Day 4: December 22, 2009
Some Oklahoma
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For some unknown reason, I'm always surprised to learn that Arkansas was part of the Confederacy. I've been surprised by that several times. Today I was also surprised -- for the first time -- to learn that an awful lot of battles were fought in the state. The extremely knowledgeable attendant at the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park told me that Arkansas and Missouri ranked third and fourth in number of battles after Virginia and Tennessee. He started with a total of 4000 battles with about 2000 of those occurring in Virginia, around 1000 occurring in Tennessee, and 400 taking place in Arkansas. I haven't found an online source that identifies that many battles. I did find a list of battlefields in which Arkansas ranks seventh. Not every battle produces a battlefield so I don't doubt the count of 400 and rank of third. Neither ranking was something I'd have guessed.

There is a nicely done small museum, with a film that educated this Yankee about Arkansas battles in general and the Battle of Prairie Grove in particular, and both walking a driving tours of the battlefield. Guides to both tours are available free at the museum.

Back on Sunday, when I talked about all the happy and unhappy states, I forgot Oklahoma. At 21st, it's securely in the happy half and I'm happy to be here.

I snapped this street sign picture because I initially didn't know what the symbols at the bottom were and thought I might sort it out later. I sorted it out within a couple of blocks. Seeing something similar on the grass of the town square was enough to remind me that I was in the Cherokee Nation and make me realize those symbols represented a translation. I was, in fact, in Tahlequah, the Nation's capital, and those symbols... er, letters, were on the lawn of its first capitol; now a courthouse. That marble fountain was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Among its inscriptions is the name Stand Watie. A larger marker at the side of the building explains that Stand Watie was the "only full blood Indian Brig. Gen. in the Confederate Army". If you're having trouble with the lawn decorations, try this.

Fort Gibson is on its winter schedule so was not open today. I did speak with a couple of workers as I walked around the area and I learned that the log buildings are a very accurate WPA reconstruction but that some original stone buildings do remain. The stone chimneys were part of the Adjutant's Office which Jefferson Davis occupied between 1833 and 1835.

I can now add Three Rivers Museum and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame to the list of closed sites I've visited. The first recorded sale of Girl Scout cookies occurred in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and is commemorated by a statue outside the Three Rivers Museum. You can see she's proud to be a Girl Scout from Muskogee.

After spotting a few large decorated Telecasters, I finally realized that they were Muskogee's answer to painted cows and flying pigs. This specimen at the edge of town is the only one I got a photograph of.

Boynton, Oklahoma, lies on a north-south section of Route 62 and the historical society building is at its north edge. I noted the fresh looking sign as I drove by. At the other end of town, there is a gas station/convenience store; open but with bars over the windows and door glass. In between, the neat post office building had a car parked behind it but, aside from these three, the only sign of life in the entire town was a decorated Christmas tree in an empty lot with the post office on one side and a burned out building on the other. There were empty buildings and empty lots everywhere. One corner lot was filled with scattered bricks from the toppled building that once stood there. I consciously thought that it was one of the sorriest towns I'd ever seen. I'd taken no pictures but turned back in less than a mile. The few signs of life were kind of like those splashes of color in black and white pictures that advertisers use to draw attention to their product. That Christmas tree was stuck in my head.

I know there's much more to this town. The historical society building wasn't open but regular hours are posted and there were two phone numbers given for requesting appointments. I wish I had called. At the end of the day I found the Boynton Oklahoma Historical Society website and it is clearly a going concern. Helen or June will hear from me the next time I'm in town.

ADDENDUM: July 26, 2011 - The Boynton Oklahoma Historical Society is a going concern no more. It became a gone concern sometime prior to January of 2011 when Laurel Kane visited. I chatted with Laurel at Afton Station early this month and learned of the latest Boyton setback. The high school closed in September 2010 less than year after I passed through. A few weeks before Laurel's visit, the mayor, facing felony charges, resigned. The news that I picked up in Afton and which led to this addendum was that the elementary school closed permanently in June as a result of the district's accreditation being revoked by the state in March. Besides dwindling enrollment, the school's accounting practices were being questioned. It's sad enough when a town dies from natural causes but even more so when the wrongdoing of its leaders hurry its demise.

One of the responses to Laurel's blog entry on Boynton was from author Donis Casey. Donis is a writer of mystery novels set in the very much alive Boynton of a hundred years ago. I'm not a huge mystery fan so I haven't yet rushed to read them but I might. It seems that Christmas tree is still stuck in my head and the fact that Boynton may live on in fiction may be another splash of color.

I like following old alignments so was happy to leave Henryetta, Oklahoma, on Old US Highway 62. The first eight miles or so are mighty rough. At least that's what my notes say. There's no doubt that some portion is mighty rough but I see from the map that a county line crosses the road about four miles west of Henryetta and that seems a likely place for a road surface to change. I marked the point with the GPS and know I lagged a bit but hardly four miles. Wherever it occurred, the move to smooth asphalt was welcome although I'm sure it hides some original Portland pavement.

I cleverly timed my arrival at Oklahoma City to coincide with the end of day rush hour and my passage through the city was not the highlight of my day. US-62 separates from I-44 near the town of Newcastle and that's where I ended the day. I thought the Newcastle Motel a promising-but-look-first sort of place so pulled in. Good room, good price, good night.

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