Saturday, October 18, 2008

Back To The Future

Yukon, Oklahoma is an old mill town. Flour hasn’t been made there in years, but the mill whistle still blows at noon every Saturday. Even after three years, I still jump when I hear it. Sounds like a tornado warning.

At a small shopping plaza in the shadow of the old mill, there’s a new café called Miller’s Grill. My sister and I ate lunch there today. It’s a time warp, back to the Fifties.

Miller’s special “small” hamburger is a meal for $2.65. A half-order of fries comes piled in what looks like a bushel basket when the waitress sets it on the table. Coffee is 60 cents a cup, if you order it with your meal, and they grind their own coffee beans. Today the waitress joked that Juan Valdez is in charge of the brew. How many people remember Juan Valdez?

And pie. Oh, my. Coconut pie with real meringue. Home. Made. All that, and Little Richard singing “Tutti Fruitti” on the sound system.

I keep reading that Oklahoma is more or less recession proof. I figure that’s because the natives are naturally careful with money. Memories run deep here. Many stories of The Great Depression and World War II were featured during the recent Centennial year, 2007.

But there are more recent memories of an Okahoma crash, in the late1970s. Farmers who had bought marvelous machines and expanded operations as if there were no more tomorrow, suddenly found banks calling in loans. The bottom literally fell out.

I was living in California at the time, so I don’t know how it happened. California was riding high, with property values shooting up, with interest rates on CDs and savings accounts reaching for the stars.

Back in Oklahoma, my sister recalled today, her husband said that he would be better off if his cattle just laid down and died. Her husband was a cattleman in the old mold. There was nothing he didn’t know about cows, and he was able to survive the ‘70s disaster, even prosper, by putting that knowledge to work.

They left their farm in western Oklahoma and moved to Oklahoma City, where he started a new business as a cattle broker for a vast network of friends. He did well enough to put their three boys through college, and help them get set up in business, jobs, professions, whatever they chose to do.

One of them stayed in agriculture in western Oklahoma, and makes the weekly cattle sale at the stockyards in Oklahoma City. One is a veterinarian. One works for a building supply company. They are typical Oklahomans – family-centered, hard-working, caring. There is always room for one more at their tables.

In that respect, Oklahoma never left the Fifties. Oklahoma, gotta love it. Recession-proof? I hope so.


Kaye Barley said...

O.K., so here I am - back again thanking you, yet again, for writing a piece that touches me. Your observations and distinct way of sharing them with others is true artistry, my friend. Keep those stories coming, please - they, and you, enhance my life.

Anonymous said...

Kaye, you are too kind!
Thanks for your lovely note.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Hopefully my mother's home state, Oklahoma,is recession proof, Pat. People in this state are currently riding high but Wyoming has known great boom and bust cycles and I'm afraid that we're heading for another big bust.

Beth Terrell said...

Pat, I've always wanted to go to Oklahoma, and your post makes the idea even more appealing. Thanks for letting me visit it vicariously.