Tuesday morning drives: Willie, music and death

Every Tuesday morning I leave the house in Yukon at 7:30 a.m. and drive to the office in Minco. I wait there until I receive a phone call saying the newspapers are printed and leaving the print shop in Lindsey. Sometimes they call before I actually get to Minco so I don’t even stop at the office. We then meet up in Chickasha which is almost the halfway point between Minco and Lindsey. They transfer the papers to me and then I drive back to the office in Minco. My drive from Yukon to Minco to Chickasha and back to Minco usually takes up about two hours.

I love those two hours of time. It’s just me in my pickup listening to my music. And I never know where my mind will drift. I have had some of the most productive brain storms on those Tuesday morning drives. Sometimes the music makes my mind flow to thoughts about music. Sometimes it rolls with ideas about making money or directs me to think about plans for the future. I’ve come up with answers about projects I was tasked with on many Tuesday mornings.

This past Tuesday, December 28, 2021, my drive was different.

One of my Christmas gifts was a gift card for iTunes (which I love because there is always more music I want than I can afford to buy). I downloaded the new Willie Nelson Family album. I listened to it nonstop on my two-hour drive.

About halfway between Minco and Chickasha I just started boohooing. The Nelson Family album, released on November 19, 2021, includes Willie, his sister Bobbie, his daughters Paula and Amy, and his sons Lukas and Micah. It is a very spiritual collection of 12 songs that last 32 minutes.

When the frog entered my throat and the tears started to flow I was on my second play through of the complete album and I thought it sounded like a “Goodbye” from Willie. I thought, “Is Willie dying and this is his way to say goodbye?”

When I got back to the office I looked up Willie’s tour schedule and he is booked through April 30, 2022. So I don’t want people to start spreading a rumor that he’s dying. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen his children post on Facebook and Twitter that their father is alive and well and not on his deathbed, despite the clickbait or rumors being shared by others.

But after hearing Willie sing “Too Sick to Pray” and Lukas sing “All Things Must Pass” and the whole family sing “Family Bible” my brain just went there. But I think my reaction probably had more to do with the death of others.

From December 14th to Tuesday morning (two weeks) I personally knew five different people who had died, two of which were cousins, husband and wife that died eight days apart. In Tuesday’s newspaper we had four obituaries, which is a lot for our little newspaper. One was for a two year old and one was for a friend’s brother who was only 47.

I had also just read a news story about all the deaths due to Covid-19. Oklahoma had more Covid-related deaths per capita in 2021 than any other state. So far more than 12,400 Oklahomans have died from Covid, more than 823,000 Americans have died from Covid and worldwide more than 5.42 million people have died from Covid.

I think my reaction on this Tuesday morning drive was healthy. And I don’t want to discourage anyone from buying and listening to the Willie Nelson Family album. I love the album and have listened to it dozens of time since Tuesday and not had that reaction. It is not a depressing album.

In addition to the three songs mentioned above it also includes one of my mother’s favorite hymns “In the Garden,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light,” and the uplifting Carter Family tune “Keep it on the Sunnyside.”

My favorite however is one Willie wrote. He recorded it in 1996 on his “Spirit” album. His youngest son Micah sings it on the Family album.

I haven’t been able to play and sing much since before Thanksgiving because of congestion and a cough. Finally antibiotics and steroids seem to have taken care of that problem. So here, on this last day of 2021, is my attempt at “I Thought About You Lord.” I’m strumming a 1950s Kay guitar that is still for sell at my antique shop.

The shifting Oklahoma voter registration landscape

With State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s switch from Republican to Democratic Party registration on October 7 and former Senator Dr. Ervin Yen’s switch from GOP to Independent on October 19, I thought it would be a good time to look at voter registration in Oklahoma.

As I stated in my previous post about Supt. Hofmeister’s announcement, until 2014 Democrats had always held the majority of voter registration in Oklahoma. Republicans took the lead in voter registration after Hofmeister’s entry into the race for State Superintendent against GOP incumbent Janet Baressi.

I was surprised when I compared voter registration numbers as of January 15, 2021 to those as of October 1, 2021.

