Archives for posts with tag: Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University bills its Homecoming as “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration” with a whole lotta pride and reason to celebrate. As the university celebrates its 125th year, the Homecoming theme for 2015 was “Stillwater…Still Loyal…Still True.” It makes you pause a day later because of the importance of that statement in the aftermath of a year of planning, a week of festivities, a weekend of wonder mixed with unbelievable tragedy.

I’m an alum, was a graduate assistant in the English department back in my day, my first married years were spent in Stillwater, my oldest daughter was born in this town, some of my children and their spouses graduated from OSU, I am now on staff part time, my oldest grandson is a Freshman and I have another grandson coming here next year. I have ties galore. I really hadn’t been back for Homecoming weekend until 2011 when one of my grandsons, who was 13 at the time, and I came up for the weekend. It was such a delight that I couldn’t wait to come back. I only live a little over an hour away, but you have to plan for it. Stillwater is a town of 47,000 population, but there were 85,000 people there on Friday night this year. Yeah!

OSU Homecoming takes a year of planning, thousands of hours of work by student groups, and lasts for a week. There is something for everyone. The festivities kick off on Sunday with a ceremony to dye the water in the fountain in front of the iconic library orange. America’s Brightest Orange is everywhere!DSC_0030Every day is a new activity, with opportunities for any student group to participate. There is the Sign Contest on the library lawn, which shows off the creativity and spirit of the students…DSC_0017DSC_0038There’s a chili contest, a carnival for children, and a Paint the Street night open to anyone. A late week rain washed away some of the work, but the remnants were under our feet walking to the stadium on Saturday.IMG_8787IMG_8789Friday night is the WalkAround, a night where the streets in front of the university are closed and people walk around to see the massive house decorations designed and created by Greek Students. These were here when I was in school, but it’s beyond my imagination to see how these are built. When I arrived in Stillwater for meetings early Friday, it had rained overnight and students were hustling, working with huge equipment and lifts to finish the decorations before the judges arrived at 1:00. These structures are beautiful, inspiring, have moving parts, and are great fun.DSC_0006 It was my grandson’s first time to work on one, so I was sharing his pride.

DSC_0002He’s in this photo in the white shirt. He’s 6’4″ to give you an idea of the size.DSC_0008Before one of my meetings on Friday, Pistol Pete arrived in the building. I’ve shared my love of our mascot, the only college mascot based on a real person. He was in our department to greet alums and I caught this shot of him walking with one of the little fans, who was just learning to say “Pistol Pete.” He had on cowboy boots with the image of Pete and his grandfather was showing him the picture on the boots and then pointing to the real Pete. I don’t know if this little one understood, but he walked off with Pete, to his mom and grandparents’ delight.IMG_8683While I waited for some of my family to arrive in Stillwater for the WalkAround, I took pictures, as I always do, of things that caught my eye. Here’s Old Central, the original building and the oldest on campus, all spiffed up to greet alums.DSC_0020Everything was in place to greet the OSU family.DSC_0010DSC_0013I walked across campus, catching the moon over the #1 Student Union in the country.DSC_0028As the crowd began to build, the strip was ready with its familiar shops, restaurants and bars.DSC_0027The crowds were building, the streets were closed.DSC_0042When I came in 2011, it was harder to find food if you didn’t want to stand in line for an hour at a restaurant. Now there are food trucks everywhere, tents with OSU clothes and gifts, activities for all ages. The lights came on at Theta Pond, way more beautiful than when I was in school.IMG_8686Five of my grandsons did the WalkAround. Four of them, including the Freshman, had never seen it before and it was fun to share it with them. With bands playing, people of all ages filling every street, sightings of campus celebrities, members of the OSU band doing impromptu songs, dancing on the Student Union terrace, alums running into old friends, the memories flooding, the pride swelling, it’s the greatest street party ever.

