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.

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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.

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.