Our Names Are on the Map
Tulsa, Oklahoma was our objective. Our purpose in targeting that city as a special "port of call" was to visit our uncle who was a minister there, at All Soul's Church.
Severe road conditions continued to dog us in this 27th state of ours. But the last seventy-five miles into Broken Arrow, near Tulsa, were over good roads which a lumberman who was our host covered in two-and-a-half hours.
Almost immediately another ride came our way, from a Mr. Hathcock, who knew Tulsa well. Telling him our uncle's street address-205 North Santa Fe—he dropped us right at the door.
"I do this only on one condition," Hathcock told us. "I run a
paint store here. Before you leave town, I want you to look me up."
No one answered our knock on our uncle's door at 8:00 P.M. on the day of our scheduled arrival, but our little cousin had left a note telling us to make ourselves at home. The ice box was also mentioned and we were not slow in responding; we'd eaten nothing but strawberries for early breakfast.
Four huge days in Tulsa, packed full of excitement and social engagements, provided us with a complete change of pace from our highway routine. Our relatives were good entertainers and kept us moving from morning till midnight. At least it seemed that way to us. There was time to visit Mr. Hathcock and have a good visit. We found out that, perhaps because he liked us, he later decided to join our uncle's church.
Tulsa's two newspapers, The Tribune and The World, were apparently short of copy, so they worked us overtime. The Tribune not only ran an important news story about us but also asked me to write a feature article outlining our trip and the reasons for making it.
That same newspaper also entered us in a Memorial Day five mile race. Although toughened hikers, running was an entirely different matter. Our muscles were not trained or adjusted in that direction. Thinking we were good for it, however, we entered along with the high school athletes and men from the area who were seasoned runners. Win left me behind but could not overtake seven fleet athletes who held the lead.
A mile from the end he was seventh man, but missed the road and ran six blocks out of his way before finding the right street. He and I met about a block from the finish line and ran neck and neck across the tape. Win received a set of bicycle tires which he gave to our cousin. My award was a safety razor; since we already had two of those, it went to our uncle. A whole new set of muscles were stiff and sore next day.
In high school Win and I had been on both of the debating teams during our junior and senior years. One week we would uphold the affirmative side of a subject and the next week, on the other team, would be presenting the negative arguments for the same proposition. Winfield, winner of our school's oratorical contest, placed second in the state finals. We had both done a lot of public speaking. What was more natural then, than that our uncle should schedule us for speaking engagements in his church and at several of the clubs to which he belonged. In those talks we not only related adventures of our trip but also explained our reasons for setting out on this odyssey in the first place. From the notes of our talks, our diary entries, and especially from the newspaper accounts of these speeches, I have condensed the essence of our remarks. After some preliminary explanation, to set the stage as it were, this is essentially what we said:
"Our arrival in Oklahoma marks the advent into our 27th state and is the 18,000 mile mark on our circuit. For eleven months now we have been having pounded into us the lessons which a life on the road has to offer. Lessons in such varied subjects as endurance, labor conditions, economics, survivability, psychology, and human relations. It has been a demanding school. With each new experience we have been promoted, we hope, to a slightly higher grade.
"America boasts of scenic wonders which, according to authoritative travelers, excel most anything foreign countries have to offer. The variety of that scenery is limitless.
The West with its wide and open charm,
The East with its days that were,
The fragrant South with its lotus bloom,
The North with its spicy fir.'
"We have taken in many of the national parks. They are important and must be seen first. But when one can get off the beaten path, follow up the little mountain streams, discover views of sweeping mountain landscapes which other eyes have never seen, visit some of those desert wastes of Arizona where the vastness and loneliness creep into one's heart and change it—if one can experience things such as these, then he is drinking to the full the beauties of his native land.
"At first, scenery was at the top of our list. But now we travel largely for the experiences which we have in meeting people, and the joy which comes from making new friends. We are pleased that we have made nearly a thousand dollars in our work—so far—along the way, but we find greater satisfaction in the realization that while en route we have made more than a thousand new friends.
"To one who is not getting the maximum of joy out of life we would suggest that he get interested in people. Make friends; look for the good in those you meet. Help them if necessary; be thankful when they help you. One gets a real 'kick' out of doing the other fellow a good turn. On this trip, when we have been homesick or discouraged, a friendly smile or a cheery salute has meant more than we can tell.
"To sum up: we are amazed at the scenic wonders of America, at the inherent kindness and general morale of the people, at the progress which the different states are making, in roads, schools, and civic development. There is not a state which is not progressing.
"To one who sees America and judges it by the columns in the sensational press or the trend of backyard gossip, the effect is much the same as though one judges the qualities of a Ford only by its surface appearance. America is progressing. Its people are largely honest workers, striving for better conditions. A bright future lies ahead."
Tulsa was the oil capital of the world and when the time came to depart we left in the company of Wallace Collins, a young oil operator, who explained the wonders of the industry, even including points on how to locate a likely site for drilling. As he had to make a survey in connection with marking an oil site, he gave us some practical lessons in surveying.
Altogether, we spent two days with Mr. Collins, cruising around the oil fields and, at every turn, learning new facts about this great booming industry. The first night, Collins drove to a hotel in Bartlesville.
"We never sleep in hotels," Win explained. "It's one of our rules. We'll just hike out to the tourist camp and spend the night there. And get back early in the morning, before you are ready to leave."