By 9:00, the major activities are winding down and the crowd can move towards famous Gallagher-Iba Arena for Homecoming & Hoops, the perfect ending to the evening. This is basically a free pep rally for students and anyone else who enjoys the noise. The arena is famous for the noisy atmosphere during basketball season and this pep rally is perfect in that space. As I entered, the students were seated in groups, waving lighted sticks and screaming. The noise level is intense and my friend had ear plugs. I loved it!IMG_8691

The evening begins with the football coach, Mike Gundy, thanking the students for their hard work and inviting them all to the game the next day. I watched the coach while the music was leading up to him talking. He moved with the music, shooting his hand in the air with the spirit of the evening. On the sidelines, he has to watch the game. Here, he’s a Cowboy all the way – former stat breaking quarterback to coach. Here, he gets to be a fan for a few minutes before he leaves to prepare for the game.DSC_0058Pistol Pete is walking the sidelines, the band is playing. The OSU Women’s Basketball team gives a 10 minute preview of their skills, followed by the pom squad, a skit by the OSU Wrestling Team, a lip sync competition, announcement of winners of various contests during the week, t-shirts are shot and dropped into the student sections, small footballs are thrown to the crowds, a big demonstration by the cheerleaders, ending with a preview of the OSU Men’s Basketball Team. It’s a wild and crazy finish to the day.DSC_0062IMG_8694As we left, by luck of who I know and was with, I got to stand on the field, imagining what a young player must think and imagining what would take place the next day. Those goal posts look very narrow and that goal line is far away from the 50 yard line. Wow! IMG_8706By Friday night, for those of you who are into these things, I had walked over 18,000 steps. And, I still felt good. My head was full of so many years of memories and pride in what was going on in this wonderful place.

Saturday morning, I was ready to go to the Sea of Orange Parade. I remember taking my oldest daughter to it when she was a baby and I loved it the last time I was here. This isn’t really something the student body attends unless they’re in it because many of them have been up all night all week getting ready for Homecoming. This parade is more about families, generations. Stillwater is still a small town and this is the best of what a small town brings to a university experience. I almost didn’t go and visited with my friend I was staying with, but decided I didn’t want to miss any of this great experience and headed downtown alone. I stood near the beginning of the parade so I missed probably the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it, including the OSU Marching Band, all the OSU dignitaries, state politicians, Pistol Pete, the cheerleaders, etc. That’s ok because I got the feeling I was looking for. I’m sharing more photos with you than I planned because it really means more now.

Right after the Stillwater High School band, where I came in, was the OSU Polo Team. I bet you didn’t know we had a team, did you? We also have a Rodeo Team. We do horses here.DSC_0068And there were other horse riding groups…DSC_0072and dogs…DSC_0095and trucks and tractors and motorcycles and cars. DSC_0076DSC_0078DSC_0082

DSC_0069DSC_0114Note the crowds along the street. There were decorated flatbeds and walking politicians and others throwing candy to the kids with nobody acting like they were in any danger of poison candy. I moved down the street and stood beside pick up trucks owned by people who came early to park along the street and use the truck for parade watching. There were generations of families, waving to the parade participants, neighbors knowing everybody who walked by. I overheard people telling each other things like, “she does my hair sometimes,” “that’s my former student,” “he lives in Perkins now.” It’s a small town atmosphere, a family setting at its best.

There were beauty queens…DSC_0075and dance schools, and karate students, and little baton twirlers…DSC_0102There was pride in America…DSC_0090pride in our school and pride in our lives.DSC_0118There were local celebrities…DSC_0109and the ever popular marching lawnmower team, doing its routines along the way.DSC_0083DSC_0087And, bands, small town bands. I’m so very impressed with the number of kids who play all these instruments in the very very small towns. That’s a tribute to some teachers, some tradition, some pride.DSC_0106DSC_0096I walked up to the beginning of the parade in time to see the last of it, the mounted sheriffs turning the corner onto Main, to be followed by the Stillwater Fire Trucks. DSC_0123I walked to my car a little after 10:00, drove to McDonald’s to use the restroom and grab something to eat before I drove to the other side of campus to find a parking place for the game, planning to find some students and meet my friends later. I turned onto Hall of Fame and headed towards the stadium, not realizing what was going on or about to happen a couple of blocks from me. By the time I parked my car on a side street north of campus, I was starting to get messages that someone had driven a car into the parade crowds and people were killed. I was totally ignorant of where the parade ended, so I couldn’t place anything. Dear friends and family were contacting me to see if I was ok. What in the world? I walked the few blocks to the stadium, taking my phone charger with me because it was going down fast. This was becoming a strange day quickly.