Total registration fell from 2,272,252 to 2,197,574. That’s a drop of 74,678.

The only political party that gained in that time was Libertarian. They gained 1,482 registrations going from 15,734 to 17,216.

Republicans lost 26,354 voters going from 1,138,947 to 1,112,593.

Democrats lost 49,761 voters dropping from 748,222 to 698,461.

Independents lost only 45 voters going from 369,349 to 369,304.

I reached out to Misha Mohr, the public information officer with the State Election Board. She pointed me to several valuable pieces of information regarding voter registration in Oklahoma.

On April 16 of this year the Election Board issued a news release which stated, “The State Election Board completed its routine, statutorily-mandated, biennial voter list maintenance on Thursday, April 15. The process removed 4,034 duplicate voter registrations and 110,973 inactive voter registrations from Oklahoma’s voter rolls.”

So with this additional information I decided to look up the voter registration numbers by party after the April 15 purge.

Interestingly from April 30, 2021 to October 1, 2021 Republicans gained 13,175 voters, Libertarians gained 1,063 voters, Democrats lost 836 voters and Independents gained the most with an increase of 16,707 voters.

In his announcement yesterday that he was switching his registration Dr. Yen said, “I have had several friends who have recently changed their registrations from Republican to Independent.  I invite like-minded Republicans across the state to do what I have done.  I hope and pray that there are a significant number of other Republicans, like myself, who will unregister as Republicans and truly move our state forward instead of backward.”

Dr Yen also said,  “The Oklahoma GOP has left me.  Seemingly, every other day, I receive a communication from the Party being rabidly opposed to mask mandates as well as Covid-19 vaccine mandates.  The majority of the Republican Party also seems to believe that the Presidential election was stolen from our former President.  I vehemently disagree with these views and that is why I have withdrawn my Republican voter registration.  I have not changed, the Party has.”

In an interview with the Tulsa World Supt. Hofmeister said something similar insinuating it was the Republican Party that changed not her.

Supt. Hofmeister told the Tulsa World, “My loyalty is to Oklahoma families, not to structures or party. I am changing parties, but I haven’t changed who I am. I have the same values, and they haven’t changed.”

It will be interesting to see if the numbers for registration by party make significant changes over the next few weeks or months. Will registered Republicans who are pro-science and anti-misinformation, pro-education and not anti-tribal sovereignty follow the leads of Hofmeister and Yen?

If I remember to check, I’ll update these numbers in the months ahead.

Blast from the past

On Labor Day a lady I don’t follow on Twitter posted a photo of several books. She said she found them at an estate sale. Each book was all of the Oklahoma Today magazines for the year on that book’s spine. I saw her post because she tagged the current editor of Oklahoma Today, who I know and do follow on Twitter.

Another lady commented that her dog was in one of those books. Nate, the editor, responded (among other statements) that that lady could see her dog online as all the past issues are archived.

So I started looking at past issues. I knew I was in one issue. I thought it was in 1983, so I looked at all those first. I wasn’t in any from that year. So I looked at the 1984 issues. There I was in the September/October issue.

In October 1983 I was privileged to get to attend the very first Oklahoma Arts Institute training session for adults. I was still a senior in high school. But the late Gene Williams, a pharmacist in my hometown of Hollis, paid for me to go in photography and for my friend and classmate Dennis Myers to go in acting.

In the photo on the first page of the article, I’m the third from the right in the back. I’m sitting up on a big stone and it looks like I’m wearing a white coat (I think it was actually gray).

The instructors were awesome. David Fitzgerald was well known for his photos of Oklahoma and he taught at OU. But I’ve probably used more of what I learned from Bernard Plossu. His specialty was taking pics of people, but he liked spontaneously taking pics, not posed ones. I prefer those too. Plossu was from Paris, France but was living in New Mexico at the time we were at Quartz Mountain.

I took some really amazing photos that weekend at the workshop. Sadly I have no idea where they are today. It would be cool if I could find some of the people who also attended this and see if they had any pics they’d taken that weekend.

Yes, I’m Judgmental

I was accused of being judgmental on Facebook last week and I freely admit, yes I judge others. I judge what they say, I judge what they do, I judge who they associate with. I try really hard to not judge others by their appearance. But sometimes I fail at that.

