Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 112: Cushing, Oklahoma

I am terrified of Oklahoma.
Nearly every moment of the nine days I've walked in Oklahoma have been spent in a state of fear.
This is mostly because of the dogs. Every day a dog has run after me. Most of them turn out to be sweethearts, but many are quite evil. They are often aggressive breeds (Rotweiller, pit bull, German shepherd) that have been ill-treated all their lives. A dangerous combination.
I crossed the Kansas-Oklahoma border and hiked south down the wide, grassy shoulder of Highway-77. I walked past several Native American casinos, small, derelict hovels (as well as a few quaint country homes), and over grass covered with an appalling amount of litter (flattened cans of Bud Light and Keystone, empty bottles of malt liquor, a tattered white McDonalds bag, a needle, a snowstorm of crushed styrofoam).
Because nearly every home comes with a dog, I grow nervous every time I approach a home. With the hope of walking past each home unnoticed, I take several precautions: I move to the other side of the road, I stop whistling/ singing/ talking to myself, and I place my feet on asphalt (rather than over crispy leaves), and cease using my trekking poles so as to make as little noise as possible.
There's no way anyone's living in there, I thought, as I passed what looked like a junkyard of RVs cluttered around a doublewide with a sagging roof. Just in case somebody was (and just in case there were dogs), I moved to the other side of the highway. Sure enough, a three-legged mongrel that had caught my scent came hobbling out of the scrapheap, barking at me, hungry for a pair of ankles. I'd escaped the mongrel, but now two pit bulls, from this side of the road, came running at me. I quickly scanned for traffic and scampered across the busy 77, which the pit bulls -- quite prudently -- decided not to cross.
I was headed to the "Pipeline Crossroads of the World": Cushing, Oklahoma. Cushing is the southern terminus of the 2010 Keystone Pipeline, and -- if the Keystone XL is approved -- oil will be piped from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.
I'd been paralleling the pipeline on roads for over the past 200 miles or so, only occasionally walking the pipe's actual path. Because the pipeline, for these last several hundred miles, had been heading straight north-to-south, it made sense to follow the nearest road, which also heads north-to-south. But in Oklahoma, the pipeline takes a southeast turn, so I would have to begin jumping fences and walking over cow pasture again. The romantic part of me looked forward to new adventures and glorious sights over rarely-walked lands: Oklahoma sunsets, rolling green fields, forests of slender pines. But the scaredy-cat in me resented having to walk once again through terrifying cow herds and keeping an eye out for zealous landowners.
Oklahoma is oil country, and I hadn't seen so many pipeline markers since Alberta. Because pipes, here, are as much a part of the landscape as the soil and forest and creeks, and because climate change, to most folks in the area, is a vast left-wing conspiracy, my journey, to most of them, seems silly and pointless. ("So, are you a bum?" asked a police officer in Stroud after I'd explained what I was doing.)
And pointless it may be. All day, on these roads, semis zoom past me, each hauling three giant 36-inch-diameter Keystone XL pipes to be buried in Oklahoma and Texas soil. (The southern portion of Keystone XL -- from Cushing to Port Arthur -- has received presidential support and is currently being laid.) It was demoralizing having to watch all these trucks, all these pipes, and all this giant equipment being transported for the XL. It made me feel so small and powerless and hopeless that I felt compelled to just helplessly flop to the ground, where the earth, for all I cared, could swallow me whole.
Half the XL is already being put into the ground. Why bother fighting something that's pretty much inevitable?
I am looked at suspiciously wherever I go. Waves to drivers go unreturned. In the towns I go through, I am not given a patch of grass to set up my tent, but am advised to leave town and set up camp outside city limits. But I find that there are always folks who beam brightly in dark days: golden pales of humanity that break through the gloomy pall of paranoia.
In Ponca City, where I was still walking roads, a man in a big hat yelled at me from his red car as I crossed an intersection. His name was Hoppy and he offered to buy me a sandwich. I ordered a Big Mac and fries at the local McDonalds. Hoppy was a retired construction worker and a recovering alcoholic.