The campus was crowded with tailgate parties. I can’t begin to tell you how crowded it gets and how many parties are going on. Here was an elaborate set up near the stadium. IMG_8747Families and friends were gathered to eat and hug and share the day. The smells of grills and barbecue were filling the air. IMG_8772I realized most of these people, thousands of them didn’t know anything or much more than I did about what was happening. But there was a subdued feeling beginning to hover over us. I found one of my student friends and plugged my phone into their trailer (Gad – there is so much to tailgating now!) and heard the first rumors, all of which proved to be false. I had heard a few sirens and saw some helicopters that I assumed were news media. As I left to walk around, I lost cell coverage, maybe due to the stadium, maybe due to the mass of people using all these devices. I saw televisions in tailgate tents turned to the news, but most people probably didn’t know unless they were being contacted. I was getting messages on Facebook, texts, etc. I was using power fast trying to reassure everyone.  For some reason, this orange colored dog made me smile in the middle of this strange time.IMG_8790


Mostly the campus was Homecoming as usual, maybe quieter when I think back. It was a day of celebration and of shock. It was time for The Walk, the parade of the band, cheerleaders, pom squad, coaches and players walking across campus to the stadium through a line of fans and well wishers. Usually this is noisy and boisterous. Today was quiet. The band wasn’t playing, other than a few drummers with a somber march. They were followed by quiet, respectful cheerleaders and pom squad. IMG_8763Pete arrived, cheering the crowd as always, somehow reassuring that our world is still there, living and breathing.IMG_8760The team walked by, huge kids. One stopped to give hugs to the people next to me. I’m sure they wanted reassurance, too. They may be big, but they’re somebody’s kid. IMG_8766Coach walked by, slapping the hand of the woman next to me who reached out to him.IMG_8769There was no noise at the end, the parade filtered into the stadium in silence. Game Day was here.

I decided to go into the stadium early because it’s fun to watch it get set up and I knew my friends were somewhere on their way. Besides, I was still having trouble with texts and messages getting through. Walking into the stadium early, the first thing that smacked me in my heart was the great flag at half mast. It’s really true and happening to these families so close by. You couldn’t shake that image all day long.IMG_8797So I filled the next hour watching the crowd build, the team practicing with different units, the school fight songs filling the air. The team came out and warmed up in formation, which I think is so coolIMG_8803They went back to the locker room, preparing to make their entrance. The KU and OSU bands played and everyone got in place to welcome the team to the field. IMG_8808I felt curiosity, waiting to see how this was going to be handled. As seen on television, there was a moment of silence, appropriate for all. The game was played, OSU won in a lopsided victory that made it easy for fans to slip out after the half-time. I stayed to the end, holding my friend as we sang and swayed to the alma mater along with the tradition of the team singing it with the students after the game. IMG_8816I stopped at a friend’s house after the game, welcoming the chance to get dinner and talk a little before I drove home. It was nice to be with good people, Stillwater residents, though there is no sense to be made of the tragedy of the day. Someone said this was not just an OSU tragedy, this was a Stillwater tragedy. I’ve been through senseless things before, I’ve lost loved ones. I watched video of the crash, horrified to see how close the children on a parade truck and walking came to being hit. I’m horrified they had to see this, horrified that it will haunt them forever. My love goes out to those who were there because the rest of us can only hold them in our hearts and hope for their physical and mental recovery.

The one thing I do know is that the irony of having something like this happen in the middle of such a great traditional weekend of Homecoming is offset just a little knowing how strong the ties are in the community of Stillwater and OSU. This is a strong family with shared memories and a lot of pride and love. It will help. It will.  IMG_8752

I’d been married less than two months on the first Valentine’s Day of my marriage.   We were in college, at Oklahoma State University, and I found the perfect Valentine in a shop by campus.  The year was 1967 and here was a goofy dog made of then cool burlap in a stand-up card.  Little did I know that the funny valentine would be with us all the way through our marriage.