I know “Judge not” but it continues, “that ye be not judged.” That sentence is from Matthew 7:1.

I’m prepared to be judged by others, I expect to be judged by others, I am judged by others – by my words and by my deeds (and sometimes by my hair).

I don’t quote the Bible a whole lot, but sometimes it is good to do.

If one keeps reading Matthew chapter 7 eventually Jesus basically instructs us to judge others. 

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

The fruits that were yielded on Insurrection Day – January 6, 2021 – were bad fruit.

The entire rally was based on lies. The election was not stolen. There was not election fraud. Not one single court found any fraud (in over 60 cases brought before courts) and even the Trump Justice Department announced on Friday, January 15, 2021 that it was ending its investigation because they found no fraud. It was all based on lies spread by many false prophets. The fruit from that tree was rotten.

It’s true, one bad apple can spoil a whole bushel. The same can be said of people in groups. 

I’m sure there were some people at the January 6, 2021 rally-turned-riot who truly believed they were doing the patriotic thing based on the lies told to them by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, James Lankford, Kevin McCarthy, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and hundreds of other false prophets. But what I can’t understand is why one’s conscience would not set off alarms after seeing who was standing with them in that crowd.

There were thousands of bad fruit. Some had swastika and Nazi tattoos, some were wearing T-shirts that read “Camp Auschwitz” and “6MWNE” (6 Million Was Not Enough – meaning murdered Jews), there were loud Proud Boys, vocal white supremacists, Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters and numerous other despicable groups.

Former four-star General, National Security Advisor (to Reagan and Bush Sr.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (for Bush Sr) and Secretary of State (for Bush Jr.) said, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.”

People judge us by the company we keep and with whom we associate.  

So yes, I judge others because by their fruits we know them.

Welcoming a new year with the Corona virus

Here it is the first day of a new year and I would like to be filled with relief and hope. After all, the year just ended was perhaps the worst in my 55 years. Good riddance to 2020.

This is also my 10th day of symptoms from having COVID-19. I’m better but still have an irritating cough, body aches and easily become fatigued. I’m really tired of being tired!

My worst two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Both of those days were bad all day long. I had a really bad evening on the 29th. This has been a very different and strange illness. The symptoms are many.

I’ll feel fine and then all of sudden I just drop. My eyes hurt all the time which keeps me from reading much and the diarrhea comes and goes and comes again. I’ve never lost my senses of taste and smell, but today I have a horrible metallic taste that I can’t get rid of by brushing my teeth or using mouthwash. I couldn’t sleep last night because my legs wouldn’t relax. My throat also felt like I swallowed some powder and no matter how much water I drank I couldn’t get rid of it. I still have moments of nausea followed by dizzy spells.

I do not know where I contracted the virus. We really have tried to stay in our pod of 8 since we first locked down in the spring.

Of course life couldn’t totally stop because of the inaction of our federal and state governments. I’ve still had to travel on Tuesdays to pick up our newspaper from the printers (they are just transferred from one vehicle to another), I have to go to the post office twice on that day, and I deliver the newspapers to the stores and machines. We however did not put out a newspaper this week.

I do go to the grocery store. But we also do more delivery or grocery pickup.

I wear a mask everywhere except at home. I keep alcohol wipes in my pickup. I wipe down my steering wheel, my phone, my hands. I wash my hands habitually and have since my first job 40 years ago at the Pizza Hut. I try to avoid people, by more than 6 feet apart.

I still got the virus. It is not a hoax. It is not like the flu. It helped to make 2020 the deadliest year in history for the United States. But here in Oklahoma more people than not are still going about their daily lives like nothing has changed. Our governor spouts “personal responsibility” yet refuses to wear a mask when he’s in the public. Apparently our citizens are following his lead.

Let’s hope 2021 brings better days and real leadership at least at the federal level.

Blackout Redux

Well it happened again. We were driving to El Reno on RT66 Saturday afternoon and at first I just thought I was having motion sickness. Luckily I was the passenger.

