I landed from my Los Angeles hearings very late on Friday night, and drove home listening to the BBC on public radio discuss a Harvard business professor who wants to remake capitalism in some way, and I thought to myself how schools with large endowments have enough money to permit people to remake capitalism, while schools without a lot of money never get broadcast on their views as to capitalism.
At dawn Saturday, I arose and drove the two hours and fifty minutes from my home up to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Almost no traffic slowed me down, and I got a view of clear fields, rolling hills with trees and Fall flowers everywhere. As soon as I crossed the Red River into Oklahoma, the signage advised me that I had entered the Choctaw Nation.
As this was to be a mountain weekend, I kept waiting as I headed through Idabel into Broken Bow for the mountains to begin. The region we were visiting is where the Ouachita Mountains, a wonderful set of "fold mountains", small but rolling, meet the Kiamichi Mountains, a unique little tributary chain which stretches around a good bit of southeastern Oklahoma.
But Broken Bow was just wooded rolling hills--it reminded me of my parents' home town, Camden, Arkansas.
I met up with my friend Gene at 9:30 at the pre-arranged spot, the Microtel Inn. Gene and I have known each other for twenty five years, and been good friends for at least twenty of those. He lives in Texarkana, on the Texas/Arkansas border roughly an hour and a half from Broken Bow. I had promised him that on his next week of vacation, we would spend at least one week going someplace fun.
I had chosen Oklahoma as the place to be.
I went into the Wal-Mart so that I could pick up a throwaway camera. The Wal-Mart seemed as though it had not been modernized for, say twenty years. The woman behind the counter was very friendly. In fact, everyone I met in that part of Oklahoma was really nice. I don't know if it was happenstance, or if it is an area of really charming people, but everyone was so darn conversational.
We wanted to go hiking, so we drove to Beavers Bend State Park. As we wound the tree-lined road into the park, suddenly we noticed that there were small mountains on both sides of us. It was as if they just appeared, in some fantasy book about cities in the sky.
We drove to the main office, where people were checking in for cabin usage, and then went to the nature center, where a naturalist in uniform, apparently fresh out of school, mapped out for us a short, do-able hike on the David Boren Trail. I paused in the nature center to look at the colorful corn snake in the aquarium, as well as the five month old vulture they had adopted for return to the wild. The Mountain Fork River ran behind the nature center, a simply lovely, green small river.
We drove down to the trail, passing the river on our left and climbing through the forest into the uphill climb. The climb was fortunately not steep, and we hiked a few miles amid tall trees past cute Fall flowers, with lots of little violets.
We went in search of barbecue, as each town I'd passed on the way had promised pork barbecue, but we ended up in a small burger place which boasted that it served the "Samburger", which, by the way, is remarkably like a misspelled hamburger, but quite tasty. The folks at the burger place asked us what exotic locales we hailed from, as we were obviously not from "around", and we explained our distant origins, to the delight of all.
We drove into Idabel, where I'd read a gem and mineral show was in progress. The show was extremely sparsely attended, with roughly twenty exhibitors. I bought fossilized fern leaves from Haskell County, Oklahoma for three dollars each. They were quite well-articulated, little leaves in rock for millions of years.
I almost bought some mini-geodes, priced at a mere 75 cents each,
but refrained when I realized I had no sort of saw to try to cut them open in hunt of crystal.
Two fellows from the local gem and mineral society asked me to sign in on the guest register. Though it was noon Saturday, I was the first person to actually sign the guest register, a school notebook with the little GHB ring binding. They told me that no "pay to dig" sites existed any closer than the Crater of Diamonds over in Arkansas, but that this, in essence, did not make no never mind, because "as long as you're not out to hunt their deer or shoot their cattle, folks don't really care what you pick up off their property". One fellow told me a place on the Sulphur River near Paris, Texas where I might readily find shark teeth and mosasaur bones, the area having been dredged for river traffic, and then the site abandoned. I thanked them warmly and we drove on.
We headed up to the Talimena Drive, a scenic roadway built entirely to run on the edge of a range of the Ouachita (and later Kiamichi) Mountains, with green valleys and distant mountains on either side.