"Has alcohol been a problem you've had to deal with for a long time?" I asked.
"Not since I quit," Poppy said.
He asked me why I was doing this and I explained to him that I wanted to learn about the XL, but also to live life adventurously.
"Are you a Christian?" he asked.
"No, I'm afraid not," I said.
"Well you have a light in you," he said. "I can see it."
"I don't know about that Hoppy," I said. "But thanks."
"I can see it," he said.
In Morrison, I'd set up my tent in the dugout of a baseball field so I could have a little more protection from the rain. The next day -- New Year's Eve -- the rain continued, so I decided to spend the day snacking at the local gas station, and the night, back in the dugout. An oilman named Dusty spotted me sitting in the gas station booth and asked if I'd like to spend New Year's Eve with his family.
Wayne, a former police officer in the town of Ripley, offered me a trailer for the night that he was renovating. On the road the next day, he pulled over and handed me a bottle of orange juice and some warm biscuits and gravy.
I'd tried walking over field and pasture along the pipeline path -- where the 2010 Keystone Pipeline was recently laid -- but I quickly determined that it was too dangerous. It led me too close to people's homes--so much that I felt I was constantly being watched. Oklahoma is nothing like Alberta, where one family takes care of 6,000 acres, and where I might see just a few homes over the course of the day. Here, the pipe took me past many small, impoverished homes. Dogs would hear my footsteps and howl. I could see their thick white bodies moving behind a stand of trees. I carried my bear spray, with the cap off, in the side pocket of my pants, prepared to douse any growling curs with a mouthful of cayenne.
This was poor country. Lawns were covered with rusty swing sets, rickety trampolines, faded multi-color plastic tricycles. To the side of each home was a junkyard of useless vehicles. Dogs lived miserable lives on short chains. Garbage was everywhere. Paint peeled from siding. Roofs sagged.

I felt pity, but also a sense of disgust: pity for the miserable conditions in which they were brought up, but a disgust for the cultural poverty that was as much their choice as their affliction. It's easy to blame the travails of the poor on whatever political party you most dislike -- and they probably deserve part of the blame -- but one can't help but think critically of lifestlyes when hardships are largely self-inflicted. The garbage, the baffling obesity, the drug addictions, the alcoholism, the glowing television sets in living rooms, the obsession with huge fuel-inefficient pick-up trucks. It's a culture absent of culture. Instead of customs and norms rising organically from the earth and evolving from generation to generation, this is culture created by the TV, passed down, not from grandparents, but satellites. (And I write this, not just from having momentarily walked past a few homes, but from having lived in similar terrain for several years in North Carolina.)
Part of this, no doubt, has to do with growing up in an area where one doesn't have many opportunities, and where social mobility is stunted. Yet I could see that this poverty also derived from an almost-flagrant isolationism, an extreme privateness, a self-expulsion from society. Nearly every home had a fence around it and a snarling cur under the porch. There were countless signs reading "Beware of Dog," "Private Property," and "No Trespassing." I presumed that it was just as unlikley for a neighbor to knock on one of these front doors as it was for an outsider. How can there be any sense of "community" when neighbors can't visit one another? How can we understand the world when we're secluded and holed-up in mindlessly protected hovels? And just as their homes are closed off to the outside world, so are their minds. I tried speaking with one of them about climate change, and all he said was, "Well, did you get that information from the liberal or the Democrat scientists? I tell you, there's no way I'm voting for someone who wants to make my gas more expensive." It's moments like these -- when I'm confronted with the other half of the electorate -- that I lose all hope for meaningful action on climate change.
After a few close calls with dogs, I decided to stick with highways, which would add many miles to my trip, but I figured it would be better than walking in constant fear.