Every year, for 31 years, I pulled the card out of hiding and set it on my husband’s dresser so he would see it first thing.  He always gave me his big grin, our start to every Valentine’s Day.

No, that wasn’t all we did.  There were flowers and candy and cards and dinners and jewelry and other traditional gifts through the years.  I still have some of the valentines he gave me that I read once in a while.  My husband was a romantic guy and liked to do it up right.  He was 6’4″ of cuteness bringing in his surprise gifts which might range from grocery store roses to lovely jewelry, depending on our finances at the time.  He wasn’t one of those guys who picks up something at the last minute and, even if he did, he would have thought about it all week.

But, I can pull out that first card and remember it all.  It’s such a fun look at how we were, two kids starting out.  It was so simple in the beginning when you loved each other and just knew with all your heart that it would all work out because of that.  Sigh…

Today, we’re celebrating a day of love, no matter where you find it.  It can be with pets, friends, family and special loved ones.  Feel lucky that you have love of all kinds in your life.  And treasure it!

Karen & Alan

There are people I run across while reading or traveling or meet in person who fascinate me to the point that I start learning all about them to see if they are truly as wonderful as I’ve been led to believe.  Blame it on my degree in English and all those research papers, but I really get obsessed with digging through books and the internet to see what I can find.

My latest obsession is close to home.  I graduated from Oklahoma State University and, of course, knew the mascot, Pistol Pete.  I’m not sure I was aware that he is the ONLY college mascot based on a real person, although I knew there was an actual Pistol Pete.  Back in the days before the abundance of branding, we didn’t see Pistol Pete, the mascot, except at sporting events.  How I wish I’d been there just a few years earlier.

The real Pistol Pete was Frank Eaton and he lived about ten miles from OSU.  He became the mascot in 1923 when he was still alive and liked to roam the campus, wearing his guns on his belt.  He walked the sidelines at football games and spoke to classes, demonstrating his quick draw until he shot a bullet into a wall in the Student Union basement during a class.  The hole is still there, evidently.

Frank Eaton wrote an autobiography, “Pistol Pete: Veteran of the Old West,” that is astounding for many reasons and almost too rich in details of life in Indian Territory in the late 1800s to believe.  I’ve tried to find someone to debunk it, but all I’ve found are facts to make it more believable, even though he may have fudged or not known his actual birthdate, which allowed him to be a lawman in his teens.  He wrote the book, or dictated it to his co-writer, when he was in his 90s, which could make it doubtful.  When she was in her 80s, I asked my mother a question about her childhood and she replied with incredible detail, drawing a picture of her grandmother’s house with all the plants outside, the furniture inside, etc.  Memories are an amazing thing and I’m sure Frank Eaton had told his stories too many times to forget.

I won’t go through the details because I’d love for you to discover his life yourself, even if you just go to Wikipedia.  This guy was the real deal.  His father was shot to death by six men in the doorway of their home with eight year old Frank watching.  A family friend told him he was no kind of a man if he didn’t avenge his father and get the killers, so he learned to shoot at eight, perfecting his accuracy and quick draw until he was the best in the territory.  He was appointed to be a marshall in his teens, killed five of the cattle rustling thieves who killed his father, worked chasing bad guys for the Cattlemen’s Association and the marshals, was a bronc buster, rode in cattle drives, worked on cattle ranches, worked in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, was in the land rush, farmed, was a blacksmith and a water-witcher who not only could find water, but climbed down in the holes to place the dynamite.  He was absolutely fearless, didn’t drink, played cards, smoked, cussed like a sailor except in front of women, and even learned to play the fiddle.  No matter what you think, you can’t dispute his prowess as a quick draw master.  There are films on YouTube of him demonstrating when he was in his 90s.  Amazingly fun to see.  Here’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  He never lost this persona.  pistol10

What I love most about Frank from the various accounts I’ve read is the kind of man he was.  After all his adventures, he married a woman he loved.  They were homesteaders and struggled and had two daughters.  His wife died, leaving him with the two girls and he kept them near him.  He remarried another woman and had eight more children.  He worked as a blacksmith in Perkins, OK and never tired of showing off his shooting skills or telling his stories.  One man who lived there said he loved to show off by hitting two matchsticks from twenty yards, never missing.  Gunshots could be heard in Perkins, followed by his loud laugh, “Ho Ho Ho!” He even wrote a column for the Perkins paper when he was in his 90s.  Even though he never spoke of attending school, his daughter said he wrote one of his books by hand in his Spencerian style.  He had a wonderful sense of humor, which shows in the stories he told, some of them tall tales that match those of Mark Twain and Bret Harte.  He may not have made them up, but he knew how to tell them.

