Thursday, December 07, 2006

Article: Oklahoma is not OK

Sometimes I think I’d like to move to the area of the country north of Dallas and south of Oklahoma City. Probably not many people think that way but it’s something that crosses my mind periodically. Living here on the edge of the Hill Country, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would fancy the dreary, unadorned planes that lie along the northern border of our state. There’s only one explanation: horses.

Of course, horses and ranches abound in Texas, it’s not like north of Dallas has any monopoly there. I’ve got my little plot of land in Buda and a small herd of the critters myself. But, much as I like Hays County, it’s not the center of equine activities that the Red River valley is and sometimes I long to be closer to the action. That happened again earlier this month as I contemplated my drive up to Oklahoma City for the National Reining Horse Association finals.

If you haven’t seen a reining horse in action, you really should check it out. Go to to find out more about reining and when and where upcoming shows will be held. But the thing is, it’s no coincidence that the finals are held in Oklahoma City. That northern edge of Texas and southern boundary of Oklahoma is where all the big reining horse trainers are. Towns like Aubrey, Pilot Point, and Tioga Texas along with their Oklahoma counterparts are home a disproportionate number of great reiners. I’m not in that league but, well, sometimes I think that if I lived in the right place things might be different.

I know it’s just a crazy dream and my trip last weekend made that blatantly clear. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the show. It was great. Beautiful horses, lots of action. But the weather! Can people really live like that?

The drive started out well enough. My friend Sheldon and I left work early, around 5:00 on Thursday evening and headed north up MoPac expecting to be slogged down in rush hour traffic. It was windy and bitterly cold but the traffic just didn’t appear. When we hit I35 just south of Round Rock, we breathed a sigh of relief. The worst was over and it wasn’t that bad...or so we thought.

We made good time all the way up to Ft. Worth. We stopped for dinner in the northern suburbs and it was there that we got our first real sign of trouble. A thin dusting of icy snow covered the median and lawns. Dallas and Ft. Worth don’t seem so far away, it always amazes me that it snows there. Sheldon was for turning back, even though he lived in Minnesota for three years he seems to be afraid of the snow. I pointed out to him that it wasn’t snowing now and probably hadn’t snowed since the morning. The roads should be cleared.

The drive from Ft. Worth to the Oklahoma border probably took us two hours even though it’s only about fifty miles. The roads became progressively more and more icy. We assumed that, as a state, Texas wasn’t prepared to deal with winter weather. Things would get better once we entered Oklahoma. Again our expectations proved false. The eighteen miles from Marietta to Ardmore took another two hours. We were now traveling in a caravan of mostly eighteen wheelers and going a whopping five miles an hour. We decided to stop for the night.

The morning dawned crisp and very cold but the sun was shining and I thought the ice would soon melt. It didn’t. Another five long hours passed before we reached Oklahoma City. We left the freeway and traveled on some smaller highways after leaving Ardmore. Most drivers don’t have any qualms about tailgating even when they’re driving on ice and can’t possibly stop. It seemed safer to drive on roads that weren’t as clear of snow but had a lot less traffic. We mad a couple of short stops too, mostly to gawk at “winter.” The snow and ice made for a beautiful landscape.

That drive was all I need to remind me of why I live in Central Texas. Pretty as it is, I can't stand the snow. And while I saw some horses out romping in their snowy pastures, the one time it snowed here my horses huddled beside the barn just waiting for it to pass. If I ever do achieve the level required to participate in the OK City NRHA finals, I know now that I won't be able to go. As bad as it was driving a car, I can't imagine pulling a horse trailer.

An ice-encrusted tree at a rest stop near Ardmore, OK.Close-up of the tree. It sparkled like glass.
An ice-coated barbwire fence.
Sheldon loves the snow. However he wore his riding boots which don't give much traction on ice.
My little vehicle, Grisie. She hates the snow too.
This is what Grisie and I saw on Friday morning. Trucks and cars stacked for miles and hardly moving at all. You'll notice that I took this shot while driving.
Once we left the main highway, we saw some interesting sights. Like this stack of old cars outside a junk yard in Lexington, OK.
How clever to make an old Volkswagon into an enormous black widow spider!

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