Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’… Anything but Plain

Author: Jeff Brown
Category: Uniquelahoma
Date Published: November 17, 2017

Okla­homa and me… and I… and my eye

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

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

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

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

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


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

They ALL loved Okla­homa and its people.

Seri­ous­ly. LOVED.

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

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

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

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

So again… why do we stay?

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

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

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

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

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

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


So, any­way …

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

Wow… reliv­ing those inter­views makes ME tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seri­ous­ly. I know you’re out there.

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

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

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

Jeff Brown

Con­tribut­ing Writer, Unique­la­homa Magazine

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown


  1. Ken McGee

    Nice­ly done, JB.
    The Busy Bee.…good times!! We may be a fly­over state but it’s OUR fly­over state. You are cor­rect, sir, there are more inter­est­ing and down­right fas­ci­nat­ing folk who call this amaz­ing state home.

    • Jeff Brown

      Thanks Bud­dy. I always look for­ward to your feed­back. Need you to act as “tal­ent stringer” for your region of OK. Hit me with any­thing you think is cool. I’ll buy the GOOD ice cream. 😉 Love you guys !

  2. Spencer Heckathorn

    I’m so look­ing for­ward to this! Thanks for the great read Jeff!


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Doing what is right costs. It costs something we value; something which hurts to lose. As such, it becomes easier to hold onto what we give worth, than to let it go and invest in the greater good. And within the good that is lost is the cost we ultimately pay for placing more value on ourselves than on others. Holding onto to more in hopes of losing less only has true worth if others see that value. And no one places worth on selfishness and arrogance because they gain nothing from it. They value what is gained more by others’ humility and sacrifice. - C.L. Harmon
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