Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh for Two

This is both frustrating and extremely disappointing, but to keep things in perspective, compared with what folks are dealing with along the East Coast, this is a non-occurrence.

We’ve lived here for five years, but it wasn’t until the canoe was on the truck, the gear was loaded, and the Corps of Engineer maps and atlases were in the map case, that the problem would rear its head. Three hours before we were due to pull out of the drive, Jean discovered a problem with an electrical circuit. It wasn’t working, then it was intermittent, then off again. Having looked forward to this trip for so long, and being anxious to get on with it, I decided to just turn the circuit off and deal with it on my return. We were going.

A couple swans and a mallard at the Will Rogers State University, Claremore, OK.
As we drove toward Catoosa, OK, my decision haunted me. I didn’t know what the problem was; I didn’t know where it was; and I didn’t know if turning the circuit off solved the problem. We arrived at the Microtel near the junction of I-44 and historic U.S. Rt. 66, just a few miles from my launch at Rogers Point. I don’t like gambling with electrical problems, so my mind continued to work overtime. I didn’t get to sleep until 3 a.m., and was awake again at 5:30. When Jean woke up, I told her we were heading home. To keep it from turning into a busted trip, Jean suggested shifting it into a road trip and visiting one of the local sights. We decided to visit the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. On the way, I drove into Rogers Point Park so she could see the creek and Verdigris River where I would have put in, and then continued on to Claremore.

One of a large collection of original art featuring Will Rogers.
Will Rogers became known as the New Mark Twain for both his American humor and extensive writings. The memorial would befit a president. It is built of local limestone on a 20-acre hill overlooking Claremore, and houses Will Rogers writings, recordings of his speeches, his 71 movies, photographs, artifacts and memorabilia from his roping lariats and saddles to the clothes he wore and items from his pockets when the plane crashed in Pt. Barrow, Alaska, and took his life along with famed pilot Wiley Post. Rogers purchased the land in 1911 to be the site of his retirement home. His family donated it to the State of Oklahoma, and the museum opened in 1938, three years after his death.

Will Rogers riding "Soapsuds" before the Memorial Museum.  Directly behind
the statue is the gate to the family burial vault where Will Rogers and family are located.
His boyhood home is located only 20 miles north of the memorial, and was where he first began to learn the rope tricks that would begin his fame. His roping lessons came from a freed slave on the farm. From the farm, he worked as a cow hand in South America, joined Wild West shows and the circus, went into vaudeville, the Ziegfeld Follies, began to get movie contracts, wrote daily columns for 600 newspapers across the country, became a political humorist, had a regular radio program, and the list goes on. His fame became so widespread that he was nominated for president at the Democratic Convention in 1932, but lost the nomination to Franklin Roosevelt on the fourth ballot.

Looking across the front lawn and valley, above Claremore.
In the museum is a statue of Rogers, a casting from the original located in the Statuary Hall of the capitol, where his statue is located to look toward the House of Representatives so he “can keep an eye on Congress.” Standing next to his statue and looking out the glass doors and across the front lawn, you see the sunken gardens and another statue of Rogers on his horse Soapsuds. Directly next to the statue of Will and Soapsuds is the entrance to the crypt under the sunken gardens where Will Rogers, his wife, Betty, some of their children and other family members are interred.

A look out the front door reveals Will and Soapsuds on their last ride.
By the time we finished the visit of the museum, we decided not to make the run up to his boyhood home and ranch, as we still had nearly a four-hour drive home. After a 381-mile run, we returned home with dry paddles. If you happen through Oklahoma, I’d recommend a visit to the memorial museum. Be sure to see the roping movie. Will Rogers still holds the Guinness World Record for being the only man in history to successfully rope a running horse and rider with three lassos. If I remember the sequence correctly, he roped the horse with one, the rider with the second, and both the rider and horse with the third. He could also throw a lariat that would rope both the rider and horse with a figure-eight. One loop of the eight took in the horse, the eight was made and the second loop captured the rider, all while the horse and rider were running past. And I promise not to mention the Arkansas River again until its done.



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