Sunday, May 30, 2010

Climbing Glass (Gloss) Mountain

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO
My blogs seem to be turning into set-ups for full blown stories that need to be written. "Lacey's Quonset Hut," which was introduced to my readers a few of days ago deserves more than a blog entry. When finished, the story will be shared with my readers. The same is for the person I'm about to introduce you to, Elder Isaac Brown.

On mid-Friday afternoon (May 28), I finished my research on a great-uncle, "Elder" Isaac Brown, in Woodward County, Oklahoma. Woodward County lies south and a little east of Dodge City, Kansas, and cattle drives passed through the area. During the western expansion, Fort Supply was built in the area, and it supplied Sheridan and Custer for their excursions further west.

Woodward County OK sits on land that was parceled out during the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Race. Well, my Great-Uncle Isaac was there long before the land race. He took his family and left Ozark County MO in the early 1880s as a missionary for the General Baptist Church. So I'm setting up and adding another article to my writing agenda about Elder Isaac Brown. A Civil War veteran also, Isaac is a fascinating character to me as he now is to Ian Swart, the Curator of the Pioneer Museum in Woodward.

Well, I left Ian Swart's Pioneer Museum in Woodward around 2 p.m. Friday and headed back east on U.S. Highway 412. Some news from home had been unsettling to me, and I felt the need to be there. My reaction to the news told me that my 2010 Road Trip had cleared my mind and restored my body but I was still ME -- I still have this impulse to run to the aid of family members when they really don't need it.

Twenty miles east of Woodward on U.S. 412, I passed for a final time Union (aka Brown) Cemetery where Isaac and his wife were buried, and the surrounding land that they had homesteaded. The area seemed to me to be the most worthless parcel of land in the whole county. But the area is now dotted with oil derricks of the Cabot Oil Co. It would seem, from my land records research (my latest passion) that Isaac's family seemed to have sold out and left the area just before the oil boom.

Well, my driving goal for the day was to pick up U.S. 60 west of Enid OK and follow it all the way to Springfield while stopping for the night somewhere in between. As my drive continued, the land seemed to get more worthless yet more beautiful. Large buttes of land rose up showing the vividly red clay for which Oklahoma is famous.

My "Official Oklahoma State Map" told me that the Gloss Mountain State Park lay directly ahead. I couldn't miss the turn off because a State Trooper with flashing lights had a vehicle cornered in the entrance. I weaved around the vehicles and drove down a lane into the parking lot hidden from the road's view.

It was a lonesome place with only a picnic pavilion and a port-a-potty along with signs warning of rattlesnakes. Next to the parking lot was a mountain and I made out a trail that led to the base of the mountain and then sections of stairs zig-zagged up to the mountain top. It was a hot afternoon with no one around, but I decided I was going to see how far up the mountain I could climb. A little common sense prevailed, however. I went over by the port-a-potty and relieved myself at its side after checking for wind direction -- a lesson learned during my windy 1993 Kansas Lonesome Road Trip.

Grabbing a bottle of water and my camera from the Escape, I approached the mountain and started to climb. At several intervals up the mountain, benches were placed for resting, and I used every one of them. With each glance back, the little Ford Escape looked smaller and smaller. As I neared the top, the stairs disappeared, and I had to climb across craggy rocks the remaining distance. Once at the top, I turned to see an old pickup pull in the parking lot. My distrustful nature first caused me to imagine the little Ford being violated but I soon sensed it was just a family wanting to enjoy the area like myself. Part of me was glad to have human company and another part of me was disappointed that I was no longer truly alone.

The top of the mountain (or butte) was flat and was made up of rock that had glassy particles in it (thus the name of the mountain). About a dozen black hawk-like birds were my constant companion from that point on. (I forget what I've read about buzzards and vultures -- one comes at you after you're dead and the other joins you when it senses death is imminent).

A trail led back farther than I could see and although already quite tired, I started to follow it. Stops were made often to look out in the distance or over an edge of the butte. After what seemed like a half-mile, I came to a fenced lookout point at the end of the butte. Across the valley was another butte called "Lone Peak." It was here that I made a self-portrait with the peak behind me. I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and spiritual awareness. This moment had become pinnacle of my 2010 Lonesome Road Trip.

Occasionally worry crept into my mind about the return trip down the stairs (my knee surgeries tend to talk to me now and then). As I turned to leave I could see in the distance a couple of people coming up the trail stopping to throw rocks off the edges. Eventually we met, and they were two young teenagers who looked like their trek up the butte caused them no sweat whatsoever. Oh, the vim and vigor of youth. We spoke for a moment--no one passes Ken Brown on a mountain top without at least a short visit. One said he'd been up on the butte before and he was bringing the other for the first time.

