With my home town having been wiped off the map in a violent tornado, I have been thinking a great deal about growing up in Northeastern Oklahoma.
I have lived in many places; Patterson Heights, MO – – North Miami, OK – – Cardin, OK – – San Antonio, TX – – Biloxi, MS – – Knobnoster, MO – – Keplavik, Iceland – – Tucson, AZ – – Jonesboro, GA – – College Park, GA – – Watauga, TX – – Arlington, TX – – Fort Worth, TX – – Manchester, MI – – Broken Arrow, OK – – Gaithersburg, MD – – Arkadelphia, AR – – & Bismarck, AR.
I carry with me special memories from each of these locations. However, there are some specific places from my past that I would really like to revisit and share with my kids as they get older. I can no longer do that with Picher, Oklahoma where I graduated from high school. The tornado finally drove the last nail in Picher’s coffin. But, I can go back to Northeastern Oklahoma and spend time there with my kids reliving many important places from my childhood.
I want to spend time with my kids in the creeks, rivers, and lakes near where I was raised. While I was growing up, my family did not really take many vacations. I know we took some when I was quite young because I have seen the pictures, but as I grew older it always seemed that any attempt to take a vacation was twarted due to a funeral my father needed to preach or some other unexpected happening. So, some of my most special family outing memories are not of vacations but of day trips swimming in the creeks near Baxter Springs, Kansas or the annual fishing and camping trip on Spring River.
On hot summer days, Mom and dad would sometimes pack up a portable grill, some hamburger meat and the stuff to go with it and we would head off to Dardines, or Slick Rock, or Five Mile for an afternoon of swimming in the ice-cold spring fed creek. Swinging out on a rope and dropping into the water, climbing onto my father’s back and him frog-swimming us along, the feel of pebbles beneath my feet . . . all of these memories and more are special to me. I want my kids to have similar experiences, not just swimming in the “cement pond” as the Clampetts might say.
When I was in the sixth grade, Dad went to pastor the Cardin Baptist Church in Cardin, OK. The church had a tradition of camping out as a group at Blue Hole on Spring River during the first week of July (surrounding Independence Day). We would swim and fish all week and then have a giant fish fry and people would come from all around to “get their fill.” On Wednesday night we would have a riverside worship service that was always special. After all these years I can still hear the sound of the oars hitting the side of the boat as I would wake up in my tent to the sound of men checking the trot line in the middle of the night.
And, there is Grand Lake of the Cherokees. Grand Lake is a nice sized lake with more than 1300 miles of shoreline. The terrain is such that it has many coves and all of those coves make it ideal for fishing and skiing. I never really spent much time with my family on Grand Lake, but I had some great friends in my youth with whom I spent many wonderful hours water-skiing and fishing. I have always thought that someday I might like to retire to a cabin on Grand Lake, but as the years pass and I spend more of them away from Northeastern Oklahoma it becomes less likely. Nevertheless, I would like to spend some time there with my kids, reliving some memories and creating new ones.