Tony A. Smith

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Peach Cobbler Capital of the World

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I was in the “Peach Cobbler Capital” of the world today believe it or not.  Yes it’s  true, I was in the small town of Porter, Oklahoma with a population of 574 people today to take care of some personal business.  There is not a whole lot of town in Porter as you can see from the photo here.

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Porter is located in the northeastern part of Oklahoma and is also the “Peach Capital” of Oklahoma as well. Every year for the past 50 years Porter has hosted their annual “Peach Festival” on the streets of downtown Porter.

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On July 16th of this past year during the Peach Festival, Porter, Oklahoma set a new world record for the largest peach cobbler in the world weighing in at a whopping 2902 pounds. The winning cobbler which is now in the Guinness Book of World Records was 18 feet long and 8 feet wide and beat the previous record of 2195 pounds.  The cooking pan that was built to cook the cobbler in was 6 inches deep.

peaches-pd

It took 7 long hours to cook the peach cobbler cooked on kerosene burners in a permanent oven built right next to City Hall.  The ingredients consisted of 405 pounds of flour, 300 pounds of butter, 87 gallons of milk, 537 pounds of sugar, and 966 pounds of Porter Peaches.  So if you ever get hungry for some good peach cobbler and a lot of it, you might want to visit this little town during the middle of July. I am sure they might have some good peach cobbler and even a little ice cream to go with it!

Christmas Has Done Me Good

scrooge

“What’s Christmastime…. but a time for paying bills without money, a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer, a time for balancing your books?…. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas:, on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.  He should!”  so says.. Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

But shall we let the story stop there? I say not…. And with that,  this is how Scrooge’s nephew replies………. “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited.  I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmastime…. as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely…. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pockets, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good.”

 

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

 

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M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S !

M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S!

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M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S!!

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THE SAVIOR HAS COME!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!

My prayer for you is that Christmas has done you good, and will do you good this year. Someone was born over 2000 years ago that has done us all good and will continue to do us good…. And for that, I am so very, very thankful this Christmastime.  May you  and your family have a most blessed Christmas!

I know this is a tremendously hard time of year for some who have lost relatives or friends.  It can be a time of overpowering sadness and depression, as the thoughts of those who have gone on ahead of them in this life catapult in as a tidal wave of memories that wash their feet out from under them.  Try to remember those who are alone this Christmas season, not only from a physical perspective, but from an emotional perspective as well.  Show them you care, and let them know it is okay to talk about those who have gone on ahead, and how much their loved ones meant to them, and that they are stilled missed. A gentle pat on the hand, a soft hug, and just being a listener that really cares… goes a long,long way. It is something they need to do, for each time they talk of them, it brings a certain amount of healing. Help them heal..  Gone from our sight… but forever with us… especially at Christmastime.

Tremble

indian-oklahoma

Dream

Earl Nightingale

College Education

College Education

He tried to raise cattle. That didn’t pan out that well. He tried his hand at remodeling houses and pretty much lost everything he had back when he was twenty-one years old. Oh well, that’s the past.  And now, oh well, now is all he has left.  That’s all any of us really have is the now.  We can’t live in the past and we certainly can’t live in the future.  Although many of us do try our hand at that even if we can never seem to make it all come together.

He sits there all alone in his creakity old chair.  It’s no different from any other time at two in the morning now.  The only light in the living room is the orange glow at the tip of his cigarette.  Usually says he can’t sleep for one reason or another.  Is it a lie? Well, you figure it out.  He takes a drag – inhales slow, pushes his mouth towards the ceiling and lets the smoke come out in one slow – long – swirl.  Flicks his ashes in the bottom of the rolled up cuff of his jeans and sighs.  Coughs and tries to clear his throat. Inhales  as the glow of his cigarette lights up the dark room once again. That’s been his usual routine for these past five years.

