Day 5 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Ziggy and I both woke up around 4am in Santa Fe to the sound of a train whistle blowin. Scared the bageebies out of Ziggy. The train sort of slowed down and was headed east so I said, "Ziggy, let's hop the train to Oklahoma!"
We grabbed our stuff and started running down the track. I saw an open boxcar and tossed my stuff into in. I turned and grabbed Ziggy and her backpack and tossed her into the boxcar. Then, I noticed the train was picking up speed. I grabbed ahold of the door handle and with everything I had in me, jumped.
I rolled right to the other side of the car before slamming into the other door. Good thing it wasn't open. I sat up and there was Ziggy and 3 guys who looked as though they were hitching a ride too.
They were brothers and introduced themselves. "Hi. I'm Jess. This is my brother Hank and my little brother Pete and we've been riding the rails for goin' on 50 years goin from the east to the west and from the north to the south. Where y'all from?"
I told them who we were and also told them we were visiting all 50 states. But I also asked them why they have been riding the rails for 50 years. They gave me this photo of them for our photo album when we get back.
Jess said, "Well, my brothers and I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma right by the railroad tracks and we always loved the trains and when we grew up, we decided to make a life riding the cars."
Hank continued, "It's not a life we'd reccomend to anyone because it's kind of scary at times. But we know most everyone who rides the rails these days. It ain't safe these days I'll tell ya. It just ain't safe. Not like it used to be"
Pete added, "Nope! Sure isn't Hank. It's not that we're not educated and don't want to work, we just figured on having this fun experience for a few years and then going back home. But that was 50 years ago and and here we are today. Three hobos headed home for good."
Jess said, "We'll get to a town and work for a few weeks or months until we get the itch and move on. It's been great! But we're ready to call it the end of the ride and go back to Oklahoma."
Ziggy reached into her bag and put her Oklahoma hat on. They laughed and so did I.
I asked them what it meant to them to be an American.
Hank said, "Like we said, we wouldn't recomend this sort of life to anyone, but it has been an awaking experience for all of us. We've met people from all over and there's one thing we all have in common. America's a place to live out your dreams. Since we were small boys, this was our dream and we wouldn't have it any other way."
Then Pete said, "If I ain't mistaken, your stop is coming up and when the train slows down, I suggest you jump with your cat friend. They catch ya on here at the station, your trip may be cut short."
So jump is just what we did when the train slowed down a little. We tossed our bags off the moving train and jumped and rolled down this hill into a creek face down. We were just outside of Oklahoma City on the property of Millard C. Hopalong. How do I know that? Well, after me and Ziggy pulled our heads out of the creek bed, we looked up and saw an old farmer looking down at us. He said, "I'm Millard C. Hopalong!" That's how I know.
He continued, "My wife, Elsie, is makin' some of her famous Oklahoma Orange Butterhorns. Want some?"
Of course we said yes.
We followed him home and had some of the best butterhorns we ever had. I asked Mrs. Elsie Hopalong for the recipe. She graciously gave it to me. Here it is and hope you can share.
Oklahoma Orange Butterhorns
Serves you, your friend, me and Ziggy too!
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbls dry yeast
1/4 cup tepid water
1 cup sourdough starter
6-7 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 Tbls grated orange peel
Heat milk to almost a boil (do not bring to a full boil). Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar, salt, and melted butter. Let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle yeast over the water.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Stir in sourdough starter, yeast mixture and cooled milk mixture. Beat in 3 cups of flour until smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a medium stiff dough. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm draft free spot until doubled in size (1 1/2-2 hours)
In a small bowl, blend softened butter, 1/2 cup of sugar and grated orange peel. Set aside.
Punch down the down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide in half and cover one portion. Roll each half in to a 18"x6" rectangle. Spread with half of the orange butter mixture leaving a 1" border along a long side. Roll up jelly roll fashion, pinching edges to seal. Cut in to 1 inch slices.
Place each slice cut side down in a greased muffin tin. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (1 1/2-2 hours). Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown in a 375F preheated oven.
After we ate, we sat outside on their front porch and talked for awhile. They told us that they raised 23 kids on that farm. And I ain't talkin goats. "17 boys and 6 girls!" Elsie said.
I asked where they were and they said out on their own scattered from one end of Oklahoma to the other. "They do well and we are happy. They all have a good education too. Elsie made sure of that," Millard said.
Although they have never left their farm to go any great distance, and although in all their years, they suffered many set-backs both financial and weatherwise, they spoke lovingly about their country.
In their late 90's, I said they must have seen alot in their time and they've seen it all. Depression, dust storms, famine, and more. But they did their best. Elsie said Oklahoma became a state a little before she was born, in 1907, and her parents were in the land rush that they had back then. She said, "And me and Millard been here ever since."
"Well, it's time for me and Ziggy to get a movin on down the road a piece. We're going to Salt Lake City, Utah next. Would ya point us in the right direction?" I said.
Millard stood up and pointing his pipe said, "Ya go down to that creek ya were at, follow it about a mile, make a left at the big oak tree and follow the trail til ya git to a big rock that has what looks like a face of a pig on it. Then, ya make a right, walk about 2 miles, and you'll be just a few yards or so from the main road. What cha do there, I don't care."
But before I left, I had to know... so I asked him. "Millard, how'd ya get a name like Millard?"
"Well, my Daddy worked at the mill down the road a piece and my mom always made him a lard sandwich with sugar on it for lunch. He liked that ya know. Anyway, they say, when I was born, Mom had walked to the mill that day to tell Daddy the baby was being born and when she told him, he almost choked on his lard sandwich. So, they called me Millard."
Me and Ziggy stood there for a few seconds taking that all in. I looked at Ziggy and she looked at me and we said our goodbyes. I think at this point, Ziggy was getting dizzy and certainly didn't want to do too much more walkin, but that's the way it goes.
We were on the main highway before we knew it. We stuck out our, well, I stuck out my thumb and Ziggy stuck out her paw, and got a ride right away to a small airport. We got lucky and got a ride in a old crop-duster of all things all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was not a good idea. We were arrested as soon as the plane landed!!! Tell ya about it tomorrow. Man oh man! :(