"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Why don't we call the other, "Non truth"?

Good writing is good writing. I love writing, and reading "truth."
Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, wasn't fiction. It was truth.

Weekly newspapers are called "non-dailies." Why not call dailies, "Non-weeklies"?

So is John McPhee, and sometimes I get close, as with "Losing my right arm."


Watercolor, 6" by 9", 300# Arches paper

They build up at the edge of the Great Plains with the updrafts from the mountains.

Losing my right arm

"The Execution"
Dr. Roz Miller, Dr. Terry Clark, Dr. Mark Hanebutt, Dr. Sherry Sump

 I call this photo "The execution," taken a year ago outside Alvarado's Mexican Restaurant in Edmond. The Mass Communication Department had just bought me lunch, to celebrate the end of my 19 years as chair, and we were lining up for a group photo. Four of us were lined up waiting for the others, and my speech colleagues have taught me to look at the "non-verbal" communications. Well, the non-verbals speak loudly here, about people and their thoughts. I have no idea what I was thinking about, and I imagine new chair Roz is wondering what she's getting into, but thanks to Susan Clark for this candid shot.

Three office moves and other adjustments later, I'm having fun not having to evaluate professors or deal with student problems or attending time-wasting meetings or filling out unending forms. But I'm not prepared for the adjustment of losing my right arm, when Sherry Sump leaves next week.

 My right arm...

"Ah, you're a little early," I said more than 13 years ago.
"No I'm not. I'm right on time," she said.

Three of us were interviewing applicants for the secretary's job at the Journalism Department at UCO. As chair I could have made the decision myself, but I asked two faculty members, Sherri Massey and Bob Illidge, to interview with me. I respected their judgment and experience and wanted their help because it was such an important job for a growing, student-oriented department.

I looked at the schedule, and, for the first time of many in all the years since, found that Sherry Sump was correct.

She was the second applicant of the day. Right before her, a hot young 20-something had all the right answers and I was lusting before she walked out the door.
After Sherry's interview, the decision was unanimous. Bob Illidge, with 30 plus years experience in the advertising business, was adamant. "We need her experience," he said. Sherri Massey, turned off by hotsy-totsy, agreed. If we'd hired the young thing, we'd have had an office full of male students and faculty gathering like flies as she preened.

Sherry Sump had been an executive secretary for Exxon in Houston. She had a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young. She and her husband Gary had just moved here, where he worked for an oil company. She was precise and professional. And she wasn't afraid to correct me.

In my 19 years as chair of the department, Sherry Sump is the most important person I've ever hired, and my best hire.

We soon found out that she had a sense of humor to go with her efficient organizational skills. She endeared herself to the faculty because she treated us all equally. In fact, that became her trademark--a magnetism of sincere interest in people. She knew all the names of the physical plant staff, those hard-working people who keep any organization alive, yet who are often overlooked or ignored especially in the sometimes pompous, basically insecure world of professors so concerned about their status. As a result, when the department needed something done, we often got preferential treatment. Painters and custodians and everyone else were always welcome to come in on a cold day for coffee, or a piece of candy, or a donut. Hers was a first-name relationship with the staff.

Students always found a mother who would listen and try to help, with patience and a smile. As word of her retirement spread, more and more tributes came in from graduates, about how she helped them survive the red tape of the campus, whether it be enrollment or scheduling or something else.  Other secretaries came to rely on her for advice, and soon, she was one of the "Seven Dwarves," the liberal arts department secretaries. Of course, she was "Grumpy," and she enjoyed the humor.

To the chagrin of some academics on campus, we began calling her "Dr. Sump," thanks to Bob Illidge's dry humor. I almost bought her a desk name plate with that on it. To those who would protest, we'd say she did "hold a doctorate." Every night. Her husband Gary has a Ph.D. in Engineering, and she holds him every night.

She always spoke her mind, which to me was an asset, though some  on campus didn't agree because of her impatience with micromanagement or inane policies or incompetence or unfair pay in administration. Such honesty is often not appreciated by the politically correct, glacially-moving world of higher ed. In the Journalism Department, we loved it.