Because Cushing is one of the oil hubs of the world -- with a vast grid of pipelines, smoldering refineries, and fields of tank farms -- I expected the city to be an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty. But I quickly learned that it was anything but. Grass was taking over sidewalks. Brick buildings were crumbling. Families lived in aging trailers alongside packs of wild dogs, barbarously kept within tiny fenced enclosures. We're told that pipelines bring wealth and jobs to communities along its path, yet here in Cushing -- at the center of the oil universe -- it's hard to tell if you're still in a first-world country.
Polished muscle trucks. Soaring semis. Shattered beer bottles. Broken PVC pipe. Fat children. Demon dogs. I looked at all this and thought what life in Oklahoma might have been like 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 years before. Look at how far this "progress," has gotten us, I thought. We grow nostalgic for the days when gasoline was cheaper and the unemployment rate lower, yet I wondered if we're not using our imaginations enough; if we're not looking back far enough. Perhaps we should be hankering for the days when bodies were beautiful and strong, when the air we breathed and water we drank was clean and when the food we ate was something other than a reconfiguration of high fructose corn syrup. When the frontiersman walked the woods and when the native horseman crashed through a creek.
I walked through Cushing as quick as I could, and felt the terrible desire, for the first time on this journey, to reach the end.

***

Many Native American casinos in Oklahoma.

In Ponca City, Hoppy asked me if I wanted a lift. I told him I was walking, and he offered to buy me a burger at McDonalds.
Casino at gas station on Highway 77.
Rock barn, Highway 77.
In Morrison, OK, I was advised to sleep in a baseball dugout during a rain storm. It kept me mostly dry, but you can see the puddles leaked toward the bottom of my tent.
A young gentleman in Morrison who offered to haul my pack for a bit.
New Year's Eve country dance in Morrison.
Dusty and his family took me in for the night on New Year's Eve. I had a shower, washed my clothes, took three shots of whiskey, and had a lovely time with a very loving family.

I came across these Keystone XL 36-inch-diameter pipes on Highway 108. This is, I am told, the site where Obama spoke last year. He promised to build the southern extension of the XL (which doesn't need State Department approval because it doesn't cross a national border). The pipe is currently being laid into parts of Oklahoma and Texas despite resistance from activists and landowners.
Cushing, OK.
Cushing, OK
Cushing, OK
Cushing, OK
These three members of the Tar Sands Blockade spotted me walking through Cushing. They got out and we chatted for a bit. http://tarsandsblockade.org/
The tank farms south of Cushing, OK. I took this photo from the east.
Lesson to aspiring hikers: Not all containers of apple juice laying alongside roads contain apple juice.
Keystone XL pipe-laying.
Keystone XL pipe-laying.
Camped in woods outside of Stroud, OK.
While hiking south down Highway-99, I see a big trailer like this one bearing three XL piples about every ten minutes.
Camping south of the town of Prague underneath powerlines. The police told me to camp outside city limits. At 6 a.m. a wild dog woke me up by barking in my ear. I felt protected by the thin canvas of my tent, but couldn't fall back to sleep.
Keystone XL pipe-laying near Cromwell, OK.
Keystone XL pipe-laying near Cromwell, OK.

35 comments:

Pat said...

Stay safe. I'm thinking you are getting a good view of our future. Our own worst enemy might just be in the mirror.

strangerthanfiction said...

hey, Ken,

the thing with dogs is to pretend that you own that road, and that the dog is less than dirt. Like you don't even see him.

Try it!

You're nearly there!

Larry said...

From my experience with unruly dogs I've found that keeping eye contact and giving them my most ferocious look will keep them at bay. From my experience with rural Oklahomans & Texans that same look will get you shot.
All the best to you.

Michael said...

You've become a great writer on this journey. Even though you're near half my age you've taught me double about human nature. Thank you!

Gillian Allen said...

I have just discovered your adventure. It is inspiring..thank you for creating this blog and all the best on your journey.

Scott Shaffer said...