`"Nothing doing," came our new friend's quick response. "You take my car and drive out to the camp. Meet me here at the hotel at 7:00 tomorrow. And have a good night's sleep."
`The same procedure was followed the next night, at Ponca City. Often we had taken a hand at the wheel in cars whose drivers picked us up. But never until now had we driven the cars away, completely on our own.
`Next morning at Ponca City, bidding our generous and helpful benefactor good-bye, we headed on a short spur trip north, across the state line, back into Kansas.
Arkansas City, Kansas. We learned that the last syllable of the word "Arkansas," when applied to the state, is pronounced "saw," but when used in reference to the river or city, is pronounced phonetically.
The next city on our route presented no pronunciation problems whatever. It was WINFIELD, Kansas. "This place must have been named after me," Win joked.
"Oh, yeah?" came my response. "If that's the case, then the St. Francis River, which we slept beside back in Arkansas, was certainly named after me."
"No way," Win retorted. The 'Francis' part, maybe. But the `Saint?' Never!"
Modestly I pointed out that not only had a river been named after St. Francis, but that river flowed through St. Francois County, Missouri, and on past St. Francis County, Arkansas.
Much later, after considerable library research, Win harked back to this subject again.
"About the popularity of my name," he began. "Not only is there a Winfield, Kansas, but Winfield, Alabama and Winfield, Illinois must have been named after me." Then he added, "Even Louisiana has a city named Winnfield. It's got two `ns.' They just misspelled it."
I'd been doing some research too. "What are two or three dinky little towns?" I countered. "You remember that city by the Golden Gate? We liked it almost more than any place we've been. That city has my name, in Spanish—San Francisco.
"And you recall those great mountains we saw on our way to the Grand Canyon? They were named for me, too. The San Francisco Peaks.
"And Santa Fe—another city that was one of our favorites. The full legal name of that place is 'La Villa de Santa Fe de San Francisco.' That's Spanish for 'The City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis' ."
That ended the discussion.
"You win," my brother grumbled.
"No, you Win," I punned. "That's your name."
Our reason for returning to Kansas on this spur sojourn was to visit another uncle, in Wellington. He was actually not a blood relative at all, just a longtime friend whom we affectionately called "Uncle Billy." He was the trusted hired man—almost like a member of the family—who helped our father so much during his unsuccessful year of ranching in Colorado. Now he was seventy-five years old, a Civil War veteran who had been married only thirteen years. The couple's two boys, aged nine and five, were celebrated as the youngest children of a Civil War veteran in the United States. The boys thought the world of their old daddy.
Half a dozen generous rides carried us from Arkansas City to Wellington, via Winfield, and soon we were knocking on the William Warner door.
"Uncle" Billy came rushing out to greet us. Mrs. Warner asked if we wouldn't like a bite to eat. Through our travels we had acquired the habit of going for long periods without food and considered regular eating to be a somewhat foolish waste of time. Upon reflection we found it had been thirty-two hours since our last "bite to eat," so our reply was rather guarded.
"Well, we aren't really hungry," Win replied. "But if you insist..."
Mrs. Warner insisted, and I think she might have guessed the truth. Her preparations were quite enormous.
Our desert experiences had also enabled us to sit down after a long fast and with no great feeling of hunger put away unlimited quantities of food without feeling any bad effects. A word from our diary tells the story:
"Mrs. Warner fixed us a `lunch.' Her pantry was full and she kept shoving on the supply; two eggs each and a glass of milk with some bread and a large pitcher of milk. Then another pitcher of milk—five quarts in all. Another plate of bread, a can of jam and two dishes of dessert."
Our position was a hard one. We had said we "could eat a little" if they insisted, but cleared everything away and finally sat back and gently sighed. William, Jr. who had been watching us with wide eyes looked at his mother, "Gee, Ma, I thought they weren't hungry."
Uncle Billy's tall tales held us in awe. He had escaped from the doomed steamship, Sultana, on the Mississippi River when it was taking 2,300 imprisoned Union soldiers home after the war between the states. The ship blew up in the middle of the night and Billy awoke in midair. As he struck water he grabbed a piece of wreckage and was picked up next morning, one of the few survivors of the disaster.
We helped put up wild hay, cultivated the garden, interviewed the town editor and froze ice cream for supper, then talked half the night. At four-thirty next morning we waved farewell, and headed back south on the Meridian Highway for Oklahoma City.
When our father had taken all of us by train to Texas—I was then five and Win six—he had been persuaded to buy a vacant lot in Norman, just south of the Oklahoma capital. Win and I hunted up that lot and spent quite a bit of time in this pleasant university city, determining the lot's present value, in order to make a report to our father.
From Norman our route lay due south, toward Ardmore, just north of the Texas border. Because of the almost constant rains during the half month we spent in Oklahoma, there was difficulty judging the state fairly, just as with Arkansas. It had good points—and bad. But she had much to offer. In the Ardmore library we entered our impressions of the state in our diary:
"In summing up Oklahoma, we will say that it is a very young state with a great future. It offers wonderful chances for the farmer, the planter, and the owner of grazing cattle. No one knows what the future of its oil fields will be. The roads, generally, were poor when we traveled them, with a few welcome exceptions. But perhaps under favorable weather conditions they would be fair. Give Oklahoma time and she will show us all, some day. "
- Category: Foot By Foot Through the USA
- Written by Grace McKay
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