Not that she and I wouldn't fuss, especially the longer we worked together and became a team. We understood each other. She was always respectful, calling me, "Doctor Clark." She always asked for time off ahead of time. She always followed procedures. She was a meticulous bookkeeper. I'd ask her for an estimate on budget balances, and she wouldn't give it. She'd look it up and give me the dollars and cents.

But we could joke at each other out of mutual respect, throwing good-natured jibes at each other, typical of what I would call "Newsroom humor." One day we were fussing, rather loudly, and a student came in the office with a concerned look. "Are you two married?" she asked.

We laughed and it stuck, Sherry becoming my "other wife." Susan picked up on it, especially when I'd tell her about talking to Sherry about problems in the department or other everyday events. We could talk about anything, and Susan would ask, "Well, what did your other wife say?"

Bob Illidge and I would get to work early, at least by 7 a.m. and sit there in the darkness of the office in the winter months, drinking coffee, sighing and talking. We agreed...she's the best secretary we've ever known, and Bob especially had worked with many. Many times she'd show up early too, and sit and talk with us. I started calling her "The World's Best Secretary," until we merged departments and Charlotte Waddle became our colleague and that's just not fair to another professional.

But I also called her my right arm, and she still is. Every leader needs people like Sherry Sump around. They become part of you, because leadership is not bossing or micromanaging, but  helping other people to succeed, and knowing when and how to make decisions. To do that you need people to trust, other voices, and you need big ears. Literally,  I have big ears, and I'm a reporter, so I have built-in reliable sources, and I know how to read people and find stuff out. But Sherry has been a key part of those ears. She was not a "snitch," but many times she'd say something like,  "You might check...," or "did you know there's a problem...." Her guidance was always to help people and the department. And as a leader, you need someone with the integrity and self-security to tell you when you're wrong. You don't need a cheerleader or "Yes" person.

I attribute a lot of this to her western upbringing, growing up on the Western Slope of Colorado. Those people tend to be self-sufficient, competent, and working-people oriented. I also told her once that if all I knew about the Mormon religion was Gary and Sherry Sump, I could become a member. They don't have a perfect life, with three children and aging parents, but those problems have helped keep them from being judgmental of others, accepting people for who they are.

About the only drawback to her success was her success, because I couldn't get work done  with all the traffic outside my non-sound-proof door.  She was right outside my office, and she was such a magnet for people to come in and talk to. Students, faculty and staff would all come in, to sit and visit, or bring  problems to, and then the phone would ring. I could hear every word. Shutting the door didn't help, and it was sometimes impossible to get work done. The office of the Journalism Department became a popular destination, thanks to her, and that builds a sense of community and success and professionalism.

Her professionalism extended beyond the department, across the state, as she helped me with the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. She has been the contact for most media people in the state, and they respect and love her as much as our students and UCO staff. I announced she was retiring June 30 to the 250 people from around the state attending the April Hall of Fame ceremony. Many publishers and others came up and asked," what are you going to do without her?"

I don't know.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Love affair with clouds

6" by 9" watercolor today, 300 lb. Arches paper

Inspired by what I see in the skies of the Great Plains, including Oklahoma today.
Thank you Allah for clouds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More geezer music on the playlist

Country Joe McDonald,
Peter Paul and Mary,
Ella Fitzgerald,
Pete Seeger,
Bob Dylan

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Texas watercolors

West Texas sunset, 6" by 9",300# Arches paper
Storm a'coming 8" by 10" 300# Arches paper

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer time and the living...

The sage of coffee on the back porch of Jim and Jennifer Henry, non-verbally commenting with looks on some  conservative comment. Photo by Susan.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flying High on D-Day

It's been ten days since I took the ride of a lifetime in a B-17 WWII bomber, taking off from Wiley Post airport in Bethany, Memorial Day, fittingly on the 66th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. It was my Fathers' Day gift to myself...there are only about 12 of these Flying Fortresses still flying, and this plane is actually one year younger than me. It is a flying museum, and it's taken me this long to put together my thoughts. These are my videos and photos, as an American.

