Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I have no idea what story is contained within this picture's alloted thousand words, but I was cleaning out some files in anticipation of switching over to a new computer this weekend when I stumbled across it and said "that's so weird it needs to be on the blog".
I took it some years back on a state highway somewhere between the southeastern Oklahoma towns of Antlers and Broken Bow. As I was driving along I looked over, saw something dangling from the highway sign, thought "what the hell?" and turned around to take a look.
It turned out to be a string of decapitated catfish, mainly flatheads. I have no idea what compelled someone to hang them there: an angler's pride, some kind of hillbilly voodoo, perhaps a warning to to stay the hell on the main roads (homegrown weed is and always has been a big cash crop in the mountains of SE Oklahoma). I never figured it out. I snapped the picture, looked over my shoulder to make sure Leatherface wasn't watching from the trees and got back in my truck.
I shouldn't have been surprised, though. My mother was born and raised in Antlers and I still have a pile of relatives down that way. I spent a lot of time there as a child so I was well aware things are a little, well...different in that part of the state.
How different? When I took that picture I was down there on an assignment, writing about... Bigfoot.
Yep, it's that kind of place. Beautiful, but strange, a little spooky and completely unlike the popular image of Oklahoma. The year prior I had been down there on another assignment, writing about Oklahoma's timber industry. While there I had arranged to drive around some logging sites with a local timber company foreman. As I got into his truck and snapped my seatbelt into place he looked over at me and quite unexpectedly asked "You gotchaself a gun, doncha?"
Now, for those unfamiliar with that part of Oklahoma, it's as rugged, as isolated, as wild and as suspicious of outsiders as any place in the country. I was going to be spending all day in the woods with this guy, alone. And here he was asking me if I happened to have a gun on me. Cue banjos.
As it turns out I did, in point of fact, have myself a gun. Yep, it's that kind of place. Notebook? Check. Tape Recorder? Check. Camera? Check. Glock? Check. But I wasn't sure if I should tell him or not. I didn't know this guy from Adam. And he was big, kind of wild-looking. I was from "the city." Cue banjos again.
Would it be tactically prudent to keep it a secret or should I just come out and say upfront that I was packing. Was it a trick question? Would I be violating some company policy? The question, however, was rendered moot as he pulled a scoped .223 from behind the seat and shoved the barrel into the floorboard next to me.
"This is for coyotes 'an such," he informed me with a grin. I instantly wondered if nosy reporters, taxonomically speaking, fell into the "such" genus. "But," he continued, "Ah don' go nowheres roun chere without a gun. Dope growers. An there some roads you doan wanna go down even then."
Great. With the prospect of armed conflict apparently part of the day's tour, I figured I might as well tell him. He gave me an approving look and off we went, engaged in perhaps the most heavily-armed interview in Oklahoma journalism history. Yep, it's that kind of place.
I never ran into Tony Montana and his little friend on that trip, and I after I snapped this picture I went on, but never found Bigfoot, either.
Didn't really matter, though. The locals were scary enough...
Posted by Chad Love at 1:40 PM