texas road trips: a family visit in early, last day in plano, and return to virginia

Sunday, March 27:  This morning, we all pack up, straighten up our Airbnb house and leave Oklahoma City, first dropping off Charlene and Louise at the airport.  Martha and I drive three hours back to Plano, where we settle in for the night, enjoying our wine in the spa as we have almost every night while in Plano.

Monday, March 28: Today, I drive 3 hours southwest from Plano to Early, Texas, not far from the bigger town of Brownwood, where I visit my Aunt Judy.  Aunt Judy is my mother’s younger sister. My mom died on April 22, 2002, and would now be approaching 84 if she were still alive.

Since Aunt Judy lives out west, I don’t get to see her often.  The last time I saw her, in fact, was for my mother’s funeral on April 26, 2002. Judy’s husband is Uncle Bill and her daughter, my cousin, is Marlene.  I probably met Marlene when we were young children, but I’m not even sure about that.  We have a great time getting to know each other and sharing stories about our lives.

My other cousin is Bryan, who lives with Aunt Judy and helps her and Uncle Bill around the house.  Bryan lived in Austin for a time, and travels back there quite frequently to see his friends.  Austin is one place I would have loved to visit but I didn’t really have time on this trip.

We enjoy a big family dinner together on Monday night.

Marlene, Uncle Bill and Aunt Judy
Marlene, Uncle Bill and Aunt Judy

 

Marlene, Brian, Uncle Bill and me
Marlene, Bryan, Uncle Bill and me
Marlene and Brian
Marlene and Bryan
Me with Brian
Me with Bryan

Tuesday, March 29:  Marlene and Judy and I sit around talking most of the day.  Marlene takes us to her beautiful house on a lake and I get to meet her husband too.  Aunt Judy takes Marlene and I to lunch at an Italian restaurant and then we have a quiet dinner at home.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll drive back to Plano.

Aunt Judy and Marlene
Aunt Judy and Marlene
Aunt Judy and me
Aunt Judy and me
me with Marlene
me with Marlene

After our nice visit, I drive back to Plano, first stopping to visit one of my old high school teachers, who, after teaching at York High School, became an Episcopal priest. Andy and his wife live in Azle, TX, also outside of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Later, I return to Martha’s house in Plano.  We soak in the spa again and enjoy our last night together sharing wine and great conversation.

Martha and I in her spa with wine
Martha and I in her spa with wine
Martha's spa
Martha’s spa

Martha and her husband Paul have been the perfect hosts.  I’ve known Martha my whole life, but I haven’t had a chance to talk in depth with Paul, so it was a real pleasure conversing with both of them.  Martha and Paul are great conversationalists, and can talk thoughtfully about subjects ranging from politics to terrorism to the situation in the Middle East to science (of course I can’t contribute much on the latter subject).

Martha and Paul
Martha and Paul
Me with Martha
Me with Martha

Martha makes a delicious and healthy meal of lentil burgers with a yogurt sauce.

dinnertime >> lentil burgers
dinnertime >> lentil burgers
lentil burgers
lentil burgers
Martha's family room
Martha’s family room

We enjoy the beautiful sunset after dinner.  Then I have to pack up for my flight back to Virginia tomorrow morning.

sunset in Plano
sunset in Plano
colorful clouds
colorful clouds
sunset in plano
sunset in plano

Wednesday, March 31:  I have to drive to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport and return my rental car; my flight out is slightly after noon.  Luckily, it’s a direct flight.  It has been a fabulous visit to Texas and Oklahoma to share a special event with my high school friends, and to visit my Aunt Judy and her family.  What wonderful memories we created all around. 🙂

a festive wedding day in oklahoma city

Saturday, March 26: We start this beautiful Saturday morning by going back to Rosie’s son and daughter-in-law’s house for a bridal shower/brunch.  Sangria and mimosas are beautifully displayed.

Saturday brunch mimosas
Saturday brunch mimosas & sangria

The food spread is marvelous too.

the Sunday brunch layout
the Sunday brunch layout

Here are four of us with our mimosas.  The bride is ready for her big night tonight.

