“Collect the future’s history today, while it is still affordable.”
Part of the “train” of traffic following the detour.
We left very early this past Thursday morning to participate in the premiere Gallery of Artists, (GOA), show at the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was a gorgeous day as we started out, driving through the rolling hills, surrounded by the very lush green countryside. It was smooth sailing until about 1:30 that afternoon, when we reached the expected detour on I-40, due to the recent flooding. We sat waiting for almost an hour in one spot on the highway. People were out of their vehicles, getting dogs out and we were waiting for the truckers to drag out lawn chairs and have a picnic, when we began to move. We had no idea what lay ahead for us that afternoon, and that this detour would take seven very long hours. Thus the process of driving one mile, then sitting still for a half hour or more, over and over and over again, had begun. Seconds after we had made a turn onto another road, I couldn’t believe it when we saw the Storm Riders amazing tank-shaped vehicle slowly pass us! Its battered gray body was covered with large dents from the intense hailstorms they sometimes endure. I must admit that spending a bit of time in that vehicle and chasing tornadoes would be a dream experience for my brother, Marshall, and me! My mom just asks “where did I go wrong?” Who knows, but we’re sure glad she did!
Everywhere we looked was water somewhere, at times appearing as one big massive lake with trees growing in it. With all of the semi trucks, it felt like we were on board one long continuous train making our way ever so slowly down this little two-lane road. Occasionally local residents could be seen sitting on their front porches watching this slow moving train of traffic pass them by. It’s probably the most vehicles they had ever seen on their little quiet road! One poor unsuspecting local man, waiting patiently in his truck, to get out of his drive, had most likely been waiting there forever, and I could just hear him saying to his friend riding in the truck, “good heavens, what on earth is going on, I’ve never seen traffic like this here before!” as he continued to sit there and wait some more. As we sat and waited, we watched the numerous beautiful Red-wing Blackbirds, busily flying about and listened to their interesting chatter. The flooded woods to the one side was actually quite lovely, with the evening sunlight now streaming through, creating abstract spotlight patterns on the waters surface below. As we went along at a snail’s pace, the water levels became higher and we started seeing houses surrounded by the rising water. My eyes filled with tears as I surveyed the heart-breaking scene unfolding before me. Small trailers, barns, very large homes, all were being swallowed alive by the rising waters of the river, as it is no respecter of persons! Everything in its path was becoming prey to its unquenchable thirst. While going along, the real train slowly passed to the one side of us, and appeared almost as if it were going along the surface of this never-ending body of water. Many of the small bridges we crossed were just barely above the water’s surface, perhaps by just a foot. Eventually leaving the flooded areas behind, we came to higher ground as night quickly fell. It was then that I began to notice massive trees overturned, and realized what we were now seeing was tornado damage. Homes completely leveled and demolished, roofs tore off, trees in large numbers, big and beautiful, lying over and in some cases torn to shreds. Even in the unwelcome falling rain, large mounds of rubbish burned in the distance, creating an eerie orange glow in the night air. It was then I felt so thankful and blessed that my only worry was being delayed seven hours; at least I still had my home. At 8:30, we finally returned to the interstate and safely reached our hotel by 11 (midnight our time) that night, after nearly an 18-hour journey on the road.
We continued on our way the next morning while enjoying the beautiful spring weather. The numerous pastures were filled with yellow flowers, creating a fairy tale setting when filled with the beautiful herds of grazing cattle. Scissortail Flycatchers lined the fences in amazing numbers, while pretty little red and pink wildflowers lined the road. We arrived at the beautiful Woolaroc Museum after lunch, in time to set up and get ready for the opening later that evening. The adjacent rooms, as well as the one we were exhibiting in were filled with wonderful paintings, sculptures and historical artifacts, with all of them having a western theme. A few of our favorite things were a couple of beautiful paintings by Thomas Moran, and a case featuring a collection of portrait miniature paintings of the American Presidents.
Wes and me in front of our miniature paintings. (Photo: Julie Bender)
The beautiful display of the portrait miniatures of the American Presidents.
The museum is surrounded by 63 square miles of rolling hills that serve as a wildlife preserve and ranch. Saturday morning started bright and early, as several of us met at the museum for a personal tour of the ranch, while enjoying it from the back of the feed truck. Artist friend, Jan Martin McGuire, was able to arrange this rare treat for us! It was a beautiful morning as we began our ride throughout the ranch, filled with the lush green grass and tender new leaves of the Blackjack Oaks scattered about. First we came to the Sika Deer, and it was so sweet to see all of the babies, trailing behind and staying very close to mommy. From there we went to enjoy a personal visit with Goal Post, the resident 18-year-old Long Horn, whose impressively massive horns measure out to a stunning 6 feet across. What a handsome boy he was, and I was very glad that it was not me who has to carry that heavy weight set of horns around on my head!
A very handsome guy with his stunning set of horns!