Ken, I wanted to let you know that I've been following your blog, and that I used your journey as a sermon illustration this Sunday. This is one of the consequences of befriending Divinity Students. If you're interested, you can read the sermon here: http://gibsonmemorialumc.com/56-2/weekly-sermon/

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Oklahoma where the Indian Casino is the fastest growing industry! A mega-church and a casino on every corner! Glad to see you made it here, just don't stay too long unless you're in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, you might get told "We don't like your kind 'round here".
I have enjoyed reading every post along your entire trip and I have to say I've almost dreaded your arrival in Oklahoma.
If it wasn't for Tulsa, I'd have left this state a long time ago. But somebody's got to stay and carry the torch of reason.

Anonymous said...

Peabody Pete,

Thanks for continuing to write your impressions and taking photos. Dogs are a very dependable way for anyone to have security from unwanted guests. Free roaming dawgs, even more so. Personally, I would not be walking the route that you are on, because of the threat to my person from what I know about this world. In particular, I would not be walking across ranch and farmland on private property without express permission from the land owner, but you did get by with it, mostly, in more sparsely popluated northen states, so that was a good thing. I would drive your route, but not walk it. You were both brave and naive when you started this journey. I could see that to start with. As you have walked this journey, you have witnessed all sorts of things that you would never know by sitting in a chair and wishing it so. If many more Americans would do what you are doing, we might have a more tolerant citizenry. As you describe what you see and what you are going through, you can only give us the " effect " side of the cause and effect phenomenon. There are thousands of reasons for people to end up as they do. The desolation and poverty that you witness through Oklahoma is not necessarily because of the people being lazy and ignorant. Oklahoma was the 46th state to enter the USA in 1907. Before that, it was a Territory and a land that no one wanted. The American Indians had been forced to leave their original lands by the United States government in the east and were moved to the Oklahoma Territory mostly by force, as the last place for the unwanted Indians to exist...to live. However, more and more whites came to the Oklahoma area from all over in search of free land. The friction between the Native American cultures and the white culture has always been a source of conflict, as it is to this day. There are some 67 Native American tribes in Oklahoma. They didn't all start their existence in Oklahoma. Very few Native American tribes have so called Reservations in Oklahoma. Most Indians own land as individuals and that was a United States government strategic tactic. Most Indians wanted to remain as tribes. At the very least you can research minimal information about what is Oklahoma with Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

Peabody Pete part two

You write passionately about your impressions as to the reason why you see so much poverty along the route your are walking in Oklahoma. I suspect you might have a less intolerant view if you were able to talk, in a non confrontational way, with real live Native Americans living in poverty along your route. The cause of their poverty did not happen yesterday or last year or 10 years ago, but 200 years ago, when European settlers brought a new and intolerant and destructive sense about how to live life. I am a desendent from those Europeans who came to dominate this hemisphere. I am sorry for what the European has done to the Native peoples and continue to do. Nothing has changed since the Trail of Tears in 1831. Lots of pain and suffering have the Native Americans of Oklahoma suffered through the years. You suggest that you have " disgust for the cultural poverty that was as much their choice as their affliction ". Of course on the surface, it might seem to be their choice to be isolationist and suspicious, but it is the whites, who taught them to be this way. It was the tactic of the US government to not allow Indian tribes to control their land as a tribe, but to divide Indian land amongst individual Indians, much like the European point of view on land ownership. This made the individual Indian vulnerable to lose their 80 or 160 acres to heavy handed LANDSMEN of the late 1800's and early 1900's era, much as TransCanada has done to secure their easement rights to privately held land today...along with the threat of imminent domain... people can be double talked out of their land. Try talking to a TransCanada flim-flam man and see how it is done.

Much of the land that you are walking through is privately owned as you are discovering. Especially, rural people know that they cannot wait to protect their homes from someone on the outside wanting to take what little they still have, so they are not friendly and they cannot give an inch. They are aggressive in keeping vagabonds and other unfriendlies away.

You had a sense of this attitude about land owership and suspicions of outsiders, as you walked through Kansas.

You will likely experience the same thing in Texas.

Be thankful that you are camping in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in the winter, because snakes, tarantulas and scorpions would be real threats in warmer seasons.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Stay safe on the trail.

Trish said...

