Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma’

Ollie’s Station

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Ollie's Station

In the photo Michael and Suzanne Wallis at Ollie’s Station, on Route 66 (AKA Southwest Boulevard), Red Fork, Oklahoma. Ollie’s Station Restaurant is a popular eating establishment for Mother Road travelers. The railroad motif, including ten running model trains, also attracts a large number of train buffs.

Woolaroc Buffalo Skull

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Woolaroc Buffalo Skull

In January 1926 — about three months after oil tycoon Frank Phillips officially unveiled his new Woolaroc lodge at his ranch in Oklahoma — his first major shipment of animals — a herd of buffalo — arrived at the ranch. Phillips already had cattle grazing in the pastures, and a dozen buffalo were growing fat in a meadow, but he wanted more. The new buffalo Phillips selected came from Pierre, South Dakota, and were part of the largest wild herd left ion the country. A total of 183 buffalo were shipped — 120 for Phillips, 53 for the Miller brothers at the 101 Ranch, and 10 for Waite Phillips’ new ranch located in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

Phillips could boast that he owned the second-largest herd of buffalo in captivity in the United States. His 132 buffalo put him ahead of Pawnee Bill, the showman who kept a sizable herd of bison for his Wild West show. Only the Millers’ herd of 200 buffalo was larger than the herd at the Frank Phillips Ranch.

In tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody, a childhood hero, and because of the importance of buffalo in the development of the American West, Phillips selected the big shaggy animal — the monarch of the plains — as the official symbol for his ranch. A buffalo-head illustration adorned the ranch stationery, and when the herd was thinned or an old animal died, their skulls were tacked on the lodge walls or in prominent places around the ranch.

The buffalo skull in this photo is from the original herd and was presented to Michael Wallis after the publication of Oil Man, his biography of Frank Phillips.

The Sophian

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

In the Sophian Plaza we find refuge in the treetops with our books, art, and totems.

Living in the Sophian feels like living in a sturdy landlocked ship built of brick, concrete, and steel. It must have felt this way even back in the 1920s when a newspaper advertisement for Tulsa’s first luxury apartment building bragged, “There’s nothing just like Sophian Plaza in all Tulsa.”

Indeed, those words hold true to this day.

Ghosts whisper in the lobby and pad down carpeted halls scented with the aroma of cooking breakfast and supper. They wander in and out of apartments, ride the elevator, and sometimes pass through the basement where an enormous furnace bellows and snorts and keeps time on winter days. Visions of servants summoned by buzzers secreted under fine rugs linger, as do uniformed doormen who announced visitors and shuttled gleaming automobiles from the garage to the porte-cochere.

They are not stalking specters but well-mannered spirits from times past when seekers of oil and princes of commerce and coiffured ladies lived here. They recall the days of the riding stable, a delicatessen and barbershop, and a dining room with room service. These phantoms remember Babe Ruth — the “Sultan of Swat” — at rooftop parties sipping bootleg highballs with pals.

From our windows we see old Route 66 — the most famous highway in the nation — straddling the Arkansas, a coffee-colored river flowing southeast on its way to a rendezvous with the Mississippi. Traffic crosses on the newer concrete span built next to the Eleventh Street bridge, a deserted relic that serves as a shelter for the homeless who sleep in makeshift camps beneath the old bridge.

We gaze down at the Sophian grounds and take in the tapestry of flower and herb gardens, the arbor and pool, and the sloping tree-lined lawn. Beyond we see the architecture and landscape of the surrounding neighborhood.
In our bed we hear the call of geese flying low over the shining river as the moon silently glides through clouds. The breath of night wind comes into the room and touches our faces. Midnight trains whine and our cat turns in her sleep.

On most mornings great tribes of birds greet us. They lift off as one from the tallest trees and make grand sweeping circles amongst the morning stars. Outside, on the open stairway, we see the soft touch of spinning spiders in the cool shadows.

Sometimes we are so comfortable we contemplate never leaving our lofty domain. This is a coveted enclave where the past and present gently collide. It is an elegant building with authentic style and grace. The Sophian — steeped in Tulsa history — is a portal to the past.

VIDEO: Michael Wallis Discusses the “Real” Oklahoma

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Michael reads an excerpt from his book “Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation: Writings from America’s Heartland” about the “real” Oklahoma.

Ride to Live, Live to Ride

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” — Harley-Davidson saying

Way out west on a stretch of varicose concrete two-lane, stained from the vermilion earth of surrounding wheat fields, a man clad in supple leathers and faded denim slips outside and welcomes the Oklahoma morning. Faint tracks of night stars wither and vanish and a hint of breeze stirs the weeds along a wire fence. Filled with stout coffee and plenty of courage, the man sees in a heartbeat that it is a postcard-perfect day — tailor-made for a ramble on a motorcycle. A smile buds on his lips. All is right with the world.

Mindful that a motorcycle is not just another vehicle but a distinct lifestyle, the man considers himself doubly blessed. For he will not be riding just any cycle — he owns a Harley. This fellow is a true believer. He fears no evil; lives life full bore, and holds to the opinion that on the eighth day God created Harley-Davidson.

Leather skullcap, gauntlets, and goggles in place, the man secures the straps on the saddlebags, swings a booted leg over the seat, and mounts his gleaming machine — a Heritage Softail Classic. Just a turn of the ignition key, a push on the starter button, a gentle twist of the throttle, and the brawny Harley engine rumbles to life.

As he glides off in the direction of his dreams, the rider experiences what many others can only fantasize. The process of unfettered travel takes over. All thoughts disappear of the kid’s college tuition, a volatile stock market, and the favorite football team’s losing season. Every one of his senses is heightened and at full alert. For the next several hours, man and machine blend into a sweet concoction and dance through time and space.

Convinced that life begins at the off-ramp, the biker and his Harley stick to roads less traveled. No need for maps, turnpike change, or reservations. The possibility of pure adventure waits around every curve and bend. The ride is all that matters. Time becomes meaningless. Only the aroma of succulent ribs wafting from a roadside pit reminds the rider to pause for a late lunch.

The road beckons. With each passing mile, the man astride the metal-and-chrome pony is transformed into a Chisholm Trail drover, an escaping desperado, and a Kiowa scout. He becomes a young Brando, the Lone Ranger, Easy Rider incarnate. He is nineteen once again, en route to a Jimi Hendrix concert. Images of Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey dance in his head.

Through sunshine and buffeting wind and beneath the shadows and light of heaven, the rider cruises the open roads of Oklahoma all day long. Bound only by his own imagination, he does not turn the Harley around and head for home until long after the moon rises.

Michael Wallis and Marian Clark

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Michael Wallis and Marian Clark

In 2004, best-selling author Michael Wallis and Marian Clark, the recognized authority on all culinary aspects of Route 66, teamed up to produce Hogs of 66: Best Feed & Hangouts for Roadtrips on Route 66, published by Council Oak Books. In this now classic road book, Michael regales his readers with personal stories from the historic Mother Road while Marian shares generous tips on havens of hospitality and dining options along the entire length of the highway as it makes its way from Chicago to Santa Monica. All together, the book is a savory stick-to-the-ribs stew sure to please any travelers of the open road.