He was a legend in his own time, which delighted him no end.  He rode in the parades, which is where OSU students saw him and asked him to be their mascot.  He spoke to school children.  Listening to tapes of him speaking, you get a feel for his story telling ability, which must have been a delight for those who stopped by to visit him in his Perkins home.

I visited his home recently in the park where the citizens of Perkins have moved it and dedicated a huge statue to him.  IMG_5333DSC_0011You can find photos of him sitting on the porch of this house, entertaining guests.  Everything looks the same.

This larger than life man was actually small, standing at 5’5″ in his later years.  He had a lazy eye, which makes his incredible shooting skills even more intriguing.  He wore his hair in long braids, always had a gun on his belt, would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, loved his kids and grandkids, and never asked for anything that I can tell.  He was definitely a character, decidedly a hero, and, at the very least, someone you wish you had met.

When I see his image on everything imaginable at OSU, I smile, knowing that he would have absolutely loved it.  My big regret is that I reached campus a mere five years after he died.  Isn’t that unbelievable?  There are people alive today who walked to class beside a real life cowboy from frontier days, wearing his guns and telling his stories.  How much fun would that have been?  I’ll have to settle for reading his stories, seeing his home and other memorials to him in small museums around the state, and knowing that such a person really did proudly live in the state I call home.  And seeing his image around campus, including the current mascot.  I hope we all do him proud.


Fifty-one years ago, I set foot on the campus of Oklahoma State University as a 17 year old Freshman, a very fresh Freshman.  At least I had friends who came with me, but it was a shock to say the least.  I hadn’t really been away from home that much and I had come from a big class in a big school in a big city, but this was a really big school in a college town.  My new roommate was from a very small town in Oklahoma with a graduating class of 12.  I had a lot to learn.

Last week, I was once again on campus the first week of classes.  I’d been up the week before, amused and remembering what it was all like as I watched two students carry a couch down the street.  I walked across campus to pick up my staff parking permit right between classes, so I felt like I belonged in the throng.  It was hot so the dress was shorts and t-shirts, a far cry from the skirts I had to wear.  While I walked, I read the messages on the t-shirts, mostly OSU themes or shirts promoting rock bands or bars.  They carried their books in backpacks while we just carried ours on our hips in the olden days.

I remember how much we walked back then.  I wouldn’t try a bike on campus since you have to weave between so many students.  The parking is tight, so you walk.  It’s amazing that students ever put on weight with all the walking.  I remember the wind that whips across the campus, that wind that sweeps across the plains in the song, “Oklahoma.”  I walked in sun, rain, and snow when I was a student.  I guess I’ll be doing that again.

In front of the beautiful library, I looked up to the tower.  I haven’t had the desire to go inside, afraid it will dim my memories of so many hours with the card catalogues and hunting through the stacks or shelves for a certain source material for a research paper.  Do they even have books and periodicals now?  Is it just rows of computers?  I’ll get in there eventually.  IMG_5057

The sidewalk had chalk messages reminding students of an upcoming event.  The new patio area in front of the Student Union, the top Student Union in the country, had tents and tables for various groups to recruit members, or have a blood drive, or sell posters, and there was a row of tables with vegetables, baked goods, jewelry, and odd items.  Everybody is figuring out where they belong or who they belong with.  IMG_5058

There are twice as many buildings – or maybe more than that – than when I was there.  The old familiar standbys are matched with new structures that parallel the older ones in style, giving the campus such a uniform look, one of the nicest things about that campus.  That’s the way it should be, with the historic buildings still standing and still used mixed with the new.  Signs of traditions and history mixed with progress and growth.