The people of Oklahoma are accurately represented at least - I have seen their senator, Jim Inhofe, interviewed a few times, and a more combative dogmatic person I could not imagine. He makes me shake in my shoes with anger. Yet another area of the country to avoid!

Frank Dicesare said...

ken you can't quit! keep going! it may seem like a long shot but just remember how you will feel in the end when you realize "wow, i just walked the keystone XL." If you can't change the world, you can still change yourself. stay strong ken and keep trekking on!

Jeff Kreis said...

Hi, Ken!

I have been following you since your Salon article. I would like you to know that I have found your writing about your experiences to be very inspiring and it has led me and my family to make some radical changes in our lives (like selling a big house and building a much smaller one, for example). You are my hero.

Anyhow-- regarding the "culture of poverty" idea you have in this latest entry: I have lived around some of this growing up, and I hear what you are saying. The only problem is social darwinists and jack balls like Newt Gingrich like to use this kind of argument to essentially blame the poor for being poor. People barricade themselves into their houses because when you live inside that poverty, property crime is rampant. After you've had your stuff ripped off a few times, you start wanting bars on your windows and snarling dogs in your yard. So which comes first, the poverty, the isolation, or the erosion of culture?

Hey, a vagabond friend of mine told me a tip once, to get a 24 hour Fitness membership. They're all over the place and it gives you access to bathrooms and shower facilities everywhere (and a gym of course).

Regarding dogs: I deal with them running on trails a lot in the country. Something that works for me is I wait until they are within about 8 feet from me, turn to face them, hands at ready, and yell "NO" very loud. It's a strong verbal self defense strategy. When they suddenly encounter a fierce resistance it always brings them up short. Just a thought.

Anyhow, thanks for writing your blog and best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but bear mace may not keep a pit bull from killing you if that's what he decides to do. You should be carrying something more lethal - and I am not a gun advocate! I just have a friend who is the strongest person I have ever known. He got attacked by a pit bull and tried mace, but it did not stop the dog. It just gave my friend enough of a break to make it to his truck, where he had to give the dog a massive last kick as it lunged so that he could close the door.

I'd really like to see you make it to the end of your journey without getting hurt! It's been a breathtaking account so far. Best wishes!

dissed said...

You've entered the danger zone. I'm glad you've realized the need to be vigilant, and I'm glad you continue to meet good people.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you are funding your walk all by yourself. Here is a journalist, who managed to find financial support from the National Geographic. Possibly you could do the same. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/12/the-seven-year-sitch-telling-a-story-in-21000-miles.html

Ken said...

Scott--Great to hear from you. I'm honored I made it into the sermon. I never knew that about the "magi."

Peabody Pete--Your historical context is useful. I should say, though, that most of the impoverished areas I've walked through are primarily white. And in rural North Carolina, where I've lived for a couple of years, many of the white folks are just as isolated and suspicious--and they don't have any racial conflicts... I suppose I'm trying to justify my impression that some folks are needlessly paranoid and suspicious. I suppose I can't say any of this authoritatively since I have not been in their shoes, but from the surface, I can't help but think that a lot of the "no trespassing," "beware of dog," "private property" culture is a little nonsensical.

Frank--who said anything about quitting? :)

Jeff--Appreciate your insights into the relationship between crime and isolationism. If that's the case, I suppose putting 8 snarling pit bulls on your lawn does make some sense. How sad indeed.

Anon--I have a knife if need be. Hopefully it won't come to that...

Anon--I didn't want any sponsors for this trip. I didn't want to have to wear logos or tell someone to buy this or that sort of gear. Muir didn't have any sponsors when he walked to the Gulf, nor Thoreau on his simple living experiment. I wanted to write what came to my mind, uncensored. And when a company is backing you, and you're reliant on them, I could see myself being tempted to self-censor. Maybe on another expedition; but not this one. Thanks for the link, though!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken! I've been following your story for quite a while now and really admire your gumption.