Martha, Rosie, Louise and me at the brunch
Martha, Rosie, Louise and me at the brunch

After we eat, the bride opens her multitudes of wedding gifts.

It’s a beautiful spring day out and we pose outside before heading out.

We have several hours to wander around before the 6:00 wedding.  We go to eat lunch and then go on a shopping spree!

me, Martha, Rosie, Charlene, and Louise
me, Martha, Rosie, Charlene, and Louise

Before 6:00, we arrive at the Clauren Ridge Vineyard & Winery to have some appetizers and drinks, then we go outside to wait for the wedding.  We’re lucky that it’s a gorgeous day.

the pergola at the winery
the pergola at the winery
the guests
the guests

The procession begins with the ring-bearer.

the ring bearer
the ring bearer

And then the bridesmaids: Rosie’s daughter-in-law, her two daughters and Jim’s daughter.

maid of honor
maid of honor – Rosie’s daughter-in-law
maid of honor
maid of honor – Rosie’s daughter Blair
Here comes the bride
Here comes the bride
Rosie's sisters waiting
Rosie’s sisters waiting

The bride is gorgeous as she always is. 🙂

here comes the bride
here comes the bride
the wedding begins
the wedding begins
Bride and groom
Bride and groom
wife and husband
wife and husband

After the wedding, of course photographs are taken with the wedding party while the rest of us go into the winery for drinks and appetizers.  Then we have a sit-down dinner.  Afterward, some of the guests dance, but I mostly enjoy watching Rosie dance with her multitudes of grandchildren.

At the end of the night, after many of the guests have left, we finally get a moment to take a picture with the bride.  She’s stunning, isn’t she?

Martha, Charlene, Rosie, me and Louise
Martha, Charlene, Rosie, me and Louise

What an exciting day for Rosie and her family.  I wish her infinite happiness. 🙂

oklahoma city national memorial & museum {…followed by a mexican feista}

Friday, March 25:  After our lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen, and after walking quite a distance, we finally arrive at our destination, The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  The memorial and museum commemorate the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing destroyed one-third of the building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 others.  The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage (Wikipedia: Oklahoma City bombing).

We first walk through Murrah Plaza, also known as the Memorial Overlook.

The park surrounding the imprint of the Alfred Murrah Building
Murrah Plaza – Memorial Overlook
The park surrounding the imprint of the Alfred Murrah Building
Murrah Plaza – Memorial Overlook

The grass lawn below was the playground for the children’s day care center.  Nineteen children were killed altogether; 15 were in the America’s Kids Day Care Center.

The children's playground
The children’s playground

From the Memorial Overlook, we can see the Field of Empty Chairs. The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building, according to the Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial – The Field of Empty Chairs

The first Fence was installed to protect the site of the bombing. Almost immediately, people began to leave tokens of love and hope on the Fence. Those items now total more than 60,000 and are collected and preserved in the museum’s archives. Today, more than 200 feet of the original Fence offers the opportunity for people to leave tokens of remembrance and hope (Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial).

the chain link fence that was the site's first memorial
the chain link fence that was the site’s first memorial

Saint Joseph Old Cathedral, the oldest parish in Oklahoma City, was significantly damaged during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. The Church has erected a memorial on this site titled “Jesus wept.”

Jesus wept.
Jesus wept.
Jesus wept outside the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
Jesus wept outside the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial

Two monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial.

The West Gate, below, represents 9:03 a.m, the moment lives were changed forever.

The 9:03 Gate
The 9:03 Gate

The East Gate, shown below, represents 9:01 a.m., and symbolizes the city’s innocence before the attack.  Behind it is the Survivor Wall, the only remaining walls from the Murrah Building.

The reflecting pool occupies what was once N.W. Fifth Street. Its shallow and placid surface offers a place of quiet reflection.

The Reflecting Pool
The Reflecting Pool
The Reflecting Pool and the Memorial Museum
The Reflecting Pool and the Memorial Museum
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
The 9:01 Gate
The 9:01, or the East, Gate

In front of the Memorial Museum and the Journal Record Building is the Survivor Tree, an American Elm, which withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience. The circular promontory surrounding the tree offers a place for gathering and viewing the Memorial.