The campus bookstore doesn’t really have many books.  About 75% of it is clothing or decorative items.  There’s an Apple store with all the latest in computers, phones, tablets, printers and accessories.  There are school supplies back in the back with the few books.  They even had 3-D printers for sale.  Wow!  A whole new world out there from my Freshman year when the only phone was on the wall in the hall or the pay phone booths downstairs.  I had a manual typewriter (not electric), a lamp, a record player, a popcorn popper and a hair dryer.  That was it for my special equipment.   No refrigerators or microwaves.  All snacks were from the machines in the basement and meals were in the cafeteria, except on Sundays when we went out or ordered sandwiches or pizza.  We had discovered pizza by then.

Walking back, I saw a familiar box with the student newspaper.  Back then, it was the O’Collegian, but we called it the O’Colly and now that is the official name.  I pulled one out, amazed that with a digital version they still print the paper one.  It was nice to have one in my hand, just for old times sake. IMG_5060It was a good start back to school.  Even though I’m there to advise students, I know I’m going to learn more from them.  It’s comforting to see how much stays the same, even with all the changes.  It’s nice to come back to a place that holds so many memories.  Should be a good year!

Loyal and True…to our Alma Mater…O…S…U.  Those are lyrics from the alma mater at Oklahoma State University, where I spent six years, excepting some summer vacations, as an undergraduate and in graduate school.  Fifty-one years after I enrolled there, I have accepted a job working with students on a special project and will be returning weekly for at least the next year.  This is a school attended by two of my daughters, two of my sons-in-law and my daughter-in-law.  We have ties.

Yesterday, I attended the eighth grade assembly at my junior high and high school alma mater, sitting in the same auditorium where I spent another 6 years of my life, from 7th through 12th grades.  The same school I have shared with my children and now seven of my grandchildren.  Two of my sons-in-law and my daughter-in-law also graduated from this school.  We have more ties.

At my age, you can’t walk around these places without images from the past swirling through your memory.  You watch a high school assembly and your own assemblies flash before you.  Teachers and classmates, friends from then, some gone, some still in your life, perform, speak and walk from the 1950s and 6os.  When I walk into the halls of the school alone, I see my friends in groups, hanging out before school, giggling and gossiping, too loud or too quiet.  Making our way through the halls and through life as a teenager.  It’s not even conscious sometimes, but I remember when I get home.  And shake my head at how young we were, how sponge-like in our learning, how desperate to be grown up, to be cool, to know what to do in new situations.

At Oklahoma State, my images are even more varied.  I spent my college years there, my first two years of marriage, and became a mother in that college town.  I did a lot of growing up in that place and had a lot of fun.  It was a big school in a small town and I came from a city.  The students had different backgrounds and I learned from them.  I can’t walk across that campus without being struck by how familiar it is and how much it’s grown, like everything in the last 50 years that’s managed to stay around.

There’s comfort in the familiar…like the first building on campus, Old Central.DSC_0001

…and seeing the steps to Morrill Hall where I had many of my English classes and taught Freshman Composition for two years.  My office was up those steps, I slipped on those steps in the ice when I first got married.  Oh, those steps.DSC_0002Every corner has a memory in that town.  We stood on Main Street to watch Hubert Humphrey drive by or to watch the Homecoming Parade, a tradition that lives on with Pistol Pete still walking strong.IMG_3059The memories are stronger than ever.  Walking from the Student Union, voted #1 in the United States this year, past the library where I spent so many hours going through the card catalogues, researching ever so many papers…IMG_3052I expect to see familiar faces, but I see younger ones, much younger ones.  The dorms where I lived are still there, I can see the window of the room where I first saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.  I drive by the dorm where I spent two years as a student counselor and can count the floors to my room.  The duplex where we lived when we married and where we brought our first baby home is still standing, still looking like a cheap college rental place after all these years.  The movie theaters we frequented in town are long gone, replaced by a megaplex theatre, The Hideaway, where my husband worked as manager, is still there on campus corner, although it’s moved to a much larger location.  Our friend, the owner, who wasn’t much older than we were recently passed away, a pillar of the community.  At least the Fire Station still owns that corner, a reminder of the old days.DSC_0003It’s a wonderful thing to be invited to return to a place where there are so many memories to warm your heart.  My students will keep me sharp and I can hopefully help them with my experience.  They will teach me a lot, I know.  How fitting that my last job brings me back to my first jobs on this campus.  The old and the new merge into a blur of my life.  I’ve got my new school ID, plastic with my picture instead of the paper one I used to carry.  There’s a comparison of then and now in everything I do.  Then and now.  My past and my present merged into another life experience, into new adventures.  I’m as excited as a freshman…just old enough not to be as nervous.