I wonder how much of your impressions of the poverty of Oklahoma are because you are from a different part of the country. In Oklahoma, and NC, and Tennessee where I live and other places in the south, this is Normal. And that is the problem. Poverty begets ignorance begets poverty begets ignorance and so on. If you don't know a better way, and if you can't see a way out, how would it ever occur to you to live a different life. This is one reason why addressing the root cause, poverty, is the only ultimate solution to helping these people see another way of life. Then using that ignorance and poverty, the rich and the powerful, often via the church, reinforce the status quo. And that is why the politics in these place do not support the poor with opportunity, or the ignorant with education. It is hard not to be repulsed by this way of life, but consider, if it were your home, place of your family, and all you ever knew, what would you be?

Hike on and be strong Ken. Yours is such a worthy journey.

Karen in TN

Anonymous said...

How sad for you to be so close-minded. I happen to live in Cushing and while the pictures you show are in fact in the town, they do not represent the town as a whole. I do not live in a trailer, I do not have an overweight child, and my teeth are all present and in their original white state.
I don't mind you "anti-pipeline" people coming thorughCushing and splattering us all over the media, but you should remember that we are not ALL oilfield people and many of the people and conditions you show are not people from Cushing, but the transient pipeline workers and transplanted families of prisoners.
The constitution gives you the right to voice your opinion without thought first, but it unfortunately for you also gives me the right to tell you that your one-sided, narrow-minded, judgemental opinion isn't helping anyone and actually makes you look like the stereotypical "liberal" that SO many believe all liberals are. Way to perpetuate the negative cycle!

Ken said...

Karen--Thanks for the wise words...

Anon--I did give an incomplete portrait of Cushing. The pictures I put up, admittedly, were from the poorer parts of town. (I remember seeing that you guys had a nice track, for instance, and there were probably other nice parts of town.) My main point was to underline how pipeline communities don't suddenly become shining cities of prosperity with jobs for everyone. And Cushing, the pipeline center of the country, perfectly illustrates that point. And for all the pipelines, refineries, tank farms, etc., etc., Cushing still manages to have (slightly) more citizens beneath the poverty line than the national average. It was not my intention to trash all of Cushing, and I'm sorry if it came out that way.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I live in Bristow, OK, but have my Drs im Cushing. I have not seen or noticed what you say you hsve. I alwsys day I want to live in Cushing. I find the wide streets very appealing, as with everything else about Cushing. I am not from here, eithet, but I choose to live here. I find the people are very friendly, the countryside quite fasanating, building a pipeline very wise for our country, especially Cushing, & our area. Friends always adk me wjy I would live herr, & I say if you are just passing through, & if you are just driving through on an interstate, you may not see what we see, or experience, so keep on going, we like our state with the population it already has.

Anonymous said...

Your a real dip Shit! There are good people in OKLAHOMA! Not everyone lives in a run down, falling apart trailer house! OKLAHOMA has some wonderful people and places! There are alot if hard working people here! I have traveled alot, i'm pretty sure I could take pictures of all the shity parts of all the little Towns as well! People survive here on hard work and ingenuity! So while you're walking around with all the man eating dogs..... Just remember.... Our pets warn us when stupid people walk up in our yards and across our property...... Generally , we " country folk" don't fire a warning shot with the shotgun!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Cushing in the 50s and 60's and yes, it's not the same anymore. It was an oil boom town and big on the RR line as well, but as many small towns experience, the oil dried up, the trains died, and so did the town. Now, there are still MANY wonderful people there, but it's not nearly as nice as it was. And, that pipeline, once it's in, it's all automated, no jobs from that either.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and wait till you get to Texas!! hahahah. You think OK. is bad??? You haven't seen anything yet. They have dogs, and those are the warning shot. So, be careful.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I am from Cushing. Your points were all valid and give an accurate overview. Sure, you didn't paint a picture perfect visual of the town as whole. From the sounds of it, most wouldn't have given you the chance. There are plenty of good and decent people in Cushing. As, I'm sure there are in every corner of the world. But, the poverty, dilapidated buildings, and general junkiness IS, in fact, a stark contrast to the prosperity oil promises. I've made money, myself, off of the Keystone pipeline. Tied it in to the Plains facility with bolts tightened by my own hand. There is money there. But, at what costs?Your journey is of societal significance. Please don't let the less polite of our Oklahoma citizenry dissuade you from that fact. Safe and happy travels! Nick Wotipka

Tracy Gilbert said...