Just a common man without much education.  He’s worked hard all his life – not a paper pusher as he says.  But a man who worked with his hands and made a living sweating.  Not that he has anything against paper pushers.  It’s just he never could understand how someone could get paid to push papers and push buttons on a computer all day long. Never made much sense to him.

Tonight I’m spending the night with Dad.  Mom passed away just this past October.  Dad seems more restless than usual tonight for some reason. As he shifts and turns in his chair I hear every creak and moan of the worn out recliner from a nearby bedroom.  I wish just once he would stay in bed for an entire night!

Well now Dad is making it so that I can’t sleep either tonight. I just had to drive 500 miles from Houston to get here and now this! I wipe the crusted sleep from my eyes, roll over and grab my t-shirt and jeans that are laying on the dresser nearby. I slither them on as best as I can without any light and in the process bang a glass of water sitting on the same dresser.  Ice cold water drenches my bare feet. “Man – that water is cold”.

I latch on to my cell phone and push a button so that I have some sort of light to make my way to the living room. I look through the arched door opening to the living room and see that glow of his cigarette staring me in the face.  “Hey Dad”.  “Hi Son.”, he says.  “Why don’t you get up and go to bed Dad?”  “I would if I could Son.” “I just keep thinking, maybe I should have got a better education in my life so as to take better care of you kids and your mom somehow.”, he says.

“Oh now come on Dad, you worked 35 years down at the steel company every single day. It was hot and hard work!  You gave the best you could to your family.”  “And besides that Dad. Do you know you gave me more by not giving me everything I wanted in life?  You gave us all a roof over our heads and food on the table.  We never once went without food or a place to live.  And you taught us about the LORD – not by just what you said, but by what you did.”  ” If I had it to do all over though son, I would have gone to college.”, he says.

“Why’s that Dad?”  “Oh, to make something of myself.” he says. ” Can I just tell you something Dad?”  “When I was a little boy, I looked up to you.  And even though I’m all grown up now I’m still looking up to you. I am the man I am today because of you, and even though you might not know it, you’ve made something of yourself.  I love you Dad.”

“Thanks son, today you’ve given me more education than I could have ever had at any college”

 

In honor of all hard-working dads and moms!

Israeli Gold – Free Days

ISRAELI GOLD JERRY M HILL EBOOK COVER

Jerry Hill

Jerry M. Hill

Check out this free book “Israeli Gold” on Amazon by new author Jerry M. Hill. This is a historical fiction book about the promised land of Israel brought to life by a modern-day time traveler – “Mark”.  Jerry’s book is full of adventure and brings to life the many places and prominent people throughout the land of Israel.

Mr. Hill has taught the Bible for more than 50 years and has traveled throughout the land of Israel. If you have never been to Israel before, but wanted to see what it looks like through the eyes of a time traveler – step on over at Amazon and pick up a free copy for the next 5 days until this coming Thursday!  Click the link below to take you directly to the book site.

ISRAELI GOLD

Ringling Days

Ringling Oklahoma Mural

A week ago I had to travel to Ringling, Oklahoma to attend the funeral of my great-aunt.  She was married to my uncle for more than fifty years and lived in Ringling most of her life.  I have many family members that still live either in Ringling or little towns nearby.

John Ringling

Ringling is a small town with a population at last count of 1037.  The main industry in Ringling is cattle ranching with the secondary industry being gas and oil.  Ringling was named after John Ringling who was the founder of Ringling Brothers Circus.  John was one of seven Ringling brothers and was the fifth of the seven sons.  Five of the brothers eventually merged with Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Ringling Brothers Circus first started in 1870 and the first show cost the grand total of one penny for a ticket.  Ringling Brothers spent some of the winter months in the town of Ringling and often gave away free tickets to the townspeople.

 

Ringling Oklahoma Moore Drug

Probably one of the biggest places to hang out in Ringling is Moore Drug.  There just isn’t a lot to do in the small town of Ringling.  My mom said that back in the day when she was a little girl that she and her relatives used to come to town and just hang on the street to visit with each other – just to have something to do.