An Oklahoma orange sunset was in my rearview mirror as I drove home this week.  Lovely.DSC_0004

There is nothing like live football to energize you in the fall. Televised is fine, a good thing, but you can’t beat seeing it live.

I’ve been to high school games since my grandson started playing. Friday night lights and all. He plays for my old high school, but it wouldn’t matter. The youthful enthusiasm, the fans, the band, the cheerleaders and pom squads all make it a fun event. Some schools are more like little colleges with their recruiting and digital screens and commitment to winning at any cost, but most are just like you remember. You watch the kids milling around the stands, the parents cheering for their kids, and sing the fight songs in the cool air. Victory is sweet and defeat stings. Just like life.


Yesterday, I went to a game at my college alma mater, Oklahoma State University. There’s nothing like college football in America. . .anywhere! Television hasn’t spoiled it, but it doesn’t show the energy that surrounds a game. There’s the tailgating, a new multi-million dollar industry from what I can see. The sophistication is amazing. There was a set up with an attached bar with barstools made of saddles under a rusted corrugated steel roof that was the tops for me. Too cool. There are big screen TVs in tents set up for the day with huge grills toted in behind pickups, custom made for game day. The logistics of it all are amazing, but the total devotion to tailgating is a thing of wonder.

There is energy all over a college campus on game day. I think it’s because you can’t help but catch some of the scent of youth in the air, whether it’s from remembering your own college days or from watching the kids who walk where you walk. It’s unique and invigorating. What a college recruitment tool. Taking kids to the game where you are having so much fun at your alma mater has to rub off a little of your love of the school on them. Or not. We all know kids will do what they want to do, we just hope they love what we love a little bit.

Inside a stadium during a college game, you are treated to all the university’s traditions throughout the day. The colors, the band, the fight songs and cheers, the music, the cheerleaders, pom squad, mascot, alums and students all add up to an atmosphere of love and loyalty. Sure, there are more breaks while the networks air their commercials, but the fans are treated to performances on the field. The cheers and moans are not felt through the TV screen, the half-time activities are cut for commercials and long analysis from wordy commentators who have to fill air time. It’s a whole different experience being there.

In this modern football setting, you get replays at the game and updates from other games and people check their phones to see what else is going on in the world, the real world and the football world. You aren’t in your easy chair at home with the ready snacks and ability to switch from game to game. Even if you’re watching with friends, there is still something missing that you can only get live.

We fortunate ones live in a world of ease of getting our entertainment when and where we want it. It’s great and all that. But there’s nothing like going to a live football game. There’s nothing like approaching the stadium and the campus and having memories sweep over you or just feeling the excitement. There’s nothing like it. So American in all the best ways. We do know how to have fun, don’t we?


As a life-long Oklahoman, I know about tornadoes. Not that I’ve ever seen one, but I know a lot about them. Our weather forecasts are intense during the season with everyone looking for the red on the radar maps, recognizing the appearance of a hook showing circulation, just like we’re experts.

I was trying to remember tornadoes as a child in the 50s & 60s in Tulsa. We hadn’t seen The Wizard of Oz until it became an annual event on television. There were no videos or DVDs to play. The weathercasts on television were relatively new and showed maps with vague forecasts. In grade school, I don’t remember doing tornado drills, but I remember bomb drills. I think we got under our desks, a big deal in the 50s. We also did fire drills. Tornado drills? Not that I remember. There was a time we began to go to the hallways…when was that? I’m sure that was a tornado drill.

In 8th grade, we had a unit on weather and learned to identify all the clouds. Part of the assignment was watching the weather on television and learning to follow what they were talking about. Still not a lot on tornadoes. Isn’t that strange? I know we must have had them. My parents never talked about them or acted scared, but we also didn’t have 24/7 weather and news.

