I awoke late in Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle on the third and final day of my northwest Oklahoma trip, too late for the hotel breakfast. So I drove over to J&J’s Cafe for a hot breakfast and then headed out on what I knew would be a very long driving day. I would drive 120 miles to visit the windmills of Shattuck, then proceed 170 miles for a live concert at 7:30 p.m. in Oklahoma City, then make a final 150 mile drive back home.
My journey began with the boring drive eastward along highway 3. One thing I noticed about this road was the frequent roadside tables. I stopped at one long enough to show its construction, although the wind had damaged a portion of the shelter roof. Roadside tables were once de rigueur on highways, but have fallen out of favor since folks are more likely to just grab a bite at a restaurant these days. I certainly am never tempted to dine at these little stops.
I also pulled over at infamous Slapout, Oklahoma. The story goes that a merchant there was always “slap out” of everything. There still isn’t much there, and even that is in poor repair. Nor is there much along the straight shot south off highway 3 on US 283 to Shattuck. I made that deviation from the NW Passage because of Shattuck’s Windmill Museum.
The north entry into town had a telltale sign and windmill since the museum on the south edge of town is a volunteer effort. The open-air museum has over 50 windmills of various types and volunteers come from states across the country to repair and maintain them. The most valuable windmill is right by the entrance, although its value is due to its rarity more than its effectiveness.
The windmills were all used as windpumps to pump well water for animals, and the riot of different styles showed much experimentation in rotors, unusual tail vanes, and even some lacking a tail vane. The kindly docent told me that the larger rotors with oodles of blades turned out to offer little, if any, advantage over the simpler styles and were harder to maintain. There was enough wind to shoot some video of the windmills in operation.
The museum park also features a half-dugout soddy, a re-creation using the stones from one which was seven miles southwest of town. Alex and Eva Ehrlich hewed the caliche rock from their own land in 1904 and their original dugout had two rooms, but all of the rocks could not be moved for the re-creation. They turned the dugout into a cattle shed after their lumber house was built.
The museum park also has a one-and-a-half story homestead house built in 1900 for David Steinert and his wife Hannah, who raised four children in the tiny two-room house with a combination bedroom/living room and kitchen and upstairs a bedroom attic, reached by a very steep stairway, for the kids. The children sometimes woke to find snow sifting down upon their quilts, and a curtain strung on a wire was the only separation for the single daughter from the three sons. A female schoolteacher sometimes shared the daughter’s bed in the tiny attic, which also had a large wooden box to store 50 pound sacks of flour. That’s togetherness! Fittingly, the top of the homestead house had an original wind rotor which powered the water pump of the kitchen sink.
Knowing I’d be burning a tankful of gas on my travels this day, I filled up in Shattuck and memorialized the high price I paid. I stopped briefly in Vici to shoot an old deck gun and noticed the nearby windmill had no rotor at all – they just can’t compete with Shattuck on that front.
I then drove into OKC to visit my folks and then enjoyed another great live performance by Pink Martini at the Civic Center Music Hall. The group was relaxed yet energetic and it was great to hear China Forbes singing so well after her throat surgery. The encore wrapped up at 10:30 p.m. and I headed back to Bartlesville, knowing I’d be spending hours on Sunday writing up the trip for the blog before heading back to work on Monday.
I enjoyed my outing to northwest Oklahoma, but am not tempted to return anytime soon. My forthcoming trips will be focused more on the other quadrants of the Sooner State and the forests and mountains of Missouri and Arkansas.