Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lake Perry

Buddy, my 14-ft. Hornbeck Adirondack pack canoe, waits while
a disabled fishing boat limps back to its trailer.

Anyone that has ever done any type of construction, or just stood there and watched the construction being done, knows Ditch Witch.  It has been the go-to machine for trenching to lay pipe, cable, telecommunications lines or anything else that has gone underground since 1949.  Perry is the birthplace of Ditch Witch by the Charles Machine Works Company. 

On September 16, 1893, 100,000 men, women, and children would rush west from the county line when the gun fired at noon in order to lay their claim to Indian land the U.S. Government had opened for settlement.  By nightfall, 40,000 tents were erected in the new town.  The record for both speed and entrepreneurialship goes to Jack Tearney, who arrived on the town plat in 31 minutes.  By 4 p.m., he had erected the “Blue Bell Saloon,” and was selling beer for a dollar a bottle, a price he justified because of the lack of water.  According to inflation, that glass of beer would now cost $25.64.  He sold 38,000 glasses of beer.  The blossoming new town became known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” and within short order, others hoping to cash in on Jack’s success had erected about 110 saloons and gambling houses.  Most of them were within the half block east of the current town square.

It's no surprise that Lake Perry is ringed by oil pumping rigs.  It is
powered by that huge one-cylinder engine behind it.

Perry’s second historical name was Wharton, named after the train station built in 1886 by the Southern Kansas Railway as part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.  After the land run of 1893, the U.S. Government established a land office in Wharton to oversee this and other land office towns.   The office administrator was J. A. Perry, so thus Wharton became the town of Perry, which remains as the smallest town in Oklahoma with its own newspaper. 

For those with an interest in the Old West, Perry played its part as the target of both the Dalton gang, and the Doolin gang, when they wanted to rob a train.  After one such foray by the Dalton gang, Charlie Bryant fell ill and was taken 52 miles WSW to Hennessey to see a doctor.  Deputy Marshall Ed Short spotted Bryant and arrested him.  During an escape attempt, Bryant and Deputy Short ended by killing each other in a gun shootout. 

When anything is seen on shore, it is usually just another head of cattle.
This time we chanced to catch a head of donkey.

If you wish to paddle Lake Perry, you may be confused to find two of them.  Google Earth gets confused too.  Perry lies on I-35, half-way between Oklahoma City and the Kansas state line.  There is the little Perry Lake south of town on 4th Street in the town park, which is east of I-35.  Then you will find Lake Perry south of town on Cty. Rt. N3180, which is west of I-35.  The names get used interchangeably.  The confusion could be avoided, and the names more descriptive, if the first was called the Perry Park Pond, but no one has ever called to ask my opinion. 

Lake Perry was built in 1937 as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps work project.  The lake and facilities remain much as when they were first built, which will be most evident in the restrooms.  The lake has a 13-mile shoreline, is a haven for bass and trout fishing, and has RV and primitive camping available.  The fees are $5/day for boating, another $5/day for fishing, $5/day for tent camping, and $25/day for RV camping.  Questions can be directed to (580)572-9465.  There is one small single-lane concrete ramp at L36.25014N, Lo97.33616W on the east side of the lake.

Do I stay, or do I go?  Do I stay, or do I (splash)...

I was anxious to get on the water both because recent high winds have left me sitting at home, and because the next 9-day forecast is full of non-stop severe storms and tornado threats.  I found the day to be full of surprises.  The first was the unusually high water level resulting from the recent heavy rains.  This left the water the color of tea with milk, and a visibility that only went to a depth of 4-inches if you really strained your eyes.  The water came all the way to the top of the ramp, and also flooded a bit of the loading float.  By comparison, the sky was crystal clear and blue with only tiny puffs of white cloud, and the wind was between 5-12 mph. 

Others were equally anxious to take the chance to get on the water.  I never see other paddlers with their canoes and kayaks in Oklahoma.  While on my 161-mile round-trip today, however, I spotted an SOT kayak on a trailer while I was enroute to the lake, and on the trip back home I saw a canoe on top of a Jeep.  Both were headed in the opposite directions.  Unusual for a Saturday, I only saw one other boat on the lake.  It was about a 12-foot aluminum deep-vee power boat that only ran in reverse because of the broken transmission in the outboard. 

The most evident thing for anyone wanting to paddle all the way around the lake is the absence of any place to stop for a break.  This may change at lower water levels, but I found two types of shoreline.  There was flooded vegetation that made it impossible to land or to reach the water from the land.  I did hear a sudden crashing and splashing that was obviously a deer that I had flushed out but never saw.  Where there was the rare gradual shoreline, it had all been fenced off with barbed wire.  This made it possible for cattle to cool themselves in the water, but impossible for a paddler to reach shore.  Every arm of the lake was blocked or constricted by barbed wire.  Most of the land around the lake has been taken over by livestock and oil pumping pads.  When I saw a sign forbidding waterskiing in any of the arms of the lake, I was mistakenly impressed.  I thought how nice it was that they were insuring the peace and tranquility for paddlers and fishermen.  After going around the lake, however, it was obvious the prohibition was to prevent skiers from having limbs amputated on the steel and wood posts and barbed wire. 

It was an enjoyable day in spite of the barbed wire, at least until I returned to the take-out.  There I found a group of about 15 loud ‘trumpian’ juveniles from about 5 to 16 years of age.  The total and continuous use of vulgarity, even with an adult woman in their midst, revealed the absolute absence of any parenting or guidance in their lives.  I always felt it was imperative for adults to monitor their language and behavior to provide a positive influence on youth.  I now feel perhaps the opposite is true: the young should avoid shocking their elders.  None of the group was capable of making a sentence, clause, or exhortation that didn’t contain a minimum of at least one four-letter F word.  There are nine parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles.  I never realized until now that f—k can be used in place of any or all of these.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to avoid having my 73-year-old sensibilities negatively assailed.  The environment made me both sad and disgusted.  For someone that has spent his career associating with the dregs of society, that is indeed saying something---something sad for the future of our civilization.

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