The Memorial Museum & the Journal Record Building with the Survivor Tree
The Memorial Museum & the Journal Record Building with the Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree
Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
Outdoor Symbolic Memorial

After visiting the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, we go inside the Museum.  As time is running out, Louise volunteers to walk back to pick up the car, so only Martha, Charlene and I see the amazing museum.

The Memorial Museum
The Memorial Museum

The Memorial Museum offers a chronological self-guided tour through the April 19, 1995 bombing, and the days, weeks and years that followed.

It’s interesting to read about our world in 1995. International headlines that year include the end of Bosnia’s civil war, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in central Africa and the Sarin nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway.  In national headlines, prosecutors were making their opening statements in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and Major League Baseball players ended their 232-day strike on April 2.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed on April 18 at 4179.13.

"the start of a day like any other day"
“the start of a day like any other day”

At that time, interest rates hovered around 8.5%, a gallon of gasoline was $1.09, a U.S. postage stamp was 32 cents, and a new car cost an average of $15,500.  The median household income was $34,076.

In popular culture, Forrest Gump won Best Picture at the Academy Awards Ceremony in March.  On television, Americans were watching Seinfeld and ER and reading legal thrillers written by John Grisham.  Personal hand-held video games, CDs, audio books and video store rental stores provided entertainment.

In 1995, coin-operated pay phones in public places were used more than cell phones.  Electric typewriters and pagers were still in use, although desktop computers are becoming increasingly common.  Microsoft introduced its first version of Internet Explorer.  Amazon.com sold its first book.  Internet usage among American adults was only 14%.

The bombers, McVeigh and Nichols, had expressed anger at the federal government’s handling of the 1992 FBI standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge as well as the 1993 Waco Siege, which began on February 28, 1993 when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) traveled to Mount Carmel, near Waco.  Cult members known as Branch Davidians lived within the heavily armed compound with leader David Koresh, who the Feds intended to arrest for firearms violations.  Instead, a bloody gun battle began where four agents and six cult members were killed.  After a 51-day standoff between federal agents and cult members, the compound burned on April 19, 1993.  More than 75 people inside died, including children.  Some blamed cult members and others blamed federal agents.

At the museum today, we go into a bland government board room.  We sit and listen to the rather mundane proceedings — the official recording of an Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting from April 19, 1995. The meeting, just across the street from the Murrah Building, starts at 9:00 a.m. A mere two minutes in to the recording, we are jolted by the explosion.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting
Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting
the victims
the victims
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

A clock is forever frozen in time at 9:02, the time of the explosion.

The explosion
The explosion

We leave the confusion inside the Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting to experience the chaos outside. Here, we hear loud noises, people yelling, utter panic and confusion, and ambulances.  We see helicopter news footage of the ravaged building taken at 9:13 a.m. – the first images broadcast.  We’re able to experience those first frantic moments after the bombing through detailed artifact cases, murals and computer kiosks.

The whole experience is immensely disturbing and almost feels as if we were there.

Click on any picture below for a full-sized slide show.

Below is a photo of the building after the explosion.

photo of the devastation
photo of the devastation

Firefighters from only five blocks away were on the scene within moments.  Other units were called in.  Exposed power lines, leaking fuel, broken glass and debris littered many blocks and added to the danger.

Oklahoma City Fire Department
Oklahoma City Fire Department

After leaving this powerfully moving museum, we go outside to meet Louise with the car.

The Memorial Museum - parting shot
The Memorial Museum – parting shot

We return to our Airbnb house and get dressed to go to a Mexican fiesta put on by Rosie’s son and his wife.  Here are the four of us in front of the fireplace.

me, Martha, Louise and Charlene at our Airbnb house
me, Martha, Louise and Charlene at our Airbnb house
Martha, me and Charlene at our house
Martha, me and Charlene at our house

We arrive at the Mexican fiesta, enticingly laid out on the table.

