Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Out in Oklahoma

Growing up my Grandmother was the fanciest person I knew.

She had these fancy napkins that she kept in a special drawer that felt like they were made of butterfly wings.

She had gold canisters on her bathroom counter that covered up untidy things like her hairspray bottle.

She had an honest-to-goodness parlor in her house where she would proudly display a white and crystal Christmas tree every year. It was and still is the sparkliest thing I think I have ever seen in my life.

She was born and raised in Perry, Oklahoma. Her grandparents participated in the Oklahoma land rush. I never knew her before she was completely silver haired, but in pictures, with her dark hair I swear she was the image of Judy Garland.

She hosted tea parties in her parlor and insisted that you not only have manners but use them in front of her friends.

She was all things refined and with everything that I have forgotten from my childhood I can still hear her voice, smell her Chantilly lace perfume and remember which tree in the yard we could count on for the tastiest cherries.

Miss Thing would have loved her.

Last summer we went hiking up Enchanted Rock and while we were walking along the trails the kids started kvetching about being tired blah blah blah.

I suggested we sing a song. A good hiking song... hmmmm

My repertoire largely consists of Disney musicals and lullabies so I wasn't really surprised when Hero Husband shot me the "Please God not here in public" look.

Then I remembered. The Oklahoma Song!

Anyone in my family knows exactly what you mean when you say the Oklahoma song. Grandmother taught it to all of us.

It's short, catchy and hard to sing too badly. And always a deal sealer you get to sing about cowboys and sing loudly the phrase "highfalutin rootin' tootin'".

And so I taught my children the Oklahoma song.

We sang it for a really long time.

It was a long hike.

They are now experts at the Oklahoma song.

My heart swells with pride just thinking about it.

Here is Miss Thing singing it on the way to school the other morning.

It got me wondering. Where did this gem of a family treasure come from. Did Grandmother make it up, is there some musical genius somewhere in my family tree?

Of course in search of anything vague I start with Google. Song title, first line of lyrics.


And so I got adventurous. I keyed in every line of the song as I know it.

What I got was a song called Rag Time Cowboy Joe about a "Son-of-a-Gun" from Arizona.

Wait a minute. Arizona?

Apparently this song has been commandeered by several universities over the years and even the Muppet's and the Chipmunks. So my Grandmother, or as I like to imagine it, My Grandmother and her well coiffed rag-tag band of renegade western women made Joe a "son-of-a-gun" from Oklahoma. As they say well behaved women rarely make history. Boy did she ever make history for me.

And so, to me good old Joe will always be from Oklahoma.

That is after all where the bad men are.

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