I was nauseated and said I was just going to close my eyes to see if that helped and I guess I blacked out and did a little seizure sort of thing. Kelly pulled over and let me get my wits. Then we went thru a drive through and got a bottle of water and returned home to Yukon.

She wanted to drive me on to the hospital but I wouldn’t let her. So we hung out at home for about an hour. I was hoping it would pass and I’d return to normal. Kelly called our Namina who is an RN.

I did not improve and the gang up of Kelly and Namina convinced me I should be checked out. So we loaded back up and hit the turnpike. Kelly took me for my fourth trip in six years to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital.

When we went in the ER entrance, because of COVID-19 they would not let Kelly go back with me. But before she went back to wait in the van we told the entrance nurse what was what and she sent for another nurse to come get me.

To my surprise that nurse was an old friend, the wife of the bass player in a band I was a member of back in the late-80s to mid-90s. She wheeled me back to an ER room.

This time I was surrounded by four women (remember two nights before it was six men). One nurse was asking me questions and typing in a computer. One was telling me to take off my shirts. One was sticking my arm and taking blood. They hooked me up to monitors and then in came the doctor.

I retold him what I’d told them.

They all left me alone and then it was waiting. For bloodwork results.

Then a nurse came in pulling a huge contraption and took chest X-rays. She left.

Another nurse came in for me to sign paperwork. She left.

I really needed to pee so I rang the nurses station to see if I could be unhooked from all the gadgets and go to the bathroom.

No. But they brought me a bedside urinal. I’ve never been able to use one of those laying down or even sitting up. So I stood up beside the bed and was successful.

I closed the lid on it and then it popped off. I tried again with the same results. I rang the nurses again and the one on the other end said someone would come get it. I tried closing the lid again. It popped back off. I hung it on the side of the bed with it open.

Then another nurse came in and told me I needed to take off my pants. She was pulling in another large contraption. She put it right beside the bed where the urinal was hanging and in my mind I could just see it being knocked off and my urine going everywhere. I told her my worry and she moved it for me and left.

I try taking my pants off. None of this is easy to do with all the wires attached to me from the left and blood pressure cup attached to me from the right. I drop my glasses on the floor. But I get it done and lay back on the bed and cover myself best I can with the backless hospital robe.

Same nurse comes back and runs an ultrasound thingy with warm gel from my right groin down to my ankle. Then she does my left groin. She leaves.

After about two hours the doctor comes back in and says everything looks normal. Blood work is good. Chest X-ray is good. Ultrasound is good. He told me to follow up Monday with my cardiologist.

So I really don’t know anything but apparently the problem isn’t my heart which is a good thing.

The adventure continues.


Last night, sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., I woke up to Kelly yelling. I was laying on the kitchen floor. She started calling 911 and I told her not to, so she hung up. 911 called her back immediately.

Within minutes there were three men standing above and around me. They were firefighters. Two of them started taking my vitals. Shortly after, three more men came in. They had arrived with an ambulance and they were EMTs.

Because I had a heart attack six years ago, they hooked me up to an EKG.

They were asking about my history. This same exact thing happened summer before last. One of the firefighters said he remembered and he had been in the same kitchen with me in the same predicament. That time they took me to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital. But I was just dehydrated that time.

I was certain the same exact thing was my problem this time. I could only remember drinking one glass of water all day. They wanted to take me to the heart hospital again, but I refused.

I had to speak to the EMTs’ supervisor before they could leave. I did this on the main EMT’s phone. So now I’m concerned. What if he was positive for Covid-19?! You know our phones are filthy things!

I drank water off and on all night. Got up to pee just as often.

I’m better today.

Remember, drink plenty of water. Every day!

A Favorite Memory (Rain Man)

On my birthday in 2015 (my 50th), Kelly and I got to attend an awesome reunion. This is the story I wrote for the newspaper about that reunion.

By Brent Wilcox for the Minco Millennium

Do you remember the scene from the Academy Award winning 1988 movie Rain Man where actors Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman get out of their car on a country road and walk up to a white house with a big front porch? Cruise’s character Charlie Babbitt says, “I want you to look normal, or normal as possible. Put your hands down.” Raymond (Hoffman’s character) says, “Four minutes to Wapner.”

