For the first time in a long time, I had no solid plans for the Fourth of July. Growing up, I always went to Pawhuska to spend the day at my grandparents’ place in the country. I have many fond memories of fireworks, badminton, and playing grandma’s Nintendo. Although I went out to Broken Arrow the night of the 3rd to celebrate Independence Day with my mom, brother, and a whole host of Mom’s friends I had nothing solid for the ACTUAL 4th. So, what did I do? I took a road trip!
I didn’t feel like driving all over creation like I did last weekend, so I opted for a place a lot closer: the Winganon Space Capsule. I thought it fit into the patriotic theme somewhat and it’s pure Oklahoma kitsch. A cement mixer crashed near Oolagah, Oklahoma back in 1959; although the truck was hauled away, the mixer bit itself was left due to the weight of the hardening concrete. It’s sat next to the road ever since. Over the last fifty years it’s been painted a few times as a roadside attraction, with the latest incarnation mimicking a lost NASA capsule. It’s just off Highway 169 before you get to Nowata. Samantha and I arrived just as someone else was leaving; it was heartening to see this Oklahoma oddity still getting some attention.
Once my camera was satisfied, I thought it might be nice to revisit Nowata. I hadn’t been in many years and my love of small towns has grown exponentially since then. On the way, I took a gravel road off the highway to see if I could find another relic, and I was successful. The Diamond Point Schoolhouse was built in 1919 and currently sits at a gravel crossroads, surrounded by prairie farmland. It’s not hard to picture it back when it was built, especially since it was restored in 1996. There’s an old slide, merry-go-round, teeter-totters, and a set of swings. The old boys and girls rooms sit on the edge of the property, home to more wasps than I cared to count. Inside the schoolhouse are old desks, and I discovered that the city of Nowata still uses it to show modern schoolkids what the classroom was like back in the day.
After Diamond Point, we drove up to Nowata and looked around downtown. It was pretty quiet, and soon we were back down the highway to Tulsa. As always, my head is on a swivel when I’m driving, and I noticed a small sign that said, ‘Will Rogers Birthplace’ just after we passed through Talala. I turned around and headed down the country highway for a few miles until we arrived at the house where Will Rogers grew up. It’s still on a working ranch and overlooks Oolagah Lake. A looped audio recording by Will Rogers, Jr gave us the history of the place while we walked the grounds and toured the interior of the house. It was left as it was, complete with furniture and other accoutrements. Once we were back outside, we heard some tiny bleating from the barn and learned that baby goats had just been born the day before…which made this place, too, easy to picture in the past.
It was a much more productive trip than I expected, and Samantha and I were both happy with the day’s journey. We ended up spending the evening of July 4th in Broken Arrow once more, enjoying ice cream and fireworks with Mom and Tyler. What a great day!