I'm sorry about your experience here in Oklahoma. Many of your points are valid, but there's so much more I wish you'd seen. Certainly, the pipeline won't bring wealth to most in Cushing, but the oil and gas industry has created thousands of much-needed local jobs in recent years, which is mostly why it has such strong support. You also mentioned that most of the people you encounter are "white", but it's highly likely that many are of both European and Native American descent. Many Oklahomans are, even if they don't know or claim their heritage. Our state also has a huge meth problem, which has exacerbated the poverty and loss of previously agricultural culture. If you ever make it back this way, we'd be happy to show you the brighter side of our state. I'd love to hear your impression of our powwows, bluegrass festivals, and country cooking. I wish you safe travels and dry bedding!

Stacy C said...

I understand your thought process of Cushing. I used to live there. I have since moved to the Tulsa area. One thing you need to understand. Cushing used to be a booming town. But of recent, 20-30 years, due to the economy, many businesses have shut their doors. The people of Cushing have stayed as that is their home and their city. The people of Cushing are proud people. Unfortunately some do not "see" the trash and garbage around their residences and along their country roads. They are too busy trying to eek out a living. I am saddened when I see this. At one time Cushing was a beautiful city. Hopefully one day, it will be again. As for the dogs. I understand your "fear" I get that just walking around my block. I commend you on your journey. Stay safe. Enjoy your life!

Jayn said...

You are welcome to come visit Cushing and get a more balanced view of the people and the community. I'll even arrange for you to stay somewhere and talk to you about the stellar music programs we have had and the reason why the Microsoft Development team for X-Box introduced it to the kids at our high school before they did nationally.

Ken said...

Hello Cushing folks. It appears that this little entry -- probably through the magic of the internet -- was passed around to townpeople. I don't have the time to address all comments, but I wish to again acknowledge that I painted an incomplete portrait of town. The pictures I posted -- though pointing to the presence of poverty -- give the impression that the whole city is "run-down," which is certainly not the case. Please accept my apologies. I am a traveler seeking to learn about the oil industry, and I was struck by and thought there was something telling about the presence of such poverty in the very heart of the so called wealth-making, job-producing oil industry. I tried to make this observation "come to life" through this entry and my pictures. Anyway, I'm sure there are many great things about and wonderful people in Cushing, as there are across all of Oklahoma. I'm sorry I didn't do them justice.

Patricia A Brown said...

Ken, I'm sorry that my home state treated you so poorly. I definitely oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. Sad to hear of all the trash and needles and territorial dogs. I'm in the minority in Oklahoma, a liberal Democrat, and your journey is inspiring and well written. Thank you! Patricia A Brown, Tulsa, OK

Joe Richard said...

Ken, it's good reading your travels, and accurate portrayal of what you've seen. Just wait until you get to Port Arthur, and see the downtown there. It's the Detroit of the South, quite unsafe to walk through at night, by the way. We can only hope Obama and his cabinet will nix this ill-conceived pipeline deal.

TexCyn said...

Dogs, I read a few of the comments that claim that you should look the dog right in the eye. However, there are some breeds you do NOT do that with. Pit bulls. Dobermans. Rottweilers & Chows. A few others as well. Chows can get really aggressive & give it right back to you if you try to stare them down. A Dobe went after me once, I just yelled DOWN & he dropped into a down command! I took a gander that he was trained & he was, fortunately. He was just being naughty. Best to just keep walking & ignore them. Farm/ranch dogs are a different story though as they are there to protect the ranch.
What you are doing by simply ignoring them & avoiding them is the best thing.

Please stay safe, Texas can be rough with citizens that seriously protect their land. Especially in rural areas.

