people who claim that large cities are mostly to be avoided, we have actually
spent a surprising amount of time in urban areas, especially on our two-week
excursion into Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Although it’s not that big of a deal to drive our RV, we’ve found it to
be much easier to leave the RV and the cat behind at the campground and drive
the Subaru into the city. On our
two-week trip, however, we were traveling without the car.
Little Rock, we were able to visit the outlying sites on a Sunday and then park
the RV at a campground directly across from the downtown area. We could then get around on foot or on the
streetcar. That worked out
perfectly. A similar solution, however,
was not available in Oklahoma City, the next stop on our itinerary. When we arrived there on December 10, we
selected a campground just outside the city and figured we’d drive in and
hopefully find a level place to park at the three stops we wanted to make.
now and then, a light goes off in my head, and in Oklahoma City I came up with
the idea of renting a car. The idea
became even more appealing when I realized that I could use my Hertz points at
a neighborhood location. Not only would
the rental cost less than $2.00 for the day, but Hertz would also pick us up at
the campground. Sold!
first stop was the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a place to remember the bombing
that targeted Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and to honor
the victims, survivors, rescuers and everyone else who was changed forever. The design of the outdoor memorial was
selected in an international competition and includes a number of symbolic
elements. Perhaps best known, and most
touching, is the field of empty chairs.
Each chair symbolizes a life that was lost. It was very special to visit the memorial in
December and to see the wreaths that had been placed on every chair. It was a gloomy day while we were there, but
the weather was actually appropriate for this somber, yet uplifting memorial.
|Oklahoma City National Memorial|
|Field of Empty Chairs|
adjacent Memorial Museum is housed in the former Journal Record Building that
withstood the bombing. Interactive
exhibits led us on a chronological journey through the events of April 19, 1995,
and presented the story in a very compelling way. It took me a few minutes to understand the
first few chapters until I realized that we were meant to actually experience
what began as a day like any other, but soon would erupt in confusion and chaos. The sounds and visuals were so real that I
actually had chills. Although loss is
certainly a major focus of the exhibits, the amazing journey of resilience,
justice and hope gets equal billing. I
admit that I had been somewhat reluctant to visit the museum. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.
|Viewing TV News Reports on the Bombing|
|Examples of Devastation - The Clock Stopped at 9:02|
|The Damaged Area of the Journal Record Building|
we should have saved the memorial and museum for the end of the day, but we were
able to change gears and make our next stop at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Although every capitol is unique in its own
way, this is the only one with an oil well in the front yard. Yes, we are in oil country! Another unusual tidbit concerns the
dome. The capitol was constructed
between 1914 and 1917, but the dome was not added until 2002. It is a beauty!
|Is That an Oil Well in the Front Yard?|
enjoyed our self-guided tour of the building and especially admired all of the
artwork. Most are contemporary pieces
installed during the capitol’s centennial and are intended to celebrate Oklahoma’s
history and its prominent citizens. I
especially admired the bronze by Allan Houser, one of the most renowned Native
American artists of the twentieth century.
The piece is entitled As Long As
the Waters Flow, which refers to President Andrew Jackson’s vow to Native Americans that
they shall possess their land “as long as the grass grows and the rivers run.”
|Paintings Are Scattered Throughout the Capitol|
|As Long as the Waters Flow, by Allan Houser|
I saved the most lighthearted stop for last – the National Cowboy and Western Heritage
Museum. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a first-class
museum – but I tend to smile when I’m looking at cowboys! After enjoying a great lunch at the museum
restaurant, we tried to make the most of the short time we had. There is so much to see, and an hour or two
is not enough time to do justice to the numerous exhibits. But, we tried.
permanent art collection contains a broad representation of the paintings and
sculpture that tell the story of the American West. I discovered a few new-to-me artists, as well
as many old favorites.
|End of the Trail, by James Earle Fraser|
skipped the firearms exhibit and moved directly to the Western Performers
Gallery. This exhibit brought me right
back to my childhood and the TV shows and movies that I grew up with – from
James Arness and Gunsmoke (the first show that my family watched on our very
first TV) to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (the one song that my father requested
for his funeral – “Happy Trails”). And,
let’s not forget John Wayne. These movie
cowboys were all heroes to me. It seems I’ve
always been a sucker for a good, old-fashioned Western.
|Western Performers Gallery|
|I Grew Up with Movie and TV Cowboys|
|Tim Is Also a Western Movie Fan|
wrapped up our tour with a stop at the American Cowboy Gallery. Cowgirls were not forgotten here, nor were
Native American and African American cowboys.
Naturally, we had to admire the boots and the hats and the saddles. This tribute to the working cowboy, as well
as to cowboy history and culture, was a fitting way to end our visit to one of
my favorite museums.
|A Lone Cowgirl in the American Cowboy Gallery|
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