all in his col­umn Places and Pro­pri­etors. He has worked the full gamete of the restau­rant world over decades start­ing out as an over­all kitchen grunt, to mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist, to own­er. Cur­rent­ly, he works as a writer and con­sults with restau­rants to help them devel­op their con­cepts and oper­a­tions both before they open and as they seek to hone in on achiev­ing their best.

He is dri­ven by an under­stand­ing that life is dif­fi­cult and we can’t vaca­tion every week­end to get away from it all. But we can go to our favorite cof­fee shops, pubs, and restau­rants. That these places are havens where the fruit of our hard work inter­sects with the cre­ativ­i­ty of pas­sion­ate peo­ple to cre­ate the expe­ri­ence of moments that mat­ter. With every sip, bite, and con­ver­sa­tion we share togeth­er we give our lives a bet­ter sto­ry. Places and Pro­pri­etors is here to tell those sto­ries.

Want to know about our arti­cles right as they get pub­lished?
Sub­scribe to our Awe­some Newslet­ter.

Adver­tise with us

Dream Sea­son Media

Dis­cov­er more about your­self

Uniqula­homa Quizes

Find some­thing to do

Uniqula­homa Events

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.

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

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 2018

co-pub­lished with Tul­sa Lifestyle Mag­a­zine

The True Spir­it of Christ­mas Is Clos­er Than You Might Think

You 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

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


CL Har­mon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Mem­ber




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


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


*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



*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


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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



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


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!


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


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
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.


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


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



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.



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.


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.


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.


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!

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Hap­py Moth­er’s Day Mom


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 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.




Deirdre McAr­dle

Direc­tor of Devel­op­ment

Elder Care

1223 Swan Dri­ve
Bartlesville, OK 74006
(918) 336‑8500




Dale Lewis Follows The Roads To Discovery

Dale Lewis Follows The Roads To Discovery

Dale Lewis Fol­lows The Road to Dis­cov­ery


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


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
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.
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 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.



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.



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


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


APRIL, 2018


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



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


MARCH, 2018



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


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!

The Road To Success: Larry Shaeffer’s Legacy

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

Lar­ry Sha­ef­fer­’s Lega­cy


MARCH, 2018

& 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



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


FEB, 2018

Woodworking Giveaway

======> Click HERE <======

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.”

I’m a stan­dard Image Cap­tion.

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.”

I’m a cus­tom quote Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, con­sectetuer adip­isc­ing elit. Duis leo fringilla mau­ris sit amet nibh”

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.