The Mexican Fiesta
The Mexican Fiesta
Martha, Louise and Charlene at the Mexican fiesta
Martha, Louise and Charlene at the Mexican fiesta

The bride-to-be and her fiance, Rosie and Jim, look very happy.  Their wedding will be tomorrow evening.

Linda, Rosie and Jim at the Mexican Fiesta
Linda, Rosie and Jim at the Mexican Fiesta

Rosie poses with one of her beautiful daughters, Haley, and Rosie’s older sister, Janet.  They are a family of beauties. 🙂

Rosie, her daughter Haley and her sister Janet
Rosie, her daughter Haley and her sister Janet

And finally, Rosie poses with her sisters, Ann and Janet.

Rosie and her sisters: Ann and Janet
Rosie and her sisters: Ann and Janet

It’s a fun gathering, with Rosie’s large family, Jim’s family and even the family of Rosie’s husband who died three years ago.  Everyone loves Rosie, and I know she’s happy to have found someone as crazy about her as Jim obviously is. 🙂

 

 

oklahoma city: bricktown & an urban hike

Friday, March 25:  After picking up Louise at the zoo, we drive to Bricktown, an area east of the downtown business district of Oklahoma City that served as the city’s first warehouse and distribution district.  It was founded on the heels of the Land Run of 1889 and it served as the central hub of the state and the country.

Bricktown, Oklahoma City
Bricktown, Oklahoma City

Up until the 1950s, it housed furniture and hardware stores, a biscuit company, cotton producers, wholesale grocers, a dairy, and even a school.  After the area declined in the 1960s and 70s, residents began to move out of the city and buildings were torn down until the area was almost vacant.

After decades of decline, investors and other forward-thinkers started to buy and renovate buildings and recruited retail, restaurants, and attractions.

Bricktown
Bricktown

Beginning in 1993, Bricktown added a baseball stadium, a water canal with water taxis, river improvements, and a nearby sports and concert arena.

Now a thriving urban entertainment district, Bricktown is home to more than 45 restaurants, many bars, clubs, and retail shops, as well as family friendly attractions, museums and galleries (Welcome to Bricktown: History).

bridge over canal in Bricktown
bridge over canal in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Bricktown canal
Bricktown canal

We’re famished after our morning at the Cowboy Museum, so we stop for a late lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen.  By now it’s nearly 2:00, and we realize we’re running out of time to do all the things we hoped to do today.

I order a plate of Veggie Primavera. 🙂

Lunch at Zio's: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me
Lunch at Zio’s: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me

At lunch, we debate about what to do next.  We’ve barely explored Bricktown, but first and foremost, we want to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. As it’s about 2:40 by the time we finish lunch, and we have a Mexican dinner at Rosie’s son’s house tonight at 6:30, our time is limited.  We decide we have to forego further exploration of Bricktown so we can see the museum.

Somehow the GPS on our phones shows us the museum is right around the corner from Bricktown, but when we arrive at what is shown to be the destination, it’s not there.  We ask a passerby and find it’s still a number of blocks away.  We begin our urban hike, finding some interesting sights along the way.

urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
tall people in the square
tall people in the square
urban sculptures
urban sculptures
tall folks
tall folks
reflections in the city
reflections in the city
urban sculptures on an urban hike
urban sculptures on an urban hike
oklahoma city
oklahoma city
cityscape
cityscape
First Church
First Church

Finally, we arrive at the museum.  Stay tuned for an emotional experience at this museum, marking the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh.

oklahoma city: the national cowboy & western heritage museum

Friday, March 25:  This morning, we drive into Oklahoma City to see the sights, namely the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Bricktown, and The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  Louise, who retired from her career at the Virginia Zoo, wants to visit some people she knows at the Oklahoma City Zoo, so we drop her off there, while Martha, Charlene and I go to the National Cowboy Museum.

