A Favorite News Article (John Rule)

This is a story I wrote for our local weekly in February 2015. A local artist was selected to produce the cover for the 2015 Oklahoma Travel Guide. This is about that artist – John Rule.

By Brent Wilcox for the Minco Millennium

On the handsome cover of the new 2015 Oklahoma Travel Guide one will see the state bird, the state animal, the state flower and the state wild flower. It is not photographs gracing the new guide cover, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Bison, Oklahoma Rose and Indian Blanket are all carved into leather by John Rule, a local artist and leather craftsman.

front cover cropped

Rule lives just over a mile west of Red Hill, south of Minco. He and his wife have lived here for about 8 years. Before moving to the Minco area he and his wife owned one of the oldest saddle shops still operating in Oklahoma, the National Saddlery located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

“It was started in 1926 and I worked there for 31 or 32 years. My wife and I bought it in 1980,” said Rule.

He told me he made his first belt at age 11. “It’s approaching 50 years,” Rule said when asked how long he had been tooling leather. “I made my first saddle when I was 16. It can be a fun hobby or a life-long journey.”  Rule made it a life-long journey and clearly that decision has paid off when you view his artistry.

Rule was chosen as the Official Saddlemaker of the Oklahoma Centennial. The saddle he created is on display at the Oklahoma History Center. He thought that was probably how the Oklahoma Department of Tourism found him to approach him about creating the cover for the 2015 Travel Guide.

“They gave me size instructions, but had minimal input on the design,” Rule said about the cover. He had included the scissor-tail and bison on the Centennial saddle and he said it was pretty much a no-brainer to include them on the cover. He said once the design was completed and approved it took him about 7 days from start to finish on the cover. However, Rule’s work days are usually 12 to 15 hours.

About 90% of what he does is custom orders. “I do most everything in leather, except boots and shoes.  Belts, billfolds and of course I still build saddles,” said Rule. He was working on a cover for a day planner while I visited with him for this story.

But leather is not his only artistic talent. Rule is also a magnificent sculptor. He’s only been sculpting with clay for about 10 years but as he explained, “Basically that is what I do with the leather, I sculpt it,” said Rule.

Rule is currently working on what will be a life-size bronze sculpture for Oklahoma City Community College. He has titled it “Downstream Drifters.”  There are three longhorn steers with a cowboy on his horse using a hoolihan loop to rope the steers.

Artist John Rule shows how he attaches different pieces of his sculpture together.

Rule explained that once he gets everything sculpted the way he wants it, it will then be broken down into pieces and they’ll create molds in his shop. The rubber molds will then be taken to a foundry in Wilson, Oklahoma and the molds will be poured with bronze. An interesting note on the foundry where his sculpture will be bronzed, Rule said, “It’s where they make the Heisman Trophies.”

When “Downstream Drifters” is complete it will be put on a large fountain with running water outside at OCCC. “The steers should be at about eye level when it is all finished,” said Rule. He hopes to wrap up the sculpting part of this process within the week. As soon as he is finished with this one, he will immediately begin on another custom ordered sculpture. He couldn’t disclose who it was for yet, but said it would be another cowboy on a horse to be displayed somewhere in Oklahoma City.

John Rule is a true artist who knows his craft and his subject matter. You can find him on Facebook under John Rule Saddlery if you would like to custom order a saddle, a belt or just about any other leather item or to custom order a sculpture to display at your home or business.

Beans, Beans the wonderful fruit…

“What about protein? We need protein and you said we can’t eat meat or much of it anyway!”  That’s right, we do need protein and for a heart healthy diet it is recommended to limit the amount of animal protein we intake. But there are other, healthier ways to get the protein we need.

It reminds me of a poem my daddy taught me as a kid: Beans, beans the wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you … oh, never mind. But seriously, beans are a wonderful source of protein that we can eat every single day. And there are so many different ones to choose from: Pinto, Navy, Kidney, Black, Lima, Cranberry, Soldier, Fava, Northern, and the list goes on and on.  And dried beans are very economical on your grocery budget.

One of my favorite meals now is one I got sick and tired of as a kid: Pinto beans, corn bread and fried potatoes. I could eat almost any kind of beans and be happy as long as I have some good corn bread and fried potatoes to go along with them. But, sigh, I’m not supposed to have any fried foods so that cuts out the fried potatoes. But these are almost as good.

