"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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fort Reno calling

Do you know what this is? If you do, you're not young. I found this relic today in the welcome center, for administrative building at historic Fort Reno, west of El Reno.
The place is much improved since the last time I visited, and I'd urge you to go. The welcome center is also a museum, full of history about the Fort, established in 1874, and continuing as an Amy post through WWII. 
Some great people have been here, including General Goerge Marshal, Will Rogers and others, including Indian scouts. It was also the home of the Buffalo soldiers, and soldiers at the Fort were instrumental in maintaining order in the Oklahoma Land Run. 
During WWII, the fort also maintained a POW camp for German and Italian prisoners, some of who are still buried in the Post cemetery about a mile west of the main fort. 
I learned a few years ago, when working on a story about Fort Sill, that the first telephone line in Oklahoma territory was strung between Fort Reno and Fort Sill.
Which brings me back to this doodad on the second floor of the welcome center.
Yes, it's an old telephone pedestal set in the wall, with a little alcove for the phone. Underneath is a hinged compartment that leans outward with a place for another relic--telephone books, and the wiring for the phone.
I remember when lots of houses had these nifty conveniences. Do you?
Oh, the photo in the alcove is of Black Jack, an army rose, who carried the empty saddle  and reversed boots behind the flag-draped coffins of JFK, LBJ, Herbert Hoover and Gen. MacArthur.
History calling! Go see it--it's free.
(P.S. Army installations are Forts, also referred to as "Posts." It is not an Army "base." Only the Navy and Air Force have "bases." Also, if someone dies, and the flag is lowered, it is only at "half-mast" on a Navy base. Everyplace else, it's at "half-staff.")

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