Thursday, October 25, 2007

More than meets the eye

Our weekend trips are never planned events. There is a general idea of what we want to see, but that is about it. We like to keep ourselves open for surprises.

That’s how we happened to spend the night in Keystone Lake State Park only 15 miles west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Keystone Lake is a flood control Corp of Engineers lake located on the Arkansas River. The campground was quiet, clean and only $6 a night. The only disappointing aspect of our stay is we listened to the heartbreaking loss of KSU to Oklahoma State called by an Oklahoma radio announcer.

Tulsa hosts the largest gun show in the Midwest. Dan attended once before years ago, but this was my first time. As you might expect, there were guns as far as the eye could see. Well, maybe that is an exaggeration, but there were many guns.

It was evident when we walked in that security was tight. That is good.

Certainly not everyone is buying at a gun show. Sometimes I think it is just as the name implies, “Gun Show.” Just as it is with a car show or horse show, it’s a means to let people know what is available. The most active trading seemed to be between the exhibitors. I did stand to the side to watch one possible transaction. It is definitely a “man thing.” Very little conversation, a little fault finding, and mostly just quietly looking at the lot. I finally walked away, sure that the transaction was not going to take place. Since pocketknives are of interest to me, I came back later and sure enough, there were the knives.

I observed multi generational groups. I imagined father, son or even including grandfathers having conversations such as, “This is like the first gun I owned.”

Often firearms are beautiful. I especially like dark walnut stocks with stainless steel hardware.

Disturbing collections of Nazi items including guns, clothes and metals were available for purchase. I passed by.

Civil War and Revolutionary War memorabilia such as hats, guns, signed pictures are interesting, though. As were examples of early weapons other than guns.

We spent nearly three hours at the show buying very little. It was interesting and educational. In some ways, it was like visiting a museum.

We left Tulsa on 169, intending to meet Dan’s brother in Olathe. We had one more stop of interest, though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grandpa and the Cherokee Land Rush

This is part one of another Trekker weekend. After stopping by Junction City for rations (groceries), we headed straight south on Hwy 77 through the middle of the Kansas Flint Hills to Arkansas City, Kansas. The Cherokee Strip museum was our destination for the day. This is the same trip Dan's grandfather made over 114 years ago.

Although not as dramatic as the Flint Hills along and around I 70, through which we had just traveled to Junction City, it was still a very beautiful drive. Wide open spaces with farm land here and there between large expanses of native grass and clean, small towns. Winfield, Kansas, felt like we were driving into burg right out of the 50s. The home of the annual bluegrass festival had a beautifully renovated downtown. County seat courthouses with their intricate architecture, have unexpected beauty in rural Kansas.

We pressed on as the museum closed at 5:00 and the afternoon was slipping away.

Dan’s grandfather, Fred, was an adventurous person. We know that because he was one of more than 100,000 settlers who lined up to race by horseback or covered wagon for 42,000 claims in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run or Rush.

Intended as an outlet to hunting lands in the west, the Cherokee Indians were given this 226 mile long and 58 mile wide parcel of land, called the Cherokee Outlet, in exchange for tribal lands in North Carolina. (Trail of Tears). The Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche also occupied the New Cherokee lands. They were great hunters and recognized no boundaries. Conflicts arose and the land was relatively unused.

After the Civil War Texas cattlemen crossed the outlet along the Chisholm Trail, driving their herds to rail heads in the north. They often stopped to let their herds graze and fatten before continuing north. Soon they were staying too long for the Cherokee to ignore.

From 1883 until 1893 the Outlet was used to graze and fatten cattle because it was easier than driving them from Texas. The Cherokee Tribe received negotiated compensations, first from cattle ranchers then the Federal government.

Meanwhile, immigrants were flocking to the the East coast from Europe, many of them farmers hearing of promises of free land. It was during this time, the United States Government began talking to the Cherokee tribe about selling the Outlet. Finally, after believing they better sell rather than have the land taken, the Cherokee settled on $8.5 million. On the day before the deadline, congress appropriated $8.3 million.

The title cleared in May and on September 16, 1893, the Cherokee Outlet became the Cherokee Strip Land Rush.

As the story was told to me, Fred, a 22-year-old man who was not yet married or settled down, participated in the highly advertised land rush as speculative venture. He wanted eventually to buy a farm near his relatives in Kansas. Fred staked a claim, lived on it the prerequisite six months out of a year, sold it and purchased the farm where Dan’s father was raised near Junction City, Kansas.

We did not realize how fortunate Fred was to have been able to claim land. With less than one 160 parcel of land available for every two that rush for it, many failed, some died.

Before the Rush, to avoid chaos, the Government opened four land offices inside the strip, one being Perry, which is where Fred filed his claim. He gave his address as Orlando.

It appears Fred traveled south through the strip and made his claim near Perry two days after the initial start. He gave his address as Orlando, Oklahoma, which makes me wonder he had scouted his land selection before the rush. He might have been thorough, but he was not a "sooner." These were persons illegally staking a claim by hiding in the strip.

While the museum at Arkansas City, Kansas, was interesting, we did not find information as to the location of Fred’s settlement. Another time we will travel south to Perry Oklahoma to find their records. Our goal is to find the exact location of Fred’s claim.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is building a new Cherokee Strip museum at Perry with scheduled completion 2008. Although we won’t “rush” we will drive our modern day covered wagon to that location another time

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Trekker weekend

We planned an extended vacation this week. Our destination was Arkansas to see beautiful foliage. However, those pesky trees decided to put their dress up party off for a while. We might still slip south in a couple of weeks, but things are getting busy around here so I don't know for sure.

Meanwhile, it was a great weekend even if the trees were still in their work clothes. Our objective yesterday was the Cherokee Strip museum in Arkansas City, Kansas. We wondered if there was a record of Dan's grandfather's land claim during the run. Hopefully, you will find what we discovered interesting.

Then it was on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a gun show. I have observations about that huge affair that might interest even those who cringe at the mention of firearms.

There is a problem, though. I also have things to do for the coming week. I am looking forward to writing about this trip but I am afraid it might not be until Tuesday night. Hope to see you then.