Cut up potatoes just like you were going to fry them in a pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a pan lightly with olive oil and dump the potatoes in. I like to cut up an onion and bell pepper as well and include. I spray it all lightly with the olive oil and sprinkle it with some Mrs. Dash Original or Onion and Spice blend. Cover it with foil and let it bake for about an hour. I usually stir it once or twice while it is cooking.

And I’ve created my own healthier type of cornbread. I love this stuff.

Brent’s Whole Wheat Salsa Cornbread

Mix together dry ingredients of

¾ cup Corn Meal

1 ¼ cup WHOLE wheat flour

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons Baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Add in

2 egg whites

½ cup low fat sour cream

½ cup skim or 2% milk

½ cup salsa

¼ cup olive oil

Add in

½ cup frozen corn

1 cup shredded low fat, skim mozzarella cheese


Divide into 12 muffin cups spayed with olive oil

Cook 20 minutes in pre-heated 400 degree oven


Eat this healthy cornbread with some oven-baked-fried potatoes and a pot of good old beans and you’ll be getting your protein, your fiber and all sorts of good tasting flavors on your tongue and you won’t be clogging up those arteries.


That little poem my daddy taught me ends, “…the better you feel, so eat some beans at every meal!”  That’s some good advice right there!

Eating Meat

The following column was only my second for In the Kitchen.  As you’ll see, the original recipe called for Tilapia. Since this column originally ran, I’ve read several articles about Tilapia and the way they are raised. A couple of those articles claimed that because of the way Tilapia is raised it is not a healthy fish to eat. One article even claimed that bacon was healthier than Tilapia. Wild caught fish are much healthier for one than farm raised Tilapia, according to much of what I’ve read. So you may wish to switch to something like wild-caught Alaskan cod, or some other wild-caught fish.

We Americans love our meat, and here in Oklahoma where so many of us raise or have raised cattle and hogs – we love our red meat.  Every day I see at least one pickup with the “Eat Beef” sticker.  But I’ve learned that it really can be hard on your heart, your arteries and your body to eat too much meat, especially red meat.

The heart healthy diet I was placed on calls for only one serving of animal protein a day and by one serving, they mean 3.5 to 4 ounces of meat.  That is about the size of a deck of cards.  I’m supposed to only eat one serving of red meat once per month, if at all.  And red meat does not just mean beef.  The National Pork Producers did a splendid job in marketing with their “Pork, the other white meat” campaign, but it is just marketing.  Pork is considered red meat, as is duck, lamb, and veal.

I can have white meat poultry (chicken or turkey) once a week, and I can have shrimp, crab, lobster or crawfish once a week.  They told me I could have fish every other day, to include oysters, mussels, scallops and clams.  My problem is I don’t care for most fish or water based life as food.  I loved fried catfish but that was about it.  But I’m not supposed to have any fried food!

The good thing about fish is that they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart attacks and reduce inflammation.  So, I am learning to like fish in a few different forms.  Here is a recipe that I do like and it is healthy.

Oven Baked Blackened Tilapia

1 pound tilapia fillets (I buy frozen)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Blackening Rub

3 Tablespoons Paprika

1 teaspoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 teaspoon Black Pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Oregano

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Combine the ingredients to make the Blackening Rub.  Line a sheet pan with foil and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Brush the oil over the foil where the fish will be laid.  Rinse and pat dry the fish fillets.  Brush with olive oil.  Cover the fillets with the spices and rub it in on both sides.


Place the fillets on the foil and spray them lightly with PAM (or something similar).  Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 11 minutes.


I prefer to eat mine with Tartar Sauce.  This is a simple homemade recipe.  Combine 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of sweet pickle relish and ¼ teaspoon of onion powder.  Mix it up well and you are ready to eat some healthy, baked blackened tilapia!  Add a fresh salad and a baked potato and you have yourself a heart healthy meal!  Well, if you leave off the butter and salt on the potato.  I eat mine with salsa!

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.

My first food column

This was my first column (it’s called In the Kitchen with Brent in the newspaper) about eating a heart-healthy diet. This column ran in October 2014. As of last count, I’ve written 123 columns that had to do with heart health, food and exercise.

Continue reading “My first food column”