Ringling Oklahoma street scene

Ringling is located about thirty miles north of the Texas border and thirty miles to the west of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  It is situated just to the north of US Highway 70 and State Highway 89.

 

Ringling Oklahoma Water Tower

Ringling does have a pretty good football team with state champion teams in 89, 92, 03, and 2012.  I suppose football gives the locals something to cheer about on those lonesome Friday nights when you want to get away from those oil derricks and cattle farms.

I had an opportunity while I was in Ringling to visit with some family members who I had not seen in more than forty years.  A lot can change in forty years.  I was able to spend some time with some of my cousins prior to the funeral and to just generally catch up on life.  One of my cousins asked me if I had a family and what I had been doing with my life.  I told her what I was doing career wise and a little about my family who she had never seen or met.  I asked her about hers.  It really made me stop and think about life, as funerals do sometimes.  We step out of our day-to-day routines and look not at life in the present, but at the conclusion, or the summation.  The preacher tries to say all the good things about a person’s life during a memorial service, where they’ve lived, how many children they had, grand-children, and great-grand children.  Maybe they say something about where they worked or the things they liked to do for hobbies, or what church they attended.  They might even try to get those in attendance to laugh by saying something funny about you.

I wonder how it will be at the end of it all for me?  I don’t mean what the pastor will say or what other’s will say about what I did in my life.  Sure that would be kind of fun to attend my own funeral just to see what happens – like Mark Twain wrote of Tom Sawyer in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

What I really want to know is, what GOD will say about me at the end of it all.  Did I do the things he wanted me to do in life while I was living in the body he gave to me?  What did I do in relationship to what I knew to be right or wrong in life?  Did I do his will?  Could I have done more? Could I have served him more?  What about you?

 

 

Altar Call

Baptist Church Oklahoma City

This old church used to be a Baptist church and is the one I first started going to when I was a kid in Oklahoma City.  Every now and then my brother Tim, and I would invite a few neighbor kids to go with us.  One Sunday morning we invited a friend named Lawrence who had never been to church before.  At the time I was in seventh grade and Lawrence was in the third grade.

That Sunday we sat in our normal seats which was about fifteen aisles from the front.  Lawrence sat between Dad and I, and Tim sat next to me on the outside seat.  Lawrence spent most of his time fidgeting and drawing snowmen on scrap pieces of paper with a pencil he found in a round holder in front of him.  He stopped drawing and moving around in his seat at the very end of the service when the pastor gave the altar call.  If you are not familiar with a Baptist church, most Baptist preachers in a Baptist church give an altar call and ask if anyone wants to come down to the front to be saved.  It is not just once in a while.  The altar call is every service.

The preacher started the altar call and asked if anyone wanted the LORD to save them and to come on down to the front if they felt led by the LORD.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when Lawrence got up out of his seat and walked to the front where the preacher was standing all alone.  When he got up to the front our preacher bent over to have Lawrence whisper in his ear.  The pastor was about six feet six inches tall so he had to lean over a good distance to get down to Lawrence’s mouth to hear what he had to say.

After hearing what he had to say, the preacher just leaned back up, smiled, and then pointed his long skinny index finger to the right hand set of wooden double doors which Lawrence quickly walked to and through to the other side.  The preacher continued on talking to wrap up the altar call and soon Lawrence emerged from the double door area and returned to his seat next to mine.  I wasn’t quite sure what he did up there so I leaned over and whispered in his ear , “What happened up there?”  Lawrence just looked back at me with a puzzled face and said, “I asked him where the bathroom was.”

At the end of the altar call the preacher said, “Folks we didn’t have anyone who found the LORD today, but we did have one who found out where the restroom was.”  Have a great week!

Oklahoma City Times

A few weeks ago I had a chance to travel to the central part of Oklahoma to do some research on a few books I have been working on.  I had an opportunity to travel to Oklahoma City and Yukon.  I went to elementary school and junior high in Oklahoma City and then we moved to Yukon where I went to high school.