I think you are doing the right thing by seeking out churches & such though. Small towns can be really cool.

Bet you wish Texas were a bit smaller at this point...but considering how far you've gone, you'll meet your goal! And your other goal to point out the cons of this pipeline.

We're all on the sideline rootin' for ya! :)

Rev Roses said...

As you know, you can paint any picture you want of Oklahoma. I noticed that you didn't include any pictures of the Cushing Country Club, the Prague Rose Garden, The Rock Cafe in Stroud or any other "nice" site on your trip. If you follow a pipeline where will it take you? Through rural and impoverished areas, not the areas were people who benefit from the pipeline live. That is another issue that could be discussed but is true of all kinds of industries. I know many people who wish the pipeline was being built through their ranches just so they could make a few dollars off the pipeline. BTW, there was nothing in your report to indicate the pipeline was unsafe. In fact one might assume that since there are so many pipelines that are operating without issue that one more should be no problem. Not a total truth, but as much truth as your enrty holds. I'm not mad at you Ken, but you saw and reported what you wanted to see and report. I just get frustrated when complex issues are treated as simple.

Ken said...

Rev—I don’t even know where to begin.

1. You say, “As you know, you can paint any picture you want of Oklahoma. I noticed that you didn't include any pictures of the Cushing Country Club, the Prague Rose Garden, The Rock Cafe in Stroud or any other "nice" site on your trip.”

First of all, I took countless pictures of picturesque landscapes, and many flattering pictures of man-made structures along my walk. On another note, it might be constructive for everyone to stop referring to Oklahoma like it’s some untrammled Eden when, in the real world, it dwells near the bottom of the most meaningful state rankings. Currently Oklahoma is

43rd in health
41st in median household income
44th in poverty rate
43rd in education
43rd in teen pregnancy rate
45th in obesity
41st in overall wellbeing

Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the rose gardens (which I didn’t happen to walk past anyway).

2. You say, “If you follow a pipeline where will it take you? Through rural and impoverished areas, not the areas were people who benefit from the pipeline live.”

Did you really just go there? I could care less about the nice things Oklahoma oil execs have done with their money. My point is that the pipeline capital of the world is far from a gleaming metropolis of prosperity. The oil industry makes ludicrous promises of wealth (20,000 jobs, untold millions of dollars to stimulate the economy, etc.) when it’s very clear that the benefits to locals are small and the consequences are sometimes huge. It’s oftentimes the poorest folks who are “environmentally discriminated” against. (See Robert D Bullard’s “Dumping in Dixie.”)

3. You say, “BTW, there was nothing in your report to indicate the pipeline was unsafe. In fact one might assume that since there are so many pipelines that are operating without issue that one more should be no problem.”

I did acknowledge these things in blog posts and over interviews. The larger issue here is not pipeline integrity, but reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

4. “I just get frustrated when complex issues are treated as simple.”

While I did not think to photograph the local track or the nicely landscaped fast food restaurants in town, I’d have to say that your statement is profoundly misguided, as I took pains to keep an open mind and discuss the issues with opponents of the pipeline as often as supporters.

Amy Nicole said...

I have lived in Cushing, Oklahoma most of my life. This town has been "cursed" well before the pipeline. We have a HUGE meth problem here, as well as what you mentioned. I live outside of town, away from the tank farms encompassing the city, but there is a sad feeling throughout this town...and always has been.

Anonymous said...

hey ken, it seems to me that you did miss some of the great Cushing attractions! let me see, hum, oh yeah, well, sorry can't think of anything you missed! remember when parents would tell their children to follow their instincts? well you sure did! even though there are a hand full of people that are nice, there are more people that aren't. unfortunately the people who have commented are surly showing you the Cushing way, and this is no lie. you do not have a chance in the world to become excepted if you have not been born here, amongst other things. no lie there is so many secrets to this town they make your skin crawl. what was I thinking? without saying to much ignorance is alive and well here. you are lucky that you got out, can't wait till we see that welcome to Cushing sign in our rear view mirror!!!!!