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My ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat - Will Rogers
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Despite having large populations of hill-billies, meth heads, and ultra-Conservative protestant Christians, the average hitch-hiker should feel safe travelling through here.
It should be noted however that from 1963 to 2004 blue laws1 prohibited individuals from getting a tattoo there. This is also the only state in the US to have chosen as its state song the theme from a Broadway musical 2 and is home to a multitude of silly laws that nobody enforces anymore.
On an area squeezed between Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas, also bordering Missouri, Colorado, and New Mexico sits the state of Oklahoma. This state was home to the longest strip of Route 66: nearly 400 miles.
In a land filled with oil wells and cattle ranches, new industries such as computer parts and aerospace have also taken hold. The population is very stable. 68 percent are in homes they are buying and over 50 percent have been in the same home since before 1995.
Some Facts and Figures
Population (2010 approximation) - 3.7 million people of which roughly 300,000 are Native American, 295,000 are Black, 212,000 are Hispanic and 63,000 are Asian.
Area - 68,667 sq mi (177,848 sq km)
Population Density - 53 people per square mile.
State bird - Scissor Tailed Flycatcher.
State flower - Oklahoma Rose.
State Tree - redbud.
State motto - Labor conquers all things
State nickname - 'The Sooner state'.
This landlocked mid-western state has neither the high Rocky Mountain peaks of Colorado nor the coastal waters of Louisiana yet it is influenced by both. The geographic centre is eight miles north of Oklahoma City and is located at Latitude 35° 32.2'N, Longitude 97° 39.6'W.
Some rivers in Oklahoma are the Red River, the Cimarron River, the Canadian River and the Arkansas River.
Travelling northwest from the Arkansas border, south of the Quachita Mountains where it is only 284 feet above sea level, the land gets progressively higher and drier. At the other end on the Black Mesa it ascends to 4,973 feet. In between are hills, valleys and plains.
In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase made this US territory. Native Americans had been there long before that, and many others would be sent there during the 1800s. In 1828 the US government officially deemed this Indian territory. A forced relocation of Cherokee and other tribes followed, and then in July 1839 the survivors of the trail of tears enacted the Cherokee Act of Union which united the eastern and western Cherokee nations as one people, and on 6 September in 1839 a constitution was adopted and Tahlequah, Oklahoma declared the new capital of the Cherokee Nation. However, neither the Cimarron strip (the Oklahoma panhandle), or the south west corner of the state, (south of the north fork of the Red River) were parts of the original Indian Territory, but were ceded from Texas when Oklahoma joined the union as the 46th state.
During the 1890s thousands of white settlers took an interest in the land and wanted to get a piece of it. Once again native claims to the land were superseded3 as the government prepared to issue deeds to white settlers. The government conducted several 'great land runs' marked by a starting time for these runs with cannon and rifle fire but many jumped the gun, were there too soon, and were called 'Sooners'. As there was no mechanism to determine when someone started, most of the deeds went to the Sooners. On November 16th 1907 the State of Oklahoma became a full fledged state.
The first oil in Oklahoma was accidentally found in 1859. In 1896 near Bartlesville oil drilling became a commercial enterprise. In the next ten years Oklahoma became one of the most productive oil fields in the world. Peak production of 278 million barrels per year occurred in 1927.
Between 1934 and 1941 a severe drought hit the region and much of it was turned into a dust bowl. Millions of acres in several states including Oklahoma lost a lot of precious top soil before the drought ended.
In 1995 a domestic terrorist sent many to their graves and left Oklahoma City stunned. Protesting federal action in Waco, Texas two years earlier, Timothy McVeigh hatched a deadly plot; to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. That plot cost 168 people their lives and left much of Oklahoma city in ruin. In 2001 McVeigh was executed and his chief accomplice Terry Nichols was sent to prison for life.
Oklahoma is considered 'tornado alley'. It has more tornadoes per square mile than any other state. This also means it is better prepared to face them. Blizzards, ice storms, and strong winds have also been known to occur.
On a summer afternoon one should seek out air conditioned buildings as it is hot. In winter if one is not prepared to cope with a severe ice building up on the ground as a consequence of alternating freezes and snows, thaws and rains, over the months of December, January, and February, covering the curbs, forcing one to navigate on the roadways by gauging position against signposts and buildings (especially in residential districts), this may not quite be the best place for residence.
Here are some monthly average temperatures:
- January: Average High 47.2°F (8.7° C); Average Low 25.2°F (-3.7°C)
- April: Average High 71.9°F (22.2° C) ; Average Low 48.8°F (9.3°C)
- July: Average High 93.4°F (34.1° C); Average Low 70.6°F (21.4°C)
- October: Average High 73.6°F (23.1° C); Average Low 50.4°F (10.2°C)
These are just a few of the many possible destinations.
National Cowboy Museum
Since 1955 from 10am to 5pm, one has been able to sample Western Art and artefacts at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, with collections about cowboys, the old west, rodeos, Native Americans, and even art engraved on fire-arms.
The Will Rogers Museum
Open 8-5 every day, the Will Rogers Museums honour the life, legacy, and spirit of one of America's best humourists, the legendary Will Rogers.
The Fort Gibson Stockade
The Fort Gibson Stockade was built in 1824. This was the last supply stop for many Native Americans forced to move to Indian Territory. It was also an active fort during the US Civil War.
The Comanche Museum and Cultural Center
In Lawton, Oklahoma there is the Comanche National Museum open weekdays 8-5 and Saturdays 10-2 showcasing the culture of the Comanche people. This museum is committed to helping people learn about the 'Lords of the Plains', their history and their way of life.
A prehistoric volcano in Colorado left a basalt lava flow over fifty miles long. This can be seen near the Black Mesa Park owned by the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy. This park includes the highest point in the state. A wild primordial setting on the far end of the pan-handle, twenty miles from the highway, the land rises in a natural butte to 4,973 feet. Thirty million years ago a volcano stood west of here. It is gone but the butte remains.
Oklahoma in the Arts
Many people when they hear the word Oklahoma think of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical where Curley Mclain is trying to get Laurey to go out with him. There is another suitor however, Jud Fry creating a romantic triangle in this perennial Broadway musical Oklahoma.
There is also a more serious novel by Edna Ferber entitled Cimarron about the settlers in the panhandle during the early years of statehood.
- Will Rogers (1879-1935) Political Humourist
- Oral Roberts (1918-2009) Televangelist
- Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) Baseball Player
- Ron Howard (born 1954) Movie Director, Actor
- James Garner (born 1928) Actor
- Chuck Norris (born 1940) Actor
- Elizabeth Warren (born 1949) Harvard Law Professor
- Reba McEntire (born 1955) Country Singer and Actress
Sunday closing laws have been around in America since the 13 original colonies. By the late 1800s, blue laws were on the books almost everywhere, forbidding activities like playing baseball or changing wagon wheels on Sunday. The US Supreme Court upheld blue laws as constitutional in a 1961 case, giving discretion to the states. Nevertheless, most states repealed the laws throughout the next 30 years, despite protests from Christians that the laws limited alcohol abuse and maintained the moral basis of the country. In the eight states that still have state-wide blue laws, numerous exceptions greatly decrease their effect. Blue laws fell because they became politically untenable, said Bradley Jacob, associate law professor at Regent University. Not only did non-Christians find them unfair, but even Christians found them silly, archaic, and legalistic.2Oklahoma by Oscar Hammerstein II.3This was mainly accomplished by using the Curtis Act.