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13 January 2012 / M

June trip: Oklahoma

In June I went to the US for a bit more than two weeks. The main purpose of the trip was to attend a family reunion in Oklahoma. To make the trip more interesting, I also visited Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and Austin, Texas. I posted about the Minnesota portion of the trip earlier. I’m jumping ahead here to part three: Oklahoma. Austin will come later. The full set of Oklahoma photos are here.

 

My grandpa grew up during the Depression in a large family in a rural part of Oklahoma. From the stories I’ve heard, it was a life I can barely imagine: learning self-sufficiency, spending days at nearby swimming holes, hunting for squirrels. All with one or more of his many siblings and friends from neighboring families. It was a tough life, but one they look back on fondly. Over the past couple of decades, all the brothers and sisters and their growing families had regular reunions. They were usually held in the SE part of the country though so my family was never able to make it. I normally wouldn’t go to middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma all the way from the Netherlands, but I wanted to attend this time since they would be remembering my grandpa who passed away a couple of years ago. I also felt I should take the chance to see a lot of family I haven’t seen in at least 15 years, plus my mom, aunt, and uncle were all coming out from Portland.

B and I drove up from Austin, which took us a good 7 hours. I grew up in the country, but it is nothing compared to the area where my grandpa grew up. It’s a tiny town not very close to any other decent-sized town. Once we turned off the main highway, which didn’t have much along it, it was almost another half hour to get to where the reunion was. The town had one main street lined with closed-up shops. There was a gas station, a store, a couple of restaurants, and… that was about it. The remoteness, coupled with the Southern attitudes, made it a very different world. But it was surprisingly green and hilly. In some ways it looked similar to Oregon. It was actually rather pretty.

Park on Clayton LakeThe lake where the reunion was held. It was a lovely spot.

 

Clayton Lake at sunsetSunset over the lake.

 

The weekend was filled with meeting a dizzying number of relatives and hearing my great-aunts and uncles tell (and retell) stories from their childhood. We visited the family plots in the local cemetery. I helped my aunt tape photos from my grandpa’s life onto boards to display at the reunion and she reminisced about earlier parts of his life, such as when he was a chef in Portland. I often felt like there was so much family history I didn’t know.

The reunion drew to a close and my aunt and uncle flew home. My mom stayed for a couple more days which gave us the chance to spend a day in Oklahoma City, a 3 hour drive away. It was a bustling city compared to where we just came from, but it still didn’t have many tourist draws. Regardless, we managed to fill the day visiting the couple of things it does have: the memorial museum of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, and the National Cowboy Museum.

The bombing memorial museum was quite well done, giving a short history of the federal building before recreating events from the morning of the attack. They then covered the full timeline of events from rescuing people from the rubble to the capture and trial of Timothy McVeigh. Outside, a moving memorial park symbolizes the moment of the blast and the lives lost.

Gate and reflecting pool

 

Empty chairsAn empty chair for each person who died in the bombing.
The smaller chairs represent children (there was a daycare in the building).

 

After the rather heavy experience at the museum, we went across town to the cowboy museum. Everything Old West was covered, from frontier days to rodeos and celebrity cowboys. Most rooms were just filled with cases of artifacts, but two parts were a bit more interesting: a replica Old West town you could wander around, and a rodeo ring.

Old west town at the National Cowboy Museum

 

Old west town at the National Cowboy Museum

 

Rodeo ring

 

After the excursion into the world of a Fly-Over State, it was time to say goodbye to my mom and head back south to Dallas before flying back to Amsterdam. I left B behind for a day before he followed with the hope of being allowed back into the country which, as we now know, fortunately had a happy ending.

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