About half way back on the trail, I felt the need to share my quest with some one I love -- I tried to call Joy but no answer there. Then I called my son, Kelly and told him to Google "Gloss Mountain", and that was where my call was coming from. His reply was "I didn't know Oklahoma had a mountain!" Anyway, he found it on the Internet, we talked a few moments more mostly planning our golf outing for when I returned.

Once back to the place where the descent was to commence, I looked out toward the highway, and it reminded me so much of that romantic scene in the movie, "Cars", where Sally and Lightning McQueen look out over the landscape to where the interstate's construction caused the ruin of Radiator Springs. I thought of Joy and wished I could share the moment with her.

As I descended the mountain, I was very careful on the craggy rock section that led to the safe staircases. Halfway down, I met the parents accompanying the teenagers. They were lounging on a bench and enjoying the sun, the wind and the scenery. Apparently locals, they were at their favorite place.

Once back at the Ford Escape and preparing to leave, I saw the two teenagers had already scaled down the mountain and were skipping out across the base of the mountain off-trail and totally oblivious to the prospect of rattlesnakes. I though: "This country will be OK--its youth will respond to the challenges ahead of them--the human race is incredibly adaptable and probably evolutionary.

After getting back on the highway, I drove to Ponca City, Oklahoma where I decided to stay for the night. Ponca City is where Conoco-Phillips has a huge oil refinery and related facilities--possibly even its headquarters.

Ah, back to "civilization". Driving around the refinery, I detected that smell that emits from such facilities. Personally I prefer turkey farm odor to that made by refineries. The motels were hard to find in Ponca City, and a convenience store clerk had to give me directions after questioning the wisdom of even wanting to stay in what he considered to be a very undesirable place to live. He sold me a couple of 16-ounce beers that were on sale for $2.22 total, and I made my way to the not so Super 8 for my final night on my tour.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sequoyah, Not Lacey

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO

Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd's grave
John and Caroline Morris's graves

The fireplace in Sequoyah's Cabin

Well, the second chapter of my serial, "Lacey's Quonset Hut" has been delayed. I break camp early in the morning -- the Ford Escape tells me it is headed into western Oklahoma tomorrow and that I should come along. I still need to scan in court house documents for my cousin and fellow Morris researcher, Nancy Morris Boyd.

Well, my search today provided evidence that Great-Grandfather John Morris was probably not a Cherokee. Still, I got to visit the Cherokee Nation office in Sallisaw and learned a lot about the tribe. For you Douglas County folks who wonder about the Cherokee homesteaders back there, I was told that some Cherokees saw the hand writing on the wall and started west into unsettled lands before the Trail of Tears even started. I always wondered if the Bell family that was supposedly in the county before 1820 were in fact from an eastern tribe.

I visited the graves of my Great-Grandparents in Akins OK north of Sallisaw. The cemetery precedes statehood, and the village there was call Sweet Town by the Cherokee. The cemetery is only about three miles from Sequoyah's 1829 cabin which I also visited. The Curator there, Jerry Dobbs, cleared up a lot of questions too.

Well, while Sequoyah is the most famous person around, the most infamous former citizen is Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. His grave is less that 200 feet from those of my grandparents. In the early 1930s, "Pretty Boy" was considered the neighborhood boy who did good.

All in all, it was a good day -- that final serial chapter on Lacey will come soon plus I need to give you my thoughts on something called "anchoring." I'll use Tiger Woods' chaos to illustrate my point.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lacey's Quonset Hut

When one is in eastern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Indian Nation is never far away. Initially the Cherokee had most of it. Yesterday, my Ford Escape led me to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, the seat of Sequoyah County. (Sarah, if you're reading this, Sequoyah was a brilliant Cherokee man who developed and alphabet for the Cherokee language -- his people were her before the founding fathers). Sequoyah's final home is nearby, and I hope to visit it tomorrow.

Today, the morning was spent at the Sequoyah County Court House looking through land records. Around mid-morning, a document was discovered where the Cherokee Nation chief deeded 147 acres to my great-grandfather, John W. Morris in 1909. The document stated that Great-Grandfather was entitled to the land as a "member of the tribe" which was a complete surprise to both myself and the principal Morris researcher, Nancy Morris Boyd, of Percival, Iowa. He would have had another 3 acres but it was a right-of-way owned by the Kansas City Southern Railroad. Tomorrow's agenda includes follow-up on this discovery which will likely take me to the Cherokee Nation headquarters and also to Tahlequah where older Cherokee Nation land records are stored.

