It's that time of year again. Time to head back south for our annual trip through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Iowa. The majority of our time will be spent in scenic Wewoka, Oklahoma...or at least in the vicinity of Wewoka, OK; specifically, this porch--from which I will kick up my feet, drink some beer and live life without the internets or neighbors within reasonable walking distance. If I'm lucky, a deer will walk within shooting range of the porch.
For those of you unfamiliar with this area of the country, it is notable for being in the center of the all-black towns of Oklahoma, which were formed after the Civil War in an attempt to give African Americans the same wonderful Oklahoma land as was given to those lucky marchers of the Trail of Tears. Of course, once oil was discovered, the rail lines were re-routed around this no-good chunk of dirt and the towns quickly dried up and are now some of the most economically depressed areas in the entire country, for both black residents and white dirt farmers alike. I have read that 90% of the working people in the area commute to Seminole or OKC. There are quite literally no good jobs in the area anymore. The ones that remain are service sector or, of course, WalMart. The area took a big hit a few years back when the area Wrangler plant packed up and moved to Mexico, taking over 600 local jobs in the process. There is also a big Social Security office in the area. Of course, the people who work there hate government hand outs. And yes, the irony does burn.
My grandparents' farm sits about a mile from Lima, OK, which is one of the few remaining all-black towns. When oil was discovered in the area, white settlers descended on the land and founded New Lima, which, funny, ended up with all the oil money. My great-great grandparents were some of these "entrepreneurs". Of course what they may have made in short-term theft they lost to the long-term gods of karma, as their grandchildren are now residents of the oil-dry outskirts of dirt-poor Lima, New Lima and Wewoka. Most buildings in the area look something along the lines of this:
Here is Main Street Wewoka:
That picture was taken at rush hour.
One of the ways to get out of the area is to enlist in the military (which is the route my wife took). There are a lot of vets in the area. For some unknown reason, there are also a lot of rodeos and cowboys. I've never been able to meet anyone who can explain to me why rodeos are so big in the area (especially in the all-black communities--before my first visit to the area shattered my Ames/Bloomington view of the world, I was under the firm belief that Charlie Pride and Cleavon Little were the only black cowboys in American history) but I imagine it has to do with the area's deep-seeded sense of self-sufficiency. These towns were created in the belly of segregation and in some ways their success is still viewed by many residents as a sign of pride; a living historical example of good people making the most out of an awful situation. A large chunk of the area's white residents also provide an amazing example of what makes Glen Beck so popular. Let's just say that many of the poor white descendants of the white folk who came in and re-routed the rail lines and took the oil money are a tad quick on the victimhood trigger. I am cynical but ultimately non-judgmental about this particular segment of the local population. There are a lot of different things at work here and I suppose I shouldn't joke about it all that much. History plays some weird games on people and...well, whatever it is, it makes for an interesting mix and it is unlike any other area of the country I have been to. Blame is hard to pin down in real time and it becomes even more complex as the days pass by. I love the area and I look forward to my trip there each year.
I haven't been able to find too many good resources on these towns. This is the only good book on the subject. There is a lot of oral history in the area and you can find it at any local greasy spoon or coffee shop. To the best of my knowledge, no one has set out to collect these stories in written form. I have found a website from a Stanford photojournalist who has done some work in the area (one of the photos above is hers) but not much else. If any of our readers are into making documentaries or writing history books, this is one chapter of American history that is in sore need of additional coverage.
After Wewoka, we will head down to Fort Worth for a day followed by a trip up to Memphis through Little Rock. We will then spend a day with an old friend in Saint Louis before heading home through Ames, Iowa to visit yet another old friend. I suspect I'll be able to check in every now and then (my wife is planning a pottery shopping trip with one of her friends, so that is shaping up to be some prime internet time) but for the most part I will be down and out until the 11th or 12 of August. Hopefully I'll return with some good pictures and some interesting stories...and maybe a Thunder jersey for my youngest daughter. I'm trying to get her on the Kevin Durant bandwagon in anticipation of my ultimate journey to Thunder fandom.
In the mean time, Wyn will check up on the site and post newsworthy items and bump up interesting fanposts/shots. I'll continue the WNBA 101 for Wolves Fans series when I get back and we'll have some interesting season-preview material ready to go by the end of August.