Hwy 152

I used to drive hwy 152 going home to see family. On my way I would always pass by this old farmhouse just outside of Cordell, Oklahoma. I noticed the house was leaning a little more each time I drove by it. So one day, I decided to stop and capture the place before it was gone forever. I’ve also been told this is where the Chevy commercials a few years back. 
Today the place is gone, and I’m glad I stopped that day to get the picture.

Learning to Climb

I took an unplanned road trip of Oklahoma when my other spring break plans fell through. On my first day, I parked my car along an old path at Lake Murray and let myself get lost and then found again. 

I then made a stop at Turner Falls. My goal was to get some good pictures, but I also ended up spending my day rock climbing (this was a first for me). 

A few places in my climb challenged me to quit. Instead, I stepped back and studied the difficult area. I said to it and to myself, “I am going to figure out a way to conquer this!” 

And I did just that. Standing at the top of the cliff, looking down, I felt so alive. 

My next stop before Chickasaw National Park was Bedre Fine Chocolate. The chocolates were amazing. Then it was on to Chickasaw National Park. 

Here are my pictures from the day. 

Robber’s Cave

Each day of my journey across Oklahoma, I think, “This day, this place is my favorite.” The day I drove to and ultimately arrived at Robber’s Cave (former hideout of outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr) was truly no different. I had very little cell reception and found it such a delight.

The day was sunny but a bit chilly. Nonetheless, I forged ahead in layers and had just an absolutely amazing hiking – even climbing – experience! 

I was disappointed to find out that the cabins were all booked for the night. I asked the clerk to take my number just in case there was a cancellation. As I lay in the sun on a rock above the cave watching the clouds go by me and taking pics, my phone rang. A cabin had just come available. So I was able to stay after all. I got settled into the cabin then drove down the road to Kreb’s for some spectacular Italian food. I stopped along the way to capture the sun on a field. 

My playlist for the drive included Johnny Horton, Becky Hobbs, Vern Gosdin and Joe Walsh.

I hope you enjoy experiencing some of what inspired me for the day! 

 

Off-the-Beaten Path

As I researched more about Robber’s Cave, I learned that Belle Starr not only had a home nearby but was also buried near where her home once stood. So I ventured off my planned route determined to find it. My journey led me to a bar at the edge of some town I can’t recall.

At two in the afternoon, the bar was open with one customer, an old skinny fellow who had smoked away his youth; the bar owner, a stout, bigger guy; and a red-headed bar maid who was busy coming and going. I asked the owner if I was even in the vicinity of Belle Starr’s cabin and burial. He said he’d always been told she was buried somewhere nearby but wasn’t sure where it was.

I showed him on my map the possible location, and he called the barmaid over for more assistance. As we discussed my route, I asked him if he really thought it was true that she was buried somewhere around there or if it was just legend. He said he did in fact believe she was because he’d heard the story all his life.

The patron who was listening to our conversation and who had most likely lived in the area all his life, leaned back on his barstool a bit perplexed and said (in that way we know old-timer Oklahomans talk), “I sure never knew she was buried anywheres ’round here!”

Before I left, I told them that the site was on private property, so to remember my face if they saw me on the 10 o’clock news as missing. We all laughed and then kind of didn’t laugh at the same time. 

I just love these slice of life moments!!!

After we all agreed that I was about 15 miles off course, I left the place wreaking of stagnant beer and cigarettes to find this hidden gem. As I found what was surely the entrance to the land, I stood for a moment at a sign that read “Younger’s Bend. Privately owned and maintained. Enter at your own risk.” 

Determined to find her, I followed the path, disappearing into the forest as any signs of modern life got lost in the movement of the branches and songs of native birds. And as my heart quickened, I saw ahead a lone burial site. It was an experience difficult to put into words. I hope the pictures (that honestly aren’t my best on this stop) help explain it some. 

“Her daughter Pearl, who’d become a prostitute and then a brothel owner, paid for a protective structure of sandstone to be built over Belle’s grave, and a new marble headstone carved with a horse, bell, star, and this poem: 

Shed not for her the bitter tear

Nor give the heart to vain regret

Tis but the casket that lies here,

The gem that filled it sparkles yet.”

Worth a Pause 

Down an unassuming backroad, forgotten mostly except by the locals who still need it, cattle graze and flowers answer the call of spring. 

A bottle lies partially hidden beneath the soil. Who knows its history. Who knows its future. All that is known to me is that at this moment we are here together. We, along with time and dust, are but just remnants of the past crossing paths with the present, left with no other option than to face an unknown future. 

I stand at the side of the road, imagining adventurers such as I coming off highway 412 as they embark into the unknown. They are full of hope, and they are innocent.

A dusty farm truck passes by me. Its hum brings me back to where I am. Clearly he’s a local, and I – I am an outsider who doesn’t belong here. He knows it, and I know it. 

But I have a purpose today. I have a reason, and it’s something I must whisper to the wind. 

I was their age when it happened. Being young and innocent myself, as were they, I suppose I was shielded mostly from the story. But I remember knowing about it all my life as most native Oklahomans would say.

Some time ago when I came across the place on a map, I had a sense to come here. While others plan destinations to beaches and theme parks, I take a side trip on my way to a waterfall to visit the site where three girls on a youth camping trip were murdered. I go there because as I said, I was their age when it happened.

I’ve since become a parent who has packed my kids up to go off to camp, trusting they will come home to me. So I also go there for the mothers who don’t have to visit a certain location to relive an anguish that never ends.

I had to go to say, “I didn’t know any of you, but you are worth a pause along my path.”

The old campsite is now farmland on private property. It wasn’t like my stop at Belle Starr’s home place where guests are welcomed to enter at their own risk. So out of respect I looked from the road. I drove along the path of the past, the present and the future. I stopped and captured some pictures and I whispered into the wind. “You are worth a stop along my path to be remembered for the innocent and adventuresome spirits you once were.”

Some may say they don’t believe in this sort of thing, but I believe if you listen softly enough, you can hear the wind’s response. Mine came in the form of a single yellow flower bursting through what was left of winter.

So I lay down in a field to get the shot, letting the ground soak up my tears. Then I got in my car to continue my course, passing another dusty farm truck on my way out.

Unintentional Journey

Well my road trip has come to an end. I’m now sitting in a blanket at a baseball game in Tuttle. What started out as just a road trip to some places in Oklahoma I’ve always wanted to visit has turned into some kind of spiritual journey for me.

I moved on to Natural Falls State Park, after stopping by Camp Scott (the old Girl Scout Camp that closed in 1977 after the tragic murders of three campers). This moment was quite an emotional one. I had one other place on my list, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted, so I decided to head to Tulsa for the night.

I stopped at the “I Don’t Care Bar and Grill” in Catoosa before going to the movie theatre to watch “The Shack.” Having read the book, I knew my emotional roller coaster was not yet over. 

I then had a lovely day with a dear friend before coming home. 

Along my journey, I tried not to take any major highways. Each stop I made along the way was unique and special. I saw parts of Oklahoma I’ve never in my life seen and was greatly touched by my experiences. 

Here are pictures from my last day at the falls. I’ve also included a screenshot of my route.