By Robin Wheeler
Woody Guthrie’s hometown, Okemah (pop. around 3000-ish), is an hour and fifteen minute drive south of Tulsa. Sunday morning, Aimee and I checked out of our hotel and hit I-44 to the narrow, rain-slicked curves of US-75 in search of Woody’s hometown and its markers, with nary a guidebook to help us.
It’s a tiny town dominated by an American music giant; surely we’ll be able to find everything, right?
At least we found the town.
The statue’s base and the ground below are covered in bricks and pavers bearing messages and song titles that have been purchased. The Oklahoma City Federation of Teachers bought the “Union Maid” paver, which made me happy.
Someone had given the statue a scarf, much-needed in the chilly drizzle. I wanted to take it and knit him a new one.
One mural celebrated the history of the town. Not just Guthrie, but the oil boom of his childhood, the Native American roots, the cowboys.
March dreariness coupled with the sleepiness of early Sunday afternoon makes Okemah’s downtown look far more desolate than I imagine it is on a weekday. While it doesn’t seem exactly prosperous, there are more open businesses than boarded-up shops.
Our Main Street was about eight blocks long. And Saturday was the day that all of the farmers come to town to jump in with the several thousand rambling, gambling oil field chasers. Folks called them boom chasers. A great big rolling army of hard-hitting men and their hard-hitting families. Stores throwed their keys away and stayed open twenty-four hours a day. When one army jumped out of bed another army jumped in. When one army marched out of a cafe, another one marched in. As fast as one army went broke at the slot machines in the girly houses, it was pushed out and another army pushed in. – “Boomtown” from “Bound for Glory”