The hot afternoon was spent on the Shadow Creek Golf Course in Sallisaw, a dry and dusty place with a menacing creek that snaked across virtually every fairway or hid behind many of the brown and splotched greens. Lucky I had plenty of Dunlop "Butter Soft" golf balls because there are a few of them headed down stream toward the Arkansas tonight. A couple of years ago, the Maxfli "Noodle" golf ball was all the rage and the "Butter Soft" was Dunlop's cheap copy. Well, WalMart virtually gave me the golf balls because I was the only one who would buy them. Real men don't hit golf balls called "ButterSoft!" Anyway, I still have about five dozen of those balls in the garage. Joy tried to sell them in her flea market booth and even female golfers wouldn't buy them. (You know, I really need to play a few more rounds here -- put enough golf balls in Shadow Creek, they would all eventually end up in the gulf and maybe plug that oil leak. Not funny, huh? Sorry).

Speaking of the oil spill, the public seems to have mixed emotions, I think, about whether the Federal Government should step in. In some ways, it's an opportunity to see what we do with less government. Is that why the Obama opponents don't seem to be clamoring for Federal involvement. About a week ago, I heard an NPR call-in show where an oil engineer called in and suggested the Navy take a submarine down there, blast the leak and cause the well to cave in on itself. That may eventually be the final answer.

Lacey's Quonset Hut -- Serial Chapter 1

Now, why is this post titled "Quonset Hut Barns and Theatres?" Well, family members know I like to hunt down the old theatre in each small town and take a picture of it. Here in Sallisaw, the Sequoyah Theatre is a converted World War II Quonset Hut. If you check the internet for Quonset Hut, you'll find that about 170,000 of these were built during the war and afterward were sold for $1,000 each. Check out "Quonset Hut Theatres" on-line and you'll find a partial listing of known Quonset Hut Theatres around the country.

I'd better cut to the chase or you're going to hit that backbutton. Well, seeing the Quonset Hut Theatre brought back vivid memories of an old girl-friend from the 1960s and also my last solo road trip in 1993. This girlfriend was Pentecostal which is what attracted her to me. Her name was...well we'll call her Lacey Pahl. Her father was an old German corn farmer from...we'll say Sublette Kansas, way out there on the plains. Lacey always told me about her father's barn and that it was a Quonset hut. Well, my 1993 Road Trip across U.S. Highway 160 got detoured way out in western Kansas, and that old 1980 Corolla of mine delivered me into Sublette to take a look at that Quonset hut.

Yes, that Quonset hut was there on the edge of town, but to my surprise the town theatre was a Quonset Hut Theatre! No Way! Way. Lacey never told me about the theatre I supposed because she was never allowed to attend it being Pentecostal and all. So this was a two-Quonset hut town! I was impressed.

Did I run into Lacey? Well, it took a little while to get anyone to talk to me about her. It was like I had wandered on the set of The Stepford Wives. Don't miss the next installment of my real-life serial later this week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Alternative Lifestyles

By Ken Brown
Springfield, Missouri
Well, strong winds hit my southwest Arkansas abode and has blown me all the way up into eastern Oklahoma not far from the burial place of my great-grandfather, John W. Morris.  Since my last post, several themes on which to write have crossed my path:
That's No Angry Mob, That's My Mom: Team Obama's Assault on Tea-Party, Talk-Radio Americans." 
I often turn on the C-SPAN Book Channel by which to go to sleep at night. Last night, I had the misfortune to tune into Jonathan Karl's interview of Michael Graham about his new book titled above. Graham is apparently a conservative talk show guy in Boston of all places -- and yes, he has a website and yes, you can get his newsletters and support his cause which is allegedly the Tea Party movement. Well, I'm a fiscal conservative (was once considered an expert in government finance during my academic career), and if Graham is the voice of the Tea Party, the group will not appeal to many independents like myself. I do not plan to read Graham's book -- his premise and his conclusion don't match at all. I truly feel he is just trying to get out in front of the parade and make some money in the process. Conservatives, beware of false conservative voices. Nuff said about that theme.
Rand Paul and Sarah Palin 
As a fiscal conservative [someday I'll write about my social issues views], I was very intrigued with Rand Paul's election in Kentucky. Also, I felt it would be a wake-up call to the Republican Party to get an intelligent approach to our problems. Well, I guess Rand wasn't told he can't tell the truth if he's to stay in politics and he's gotten off to a rocky start -- something about his civil rights views. He canceled his "Meet the Press" interview intended to air this morning on NBC, and I guess the Republican establishment will coach him on what to say from now on. Then, I understand that Sarah Palin has jumped to his defense and said it's not Rand's fault, he was just a victim of the "Got-ya" media. By the way, I don't really want to knock Sarah Palin -- she's securing her family's financial future thanks to her talents and the "Got-ya" media. She's amazing. Unlike Graham's book (see 1 above), I may find time to read one of Sarah's books once they hit the flea market booths. No more on this theme.