Entrance to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Entrance to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

We first encounter a sad and defeated statue of a Native American slumped on a horse in an atrium-like room.  In 1894, when James Earle Fraser completed his model of The End of the Trail, America stretched from shore to shore and most Euramericans believed the frontier expansion period was over.  Many viewed Native Americans as a vanishing race with no place in the 20th century.  Popular literature portrayed Indian people as “savages,” noble or otherwise.  Fraser’s End of the Trail reflects this legacy: a nineteenth century Indian warrior defeated and bound for oblivion — frozen in time.

The End of the Trail
The End of the Trail

By the 1890s, Native Americans were confined largely to reservations ravaged by disease and starvation, and the Indian population declined dramatically.  Indian children were forced to attend federally supported boarding schools that attempted to replace traditional tribal values with American culture.  WWII brought changes to most Native American communities as many of them enlisted with the armed forces and others moved to urban areas for employment.  From a low of about 250,000 in 1890, the Native American population in the U.S. now numbers slightly over two million.  Modern Indian people combine the best of traditional tribal values with the opportunities afforded by contemporary American society.  Unlike Fraser’s sculpture, “being Indian” has never been cast in stone  (R. David Edmonds, Ph.D. – Cherokee: from a plaque at the museum).

First we walk through a fascinating photo gallery where we’re not allowed to take pictures.  No photos are allowed in several other galleries, but we’re finally able to take pictures without flash in the Native American Gallery, where we find native clothing, headdresses, and teepees, as well as a weaving in memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Next is the fascinating Western Performers Gallery, which explores the ways the west has been interpreted in literature and film. Honoring western performers who have contributed to the making and preservation of western legends, the gallery displays, among others, the John Wayne collection of personal firearms, artwork, and memorabilia. It’s fun to wander through the extensive collection of movie posters and portraits.

We first encounter Robert Redford’s costume from the 1979 film, The Electric Horseman, in which he played a retired rodeo king who sells his soul to the devil to be a spokesman for a breakfast cereal.

Robert Redford's costume from The Electric Horseman
Robert Redford’s costume from The Electric Horseman

Here’s a link where you can see Robert Redford in this get-up: Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman.

The American Cowboy Gallery interprets the cowboy’s history and culture from Spanish colonial times to the 20th century, especially his clothing and equipment.

The American Rodeo Gallery celebrates the history, people and events of the West’s truly indigenous sport.

The American Rodeo Gallery
The American Rodeo Gallery
The Red River Rodeo
The Red River Rodeo
bucking bronco
bucking bronco
American Rodeo Gallery
American Rodeo Gallery
Martha goes to the rodeo
Martha goes to the rodeo
required attire
required attire

The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West presents the legacies of diverse peoples and historical currents in the 19th-century American West. The exhibit reflects Native American, early frontier, military and hunting activity.

Frontier scene
Frontier scene
the view of the plains
the view of the plains
Cavalry
Cavalry

Prosperity Junction is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town with its own history and its own location ~ somewhere in the West. With the railroad’s arrival, the days of the raw frontier are fading as goods and services from the East transform it into a settled community. At its northern edge lies the town’s industrial section, including a railroad depot, blacksmith shop, and livery stable. At the south end are the social elements ~ the school, the church, and residences. Between those two extremes lay the bulk of the town’s business structures (National Cowboy Museum: Prosperity Junction).

The Norma Sutherland Garden, flanking the museum and the children’s interactive center, is a quiet oasis where one can sit and contemplate our western heritage.

The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden

The Western States Plaza

The Western States Plaza
The Western States Plaza
Looking at "The End of the Trail" statue from the Western States Plaza
Looking at “The End of the Trail” statue from the Western States Plaza

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens are a wonderful place for a stroll, especially on such a pretty day.

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens

We find Buffalo Bill perched high atop Persimmon Hill.

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens

The statue below is adjacent to the parking lot: Code of the West.  Says a plaque: “The horse age lingers, and the ranchers still hold with the idea that a man works for what he gets, helps his neighbors and takes care of his own, and that a handshake and a man’s word are as good as his bond.  Maybe even better.” — Spike Van Cleve.