Oklahoma City is the capitol of Oklahoma.  Oklahoma in general is known as being one of the top 5 oil-producing states.  On the capitol grounds today there is an active oil field with derricks near the state capitol building.  Central Oklahoma also has more tornadoes per square mile than anywhere in the entire world.  The conditions are just perfect for making tornadoes with the proximity to the warm Gulf Coast of Mexico and the cold air coming in from up north in Canada.  That is a great mixture for tornadoes.  I spent my fair share of time in underground storm shelters when I was younger and tornadoes were in the area.

Oklahoma City is famous for having the world’s largest stocker/feeder cattle market along with the well-known Cattlemen’s Cafe.

Oklahoma National Stockyards Oklahoma City

Since the beginning of “stockyards city” more than 102 million head of livestock have passed through the iron gates leading to the stockyards operation.  The stockyards are located on Agnew Avenue and earned the nickname of “Packingtown”.

Statue outside Oklahoma City Stockyards

Stockyards City was founded in 1910 and was built to serve the United States as a primary source for meat processing and packing.  With all of those cattle coming through the area I have to admit it does get to smelling kind of bad if you are downwind.

World Famous Cattlemen's Restaurant Oklahoma City

This is Cattlemen’s Restaurant which may not look like much on the outside.  The food is some of the best in the world!  Cattlemen’s is Oklahoma’s oldest continually operated restaurant and has been open since 1910.  Cattlemen’s has been a gathering place for politicians, actresses, actors, singers, and many others over the decades.  People like President Ronald Reagan, Gene Autry, John Wayne, country singer Reba McEntire, President George H.W. Bush, Toby Keith, Dr. Phil, Trisha Yearwood, Mayor Rudi Guiliani, Larry Hagman, and basketball great Bill Russell have all sampled the delicious food at Cattlemen’s.

I have been to Cattlemen’s a time or two in my life since my mom spent some time working there as a waitress when I was growing up.  She would come home with loads of coins and dollar bills in her pockets from all of the tips since Cattlemen’s was usually a beehive of activity.  The steaks are the best I have ever had.  Maybe it’s because the beef is so fresh!!

Route 66 Yukon Oklahoma

After leaving Oklahoma City for the day I traveled west to Yukon a distance of about sixteen miles where I graduated from high school.  The heart of Yukon is situated on historic Route 66.  US Route 66 runs east to west from Chicago, through Missouri, Kansas, then Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and eventually ends up at Santa Monica, California for a stretch of about 2448 miles altogether.

Yukon Flour Mill on Route 66 in Yukon

Traveling west on Route 66 on the left side of the road in downtown Yukon is the “Yukon Mill and Grain Company”.  In 1903 the mill became the largest flour plant in the state of Oklahoma and the southwest.  By the 1930’s the mill had the capacity of two thousand barrels a day of flour.  The mill is still in operation today.

 

 

yukonmillerman

Now you can imagine with that much flour being produced in a city with a population of about 23,000 that the school mascot had to in some way be related.  This little fellow was our school mascot.  I did spend a lot of time trying to explain to kids from other schools what a miller was.  Many of them thought we were some sort of moths.  Yukon was actually named after the Yukon Territory in Canada where there was a gold rush in the 1890’s.  I think it would have been better to have a mascot like the “Golden Eagles”, or the “Golden Lions” or something that was a bit more explainable.

 

Yukon HIgh School Now A Middle School

If you head further west on Route 66 and make a left on Highway 92 at the end of town and go down about a half mile or so you will see my old high school on the left hand side of the street.  They have since converted it to a middle school.  This old school is the school that the famous country singer, Garth Brooks also graduated from.  Garth lived a few neighborhoods over from where we lived.  He was in junior high school when I was in high school so I didn’t really know him.  He was on the track team in Yukon and ended up going to Oklahoma State University on a track scholarship

Water Tower Yukon Oklahoma

If you continue traveling south on Highway 92 you will find this old water tower on the right hand side or west side of the street.  After wrestling practice we had to run to the water tower and back from the high school.  The round trip route was about 2 miles.  Water was what we needed when we got back from that trip!