Alternative Lifestyle A 
As my road trip has continued into now its third week, I continue to scour the road sides for evidence of current and past lifestyles and unusual sights. (As my family knows, the only way I stay on a road is that my mind is wired to always be sure the roadbed comes into view each time that I pan from left to right and so forth -- most of my 200 miles of travel today was on U.S. Highways 71 in Arkansas and 59 in Oklahoma. Sidenote: I wasn't too far north of Ashdown AR when I came up behind a car that was having trouble staying between the lines. I worried that someone was intoxicated and questioned if I should call it in. Well, a passing lane opened up and as I went around, I looked over to see a young woman texting on her cell phone).
Well, I've now put around a 1000 miles on my Ford Escape and probably less that 50 of them have been on interstate highways. Just outside of Arkansas's Millwood State Park on Ark. Highway 32 at a little place called Fomby, I found a group of apartments made out of boxcars! Well, my six-year old Granddaughter and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Boxcar Children, that 1924 children's classic by Gertrude Chandler Warner. So, I had to photograph the apartments for her and I'm attaching one of those shots.

Alternative Lifestyle B
A few miles north of DeQueen Arkansas on U.S. Hwy 71, I passed a man dragging a cross and cart. Unlike Forrest Gump whose walk attracted a huge group of followers, this man was only accompanied by his dog. As soon as I could get the Escape stopped and did a 180, I met up with the walker and his dog at a dirt road junction. We visited for several minutes and here's what he told me:

  • His name is Rev. Lee Simpson and he has now walked over 7,000 miles having started from Florida some time ago. I have his card with his cell phone number if I ever want to call him.
  • Everything he needs by which to live is on his cart, and he just let's God tell him where to walk and when to stop and pitch camp for the night.
  • He is 61 years old and is a cancer victim that required surgery a few years back, and his dog almost died a few days ago -- he told me what the vet told him the dog had, but there was the dog looking amiable and compliant with his master.
  • I reached in my billfold and handed Rev. Simpson a $20 bill which he accepted graciously. Then I walked to my car and returned with an apple left over from my Super 8 Continental breakfast. That he gladly accepted as well, and we shook hands. As I climbed in my car, a large white SUV appeared from the dirt road and rolled by us onto the highway without giving us a glance. Perhaps heading to church, it was about that time of morning.
I told Rev. Simpson that I admired him and what he's doing which he labels as "Walking for Christ." But as the miles rolled by after leaving the walker, I started asking myself, "Why did I stop? If he had not been dragging the cross, would I have stopped? I'm not a Christian. Did the fact that he had a dog make him more approachable? Probably so. If he had neither the cross nor the dog, would he have seemed any different that the homeless bums and bag ladies I've seen in Washington DC or San Francisco? Definitely so.

Then, being incredibly skeptical in my old age, I wonder if old Rev. Lee scammed me. Maybe he just lives in the area, and on Sunday mornings he gets out this cross and heads down the highway to earn a little money. I don't think so but if he did, HURRAH for him. I'm sure if a Christian God were watching this Sunday morning, she probably had much bigger scams of her followers to deal with than the Rev. Lee Simpson.