Click on the photos to make them bigger. I suggest you click on my music from the theme for the Memphis Belle for reading this, or on Glenn Miller.

It took $3 million and years to restore it, and they named it after The Liberty Belle which flew 64 missions over Germany in the war and was later scrapped. This one makes tours and is run by volunteers all. Brother -in-law Jim Henry went along for the ride and has as much fun as I did.

Except for strapping in for takeoff and landing, we were free to move around during the flight, and we spent time in the bombadier's seat. I looked through the bomb site and could have hit GOP headquarters. We shot down ME-109s from the waist guns, patted the bombs that were meant for Hitler, listened to the roaring radial engines, stuck our heads out of the open rear canopy into about 140 mile slipsteam.

The big thing gets off the ground slowly and doesn't climb fast at all. We were up to about 1,500 feet and flew out across Overholster, back north over the Kilpatrick Turnpike and over Arcadia and back...about a 30 minute ride.

All the time there was this old gentleman who just stood by the waist gun window, hands on the 50 caliber, looking out into memories. Wish I could get his story. I wonder who and what he saw from years ago.

I have a special affinity for the big bombers. Dad was a draftsman during the war, working in Fort worth for Consolidated aircraft and North American, which produced the B-24 Liberator and the P-51 Mustang. Been around them all my life.

I'm astounded by the bravery of the 18- and 20 year-olds who flew these planes into combat. Nothing between you but a thin metal skin. No pressurization of insulation at 20,000 feet. Flak and fighters trying to shoot you down. Out of more than 14,000 B-17's made, more than 4,000 were shot down. Ten crew members each. If you want to come close to their experience, watch the Movie "The Memphis Belle."

They are many of of the reasons I'm writing this in English, and not German.

 I just bombed Berlin!

Shooting down Nazi ME109s from the waist 50 caliber.
It's breezy up here at 140 mph plus, and the canopy open, 
and look at that huge tail in the background.

The nose view,inside and out.
The bomb bay...special delivery for Hitler, looking back from the cockpit and front of plane to the rear where the belly turret, waist gunners, navigator and others were stationed. Yes, you walk along the narrow steel path to get from front to back, and you can see sky through the body where the bomb bay doors open below you.
Brother-in-law Jim Henry by the waist gun where we shot down those Nazis!
Me in front of the business end of the lady, where we bombed the GOP and Nazis!
At the end of the day, portrait of a lady and a fighter.

This was the wonderful sound and motion of those wonderful engines, over Lake Arcadia. I wish I could do this for a living, full time.

And to remind us, that in spite of boyish excitement of the day, this really matters. July 4 is coming up. It's not just a three day weekend.

James Oliver Curwood

Check the post at The Write Stuff:  http://okieprof.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 14, 2010

Art from life at the Cowboy Hall of Fame

One of the joys in life is covering the Prix de West at the national Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for the magazine, Persimmon Hill.

This year's assignment included Saturday's sculpture demonstration by Canadian Richard Loffler, who prefers to sculpt from life. Thanks to the Comanche Nation, two eagles were brought for him to consider, and he chose the beautiful Ornate Hawk Eagle from Peru's Amazon forests.

I've got loads of notes for the story, but I brought my camera, and what a treat! More stories and photos of this event soon.

Shiva and Troy
Sculptor Richard Loffler gets up close
Working from scratch to a work of art
Eagle Eye.
 Art is amazing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Journalism and art...what a treat

I'm covering the Prix de West art weekend at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum today and tomorrow. Two articles for the magazine Persimmon Hill.

I think I'm in heaven, mixing journalism and art. This morning's assignment was covering Dr. Bob Pickering, senior curator of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa and a forensic anthropologist, talking about the art of the bison through the ages.

Did you know that the oldest art in America is from Oklahoma? A lighting slash painted on a 9,000-year-old buffalo skull found at the Cooper kill site in northwest Oklahoma!

And tomorrow I cover Canadian Richard Loffler,  wildlife sculptor. He will be demonstrating sculpting wildlife from life, outdoors, and he's using a live eagle.

