Early this summer, I rode along with my wife Martha to a business meeting she had to attend at St. Crispin’s Conference Center near Seminole, OK, about an hour from Oklahoma City. Since I had no business there and was already familiar with the town of Seminole, I decided to take a ride to the little village of Wewoka about 12 miles away. I had less than one hour to do my exploring and be back to pick her up for the trip home.
Almost immediately after turning east on Highway 9 from the entry of St. Crispen’s I discovered how high the elevation was by the vista view of the valley and distant hill tops that lay before me. A wonderful view in and of itself and although unrecognized at the time, heralded an even more delightful outcome to the quick, there-and-back excursion.
With few exceptions the route taken south on Highway 56 to town was most pleasant and I must say surprising. The fields and meadows were lush and green and the roads were clean and inviting.
The highway going through town, north to south, runs parallel to Wewoka Avenue, the main street of “downtown” and by-passes what once was Wewoka’s main retail section and home to the county courthouse. I was glad to see mature trees on most every block providing shade to the benches set outside for visitors. Trees that did not exist back in the day, as they are called.
All too many of the storefronts were empty but the buildings were solid, maintained and usable. One such major building had been remodeled and offered loft-style apartments for rent, an offering normally found in larger towns and cities. Being the county seat, one would expect to find lawyers and bail bond offices as I did but to my delight there were numerous mom-and-pop stores open for business.
The first to stand out was the Barking Waters Book Store (I love that name, Barking Waters), where a coming-soon sign was posted promising Book and Poetry Readings. A few blocks south next to the old Key Theater is the Norman Drug Store. The doors were wide open giving a clear view inside revealing an actual lunch counter with stools. That alone was all I needed to turn around and venture in. On the left of the entry were glass showcases brimming with town memorabilia. Sitting on top of the showcases was a variety of individual photographs revealing the interior of the very same drug store from many, many decades ago beginning in the 1930’s. How wonderful.
The lunch counter, stools and wall trappings were original to the building as were the small leather-bound bench-style seats and tables for diners. I started to take pictures and discovered two gentlemen seated and nearly out of my view watching me with curiosity. I was greeted by the man with the walking stick, Ferril Williamson with a hardy, “Good morning!” I accepted the invitation to join them and was then introduced to the other man, J. Glenn Evans. Mr. Williamson informed me J. Glenn was the town’s writer, novelist and poet and the owner of the Barking Waters Book Store. I was all smiles.
He was accused of bringing so-called enlightened California ways with him when he returned from his many years of living out west and that his so-called intellect was only tolerated because he was so pleasant. Mr. Williamson informed me his grand kids refer to him as the skyscraper. I took the bait and asked, “Why is that? Because I’m full of tall stories,” he said. That’s how it began, with hand-shake greetings and stories.
Soon after, we were joined by Tom Ryan, the town’s mayor and then by Kenny Meyers, a “honcho” of the local Lion’s Club. The mayor excused himself and moments later brought me a cup of freshly made coffee.
I learned a little about the town in short order. For instance, the stream a few blocks away from where we were sitting has a small water fall and is quite noisy. Native Americans referred to the stream as Wewoka. The English translation is Barking Waters. Now I get it.
Many pleasantries were exchanged as were questions answered (not nearly enough though) about each other’s back-ground including what brought them and me to this town and what makes them stay. The clock quickly stole minutes away from my visit. My time there was cut short due to me being the ride home for my hard-working spouse. Goodbyes were expressed in earnest and I exited the store and the town with the feeling that every morning and everyday should be so pleasant, so meaningful. And it was made so by a few friendly faces in a drug store. My timing back to St. Crispin’s for my wife was impeccable. After entering the car to head back home, she said, “What did you do for the last forty minutes?” I said, “Let’s move to Wewoka.”
Photos by Darrell T. Smith – All Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Darrell T. Smith
Darrell T. Smith is a real estate broker, writer and artist from Oklahoma City. He has written and published many short stories and is the illustrator and publisher of the Big Branson Coloring Book.