I "Googled" Rev. Simpson's name this evening. He has no website, no radio talk show, no books nor tapes to sell. I envision him in camp right now bedded down with his dog beside him. That's what I want to "perceive" but not necessarily "believe." For to "believe" means you absolutely know something is true. In my mind, "truth" is elusive and becoming more endangered every day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recently, I learned that Kenneth Starr will be the next President of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Virtually everyone over the age of 30 will remember him as the independent prosecutor whose investigation led to the impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton in December 1998. This past week, Starr's appointment led to a conversation started on Facebook among the friends of Stan Risener -- Stan is a guy who is always starting a wide range of interesting topics.
Immediately, Stan's friends lined up on both sides with comments--pro-Starr and anti-Starr. I weighed in on the latter side but eventually posed the question as to whether MORALITY and COMPETENCE go hand in hand, or can one be very competent but then go home and abuse family members, for example. That kept the ball rolling a couple more days, and I think we're all tired of the subject now.
Well, right now I'm on a retreat of sorts that is helping me adjust both my mental and physical conditions. A writer-historian friend, Cathie Reilly, has encouraged me to pick up on my stalled writing projects and get productive again. I'm accepting the challenge.
To get myself going, I spent last night on my laptop computer searching through and separating out any incomplete writing projects. Well, I found my folder of "Letters to the Editor Never Sent." In it was a February 1998 letter I had written that expressed my view at the time the Clinton sex scandal came to light. Now 12 years later, the letter is being published here on my Blog for anyone who is interested.
Recognize that, in 1998 when I wrote the piece below, I was a Democrat having switched from the Republican Party in the mid-1980s. Now, I'm a devout Independent having decided around 2003 or 2004 that neither party was of any value. Well, here it is.

Why I Approve of President William Clinton
February 1, 1998
By Ken Brown, Springfield, MO
Like many Americans, I’ve endured the emotional roller coaster of the presidential sex scandal of the past few weeks. Like most I was titillated sometimes and bewildered most of the time as the media put out a barrage of facts that . I groped (oops, I grasped) for some solitude and a chance to think through some of what was happening in our society.
I found that solitude at a rural monastery in the Ozarks hills. As part of its Christian mission, the Assumption Abbey near Ava, MO, opens its doors to anyone looking for a chance to step back and reflect on life. In a Christ-like manner, the monks asked nothing of its guests other than to be present for meals lest food be wasted, and to honor the solemnity of their institution. Under their system, the only chance for conversation is with other guests during meals. On one of these occasions, I fell into a discussion with two other guests, who like myself turned out to be educators, about an assortment of interesting topics. Inevitably, the conversation disintegrated to the more earthy presidential sex scandal. Surprisingly, we soon realized that all agreed on one aspect of the matter: the premise that presidential effectiveness and leadership is somehow correlated with marital fidelity simply is NOT supported by historical perceptions of who did and who didn’t, going all the way back to, yes, our founding fathers.
None of us around the table, as we finished our meager meal of homemade bread and potato soup prepared by the Brothers, doubted President Clinton’s capability for infidelity. Just as the Monks asked nothing about our private lives before inviting us into their midst, we just didn’t believe the President’s private life is our affair, and we were mystified about Kenneth Starr’s role in the matter (a view shared by Molly Ivins and Tom Teepen in their Springfield News-Leader editorials of Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, 1998 respectively). The contention that our presidents should somehow have less rights than you and me didn’t seem right.
Our defense of Clinton was NOT for his benefit but for the position he will leave for the next politician to follow The New Zealander at our table suggested the time might be right for the United States to have a prime minister tied to the majority party rather than the current irrationality of a President inherently at odds with a opposing party. He’s correct if we insist on a President whose personal profile could only be fulfilled by Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary. This latter thought, however, gives cause to reflect on Senator John Ashcroft, whose assertion of marital fidelity make him better qualified than others for the next presidency. People who have known John personally, including me, say that is a plausible assertion for him to make. That fact should cause John to get Janet Ashcroft’s vote but is otherwise none of our business.
More important to the voting public is the need to know what backrooms, not bedrooms, you went through on your way to the White House. And I suspect that the political backrooms test every candidate’s moral and ethical fiber. Yet, this is an opportunity for Senator Ashcroft to get national attention.
And before this letter goes to print, President Clinton could well be forced out of office on such grounds. Around the table at the Monks’ retreat all of use gathered concurred that the European model which separates the public and private lives of politicians, would serve us better.
As I drove out of the hills from the retreat on this 1998 super-bowl Sunday afternoon, I tuned in on a national conservative talk show in which the host had already decided that Clinton was history, and no doubt to keep his ratings alive was beginning to roast Vice President Gore as being even worse: reason, “he’s an environmental nut.” Lest we ever forget her immortal words of wisdom, Roseanne Rosannadanna said it best: “It’s always something.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good Friday!

I'm a very lucky person today. After months of trying to help out family members for the last two weeks I've been helping out myself. I'm in southwest Arkansas several hundred miles away from Springfield. I've played two rounds of golf this week, and I discovered some land record information for my wife's family in Ouachita County, Arkansas. Today, I'm headed first to the Nevada County, Arkansas courthouse at Prescott to search land records for the Neal surname. If there's time, I'm going to return to Hope Arkansas where I'm staying and do some land record search at the Hempstead County courthouse.