By the way, this year's art continues to be magnificent. My favorite is by  Greg Beecham of Wyoming. It's a magnificent 30" by 50" oil on linen of four white wolves at full run through the snow, chasing prey. "The Chase." The wolves are alive. Everybody I saw looking at  the painting said what I did: "Wow!"

And then there are more watercolors than before. I don't use the word awesome. But this is awesome--it fills you with awe and makes you feel good. This is the 37th annual show, and the largest so far, with 356 paintings, drawings a d sculptures from 110 artists.

Go see it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New geezer music?

Ports of Call, Grand Canyon Suite, Bolero...why?

Geezer music, how come?

How does a song or movie get on a Geezer list?

Depends on the Geezer, but like anyone, I suspect, they all have to do with memories.
Some ideas on my current playlist on this blog.
  • Paul Simon, and Garfunkel for that matter, "Still Crazy" a long time favorite that reminds me of special times and people. Of course, I ought to have Sounds of Silence, Kodachrome, Scarborough Fair, and more from them.
  •  Ghost Riders in the Sky, so free, s much rhythm, from watching the clouds of the Great Plains.
  • "Jackson" by John and June Cash...how can you not love it, especially June's throaty, earthy singing, and what a couple?
  • Blues Brothers, anything, what a beat, what dancing, what acting--makes you want to dance! And of course "Rawhide!" brings back a great TV series with a  young Clint  Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, heading cattle up the Chisholm Trail.
  • Glenn Miller, "In the mood." Brings back an era of music that had just passed when I was growing up, and it's fresh in my mind now that I've just flown in a WWII B-17.
  • "Amazing Grace." Of course it fits in one of my favorite movies, Memphis Bell."And the bagpipe version in Brave Heart. I've also heard it in StarTrek, but most of all it just brings deep emotion--one of two songs sung at my Mom's funeral.
  • "Victory in Jesus." The other song at her funeral.  
  • "Satisfaction." Jagger is my age. The comparisons end there.
  • "A white sport coat." A favorite since when I had a white sport coat and dated  beautiful Betty Jean Simmons, with long honey-blonde hair.
  • "Don't Be Cruel." Young Elvis, when we were dancing away in the evenings in our neighborhood.
  • "Red River Valley." Lived there a long time. Friends cringe when I threaten to sing it, or anything else for that matter. 
  • "Shane." One of the best movies ever, just ask Woody Allen. I saw it, and the Tetons for the first time. Music to make you want to travel.
  • "Do Not Forsake Me." The masterpiece High Noon with Gary Cooper. Camera techniques and acting far ahead of its time in perhaps the best Western ever.
  • Patsy Cline. "Crazy." What a voice, what yearning romance.
  • "The Yellow Rose of Texas." "The Bonnie Blue Flag." "Dixie." Texas fight son. Aggie War  Hymn. Genetic Texas runs deep in my blood.
  • "Napalm in the Morning." Favorite quote, from a favorite movie "Apocalypse Now," based on my favorite book, "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. My editing students know this phrase well.
  • Harry Potter theme. Great music to go with great movies that go with great books. I've read them all. Have you?
  • "Rainy Night in Georgia." A favorite dancing song for Terry and Susan.
  • "Oklahoma." Duh.

Geezer music?

What is "geezer" music?

Pat Gilliland had to ask. Hmmm.

Sitting in class yesterday as we fiddled around putting music on our blogs, I kept noting I'd never heard of  a lot of the songs, much less musicians,  going up on my students' blogs. 

Then I started putting some up on my play list, and also noted the selections were causing quite a bit of humor among the students.

Of course, it might have been the combination of me trying to swing to "In the Mood," and sing "Do Not Forsake Me," or "Don't Be Cruel,"  or "Still Crazy." And after I'd mentioned I liked Heavy D and the Boys' "Black Coffee," and The Spice Girls, I think I lost any semblance of seriousness from students.

So it occurs to me, as a geezer, that any music I might like is probably geezer music. You know that's true when you consider Paul Simon and Mick Jagger and the Blues Brothers as recent. 