We somehow found ourselves behind a rally of Model T automobiles also on the path, which posed a problem, because when Mr. Ford designed the Model T, it is not clear to me that climbing mountain roads was intended to be its strong point. We turned around to visit an arboretum in the middle of the Winding Stair National Forest, which was quite interesting. We hiked that nature trail, which was filled with much denser forest than the lowlands, and tons of flowers, and interpretive signs which conveyed essential messages such as "trees good" and "deforestation bad". The trail was charming, and the weather warm enough to be warm yet cool enough to be comfortable, and we had a grand time.
We turned west to get away from the Model T rally, and found ourselves in the more comfortable surroundings of a a group of middle age Harley riders and another group of somewhat more yuppie middle age Japanese motorcycle riders. They were all polite, and kept their pacing reasonable. We stopped at scenic vistas, including the one for the Lowell Mission, which described how a doctor/missionary and his wife founded a Mission, which she named after her hometown in Massachusetts. I looked at the stark beauty around me, which looked nothing like I imagine MA to look, and wondered at the way in which people cannot appreciate new beauty, but must always fall into old patterns.
We got to the western end of the trail, where this nice man named "Going" told me that our best way back was the way we came, but we decided to take a lowland highway back, which was fun, except that the highway was so rural there were very few signs, and we wandered through a pleasing dense forest on a narrow road of one way bridges and scattered houses, and just enjoyed a day away from it all.
We stopped off at one point to get some gas and something to drink. I saw they had cherry slurpees, and as I have not had one in years, I began to fill a 44 oz. cup (a BIG GULP, or BIG 44 or some such). When it was full, and time to turn the handle to OFF, I turned it to HIGH, and red slurp began accumulating everywhere. The woman behind the counter was so gracious, and did not mind at all. She gave me a towel so that my cup could be salvaged, and Gene gave me another towel so that I could avoid getting slurpee on his Mazda's seats, which crime apparently carries the death penalty.
We finally made it back to Broken Bow, after a spirited country drive, and checked into our rooms at the Motel. Microtels are cool, like real hotels, only the rooms are small, and the TV is atop a ledge on a slope thing-y.
I got caught up for a moment in the double overtime in which my Arkansas Razorbacks, hitherto neglected by me all day, bested the Crimson Tide in double overtime, and then we went to Pier 49, a pier devoted to that deep sea specialty the farm raised southern fried catfish. We had a splendid repast, on very casual tables, at a cost so low I wondered if we had entered a foreign country. We had the only car in the parking lot, everyone else seeming to favor the Ram Truck. On the highways, by the way, everybody was driving at slow, courteous speeds. Where is there to go in life, after all?
We headed back to our hotel rooms, and Gene took to his room a "World's Strangest Cars" book I'd gotten him, while he gave me a "Bite Me" Buffy the Vampire Book. I read that book, as well as "Rinn's World", a great sci fi psi book written by a lawyer. I also am continuing to read Brenda Maddox's book about the poet Yeats and his younger wife's penchant for mediumistic automatic writing. Fascinating stuff, which I hope to finish during October.
This morning, we tried to go to the Little River Wildlife Management area, but we could not find an ingress, and then Fort Towson was closed until one. We did stop by briefly the Whitlock Mission, where native girl kids were uprooted into "mission schools", but we did not really stop because it was not tour hours.
We did stop at a gas station, where a guy told me of new hiking, but we decided to call it a day and drive in our separate directions home, exhausted after all the hiking Saturday. I bought "real" beef jerky, not the processed stuff, which was heavenly.
On the drive home, I saw a huge great blue heron in mid-air, a flock of seagulls spinning and a kestrel, hunting, flapping wings to hove in mid-air. I crossed the Red River into Texas, stopping to get a picture, and then arrived home. My wife, who had decided to forego the weekend to rest, is making a special family recipe chili sauce, which, sadly, is not a chili per se, but apparently something to go on meatloaf. To my mind,special sauces should be inb chilis, not on meatloafs, but I am sure I will love it.
I went to grab some lunch and pick her up a sandwich, and then went walking. I started at Glendover Park, and then headed over to the hiking trails at nearby Twin Creeks. After a long hike, I headed home, mowed the back yard, and then took the pix to the one hour photo, which could not do them in one hour, but I still was happy when I got home again.