Charlie knocks on the door several times and then a lady in a red house dress opens the door. Charlie tells an elaborate lie about how he is with the Nielson Company and the lady’s family could be chosen as a Nielson family. The whole time Charlie is going on with this lie, Raymond is muttering and wobbling back and forth. The lady, played by actress Beth Grant, asks who Raymond is and as Charlie begins to tell her he is his partner, she slams the door shut.

Raymond begins to lose it and goes from window to door, wobbling back and forth. “One minute to Wapner!” The lady is watching out the small window in the door and we see this herd of little boys get up and go to the window.

Finally the lady opens the door again and says loudly, “What is going on out here!” Charlie comes clean and says he lied to her. He explains that Raymond is his brother and says, “If he doesn’t get to watch People’s Court in about 30 seconds he’s going to throw a fit right here on your porch. Now you can help me or you can stand there and watch it happen.”

She says, “Well we like to watch cartoons, do you think he would settle for that?” The scene then cuts to the television tuned to the People’s Court. We see Raymond sitting in the floor looking up at the TV. As we hear Judge Wapner talking in the background, the camera scrolls around the room and we see the face of each of the lady’s six sons. We then hear the youngest of the boys crying while his mom says, “Daddy’s not here right now sweetheart.”

That three minute scene was filmed 27 years ago just east of Hinton, Oklahoma on Highway 37 over a two-day period. This movie and that scene were the first real big break for actress Beth Grant. She has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows over the last quarter of a century. The six boys are actually real brothers from Hinton, the Dougherty boys.

Grant was in Oklahoma again filming another movie in our state, this one entitled “Great Plains.” She and the Doughertys have wanted to have a reunion over the years and it finally happened on Saturday, October 10, 2015.

Grant had been filming scenes in El Reno and after wrapping up there, she and her producer drove to Hinton to the Dougherty’s Royal Oaks Farms. It was just like a long-gone family member coming home with Beth Grant hugging each boy as well as their parents Michael and Catherine. As Grant hugged the boys’ sister Elizabeth, she said, “I tried to get you in the scene too.”

The script actually called for the mom character to have two kids. Grant said that Marie Rowe, the casting director came to her and said she was actually going to have six kids.

“I said ‘Boy, I’ve been busy!’ and she asked if I would like to go meet the actual kids,” said Grant. She then recollected going out to the Dougherty’s farm and meeting the kids prior to filming. “I got there and just fell in love.”

Real-life-mom Catherine brought out an old photo album of photos she had taken during the filming of Rain Man. As Grant looks through the 27-year-old photos she points to one photo of her and the boys in the living room of the old farm house.

Beth looking at photos
Beth Grant and Catherine Dougherty look at old photos from the movie shoot 27 years earlier.

“I’ve had that photo on my wall all these years!” she said.

Come to find out that same photo hangs on a wall in each of the boy’s homes too.

When she came to a photo of her in the red house coat she said, “They made me try on 18 different dresses before picking this one.”

After sharing hugs and memories at Royal Oaks Farms, everyone loaded up into their vehicles and made the short drive to the farm house where the scene was filmed.

As everyone walked to the front of the house where the scene begins in the movie, more memories began to be shared by Grant and the Dougherty brothers.

“Look at this! This is an iconic porch for all time,” exclaimed Grant. “And it’s going to live into perpetuity, and having gotten Best Picture it will be preserved forever!”

We learn that Andrew was the baby boy crying in the movie. John remembers being confused and asking if Grant was his “real mom.” He also remembered being promised cartoons and candy, neither of which were provided.

Grant said, “I’ve just got to put in a plug for making movies in Oklahoma! This is my third movie in Oklahoma. Just working on Great Plains and I did Heartland this summer. It’s a beautiful place to work; the people are friendly and wonderful. The crews are fantastic, the best crews in the world.”

Pointing to the Doughertys she said, “These people, it affected their lives to have this movie made here. They’ve grown into such incredible young men, I’m so proud of you guys! I’ve already cried three times and not going to do it again!”

After the reunion, Catherine Dougherty described the reunion as magical. As observers we would agree.