Garth Brooks Boulevard Formerly Highway 92

Highway 92 in Yukon was renamed Garth Brooks Boulevard in recent years to honor the favorite country singer.  Garth is the most successful country entertainer of all time and is right next to Elvis Presley for all time album sales.  The weather was beautiful on the day I spent there in Yukon and Oklahoma City.  It was a great trip that brought back a lot of old memories that I hope to share more of with you in some of my upcoming books.

Ponca City Times

Yesterday I spent traveling to the north part of the state of Oklahoma to a small town called Ponca City which is located approximately twenty miles to the south of Kansas.  Ponca is the city where I was born and I was there to do some research for a few of my books.  This little city has a lot of interesting history associated with it and oil has been in the center of much of the history.

Pioneer Woman Statue

The statue above was dedicated in 1930 by E.W. Marland who was a millionaire oilman who pretty much put Ponca City on the map in a lot of ways.  The theme of the statue was based upon the settling of the american west.  It was dedicated on April 22, 1930 on the 41st anniversary of the land run of 1889 which opened Oklahoma territory to settlers. More than 40,000 people attended the unveiling of this 17 foot tall bronze statue weighing in at 12,000 pounds that cost more than $350,000 at the time.  In today’s dollars it would have cost about 4.5 million dollars.

The plaque below that first step reads ” This monument was erected by E.W. Marland in appreciation of the heroic character of the woman who braved the dangers and endured the hardships incident to the daily life of the pioneer and homesteader in this country.”

Marland Mansion Side View

This is a photograph of the home of E.W. Marland, the millionaire oilman who went on to become a U.S. Congressman and the 10th Governor of the state of Oklahoma. This mansion is listed on the National Register of Historical places and has almost 44,000 sf.  It is roughly 80 feet by 185 feet and has four levels.

Marland Mansion Back of House

The mansion was built from 1925-1928 at a cost of 5.5 million dollars which in today’s dollars would equate to approximately 77.5 million dollars.  There are 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 7 fireplaces, and three kitchens and was designed by architect John Duncan Forsyth.  The mansion has come to be known as the “Palace on the Prairie”.

Marland Mansion Front Entry

E.W. Marland came to Ponca City pretty much broke and was living in a local motel.  He used some of the last bit of his money to lease land from a Ponca Indian where he started to drill for oil.  Things went really well for E.W. after that when in 1911 he hit his first gusher, and continued to find oil everywhere he drilled.

EW Marland Outside Marland Mansion

By 1922 E.W. was one of the richest men in the United States and controlled more than one tenth of the world’s oil resources.  More than 1/3 of the population of Ponca City worked for Marland Oil Company.  Mr. Marland was always very kind to his employees and pioneered employer paid insurance, eye care, and dental bills.  He even built homes for many of his employees.  There is a movie about the Marland story entitled “The Ends of the Earth” that is in production now staring Jennifer Lawrence.

Poncan Theater

This photo was taken of the old Poncan Theater which is still operational today.  It was built in 1927 at a cost of $280,000 dollars which in today’s money would equate to approximately 6.5 million dollars.  It is also listed on the National Register of Historic places and started out as a combination vaudeville/movie theater house.  I used to go to this old movie theater as a young boy.

My dad tells a story of how when he was a teenager, they were giving away a bedroom set in a drawing and he ended up having the winning ticket that day.  It turned out to be a pretty nice set complete with bed, mattress, night stands,  and dresser drawers,  that would probably be worth 4 to 5 thousand dollars today.

My day in Ponca City turned out to be a great day.  The weather was fantastic and I got to take my mom and daughter with me. We also got to have lunch with a few of my cousins who I had not seen in a long time.  I don’t believe it could have been a more enjoyable day!