"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Okies at Heaven's Bar

"Who's that guy in the overalls, down at the end of the bar?"
"Oh, that's Henry Bellmon."
"I thought you said there weren't many politicians up here?"
"Right, but Bellmon was so honest, with himself and others, he was never in doubt. God likes his plain speaking, so unlike most politicians."

"Say, I need another drink, What's the speciality of the house?"
"God's own cocktail, The Holy Spirit."
"Oh yeah, I'll have a double."
"One at a time is all you can say grace over, believe me."

"Bellmon was from Oklahoma. Hard to believe. Any other Okies up here?"
"Lots of them, because so many of them suffered so much--"red state" to the contrary--you know, a poor state, redskins and rednecks. Trail of Tears and Dust Bowl. Coming from Oklahoma, most of them had been through enough hell on earth."

"Speaking of ...Any Indians up here?"
"See the guy down there with the pipe? Sequoyah. Next to him in gray is Stan Watie, and then there's Quanah Parker and Geronimo just to the left."

"What?  Watie fought for the Confederacy, and Parker and Geronimo, didn't they do some pretty bad things to white folks?"
"So. What makes you think white folks are special? Besides, God has a special place in his heart for rebels, those who go up against the vested interests. He loves their passion. Stop and think--most folks in your old world aren't white. Ever wonder who made it that way, and why?  You guys can ruin a neighborhood pretty quickly. All that  mixed blood is one of the reasons God loves Oklahoma, plus all the immigrants. He really identifies with illegal aliens--going all the way back to Abraham and the Jews."

"Uh, who's the guy with the rope, joking with the guy with the patch, and telling stories to the guy with the cigarette?"
"You are slow, aren't you? That's Will Rogers. Don't know what we'd do without his humor. God steals it all the time. And Wiley Post...he loves flying at this high altitude without oxygen."
"And the other guy?"
"John Steinbeck."
"But he's not an Okie."
"He's not?  How could he not be an Okie and write Grapes of Wrath?  He's an honorary Okie for sure."
"According to who?"
"Him."
"Who?"
"The Big Guy."
"Oh. And who's the guy with the guitar and cigarette?"
"That's Woody Guthrie."
"He was a Commie."
"Commie, smommie, mommie. I told you God like's rebels, and besides, God loves his music. Hums it all eternity long."
"Those two women?"
"Angie Debo and Clara Luper...again, it's the suffering thing."
"Who's the tall, stately, guy."
"Bud Wilkinson...always a gentleman...rare for college football coaches, though I hear God's reserved  a place for Eddie Sutton."
"Sutton? But he had all those problems...."
"'Problems'? You mean sins? Faults? You know anybody who doesn't have 'problems'?
"Uh, no, but ... "
"No 'buts' with God. About the only people I've heard Him get disgusted with are those who think they're holy, who refuse to associate with people who have 'problems,' as you call it."

"Any other politicians?"
"See the two short guys at the table over there? Carl Albert and Marion Opala. Those two white cowboy hats on the table? God's reserved that table for George and Donna Nigh--but that's about it for politicians."
"What about all those religious right politicians in the state?"
"Like I said,  that's about it for politicians."

"That's a scraggledy looking group over there."
"Just Okies, most of them you never heard of. Good people who lived through hard times and good, and tried to do their best. God likes Okies because so many of them are just friendly, down to earth --as you might say."

"That's quite a mixed  group over at that table. Who are they?"
"Oh, some small town newspaper people and journalism professors, among others--Ralph Sewell, Carter Bradley, Ned Hockman, Harry Heath, Ray Tassin, Larry Hammer..."
"What? Tassin? He was one of the most profane ... "
"So?"
"I mean taking God's name in vain..."
"Whoa! Don't ever say that to God, unless you want to make him really mad and cause a hurricane. Cussing isn't taking His name in vain. It's all those people--especially preachers and politicians--who quote God to make money or get elected or scam people or start wars in His name. That's taking His name in vain."
"Uh, that's not preached in churches."
"Of course not. You see any churches up here? Hear any doom and gloom sermons up here? Notice how happy people are up here? No coincidence."
"Ok, ok. Who's the tall guy with dark hair at that table?"
"That's Walt Radmilovich?"
"You let PR people in?"
"A few, but not TV weathermen."

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