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.”