Code of the West
Code of the West
Code of the West
Code of the West

We love this museum and wish we could linger longer.  There is another whole wing we don’t even have time to visit, but Louise is finished at the zoo and we have several other places we want to visit today.  Plus, we’re hungry for lunch.  After picking up Louise, we head to Bricktown to eat some Italian food. 🙂

a road trip to oklahoma city & a day trip to the chickasaw cultural center

Wednesday, March 23: This morning, Martha and I pack up and take off for Oklahoma City.  Her husband takes this parting shot of us in front of her house.

Me with Martha at her house in Plano
Me with Martha at her house in Plano

When we cross the Oklahoma state line, we stop at a Visitor Center to use the restroom and collect some brochures for our time in Oklahoma City.  The woman there tells us we should absolutely visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center about an hour and a half south of Oklahoma City. It would be nice if we could simply stop there on our way to Oklahoma City, but we have to be at the airport at a certain time to pick up our friends Louise and Charlene.  Maybe they’ll be interested in going one of the next two days.

We arrive at our house in Plano and settle in while waiting for Charlene and Louise’s plane to arrive.  This is an Airbnb house where we’ll stay for the next four nights.

Martha and I go to the airport to pick up Charlene and Louise.  They texted us earlier that their plane was delayed leaving Chicago because of high winds in Oklahoma City.  They texted us when they finally left, nearly an hour behind schedule.

When they finally get off the plane, they’re quite shaken.  The plane came in for a landing, lurching side-to-side in high winds.  It touched down on the runway momentarily and then went back up again because of extremely windy conditions.  Then it circled around and the second time landed successfully to the cheering of white-knuckled passengers.

We take Louise and Charlene back to the house to unload their luggage after stopping at the grocery store for some food supplies. It takes them a while to relax after that harrowing landing.

After about an hour, we all go to our friend Rosie’s house for a lasagna dinner.  We haven’t seen her in a long time, and we’re excited to meet her fiance, Jim. Martha already met him as she doesn’t live that far from them.  Rosie has known Jim for years through her work.  Sadly, her first husband and the father of her three grown children died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer.  Jim seems to be smitten by Rosie, and both of them are happy and excited about their wedding on Saturday.  We have a great time drinking wine, reminiscing about old times, and eating a delicious dinner.

Martha, Charlene, Rosie, Louise and me
Martha, Charlene, Rosie, Louise and me

Thursday, March 24:  This morning, we take a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center, supposedly about an hour and 40 minutes from our house.  It actually takes nearly two hours.  It was pretty foolish of us to make such a long trip when Martha and I were in the car all day yesterday and Charlene and Louise spent all of yesterday traveling.  Martha and I had been bowled over by the woman’s enthusiasm about the museum at the Visitor Center yesterday.

When we finally arrive, we’re greeted by the Chickasaw Warrior.  “The Warrior” captures a time before European contact in 1540. It is said that tashka’ Chikasha (translated to mean “Chickasaw warriors”) were fierce in battle, and “The Warrior” powerfully represents the Chickasaw people’s “unconquered and unconquerable” spirit.

At the entrance to the museum - Time Capsule Ittapatkachi
At the entrance to the museum – The Chickasaw Warrior
The Chickasaw Cultural Center
The Chickasaw Cultural Center
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Chickasaw Cultural Center grounds
Chickasaw Cultural Center grounds
Chickasaw Cultural Center grounds and pond
Chickasaw Cultural Center grounds and pond

We eat a delicious lunch at the center’s Aaimpa’ Cafe, where all of us order the Chickasaw Special: Indian taco, pishofa (corn and fresh pork), grape dumplings, and a drink.  The taco is fry bread topped with ground beef, beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and onions.

After lunch, we wander around through the Chikasha Inchokka’ (“Chickasaw house”) Traditional Village, a recreation of a historical Native American village. It features a Council House, two summer houses, two winter houses, a replica mound, a corn crib, a stickball field and a stockade fence.

At one time, a Chickasaw town was made up of several clans with many households.  Some houses faced east toward the rising sun in spiritual devotion.

Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen, renowned for American Indian art, created the bronze sculpture, “The Arrival,” to commemorate the Chickasaws’ arrival to new territory after removal from their original homeland. Though a painful period in Chickasaw history, the true message of “The Arrival” is hope and resilience.

