There’s more to Oklahoma than wind, slush, red dirt, and the smells of horses and cows that ride for miles on the wind. More beauty is found here than just in the orange and red sunsets melting over redwoods, or the chirp of little scissor-tailed birds making a home near the numerous lakes.
Since 1995, my family has gradually started to think of this more and more as home. Being the baby of the family, I’ve received the most influence here as far as my speech, manners, and childhood memories. Even visiting Texas can seem like a voyage to new land sometimes, now that I’ve taken the Oklahoma spirit into my blood.
Even in a city as urban as Edmond, I’m exposed to a love of horses and wheat every day. Sometimes in the morning, I can hear the whoop of my neighbors’ donkey. I learned how to put a western saddle on a horse long before I knew how to ride a bike. Oil stations bubble up and down throughout the state, a common sight. In addition to the farmers, Cowboys and Indians seem more real than just a little game the children play with toy guns.
What linger most with me are these people, men and women with a thousand charities, and a school community service at every corner. Oklahoma is the Hope Center, providing food and clothing to families in crisis, like those damaged by floods or tornadoes.
The school choir willingly sang in retirement homes rather than spending their weekend at the mall, and my voice echoed loudly and proudly off the smiles of those who have enjoyed our state for decades. Oklahoma is recycling in order to keep the environment clean, even if few Oklahomans know about the discomfort of thick Los Angeles fog.
The state’s reputation stays in the people, those who say “win” instead of when and “git” instead of retrieve. This is where “down yonder” applies to both down the street and in the next county. Growing up in Oklahoma means wondering whether “waitin on” and “fixin to” are really all that grammatically incorrect. One must be a special breed of Oklahoman to pronounce Catoosa, Checotah, Coweta, Miami, Okmulgee, Sapulpa, Tahlequah and Wewoka all correctly without a bat of an eyelash or a few overworked nerves. Even when I’m trying to be northern and proper, I still catch myself with a sunflower-seed bellyache, holding my torso and calling out at the top of my lungs, “Ow, my ABDOMAAAN!”
Where Christmas tree lights are shaped like shotgun shells, you’ll find me, wearing boots on Thanksgiving. Country songs can seem so much more romantic than Michael Bolton, if played over the soft sound of wind hissing over brown leaves on a Sunday.
Sometimes the best part of life is turning on the radio in order to listen to a woman just east of me tell a story about graduating in a senior class composed of 23. Oklahoma life is being the first in an extended American family to chase a rolling bit of tumbleweed. Quite often, I wonder if my cousins in Illinois and Pennsylvania really know what they’re missing.