Sunday, September 27, 2020

RVing in the time of COVID 1: Sooner or later

1938 Cotton field in Oklahoma from my family collection

My Grandmother went to Oklahoma most every summer as a young woman to visit her kinfolk, an aunt and her cousins.  She told stories for decades about the Dust Bowl, rattlesnakes, the red clay, and well, some oddities and quirks about the local laws. 

We have taken off with Big Bird  our RV and are back to our lives on the road.  I've been busily writing two books over the summer and now they are in proof stage so we winterized our lives and headed south to find warmth.  After a scheduled repair in Lincoln, two nights in Kansas south of Topeka, we made it to our annual spot off of Route 66 between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Our temporary Kansas home

For nearly a decade now, we've been making an annual trek into the Sooner state, not to see relatives, as sadly, these cousins had children, and they had children and all were eventually lost to us northern folk.  We come down now for the warmth of late September.  The butterflies are out. It is fun seeing some remaining scissortail flycatchers and we like to hike in the oaks.  I own some property around Gypsy in Creek County and west of Stroud in western Lincoln Counties and I like to see what is going on.  

To be honest, there is little going on in Creek County.  Depew's main street is pretty much vacant save for this sign.  Except for a rather outdated looking convenience store out on old Route 66, it would be hard to spend a $50 bill in this town of 562 people.  The school is fairly nice but the houses, everything have seen better decades.

Gypsy?  Their elementary school is still there but otherwise just a ghost town.  What was going on down there?  Spiders, large Oklahoma brown tarantulas crossing the road.  Nothing more, but tarantulas were cool. 
About as much excitement as they get down here.

While driving around, I was reminded of a little obscure Sooner history. In 1976, Oklahoma's most bizarre Alcohol law, was reviewed in what became a famous Supreme Court case, Craig versus Deebo.  With Justice Ginsberg's death it is a solid reminder of her past. There are long lists of odd laws in the "Sooner State," I even violated one yesterday, as I made an ugly face at a dog, a small mixed breed thing, and I could have been fined or put in jail (per the law). They finally allowed tattoos in the state in 2006, not that I have one, but just saying.

Craig v. Deebo?  Well, since statehood, Oklahoma had a rather interesting drinking age (except during prohibition), men had to be 21 years old to buy 3.2% beer while women could buy it at age 18.  It was not illegal for 19 year olds of either sex to drink it, however, just buy it. It became quite common for young men to have your 18 year old girlfriend or a sister go and buy your beer.  My grandmother even told me about this law.  I'm not sure if she did it for her cousins or her brother.  It was the only state to have gender different drinking ages.

The law was challenged by a Oklahoma State Univ student and a drive through convenience store in Stillwater called the Honk and Holler, as you drove in the front door and honked and then hollered what you wanted.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an amicus brief on it and was actually questioned about this case during open arguments about a second case which she was actually representing later the same day before the high court.  She was trying to say even though women were the beneficiaries, they were being discriminated against just by having a separate law just for them. The High Court threw out the old law. So, from 1976 until 1983, 18 year olds of both sexes could drink.  It was a racy and rowdy time in Oklahoma, as oil boomed. The drinking age was 18, the strip clubs could be all-nude during this period, and well, cash flowed.  When 1983 came about, the drinking age went up to 21, oil prices collapsed, and dancers were covered up. Oklahoma became the buckle of the Bible Belt again.  You still couldn't get a tattoo in the state nor own more than two cats in Bartlesville.

Well, despite COVID, I enjoyed Octoberfest down here yesterday, drinking strong beer and I didn't see any one under 21 drinking.  We ate our brats outside.  Masks are plus and minus here.  At a grocery store today they were strongly encouraged.  about 2/3 had them on.  A woman without a mask swiped her discount card so we could get the specials at the store.  We went to see Spiro Mounds near the Arkansas border.  Everyone had one there.  

We saw some butterflies, emperors were all over, and some birds but nothing was photographable.

Hackberry emperor
Sadly the Spiro mounds had been looted back in the Thirties, and so the mounds are just piles of dirt, disturbed and what is there is speculated about and it is mostly conjecture and opinions and not fact.  We hiked two miles and it was good to get out.

It is easy to see how the Okies had to pull up stakes as the Dust Bowl came.  Trying to till this sandy soil looks tough in a good year and even now, much of the state looks like Depew and Gypsy.  

It is hard to even see where all the old fields were, like this 1940 picture from my grandmother, where undoubtedly oaks have now grown up.

But interestingly, we like Oklahoma and Kansas, it isn't what you expect, the hills, the ridges, and the trees...

We had a front come through today and it will cool off 20 degrees and but I think 75 is in the offering for Tuesday and we have four more nights here.

The Packers even won so everything is Okay in OK...


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