We loaded back up on the back of the truck and continued to enjoy our ride throughout the woods and pastures that would lead us to our next exciting encounter. We pulled into the large pasture area, and before the ranch hand could turn off the engine, the impressive Bison started quickly coming our way. Before long we were completely surrounded by these amazing mammals, many with their precious babies following alongside. It was truly amazing standing there with these massive beauties a mere few feet away, where the only thing you heard was the sound of their somewhat laborious breathing. There was one male in particular that was huge, and was shedding his winter coat in big chunks, so I quickly named him Mr. Patches. Time seemed to stand still, while I relished this amazing and memorable opportunity to be able to be that close to this impressive herd. As we were all just relaxingly standing and sitting there, Wes suddenly felt his “seat” move, and looked to that side quick enough to see a large male taking a nice healthy chunk of hay out of the bale Wes was sitting on! How cool was that I thought! We loaded back up on the truck and drove to the other area of the pasture where the stunning herd of Long Horns was happily grazing about. There were red ones, white, brown and speckled black ones, all so beautiful as they stood there waiting to see if we were going to feed them “cake”. The babies were just adorable as they energetically went along, trying to keep up with mommy. I think we managed to get photographs of just about every member of the herd. By this time the Bison had ambled over, and it was time for us to load up once again and continue along on our journey. We started off on the bumpy ride, and there was a loud bang, as the door of the feed container fell open and the chunks of “cake” started falling to the ground. It was then that the lagging Bison took off at a full run, charging our way, alongside the Big Horns, all making sure that they got a piece of the food! What an amazing sight to see indeed, and you can bet we all got some nice photos of that!
Jan Martin McGuire, Robert Caldwell, me and Wes enjoying our visit with the Bison.
A precious calf stays very close to mommy!
Mr. Patches gets up close and personal!
Before long, our two hours were over, and it was time to head into the museum for the day to talk with the public about our miniature paintings on display. Later that afternoon, I was very happy to be able to slip out for a while to enjoy the grounds and other museum buildings. One of my favorites, of course, was the big barn that housed the baby animals. Very precious lambs, kids, calves and chicks, along with two very fluffy Angora rabbits were all in there. One particular black lamb very much enjoyed my scratching his neck, actually laying his head back along its back, while rolling his eyes back into his head! It was hilarious, and every time I would stop and start to walk away, he would look at my with his adorable eyes and bleat, something I alas could not resist, so I returned again and again to scratch him some more. Leaving there, I just enjoyed walking through the flower gardens filled with a nice variety of Irises, among other flowers and rocks. I also enjoyed exploring a wonderful rock ledge garden just beyond the impressive lodge that Frank Phillips, that started Phillips 66 and the museum, had built. The rock filled edge, had paths leading in all directions. Some wide, some very skinny, just big enough for me to slip through, some almost tunnel like. A couple led to the lake below, as you passed waterfalls and little streams, over big wide steps and little narrow steps. With so many paths and places to explore, I decided it was like a playground for grown ups!
The beautiful Woolaroc Museum
Me playing in the impressive rock gardens on the cliff
A few of the lovely irises on the grounds
Three of the resident Asiatic Water Buffalo
Before long the museum closed for the day, and we all headed to Jan and James’ house for a delicious spaghetti dinner. Jan was a very gracious host, and the highlight of the evening was getting to meet her two pet wolves, macaw and cockatoo. Zoe, the Cockatoo, put on quite a show for us all, with her impression of an eagle while also dancing and giving kisses. But we all almost died from laughter, tears streaming down our faces, with her hilarious act of yelling, while throwing out both wings, raising her crest and opening her eyes wide, almost as if it were her attempt at scaring everyone!
Jan gets a kiss form one of her girls
Sunday Wes and I enjoyed the privilege of getting to see, up close and personal, several historic miniature paintings belonging to the museum, that are not out on display. We were also very excited when a lady, who had come to hear Wes’ lecture on the history of miniature art, delighted us with her yard sale discovery of two exquisite miniature portrait paintings. Before long, the close of the GOA exhibition had come to an end and it was time to tell the other six artists goodbye, and start the trek home.
Wes and Woolaroc CEO, Bob Frasier, check out the historical portrait miniatures (Photo: Julie Bender)
A gorgeous resident Banded Lizard, which they also call little boomers.
Because of the flooding on I-40, we opted to go home another route leading us through Missouri. After several hours of driving, we safely made it to Springfield, and were quite excited to learn that the Hampton we were staying at was just a couple of miles form where Wes went to college at Evangel University. So we drove the short distance up the road so I could see where he spent four years of his life. Since it was now dusk and school was out of session, it was very quiet and peaceful as we went along hand in hand, while he showed me the library where he had worked, the windows of his two rooms in the dorm, a building for which he had drawn the plans for an expansion, as well as a few of the other buildings that remain unchanged. It was really special to be able to put an actual place now with the many stories that he and his best buddy, Jim, have told me through the years! Having gotten a good nights rest, we started the long journey home. Thankfully, we arrived safely home that night!
The impressive Price Tower in Bartlesville, which is the only skyscraper built by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Some of the beautiful horses that reside at the Prairie National Wild Horse refuge in Bartlesville.
Many thanks again to the outstanding Woolaroc Museum for hosting our premiere GOA exhibition! If you have not yet had the pleasure to visit this amazing place, make sure to so do!!
Fresh off the Easel: Wes finished a painting of a Bumble Bee enjoying some delicious nectar, and I finally finished my 16 x 20 commission of the Italian Winery last week! This week it’s back to painting miniatures.
Once again our thoughts and prayers are with the many who are suffering due to the recent flooding and tornado damage.
Until next time ~ Rachelle 🙂