The Arrival
The Arrival

At the Chikasha Poya Exhibit Center, we walk through the Mosaic Room, featuring a wall of bright mosaic tiles imported from Scuola Mosaicisti Del Friuli in Spilimbergo, Italy.

Mosaic Room
Mosaic Room
Close-up of mosaic
Close-up of mosaic

We come across a map of Oklahoma showing the different tribal jurisdictions.

Oklahoma Tribal Areas
Oklahoma Tribal Areas

In the Exhibit Gallery, we stroll through Chickasaw history with Native American interactive stations, reproductions and graphic and text displays.

The Chickasaw people preserved their history through oral tradition.  They combined their stories with recent research into the archaeological and other written records.  It isn’t a complete story as many stories have been lost and documents can be misleading or wrong.

We go into one building that focuses on the legend of the white dog. Chickasaw storytellers tell of a large, beautiful white dog that protected the Chickasaw people during their migration from the “land of the setting sun” to their historic homeland in present-day Mississippi. Darting to the right, then to the left, the white dog alerted people to trouble along the path and healed people who had been bitten by snakes by licking the poison from the wound.  He guarded the people at night while they slept and walked ahead of them during the journey to scout for possible danger.  Sadly, the beloved white dog was lost to the Chickasaw people as they crossed the Mississippi River.  Today, the white dog remains a symbol of strength and courage and reminds people of the importance of loyalty and friendship.

The White dog
The White dog

The Itti’ Anonka’ Nannakat Oktani (“Spirit Forest”) exhibit recreates the Chickasaw’s treasured bond with the natural world.

The Spirit Forest
The Spirit Forest

The Removal Corridor guides us along the difficult route thousands of Native Americans took after President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

As we walk around the sacred fire in this larger-than-life stomp dance, the dancers seem to move with us.

The Stomp Dance
The Stomp Dance

Finally, we watch a show of a live stomp dance.

Live stomp dance
Live stomp dance
Live stomp dance
Live stomp dance

Finally, we get in the car for our long drive back to Oklahoma City.  Tonight, we’re meeting Rosie, Jim, and Rosie’s sisters at a local bar for dinner and drinks.

dallas: the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza

Tuesday, March 22:  This morning, Martha and I head to downtown Dallas to visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, housed in the former Texas School Book Depository Building.  Following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, this building became the primary crime scene for the shooting after evidence of a sniper, later determined to be Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, was found on the sixth floor (History of the Texas School Book Depository Building).

JFK's assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
JFK’s assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

We’re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum except on the 7th floor; from the window directly above where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired at the president, we have an excellent view of the assassination route on that tragic day. For some reason, I’m surprised by the route and the lay of the land, which I remember seeing on TV so many times over the years from varying angles.  I never pictured the site looking like it does.

JFK's assassination route - the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot
JFK’s assassination route – the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot

The excellent museum presents the social and political landscape of the early 1960s, chronicles President Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath, offers up numerous conspiracy theories, and reflects the president’s lasting impact on our country and world (Visit Dallas: Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza).  It’s a very moving exhibit and brings back a lot of memories for those of us who were alive at that sad time.

the route heading to the triple underpass
the route heading to the triple underpass

As for me, I was 8 years old and in 2nd grade at Reservoir Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.   I remember getting dismissed from school early and coming home to find my mother sobbing in front of the black & white television, mesmerized by the news coverage.  I was too young to understand the details, but I knew with certainty this was a tragic and sad event in our history.  I even remember crying with my mother.  Much later, when we experienced the September 11, 2001 catastrophe from the relative safety of our living rooms, it was much the same déjà vu experience as on that November day in 1963, except that the events of 2001 were in color rather than black & white.

the route heading to the triple underpass - where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
the route heading to the triple underpass – where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Peristyle at Dealey Plaza
Peristyle and monument at Dealey Plaza

Across from the park is the Old Dallas County Criminal Courts Building, which in 1963 housed on its upper floors the Dallas County Jail.  Alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was being taken to this jail from the Dallas City Jail, on the 5th floor of the old Municipal Building on Harwood Street, when he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Sunday, November 24, 1963.  This murder, which occurred in the old Municipal Building’s basement, was captured on live television.

