The decade the author spent in Freedom, Oklahoma took her back in time at least fifteen years. |
It was a unique little town. There was no law enforcement in Freedom, Oklahoma; no police, no judge, and no jail. It appeared that the citizens living there made their own laws. The residents policed themselves, and they resented any law getting too close to their town. The word spread fast among the residents when one of them would spot a state trooper or a sheriff's vehicle staked out on a nearby highway.
Most of the people living in and around Freedom are farmers or ranchers who become frustrated and angry when their hard work and efforts at farming and ranching continually fail to pay off. Even when they have a good wheat crop it doesn't mean that they'll receive a fair price for their time and efforts. Much of the farmer's financial success in Freedom, Oklahoma depends on how high the government values the price of wheat that season.
Mother Nature continuously takes a heavy toll on the local farmers. They're forever challenged by drought, wind, rain, and the insects that occasionally, vengefully destroy their crops. The obstacles that the people face in their day-to-day lives sometimes destroy the souls of those with little hope or faith. Most of the farmers in Northwest Oklahoma seemed to live on a prayer and a shoe string. New farming equipment is extremely expensive, and available only to a choice few.
Many of the farmers can barely afford to pay for the seed needed to plant the crops, let alone replace their aging equipment. They depend on operating loans from the local banks and government assistance to help them eke out a living.
There's an extreme difference in the lifestyles of the people. The local politicians and crooks own acres and acres of land and the best farming equipment money can buy; however, the poorer sharecropping farmers have little chance to make a living at farming.
There's a shortage of water to irrigate the crops, and most farmers do not have an irrigation system in place. They rely upon Mother Nature for an occasional thunderstorm and a soaking rain. Things haven't improved much around Freedom since the 1920's and 30's.
The farmers seem limited in the crops they can plant. The land is normally planted in wheat or grass and used for grazing cattle. Year after year the farmer's plant wheat, sometime having a decent crop, and many times, depending on the elements, having no crop at all. Regardless, as the years go by and the seasons roll around, the farmers repeat their efforts over and over; as if it is the only way they know.
The author's favorite time of year in Freedom was the early spring, when the rolling green wheat fields resembled expansive golf courses. From the highway, the green wheat fields went on forever. She imagined that the farm families must pray that their crops stay safe from the elements so they'd have a successful wheat crop each year, and she prayed too.
A few of the worried men occasionally drank too many beers in the Freedom Saloon, forever looking for a release from the tension and the anxiety of their everyday farming life. It was rumored that the tired farmers would occasionally bar the door of the Freedom Bar and beat the crap out of one another just to relieve their frustrations with each other and the world around them." What doesn't kill you in Freedom only makes you stronger!"
Gossip spreads fast throughout the small town; there are no secrets. In the good old days gossip spread throughout the community by nosey, bored citizens who listened to their neighbor's telephone conversations over the old party lines. One family might have one ring and the other might have two, they always knew when their neighbors were on the line. Many hours were spent quietly listening in on each other's conversations over crank telephones from the confines of farmhouse living rooms.
Most of the people living in and around Freedom, Oklahoma are hardworking honest, generous survivors who cherish their old-fashioned way of life. They honor their neighbors and value family traditions.
Drifters who occasionally come through Freedom with hopes of settling down there eventually move on. It doesn't take an outsider long to find out who makes the rules in Freedom. To survive there a person needs to be rough, tough, and ornery and open to the possibility of being taken advantage of.
There's a definite competition between the families who live north of the Cimarron and those who live south of the slow-moving river. The attitudes of the people from the north have the potential and the power to destroy men and damage families and reputations.
God forbid if you needed to borrow money from the local bank to keep your farm and your family alive. If you don't come from one of the better off families in Freedom you're looked down upon, and the town bullies proceeded to treat you accordingly.
Freedom has a co-op where the farmers buy their feed and seed at highly escalated prices. The owner of the local hardware can get you anything you need and have it delivered in two days, if you're willing to pay his price. The corner grocery store sells gas and groceries; at prices so steep a person would be better off to drive 30 miles to Woodward to do their grocery shopping.
There are no stop lights in the one-horse town. There's a school with grades from one to twelve, a town hall, a post office, a legion hall, a small Western museum, a sewing shop, two country cafes', a rodeo arena, a bank and a saloon. Tumbleweeds blow down the dusty main street of the old town which could easily be a ghost town in a movie set, but it's not, it's all very real.
Webster's dictionary defines the word "freedom," in part, as: "The quality or state of being free; and, the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; and, liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; and, the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous; and, the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken."
Although the author read and understood the definition in Webster's dictionary, she imagined that those who visited Freedom, Oklahoma, would come up with their own definition.
Freedom is a small, quaint, secluded town in northwest Oklahoma; a place some have fled to seeking their own personal freedom.
The town of Freedom is situated in a beautiful green valley nestled along the Cimarron River in Northwest Oklahoma. It's somehow protected by an unknown Godly source. Freedom is located in the middle of Tornado Alley; however, it's rumored that very few tornadoes have ever touched down there. The population consists mainly of old-timers whose families settled in and around Freedom after the 1893 land rush.
Few young people stick around when they finish high school. Most of them move on to larger cities or towns to explore grander opportunities than are offered in Freedom. The majority of the high school seniors leave for college and few ever return, except for an occasional holiday visit or to attend a family or class reunion.
The residents of Freedom welcome tourists into their town the third weekend in August each year, when thousands of rodeo fans arrive to attend their annual rodeo. The Freedom Rodeo's tradition has lived on in the small town for over seventy-five years.
The town of Freedom was established eight years after the 1893 Cherokee Outlet Land Run. The U.S. government originally purchased the land in 1891 from the Cherokee Indians, and Freedom was established as a town in 1901. The Santa Fe Railroad Company built a railway line running between Waynoka and Buffalo, Oklahoma. Its lines run close to the town of Freedom.
By 1928 the town prospered. Freight trains made daily stops there. Several new businesses developed as a result of the railroad, and they soon had a grocery store, auto repair garage, drug store, barber shop, lumber yard, meat market, hardware store, produce shop, feed yard, cafe, a hotel and a bank.
In 1928 the population of Freedom was two hundred fifty-one. When the author arrived in 1996 the population was two hundred and eighty-one.
The main street of the old Western town features wooden store fronts and sidewalks and the town has great potential to be a popular Oklahoma tourist destination. However, many of the older citizens appear content with the status quo. They're not interested in putting up with tourists or strangers in general, for that matter.
Freedom has many meanings, the author's definition is, "It's a good place to visit if you're wise enough not to stay too long.
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