At least I got the theme from Harry Potter in there!

Now pardon me while I look for Martin Luther's original score for "How Firm a Foundation."

Journalist extraordinaire!!

My autographed photo of Helen Thomas, when she visited here a few years ago.

Now she's had to resign because she dared express her opinions about the Mid-East conflicts. If she'd said to get all the Palestinians out of Palestine, she'd still have her job. But you can't criticize Israel in this country.

Helen Thomas is a living tribute to what journalism should be in America, and it tells you a lot about the sad state of journalism in this country that journalism can't tolerate a woman of such power and talent.  Protected by the First Amendment, but afraid to protect the First Amendment and live by it!  No wonder Americans don't have much use for traditional, yet spineless, journalism any more.

She's 90 years old and earned the right to say anything she wants.

Helen, you are welcome to talk to my journalism students anytime. They need you, and American journalism needs you.  Thank you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Great students and music

Wish you could meet allmy blogging students...who are teaching me. One of the Kelsie Morris, has helped in numerous ways, including adding this music to the blog.

Other than she has been to Denali and I haven't, she's special.

Check the music on my sidebar...

And there's music here for everyone, pick and choose

and for my other students' posts, check The Write Stuff  http://okieprof.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Off we go, thanks U-Tube

This is from UTube...first person update later today.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Here it is, a salute to freedom and courage

Thanks to Craig for the photo!

"B-17," I yelled!

We were headed north from the house on errands, and there it was, big silver tail, silver lumbering across the hot and free Oklahoma sky. Straight wings. A long way off. It had to be a B-17.

My wife Susan thought something was wrong when I yelled it. I almost had a wreck trying to follow it rather than watching the road.

I'm used to the big AWACs jets sliding across the sky, slow for jet fighters but still faster than this. I recognized it immediately. That's what happens when you grow up in the aftermath of WWII.

I thought it was here for the air show, but that's two weeks away. Then I came home from more errands and Susan had its photo on her screensaver, thanks to UCO colleague Craig Beuchaw, who took its photo and posted it on facebook, asking how many other folks had a B-17 fly over the house.

Thanks to him, and others, and a website, I found out it's at Wiley Post airport today and tomorrow, "The Liberty Belle," one of only a few B-17's still flying.
Oh for a ride in it. My brother Jerry rode in one several years ago, and it cost $300 then. Now it costs $430--which helps maintain the historic aircraft that helped keep you and me from having to speak German.
I can't afford it, but I don't think  can afford not to. Here's the website, and you get to view videos as well.

The last time I saw a B-17 was many years ago in Memphis, which had displayed The Memphis Belle of movie fame. Memphis has lost that Belle to Ohio for lack of support.

This is the "Flying Fortress," so well armed that it did well against Germany, and was famous for getting its 10 man crew home safely even when badly damaged. Of more than 12,000 build, 4,700 were shot down. Only 47 weren't scrapped at the end of the war, and today, only 14 fly.

Go see it. I will, and I know I'll cry.

History of the aircraft when I was 9 months old, safe in my bed in Dallas, Texas, from the website:
WWII crew photo for Liberty BelleOn September 9, 1944 the 390th Bomb Group attacked a target in Dusseldorf, Germany and suffered its second largest single mission loss of the war. Over the target just prior to bomb release, one of the low squadron B-17s was hit in the Bomb bay by flak. The 1000 lb. bombs exploded and nine of the twelve aircraft in the squadron were instantly destroyed or knocked out of formation.

Six of the nine went down over the target, one flew two hours on a single engine and landed at Paris, another "crippled plane" landed in Belgium and the other struggled back to its home base and landed long after the other thirty nine B-17s had returned from the mission. The one that came home was "Liberty Belle", she went on to complete 64 combat missions before being salvaged on February 18, 1945.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A new blog

It's called The Write Stuff and it's for my blogging students and anyone else who wants to talk about writing or blogging. Your comments, suggestions, advice  and content are welcome. http://okieprof.blogspot.com