Elk City, Oklahoma
Sunday, May 8, 2011
It's been a chilly spring so far in Michigan. I left for California yesterday and by evening the weather had changed and spring had advanced by several weeks. Then today, leaving from eastern Missouri, things got hotter fast. The A/C in my car has been out for several years and there was nothing for it but to keep the window open and my arm hanging out, absorbing the cooler air like the turkeys I used to raise did in the dead of summer when they would lie down and fan one large wing out on the ground, spreading their feathers like fingers to lose as much heat as possible. By late this afternoon I began to wonder who'd turned up the heat outside. Careening west on I-40 out of Oklahoma City at 70 mph the air coming at me over the side mirror felt as if it had been released from under the hood instead of wafting in from the great outdoors. When I got to the motel I checked the computer for the weather for Elk City, the little oil town where I'm staying overnight. Turns out it was 100 degrees, and tomorrow it will be even warmer. The wind is blowing in hard from Amarillo and points west. And no, it's not a particularly dry heat.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to drop south a couple of hundred miles from the interstate to try to visit the Boys of Snyder--Tommy and Lonnie, George, and that other guy whose name I can't remember. Mr. Gomez has moved on to the big Mexican restaurant in the sky. Got to get there while the gettin's good. Them guys ain't gettin' no younger. With luck I'll make it for the 2:00 coffee hour, then it's on across the dusty west Texas cotton fields toward New Mexico and another time zone. The coast beckons. I'll be covering familiar ground. Should be out there by Wednesday night.
Let me say a couple of things about Oklahoma before I sign off for the night. As you recall I didn't go through this state on the walk. I could have, and indeed it would have shortened the route to the Pacific, but after reading John Grisham's nonfiction book The Innocent Man I decided to avoid Oklahoma on general principles. It made even Mississippi seem sort of civilized by comparison, which, come to think of it, might have been Grisham's agenda. I'm not sorry about skipping it on the walk. Rodgers and Hammerstein notwithstanding, there seems to be very little to recommend this state, topographically, politically, culturally, and particularly religiously. It was conceived, after all, as a sort of gigantic concentration camp for Indians forcibly marched here from near and far during our national ethnic cleansing phase in the 19th century. Since then I'm pretty sure Oklahoma has done almost nothing to redeem itself. Oil, of course, is the life blood of the place, so the economy is doing pretty well. And gas is about 50 cents a gallon cheaper here than it was in Michigan yesterday morning, but that might be a coincidence. The native sons it brags about on its welcome signs, other than Will Rogers, are all country music singers. And Oklahoma has the nerve to charge you money for driving through, as if it were an Illinois or New York. If anyone out there knows any reason why the whole place shouldn't be flushed down the cosmic hopper, let me know.