According to Steven R. Butler, a Dallas historian, Jack Ruby was incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail and his trial took place here in 1964.  Found guilty and sentenced to death, Ruby died of natural causes while his verdict was on appeal in 1967.  Ruby died at Parkland Hospital, where both JFK and Oswald died (A Guide to the History of Dallas Texas).

Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass

From the Historic Park, we can see the famous grassy knoll, a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became well-known following the president’s assassination. The knoll was above Kennedy and to his right (west and north) as his motorcade drove by.  You can see it below, with the bunch of trees to the left and the pergola to the right.

View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Grassy Knoll Memorial
Grassy Knoll Memorial

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza: The words “grassy knoll” to describe this area were first used by UPI reporter Albert Merriman Smith, in his second dispatch from the radio-telephone in the press car: “Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president’s car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed.” These words were then repeated on national television by Walter Cronkite in his second CBS News bulletin.

The Grassy Knoll
The Grassy Knoll

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza, of the 104 Dealey Plaza ear-witness reports published by the Warren Commission and elsewhere:

  • 56 recorded testimony that they remembered hearing at least one shot fired from the direction of the Depository or from near its Houston and Elm Streets intersection that was to the rear of the President
  • 35 witnesses recorded testimony of at least one shot fired from the direction of the grassy knoll or the triple underpass located to the right and front of the President
  • 8 witnesses gave statements of shots fired from elsewhere
  • 5 ear-witnesses  testified that the shots were fired from two different directions.

Conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination suggest that many people or organizations could have been involved in the assassination, with possible players ranging from President Fidel Castro of Cuba to sitting VP Lyndon Johnson to the CIA to the Mafia to the KGB.  There are claims that the U.S. Government covered up vital information in the aftermath.  Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. For more on this, see Wikipedia: John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.

Because of persistent debate, unanswered questions, and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and the possible related role of the grassy knoll, the term “grassy knoll” has come to also be a modern slang expression indicating suspicion, conspiracy, or a cover-up (Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza).

The wooden stockade fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll has been rebuilt several times since 1963 and is a reproduction of the original fence.

Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll
Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll

Martha and I walk up to the grassy knoll to see the view.  The “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time.

View from the Grassy Knoll - the "X" on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll – the “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza

We walk behind the wooden fence and check out the view from behind it.  It seems like it would have been an easy enough place to hide and shoot a gun. Not that I’m experienced in that sort of thing, mind you!

Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route
Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route

We walk on the bridge crossing the triple underpass and get a view of Elm Street, where Kennedy was shot, on the left and the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building straight ahead.  To the right is the Old Courthouse.

view from atop the triple underpass
view from atop the triple underpass
Old Courthouse
Old Courthouse

During my visit to this part of the country, I end up experiencing several monuments to tragic events in American history, from the 9/11 exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to the exhibit of JFK’s assassination at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which we’ll visit later this week.

Driving through Dallas
Driving through Dallas

After leaving downtown, we head to one of Martha’s favorite lunch spots in the Trinity Design District: The Meddlesome Moth.

The Meddlesome Moth
The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth

At this classy restaurant, we both enjoy delicious Jumbo Lump Crab salads with celery root, arugula and meyer lemon.

Inside The Meddlesome Moth
Inside The Meddlesome Moth

After lunch, we visit Martha’s mom in her nursing home.  It’s nice to see her as I’ve known her for a long time; she was a part of my childhood since 1967, when Martha and I became friends.

Later in the evening, we relax with some wine in Martha’s backyard spa and then she prepares a delicious chicken and walnut stir-fry for dinner.

Sunset at Martha's house
Sunset at Martha’s house
Martha's pool and spa
Martha’s pool and spa

Tomorrow, we’ll drive about 3 hours to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where we’ll meet up with our other friends and have dinner with our friend Rosie and her husband-to-be, Jim.  Let the wedding festivities begin! 🙂