In college, I was in Stillwater at Oklahoma State University, where the wind whips across the plains and the campus. I remember tornadoes then for sure. We knew to go to the basement. During my first year of marriage, we had to evacuate to a local funeral home, crammed in with other people in a building built of solid walls. After we moved back to Tulsa, there was a time when my husband, children, the dog and I huddled under a mattress in our hallway while a tornado roared overhead close to us. Then we lived in a house with a basement and took refuge there on occasion. The day of my middle daughter’s wedding, we were sitting on the basement stairs, away from the basement windows, waiting out a storm.

Tulsa hasn’t had as many tornadoes as other parts of the state for whatever reason you want to hang on it. The older parts of town are supposedly protected by the river and by the advice of the Indians to build the city there where it wouldn’t be hit. That doesn’t help the people who live in the expanded city limits away from that legendary protection, of course. At one time, I volunteered for and then worked for the American Red Cross, teaching disaster preparedness, trained in disaster response. Shoes, flashlights, blankets, radios, a communications plan, and all the things you should know for any type of disaster. I bombarded my grown children with information to keep their families safe. It’s still my number one place to send funds in a disaster because I know they will get the money to the victims and back into the communities.


For people who don’t live in tornado-prone areas, let me tell you that we do take them seriously. Our weather experts are the best and we listen and watch intently. It’s a great way to learn your state’s geography as you watch a storm move through tiny towns you’ve never heard of. But, there are all kinds of disasters in life and each is as tragic or life-changing as the others to the people who are in it. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, ice storms…I’ve been through all of those and they are pretty horrific. Man-made disasters are even more frightening in these days of terrorists and shooters and bombs.

In Oklahoma, we’ve had our share of tough times. Try the Dust Bowl for starters…there’s a disaster that went on for a decade! We are a stoic people, people of the land that is grand! We stand up to all the troubles that are blown our way with a sense of responsibility to each other, to help each other get back up. We’re awfully good at hugs. We care about each other. Today, I was driving home from a quick vacation in the south eastern part of the state. The trip was cut a few hours short in order to get home the safest way possible with the storms. When I saw clouds like these…


…I knew that a tornado could drop out at any time, whirling right at me. I wasn’t particularly worried, although I did look for a bar ditch to lay flat in for a worst case solution. There was something majestic about the storm clouds…you have to respect them. And be so very thankful that you and your family are safe for another day.

Tears and prayers and hugs for the victims of our latest storms…in Shawnee and Moore this week. Stay safe Oklahoma!

Is there anything more American than college Game Day?  There’s something so unique and fun about the games…the band, the fans, the cheerleaders, the colors, the sounds…

Today, I did something different.  A friend and I drove to Stillwater in the morning.  The first amazing thing was that we found a free parking space – on campus about a block from the stadium.  Wow!  That was $20-$30 saved.  Then we walked all around the OSU campus, weaving through the tailgaters.  Tailgating has skyrocketed from a few people with coolers in the trunk of their cars in the parking lot to full fledged portable kitchens hauled to the tents staked out throughout the buildings and parking lots.  It’s the ultimate cookout, potluck dinner, picnic…an industry in itself to buy the team tents, chairs, coolers, games, flags.  How do they get cable in those tents to watch the game?

We walked to Eskimo Joe’s in time to walk in while part of the OSU Marching band was playing the Alma Mater, walked back to the Student Union, walked around, grabbed a hamburger in the Union and back in time to watch the OSU Walk as Pistol Pete, the band, cheerleaders and pom squad led the team through a fan-lined street to the stadium.  Awesome!  I got teary hearing the fight song in the flood of orange and black, sprinkled with fans costumed for Halloween and the game…perfect school colors for the holiday.  Once we got the team into the stadium, we made our way through the crowd going into the stadium, walked back to the car and drove home with no crowds, arriving in time to light a fire and watch the entire game on television with the feel of fall and the stadium sounds still fresh in our ears.  I love going to the actual games, but this was kind of fun.  We got all the vibes with no traffic.

And they won!  Good job, Cowboys!  Go Pokes!!!

OSU Band at Eskimo Joe's