A crossword favorite is: “A four letter city in Oklahoma”— Enid. My first trip to the heart of the Cherokee Strip was in 1966. I went there on a recruiting trip to ‘check out’ Phillips University. I was certain that I would NOT GO THERE, however the charm, warmth and academics took me out of Colorado. I began my freshman year in the fall of 1967 and thus began a 55–year connection with a city of 60,000, whose skyline had not mountains but massive grain elevators.
My most recent trip there was to attend the 100th anniversary of Gridiron Club—which I pledged in 1968. Believe it or not, Phillips once had a stellar football team which recorded a 10-0 victory over the University of Texas “Longhorns”. For whatever reason I began to keep count of my trips back and forth from Colorado to Oklahoma. After completing 20 round trips to finish my doctorate from 92-95, I had logged 115 trips. This means that I burned up a good car in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. In 55 years I have watched farms melt into the ground as they have been abandoned, while at the same time thousands of wind turbines have sprouted along the route.
I have a love/hate relationship with Enid. I have made great friendships there, I have three degrees from all things Phillips, yet there are times I found its myopic, parochial, conservative politics, shallow and selfish. A few months ago we had new neighbors move in across the street. He was a retired history professor with a PhD from Oklahoma State. In our first meeting I asked him if he knew my favorite Phillips U. history prof, and he quickly responded “It was a well known fact among educators in Oklahoma that in the last half of the 20th century, Phillips University was the best school in that part of the country”.
Fate and Enid provided me with two children, four nephews, and two handfuls of grandkids. It was the place of memories of great joy and deep sorrow… such is any place that matters. I plan to visit there again this fall where I am going to this beautiful farm and watch my friend Mark’s bird dogs show off.
Oh yes—Enid got the nickname “Enid America” from John Denver when he walked out in 1972 to a packed auditorium and said, “Hello Enid America”. In that very same space I saw Linda Ronstadt, Lilly Tomlin, and
Sugarloaf play… and believe it or not I was a cowboy dancer in “Destry Rides Again”!!!
Tomorrow is July 4th—From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam…we are blessed. Whether that be at a baseball game in Enid or cooling off in the mountains at Pagosa Springs (that’s me bragging), we are one nation still trying to live out this gift we call America.
Onward and Upward, Mark