Friday, March 26, 2010

I think Chesterton is wrong about Oklahoma

Matthew, of Holy Whapping (say, is he the only one left posting over there?), posts a snippet of Chesterton's What I Saw in America. I haven't read the book, but this quote contains a few lines about my home state, Oklahoma. Chesterton is complaining that their is not enough deep, local culture in American rural life. It is devoid of people dressing up like people in the ancient stories, handing on the tradition through material culture:

I myself felt a perfectly genuine and generous exhilaration of freedom and fresh enterprise in new places like Oklahoma. But you would hardly find in Oklahoma what was found in Oberammergau. What goes to Oklahoma is not the peasant play, but the cinema. And the objection to the cinema is not so much that it goes to Oklahoma as that it does not come from Oklahoma.

I get the point--Walmart and all that--but what I immediately thought of about Oklahoma was the Trail of Tears drama in Tahlequah (put on by the Cherokee Heritage Center), and Shepler's Western Wear Store in Oklahoma City--once the largest western clothing store in the world (or so they claimed). Been in existence since 1899. And, yes, people do dress like this in Oklahoma. And the Indian and the cowboy heritage is very visible, strong, and culturally active. All over the state. This may not have been the case in the 1930s, so perhaps Chesterton can be excused, but believe me, culture in Oklahoma is way different from culture in Kansas, Kentucky, Wisconsin or Minnesota (other places I've lived). It is much more "indigenous" than Chesterton was able to give it credit for in his day. Oklahoma doesn't have the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center for nothin'! Where do ya'll think they have the International Finals Rodeo Championship?

I grew up within a couple of miles of the stock yards. And Cattlemen's Steakhouse (which is where I used to go to boy scout meetings).

Country music's kinda big, too: Ever heard of Hoyt Axton, Garth Brooks, Woody Guthrie, Reba McEntire, Patti Page, Sheb Wooley, Gene Autry, Charlie Christian, Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Roger Miller, or Bob Wills?

And I haven't mentioned oil yet.

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