A few more Route 66 stops led us right to Oklahoma City. In addition to not exiting the vehicle DH has taken to gunning the engine if she thinks we are spending a little too much time at yet another 50's style gas station. She claims that she doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed in the event of one of those pop-up tornadoes that Oklahoma is famous for (Oklahoma averages 56 tornados per year), but I think it’s a not-so-subtle indication of her interest level. Oklahoma tornadoes are not something to be trifled with however, and there had been a number of tornado sightings within the past few days. On May 3, 1999 some 70 tornadoes touched down over a 21-hour period, cutting paths of destruction in and around Oklahoma City- winds topped out at a staggering 318 mph, the highest ever recorded anywhere on Earth. We’re not expecting anything like that but Oklahoma does sit at the heart of "Tornado Alley," which stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians- the state ranks at the top of the list for tornadoes per square mile.
The only wind we encountered on this leg of the journey was coming directly from DH as she 'explained’ why we can’t call it a ‘roadtrip’ if we’re stopping at every quirky site along the highway. I assume that most of this comes from her police patrol days with Indy E where they would only stop for a crime if it appeared to be particularly serious and didn’t involve much paperwork??
However, even DH agreed that Oklahoma City offered up a mandatory, and very sombre, stop, and that was the site of the OKC bombing in 1995. Perhaps because it wasn’t as devastating as 9-11, or because it was a domestic terrorist, the OKC bombing isn’t as big a part of the national conscience as New York but it should be. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing. It’s very well done and manages to balance an accurate telling of the story with a needed sensitivity to the many victims of this heinous crime.
To get a better sense of the Wild West history of Oklahoma we had to wander through the massive National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, search out the Oklahoma Land Rush Memorial, and even include a quick side trip to the local Stock Yards. The wild west mystic certainly gets a positive spin through most Hollywood movies but I’m not sure that the real cowboy history of Oklahoma and the treatment of Indians, in particular, is one of the proudest chapters of U.S. history. Not only was it the designated Indian Territory for forcibly relocated eastern tribes (the end of the Trail of Tears), but lawlessness cowboys were used, in part, as a pretext to take even that land away for distribution to Anglo farmers in the Land Rush.
Outside of the rodeo types, DH was having a good time imagining life in a cowboy household. I was saving my cowboy boots for Texas but with DH fingering all of the leather chaps on display and talking about the "real men" of yesteryear I may have to break them out of storage a little sooner along with my embroidered shirt and lasso.