We arrived at Oklahoma City, a place I had been wanting to visit for several years and the 31st state of our RV travels! We stayed five nights and for me this became my “museum visit” because for several days in a row I explored five different museums, some of the best of our travels. I was also able to add another capitol building to my list, bringing the total this trip to 13. The Oklahoma Capitol has an unusual significance that you won’t see at any other – a working oil rig. Standing in front of the building, it is named Petunia #1 because in 1941 it was drilled in the middle of a flower bed. The Capitol grounds actually sit on an oil field that has produced millions of barrels over the years, more than enough to pay for the building. There used to be more oil rigs but the wells dried up so Petunia is the only producing well left.
The capitol building was having major work done with scaffolding, construction signs, temporary fences and cranes all around. There was no way to get a photo without all that stuff in it. It looks like a beautiful building and I would have liked to have seen it “unadorned.” Due to time constraints I didn’t check out the inside and besides with all that was going on outside, I felt less enthusiastic about trying to locate the entrance.
Located nearby was the Flags Plaza of Indian Tribes of Oklahoma. There are many in this state – 39 tribal nations with flags marking each one circling the plaza. Most of the tribes were forced to migrate here from their ancestral homelands, for example the famous trail of tears for the Cherokee nation. Only five tribes are indigenous to the State. The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw words “Okla homma” which means “red people.” As we drove through the State I really got a feel for how many tribal nations there are as we kept passing signs that we were leaving one tribal land and entering another.
The Centennial Land Run Monument is an amazing sculpture display of 38 life-like bronze figures. The land run was an event in 1889 when the unassigned lands were opened up in Oklahoma territory and more than 50,000 Americans rushed off to be the first to grab 160 acres or a town lot. The Monument depicts how they traveled which was by wagon, horse or on foot.
The fervor and excitement of that time period is shown in the faces and demeanor of the figures. Since the monument is so big I couldn’t capture all the figures in one photo, but here are some views. More are yet to be completed by the sculptor and I read they could be finished by 2020. This Monument has the largest outdoor display of bronzed figures that I have seen in my travels.
Twin Fountains RV Park was our home base in Oklahoma City and staying here came with a nice perk, limousine service. The Park has two limousines, one for a large group and another for just a few passengers. A driver will take you wherever you want to go within a four mile radius of the Park and I decided to get a lift to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, just because I could. This is one of the best museums in the U.S. related to the American West. I was especially looking forward to seeing all the western art displayed here. This place is really big with so much to see that I was there for more than five hours. Below, a photo after my limo drop off.
The centerpiece upon museum entry is “The End of the Trail,” one of the more recognized images of the Native American experience. The artist, James Earle Fraser grew up on the plains in South Dakota where he befriended many of the Plains Indians, sympathizing with their hardships as their lands were being taken. He completed this sculpture in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
Another favorite is called the “Canyon Princess” featuring an 18 foot tall cougar. Completed by a self-taught sculptor, 31 tons of marble was carved down to eight tons, taking more than a year. It is a gorgeous piece of art.
The museum has a number of rooms filled with historic western paintings and sculptures plus art from current artists that are part of an art show and also for sale.
The display of fancy saddles was interesting but I found the price tags to be incredible. For example, the saddle pictured below had a price of $41,000 and most of the other saddles were priced at $30,000 and up. That is more money than we have ever paid for any vehicle.
Besides artwork there are exhibits of Native American artifacts and rooms full of all things related to the cowboy. The Western Performers Gallery has displays pertaining to Hollywood films and stars including film clips and kiosks to test your knowledge. There are rooms on the Calvary and firearms. One interesting exhibit features the rodeo with video monitors showing and explaining the different kinds of events.
A recreated frontier town called “Prosperity Junction” (pictured below) has a number of buildings alongside a Main Street complete with the sounds of town business being conducted as I walked into the various store fronts.
Perhaps the most unusual exhibit was on barbed wire and the Museum has a collection of more than 8,000 different strands of wire as well as 1,300 strands on display. In the photo below, I pulled open two of the drawers so you can see how the wire is displayed. I cannot imagine wanting to examine all the wire in this room, I certainly didn’t have the focus for seeing more than a few strands of it. It must take a real aficionado for the subject, but I did find it interesting that there were so many, many different kinds to be studied.
Once I was done inside the museum there was plenty to see out back in the attached park including more sculptures and memorials to faithful horses and a bull, a couple even buried in the park. All in all, what a great museum! When I was done I called for my limo pickup and headed back “home.”
I hope you enjoyed a taste of what Oklahoma City has to offer. In the next post I visit more unique museums here.