Day 6: May 1, 2015

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Today was bus tour day. The tour route was over the Jefferson Highway south of Muskogee which is how I intend to leave town on Sunday. That meant I got a narrated preview plus I didn't really have to worry about jostling for photos.

At the Honey Springs Battlefield, site director Chris Price joined us and gave a great description of the battle as we drove and walked around the historic site. This was a key battle in the return of Indian Territory (the future Oklahoma) to Union control during the American Civil War. It was an unusual battle in that white soldiers were the minority on both sides. Many African Americans fought on the Union side and many Native Americans fought on both sides. Although I was aware that natives had aligned with both sides, one of the reasons had never actually registered with me. Some aligned with the south because they had adopted that way of life including the possession of slaves. Others has just as fully adopted northern ways and consequently aligned with the Union. But there were other reasons and the alignments were not purely along tribal lines. Some of the Indians in the territory had moved there more or less voluntarily after "selling" their lands in the east. Others were forced westward sometimes with the justification that all of a tribe's members were bound by the actions of some. Not surprisingly, that led to some major hard feelings and the Civil War was something of an opportunity for revenge. It seems likely that some old scores were settled on the battlefield.

Before lunch, we made a very brief stop at what some call the first modern Jefferson Highway sign ever erected. The informative sign was placed at the north edge of Checotah by the Checotah Landmark Preservation Society in 2004. When we arrived, lunch was being prepared out front and we were soon happily munching on 'burgers and 'dogs hot off the grill. As we finished off centennial cupcakes with candles, Emmy Stidham, founder and president of the Checotah Landmark Preservation Society and the person responsible for getting that JH sign posted, made a few remarks. Rows of Model A Fords gave us something beautiful to look at on the way out.

The bus next parked directly in front of the Heartland Heritage Museum. The museum is filled with rodeo related items and native art. A couple of native artists were working in the museum while we were there. After the museum, many of the group set off to cruise the towns numerous antique shops while I looked at blue buffalo and buildings. Sometimes I looked at just the remnants of buildings. As explained on the plaque, that arch is all that remains of the Gentry Block after a devastating fire in 1992.

Eufaula Lake, which was dedicated in 1964, left the town of Crowder on something of a dead end when it covered the road south out of town. For fans of roads and the things beside them, an old garage, that was moved to its current location to escape the lake, is a treat.

On the way back to Muskogee, we stopped at Garrett Ranch, a.k.a. Longhorn Indian Territory. It all started, they say, with the swimming pool. The Garretts wanted a western themed area to display some of their collection and it just grew from there. And how. They even have places for the kids to play.

Back in Muskogee, we were given the run of the Three Rivers Museum before dinner. The museum celebrates local history including the fact that the first sale of cookies by Girl Scouts occurred in Muskogee. It even contains a bit of Ohio with a 1933 posting machine from Dayton's National Cash Register company. The food, the weather, and the live music all contributed to making the outdoor meal a delight.

After dinner, we walked across the street to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame where there was another bit of Ohio, a 1947 Crosley from Cincinnati, parked among the classic cars out front. Inside, we were able to check out the Hall of Fame displays before wrapping up the day with "Hankerin' for Hank". Hank Williams impersonator and Hall of Fame Director, Jim Paul Blair definitely looked and sounded the part as he performed most of the Williams catalog.

After the concert, I did make a stop on the way back to the motel to photograph this wonderful piece of Jefferson Highway decoration.

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